These days, we’re used to shows based around criminal profiling. Unsubs are not a term alien to audiences and we’ve been enthralled by the hunt for serial killers from Hannibal‘s titular character to the Fisher King in Criminal Minds. Netflix’s latest addition, David Fincher’s Mindhunter, will explore the origins of criminal profiling in the FBI, coining the term ‘to catch a killer, you must think like a killer’.
It’s an intriguing premise, set in an era where serial killers were an alien presence; the very notion of delving into the psychology of what motivated them, a horrifying thought. In many ways, Mindhunter acts as a forerunner for many great TV shows that looked into criminal profiling to catch its killers.
Here are five other shows that adopted criminal profiling into their premise. Warning, some minor old spoilers for shows gone by…
The X-Files (1993 – 2002 / 2016 – Present)
While The X-Files focused most heavily on the supernatural, a surprising number of cases broached the genre only lightly; David Duchovny’s Fox Mulder was a criminal profiler before being given the X-Files and he uses those detective skills, working with Scully to catch a whole host of dark and psychopathic figures.
There are a number of episodes that hugely influenced later shows like Criminal Minds. Scully worked with Luther Lee Boggs in season one to catch another killer, while Mulder’s assessment and hunt for death fetish Donnie Pfaster made for one of season two’s most chilling episodes. From Robert Patrick Modell (AKA Pusher) to child killer John Lee Roche, The X-Files gave us some of the most notorious serial killers ever seen on television.
Cracker (1993 – 1996 / 2006)
Not quite a criminal profiler in the traditional sense, Robbie Coltrane’s criminal psychologist Fitz worked with the Manchester police as a consultant, tracking a number of serial killers, rapists and criminals. Thanks to a commanding performance by Robbie Coltrane and some truly gritty, shocking moments, this brought something fresh to British crime procedurals that made it one of the cultural TV icons of the nineties.
There was no gloss to the protagonists of this show. Robert Carlyle’s Albie, fuelled by revenge for Hillsborough and attempting to claim the same number of victims was a killer filled with raw, brutal rage and his murder of Christopher Eccleston’s DCI David Bilborough was one of the most shocking moments in the show’s history. The multi-episode stories also allowed the show to explore the criminals as much as the main characters, charting their descent and explore the dark and tragic outcomes of their crimes.