3 June 2004
| 8.3/10 |
326 (list of episodes)
The First 48 Theme Song
| John X. Kim
The First 48: Missing Persons, After the First 48, The Killer Speaks, Crime 360, Cops
The First 48 is an American documentary television series on A&E. Filmed in various cities in the United States, the series offers an insider's look at the real-life world of homicide investigators. While the series often follows the investigations to their end, it usually focuses on their first 48 hours, hence the title. Each episode picks one or more homicides in different cities, covering each alternately, showing how detectives use forensic evidence, witness interviews and other advanced detective skills to identify suspects. While most cases are solved within the first 48 hours, some go on days, weeks, months, or even years after the first 48.
The series was nominated for a Distinguished Documentary Achievement Award in the Continuing Series category by the International Documentary Association, eventually losing out to American Experience. By season 6, The First 48 had become the highest rated non-fiction justice series on television, and had gained critical acclaim along with controversy. The season 8 premiere, "Gone", which aired on January 1, 2009, garnered a domestic audience of 2.3 million viewers which made it the series' most watched episode, at the time.
The First 48 Wikipedia
Until the middle of the 12th season, the opening title sequence featured the conceptual statement "For homicide detectives, the clock starts ticking the moment they are called. Their chance of solving a murder is cut in half if they don't get a lead within the first 48 hours." The original soundtrack, opening title theme and dark ambient sound design for the overall program were composed by Chuck Hammer (2004–2006). Later composers included Brian and Justin Deming (2006–2008) and Paul Brill (2008–2015), who continued with a combination of dark ambient music integrated with sound design.
The series has several follow-up episodes entitled After the First 48—detailing the trials of those accused in previous episodes—and the aftermath of victims' survivors. The First 48: Missing Persons follows the same story format as the original series. The latest spin-off, The Killer Speaks, depicts convicted felons as they describe their crimes through their first-hand accounts.
In 2016, a New York Times study of the 50 TV shows with the most Facebook Likes found that The First 48 "has a classic Black Belt audience pattern".
On November 18, 2009, 21-year-old Taiwan Smart was charged with two counts of second-degree murder of his two roommates in Miami's Little Haiti neighborhood. His story aired later as an episode titled "Inside Job." Evidence later established that police made important mistakes in their investigation. Additionally, The First 48 misrepresented a key witness's statement on the program. Smart was released in June 2011 and has since sued the city of Miami for false imprisonment. The episode continues to air without correction.
On May 16, 2010, a 7-year-old Detroit girl named Aiyana Jones was shot and killed during a "special weapons and tactics" (SWAT) raid that was filmed by The First 48 cameras. Detroit SWAT unit raided the duplex while searching for a homicide suspect. On October 5, 2011, prosecutors charged the Detroit police officer with the involuntary manslaughter of Jones. Allison Howard, an A&E Television Network camera operator filming that night, was charged with perjury and obstruction of justice after lying under oath. She pleaded no contest to obstruction of justice and was sentenced to two years of probation.
The show's unprecedented access to police departments has generated some controversy because such access is not typically given to traditional local news media. Moreover, the show has been criticized for putting witnesses in danger by revealing their faces and their voices on a nationally televised program and for not being sensitive to what might happen to them in the form of retaliation. In response to such criticism, witnesses often ask producers to have their faces blurred out and voices changed or to speak off camera.