Detecting cultural differences in television drama

Over the last two decades, the ‘Crime’ genre has proved to be extremely successful and lucrative for television networks. Series such as “CSI”, “NCIS”, “Criminal Minds” as well as the two modern Sherlock Holmes adaptations “Sherlock” and “Elementary” have all achieved phenomenal amounts of success worldwide. Most recently, HBO’s acclaimed series “True Detective” has captivated audiences, holding a 9.4 rating on IMDB. But what differentiates a series such as “True Detective” from BBC’s “Sherlock”. Time to start detecting…


Before comparing “True Detective” with “Sherlock”, it is important to establish the differences in American and British detective fiction. American detective fiction, particularly television, is often a lot more violent and edgy and is usually set, according to PBS book and film club in a “brutal or corrupt city”. However, British detective television is often much classier, intellectual and usually set in the countryside or in the city. So, now that we have established the differences between American and British detective fiction, let’s compare HBO’s “True Detective” to BBC’s “Sherlock”.

One of the principal differences between “Sherlock” and “True Detective” is the narrative structure. Despite featuring some minor story-arcs, “Sherlock” is essentially an episodic show, which stays true to the original Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle. Meanwhile, “True Detective” features a non-linear, story arch that can be perceived as somewhat unconventional. Furthermore, another striking difference between the two shows is the nature of the content. In contrast to “True Detective”, which features some graphic violence, nudity and drugs, “Sherlock” is a lot more restrained and reserved, in regards to its content. The reason behind this could be that Americans are desensitized to graphic content as they have already been exposed to it in Hollywood films as opposed to the U.K., whose films are, much like “Sherlock” reserved and restrained. Furthermore, America is generally seen as a violent country so it is no surprise that its media content reflects that. Lastly, I would like to note the slight similarity between “True Detective and “Sherlock” in that both shows revolve around the relationship between the two detectives (Sherlock and Watson; Rust and Marty) and how their relationship impacts their personal lives.

To conclude, both HBO’s “True Detective” and BBC’s “Sherlock” present an interesting opportunity to compare both the shows themselves, and the cultures of the U.S. and the U.K.


Public Broadcasting System 2008, PBS, [Accessed 02 October 2014]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: