Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday Free-For-All: Great Scenes - Homicide: Life on the Street interrogation

This is one of the most pivotal scenes in the pilot of Homicide: Life on the Street. This is the moment that introduces one of the most significant elements in the show - "the box." Scenes in the interrogation room are among the most dramatic in the entire series run, and no one was better in the box that Andre Braugher's Frank Pembleton.

In this scene, rookie detective Tim Bayliss sits in on an interrogation and gets his first taste of how Frank operates. It's not only an incredibly well-written sequence, but it's well-acted. (Note actor Kyle Secor's reactions as Bayliss.)

It's probably worth noting that at the time Homicide premiered, there hadn't been many realistic police dramas, and most often, interrogations were scenes where the cops would flatly confront the suspects with what they knew in an effort to intimidate them, or they'd just flat out resort to threats of violence. This is something much more well-crafted. Watch the scene and pay attention to everything we learn about Frank and Tim during this sequence, both as individuals and their dynamic together.


  1. What a well crafted scene. The structure of the scene, I think, reveals much about both detectives and the suspect. It's intersting watching this now: last night I watched the pilot of the new Criminal Minds spin-off that to me revealed nothing about its characters or their motivation in the entire hour, but this, in a mere seven minutes, tells us everything. You know these men, they are human, with flaws and ambition, unlike many modern TV cops, who are just automatons in service of hackneyed plots.

  2. it was produced by David Simon, based off of his book which was quite journalistic. Simon knows a thing or two about human drama. His shows The Wire, The Corner, and Treme prove all that.
    In the Wire he shows much more disciplined criminals and desperate cops in the interview room.
    There's a great link on youtube or something somewhere in which a law professor tells his students to never ever talk to the cops and his cop friend agrees.

  3. Yeah, Simon's book "Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets" is awesome and is the basis for the series, though I don't believe Simon himself joined the writing staff until about season four or five.

    But this scene is HEAVILY drawn from the book, so you can absolutely feel his influence.

    And I consider the Homicide pilot one of the best pilots ever produced. Netflix it if you get a chance.

  4. David Simon spent a year embedded with real-life murder police and it shows. Fantastic work.