How the Show “Criminal Minds” Changed Cop Drama Forever

“Criminal Minds” is wrapping up its fifteenth and final season and fans of the crime drama are sorry to see it end. It’s one of the longest running cop shows and it changed the face of cop drama. The CBS series premiered in 2005 and consistently receives high ratings. It’s ensemble cast has changed over the seasons, and the series has been controversial for its portrayal of violent crimes. Here’s how the show “Criminal Minds” changed cop drama.

Cop Dramas of the Past

One of the biggest themes of “Criminal Minds” is that the show focuses on victims and criminals and not the crimes. Up until “Criminal Minds” premiered, cop dramas’ focus was on the procedure of finding the perpetrator. A victim was found dead, and the police or forensic experts solved the crime. Cop shows became popular in the 1970’s with hit series including “Adam 12”, “Hawaii Five-O”, “The Streets of San Francisco”, “Kojak” and “Police Woman”. All focused on the police solving a crime. The 1980’s cop dramas became more campy and sometimes included private detectives solving crimes. Popular 1980’s crime dramas included “Magnum PI”, “Hill Street Blues”, “Miami Vice” and “Moon Lighting”. The 1990’s featured popular crime dramas with a supernatural edge like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, “Charmed” and “The X Files”. “Law and Order” and its many spin offs also became popular.

What’s Different about “Criminal Minds”

With the premier of “Criminal Minds” in 2005, a new kind of cop drama series was introduced and was instantly popular. “Criminal Minds” focuses on the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) headquartered in Quantico, Virginia. The series features a large ensemble cast that has changed over the course of the show’s history. The group of profilers are called in by local authorities throughout the country to analyze some of the most twisted criminals. The profiles travel to the crime scenes and try to figure out the criminals’ next moves before they can attack again. Each member of the BAU has a specific expertise in figuring out the minds of the criminals. Unlike traditional crime dramas, “Criminal Minds” focuses on the criminals and their victims anticipating the bad guy’s next move. It’s not so much about procedure and evidence. It’s more focused on psychological analysis. Because of this, many of the characters are personally and emotionally affected by the crimes they investigate. Viewers can also be disturbed by what they are watching. Several episodes of “Criminal Minds” are based on real life events.


“Criminal Minds” may be the most controversial crime drama. The crimes investigated by the BAU are sometimes based on real life news which can be frightening. The crimes are often violent including criminals who are truly psychopaths and often serial killers. Many of “Criminal Minds” episodes feature the abduction and often murder of families, women and children. Even some of the cast members were disturbed by “Criminal Minds'” content. Mandy Patinkin played the BAU’s unit chief and senior supervisory special agent, Jason Gideon, when “Criminal Minds” premiered. He left the show abruptly after two seasons. He has said that working on the show that involved themes of killing and raping women every episode was emotionally destructive. He now happily stars in Showtime’s “Homeland”. Other stars of “Criminal Minds” have left the series because of creative difference with the shows writers.

Viewers of “Criminal Minds” admit to being disturbed by the series’ violent and psychologically disturbing content. “Criminal Minds” seems to try to push its limit with each episode. Critics have expressed concern that the show could inspire criminals or desensitize people to violence. Fans of the show argue that “Criminal Minds” doesn’t glamorize the crimes it portrays. Instead, the show delves into the psychology of profiling criminals and preventing more killing. “Criminal Minds” shows the passion of the members of the BAU as they investigate the minds of the criminals and try to prevent more killings.

Crime Dramas Inspired by “Criminal Minds”

Many of today’s crime dramas wouldn’t be without “Criminal Minds”, and some crime dramas have evolved because of “Criminal Minds”. Shows like “Mindhunter”, “Numb3rs” and “Hannibal” focus on the psychology of the criminal. “CSI” and “Law and Order” have also changed to focus on the criminal at times and not just the procedure. Although “Criminal Minds” is coming to an end, the series lives on in syndication and on Netflix. Fans of the show enjoy binge watching the crime drama. With its realism, pacing, and characters, “Criminal Minds” changed the face of crime drama.

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