Series, crime suits them so well

Murders in…, Research Section, Crime suits him so wellor Cassandra… At the beginning of January 2022, Médiamétrie, a media audience measurement company, released its ranking of the most watched French TV series in 2021. Of the twenty or so titles on the list, 16 are about police investigations, murders. or other attacks.

The same can be said about the festivals that reward the creativity of French television. As in Luchon (Haute-Garonne) in February 2022, where more than half of the feature film programs were police series.

On video-on-demand platforms, crime is also evolving in all its forms, from documentaries to films adapted to real news, including even episodes of reality shows.

“Promotion of Violence”

If the theme of murder seems to be all the rage in audiovisual productions, this attraction is not new. “The fascination with violence, murder or even confrontation has always been there.says Alain Bauer, professor of criminology at the National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts. In a sense, he belongs to the human race. »

Romain Kalli, PhD in Management, specializing in consumer psychology, explains: “I don’t think there has been an increase in crime fiction, but we can definitely talk about the popularization of violence. » This phenomenon can be analyzed through television programs that are becoming more varied and varied.

The emergence of giant Netflix in France in 2014 democratized the video-on-demand platform model. Since then, other legal streaming services such as Amazon Prime Video or Disney+ have entered the production and distribution market, undermining the audiovisual offering. Proof of this: in 2018, the US news agency Bloomberg indicated that the number of TV shows in the US more than doubled.

More recently, a study by the American television channel FX revealed that in 2021, the broadcast of series in the United States increased by 13% compared to 2020. A record figure that once again proves that the growth in intensity in audiovisual production is undeniable. . “Today’s viewers are overwhelmed with countless programs.explains Alain Bauer. Which might give the impression that we’re more into detective shows than we used to be, when in fact there were more offers. »

Fictions that break codes

However, this massive intensification of the sector does not fully explain the growing public interest in criminal topics. “At France Télévisions, police programs have always been held in high esteem – for example, Friday and Saturday nights on France 3. But now we are seeing an increase in the number of viewers of such programs., testifies Anne Holmes, director of French fiction at France Télévisions. According to her, the reason for the attractiveness of detective series lies in the variety of genres: “We don’t offer classic thrillers. By accurately examining the causes of motive, we can address various themes, such as suffering at work or jealousy. »

The point of view is shared by screenwriter Tigran Rozin (Cassandra, Arsene Lupin, Murders in Champagne…). “I am very interested in explaining the various mechanisms leading to violence. Surely it is this analysis that will hook the viewer. » Thus, the scenario processes are built very precisely in order to diversify the plot and keep the attention of the audience. “Sometimes the identity of the killer is known from the beginning of the series, sometimes not…screenwriter Eugenie Dard details (Font, OPJ…). These decisions made by the writers contribute to giving the series an important fictional identity so as not to lose the audience. »

Today, detective series are also moving away from traditional codes, not shy about mixing their DNA with complementary genres such as comedy. Series success Captain Marlo (broadcast on France 3 until 2020 and then on France 2 from 2021) – ranked first in France’s top TV viewers for three consecutive years – shows that the recipe works.

Criminal fictions or the attraction of the forbidden

In addition to these effective screenwriting techniques, we must turn to psychological and social analysis to capture the viewer’s attraction to criminal intrigue. “The consumption of thrillers that touch on the topics of news reports allows a person to live off very strong emotional universes”clarifies Lucie Jouvet Legrand, lecturer in sociology and anthropology at Franche-Comté University.

Meanwhile, Romain Calli talks about the phenomenon “attraction of the forbidden” : “In our society, which denounces and prohibits violence, these programs can be a form of subversion that makes viewers feel like they are violating established laws and regulations. »

Yet, according to expert Lucie Jouvet Legrand, these series are also used as “supporting social bonds between multiple people” : watching these broadcasts is often accompanied by discussions between viewers, which “Then agree to dishonor the murderer, for example. » Way to calm down “Confronting horror in society. »

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