We'll Give You a Crime Drama Show, You Tell Us Which City It's Based In

Zoe Samuel

Image: The CW

About This Quiz

Crime dramas, procedurals, call them what you will. These shows are very popular and for good reason. Crime dramas pull us into their worlds, exposing us to things that intrigue us, frighten us and fascinate us, all in the safety of our homes. The world of cops and criminals is frightening, and no one in their right mind would want to be a part of it, unless they were a cop or a criminal. People die in this struggle, or have their lives ruined by theft, or loss, or incarceration. The very danger of the world of crime is part and parcel of our fascination with it.

Crime shows come from all over the world. Some of them are based more or less on the American TV show models. There are versions of Law & Order all over the place. Then there are crime shows that are unique to their cultures, and have something to say about their specific locale, not just crime or humanity in general. We are fascinated by the thin blue line because of what it says about how close we all live to that decision to become anathema to civilization. Are you familiar enough to recognize where these shows take place?

NCIS: New Orleans

The sourthernmost iteration of the NCIS juggernaut, NCIS: New Orleans, starring Scott Bakula of Quantum Leap fame.

Hawaii Five-O

Hawaii Five-O, both the original and the reboot, take place on the big island of Hawaii, and sometimes other islands. It's not so much in one city, but more of the surrounds.

NCIS: Los Angeles

NCIS: Los Angeles is a lucrative spin-off on the NCIS mothership. The truth is that NCIS in southern California should take place on the naval base in San Diego, but the producers wanted it in LA.


NYPD Blue is perhaps the most iconic cop show of them all, and it takes place in the five boroughs of New York City.


DC's Batman prequel follows the lives of Gothamites long before the arrival of The Dark Knight.


Luther is an unusual crime drama in that each episode is like a mini-movie and each season like a self-contained trilogy. It's not for everyone though. It is dark.


Where else but the City of Angels could this crime show about The Devil take place? Lucifer's audience is small but loyal, and sad to see the show go.


Part of the DC television universe, Arrow takes place in its fictional world, in Starling City. While distances between DC's fictional cities aren't always clear, on a show that includes dimension-hopping, it hardly matters where Starling City is.


Sherlock, the incredibly popular BBC adaptation of the novels of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is set in London.


Despite Elementary also being based on the Sherlock Holmes stories, it is set in New York, not London.

The Wire

Groundbreaking HBO police drama The Wire is set in Baltimore, and is based largely on true stories of crime and law enforcement.

The Blacklist

While The Blacklist has episodes which take place all over the world, much of it takes place in New York, which is convenient, since that is where it is shot.


While Deception begins in Las Vegas in the act of a top-billed magician, it takes place in New York, where that magician helps the FBI investigate a master criminal who is also a magician.


Instinct is unique among prime time shows in that the protagonist is openly gay. It is not unique in that it, like many other cop shows, is shot in New York City, where it takes place.

Homicide: Life on the Street

Homicide: Life on the Street is another iconic TV cop procedural, sitting somewhere between The Wire and NYPD Blue, and giving audiences some of the most memorable characters in the genre.


NCIS is the big daddy of the NICS franchise, going 15 seasons so far. With the exception of a goth character and a full embrace of the scientist-as-detective model, the show is pretty conventional, which is likely the source of its success.

Lethal Weapon

Based on the film of the same name, Lethal Weapon is a buddy-cop show about a dangerous suicidal detective and his conventional, family-man partner. Due to recent upheaval on set, the character of Riggs has been written out of the show, to be replaced by another protagonist.

Money Heist

Money Heist is a heist film taking place in the Royal Mint of Spain, which is in Madrid. It was recently picked up by Netflix as part of its Spanish-language programming.

Criminal Minds

Criminal Minds is one of the crime shows based around the investigation of criminals using the study of psychology and the "science" of criminal profiling.


While some of Quantico takes place in Washington and Quantico, VA, the bulk of it takes place in New York City. Since the story is a combination of flashbacks to the character's time at the FBI training center at Quantico, it does technically have bits there, but most of it is in City that Never Sleeps.

Peaky Blinders

Though some of its key cast is Irish, Peaky Blinders takes place in Birmingham, UK. It is a period piece, but even then, Birmingham, UK has little in common with Birmingham, AL.

Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad, that iconic show with a bad-guy hero, takes place in Albuquerque, NM and its surrounds. While the banality of the city plays a major role in the show, so too does the bleak, unforgiving desert.


This Showtime series about a psychotic, murdering, vigilante was a hit for the network for several seasons and still gets a lot of play on Showtime's streaming services.

Sons of Anarchy

Sons of Anarchy, the show, takes place where the founding chapter of the fictional "Sons of Anarchy motorcycle club" exists in the show: the fictional town of Charming, CA.

How to Get Away with Murder

How to Get Away with Murder is an ABC show created by Shonda Rhimes in 2014, and it's still going strong. Viola Davis plays a college professor who, with several of her students, becomes involved in a murder plot.

Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones is part of the new breed of Marvel television shows built around the company's intellectual property. Jessica Jones isn't strictly a superhero, as she works as a detective, involved in civil and criminal matters, broadly speaking.

Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul takes place in Albuquerque, NM, before the events of Breaking Bad, but in the same world, with some of the same characters. It centers around the lawyer who represented the drug kingpin Heisenberg.

The Sopranos

There is a common misconception that The Sopranos takes place in New York City. It actually takes place just outside of it, in New Jersey, where the characters all live.

The Punisher

Based on the titular vigilante from the Marvel comic, The Punisher follows ex-soldier Frank Castle as he takes revenge for the murder of his wife and children. It takes place mostly in New York City and its surrounds.


Based on the film of the same name, S.W.A.T., the series follows a cop born in the very tough LA neighborhood he has to police as a member of the LAPD. When ties to the community conflict with his work, drama ensues.

Law & Order

Dun-DUNNNN! Law & Order is a classic of the genre that will last for all time. Half of it takes place among the police of the NYPD and the other half takes place among the prosecutors who then try the cases brought by the police.

Law & Order UK

Law & Order UK is, as the name suggests, a UK spin-off of the Law & Order franchise. It follows the same formula as the original series, but since the British system of law enforcement is different to the one in the US, the show takes a different shape, as do the wigs.

The Mentalist

The Mentalist is a fish out of water cop show in which ex-con-artist Patrick Jane helps the police hunt criminals in the hopes that he'll find the murderer of his wife. It takes place in Sacramento, CA and surrounds.


Castle is another fish-out-of-water crime series, about a mystery novelist who helps the police solve crimes.


Bones is a series about the tools of forensic anthropology used to catch criminals. David Boreanaz of Buffy and Angel fame stars in this series which went 12 seasons long.

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