If it bleeds it leads in the ratings wars too

NCIS: Season 17 of the much-loved show returns with Ziva (Cote de Pablo) and Gibbs (Mark Harmon).

NCIS: Season 17 of the much-loved show returns with Ziva (Cote de Pablo) and Gibbs (Mark Harmon).

It's not enough that we see it almost too regularly on our nightly news bulletins, fictional criminal acts seem to entrance the viewing audience as much, if not more, than the real thing, sometimes outstripping reality and fantasy programs.

Channels are dedicated to the genre, serving up favourite classics and belching out newer, more cyber-oriented intellectual crime shows.

The naughties seemed to lead a trend to have female leads in many detective shows. Cold Case (7-Two at 7.30pm Tuesdays, 11.40pm on 9 GEM on Wednesdays, Nine at 11.45pm Thursday and Sunday), kicked off in 2003 and aired for seven years, with female detective Lily Rush (Kathryn Morris) and her squad finally getting justice for victims of unsolved cases.

In 2019, The Fix (two episodes airing on Nine at 8.30pm and 9.30pm Mondays), with Robin Tunney, who fans of the genre would know from The Mentalist (with our own Simon Baker), as Maya Travis. She returns to the office of the Los Angeles district attorney to try to convict a celebrity she believes was guilty of a double murder eight years previous. He was exonerated on her watch the first time around and is now suspected of killing his girlfriend.

Hmmm, a celebrity accused of a double murder, who gets off but is later arrested for another crime. Sound vaguely familiar? Oh wait, the creator and executive producer is Marcia Clark, famous as the lead prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson murder case. Art imitating life?

Yet another female-led crime drama is Rizzoli and Isles (2010-2016), now showing on Fox One (9.30pm, January 8). Jane Rizzoli (Angie Harmon) worked her way up the chain of command from beat cop to detective and in the final season takes a job as an instructor at the FBI Academy at Quantico, Virginia.

She works alongside Commonwealth of Massachusetts' chief medical examiner Dr Maura Isles (Sasha Alexander), who we discover is the biological daughter of a notorious criminal. Lorraine Bracco stars as Rizzoli's mother and her brother Frankie (Jordan Bridges) also works his way up to detective. One of the most lovable characters is Korsak, Jane's partner and protector, played by former MacGyver sidekick Bruce McGill.

The aforementioned The Mentalist aired from 2008 until 2015, with Tunney as California Bureau of Investigation agent Teresa Lisbon teamed with Patrick Jane, who is employed as an independent consultant at the CBI to solve crimes. He had been making a living as a psychic occasionally assisting police on cases. His life changed when a serial killer he was helping track murdered his wife and child.

Sexual tension and the desire on the part of fans to see male and female leads hook up in the midst of catching bad guys and girls always fuels ratings.

In Bones (Fox Crime daily at various times), forensic anthropologist at the Smithsonian Dr Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel) works with FBI special agent Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz) to solve crimes unearthed (pardon the pun) when bones are discovered. Over the 12 seasons the leads went from argumentative to flirty to married with children.

Of course when talking about successful crime shows and sexual tension we must include the biggest juggernaut of all - the NCIS franchise. The original and best is now in its 17th season (Network Ten). Starring Mark Harmon as the often gruff team leader Leroy Jethro Gibbs, the show has survived a number of favourite cast member exits, including that of fan favourites very special agent Anthony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) and former Mossad operative Ziva David (Cote de Pablo).

In a tantalising cliffhanger at the end of season 16, Ziva appeared at the top of the stairs to Gibbs' basement, when everyone thought she was dead. We have already learned why she faked her death in a two-part opener to season 17, but the question on fans' lips is will we see DiNozzo make an appearance and reunite with her. The other ongoing wish of fans is for Gibbs to find love again. There have been other wives and women in his life since his family was killed while he was on active duty in the Marines.

On spin-off NCIS Los Angeles, renewed for an 11th season, the team is led by senior special agent G Callen (Chris O'Donnell) with the wily Hetty Lang (Linda Hunt) as operational manager, and briefly NCIS executive assistant director for Pacific operations Shay Mosley (Nia Long), who resigned and fled at the end of last season.

Interestingly, the sexual tension in this group also fell to the non-leads, in this case LAPD liaison officer Marty Deeks (Eric Christian Olsen) and special agent Kensi Blye (Daniela Ruah), who eventually married in season 10. There is also the on-and-off attraction between the technical geeks Eric Beale (Barrett Foa) and Nell Jones (Renee Felice Smith). Fans may also hold out hope for Callen to find true love and for senior field agent Sam Hanna (LL Cool J) to open his heart following the tragic loss of his wife in season 8.

Third in the franchise is NCIS New Orleans, starring TV stalwart Scott Bakula as agent Dwayne Pride. It first went to air in 2014 and is coming up for its sixth season. In an unexpected shock episode of season five, longtime team member Christoper Lasalle (Lucas Black) was killed, rocking Pride and his team and fans.

Whatever the outcome, fans are invested in crime and so are the networks.