Homicide: Life on the Street is an American police procedural television series chronicling the work of a fictional version of the Baltimore Police Department's Homicide Unit. It ran for seven seasons (122 episodes) on NBC from 1993 to 1999, and was succeeded by a TV movie, which also acted as the de facto series finale. The series was originally based on David Simon's book "Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets." Many of the characters and stories used throughout the show were based on events depicted in the book, which was also part of the basis for Simon's own series, The Wire on HBO.
Although Homicide featured an ensemble cast, Andre Braugher emerged as the series' breakout star through his portrayal of Frank Pembleton. The show won Television Critics Association Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Drama in 1996, 1997, and 1998. It also became the first drama ever to win three Peabody Awards for best drama in 1993, 1995, and 1997. In 1997, the episode "Prison Riot" was ranked No. 32 on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time. In 2007, it was listed as one of Time magazine's "Best TV Shows of All-TIME." In 1996 TV Guide named the series 'The Best Show You're Not Watching'. The show placed #46 on Entertainment Weekly's "New TV Classics" list.
The show inspired the spin-off Homicide: Second Shift, which was shown exclusively online.
Homicide: Life on the Street was adapted from "Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets," a non-fiction book by Baltimore Sun reporter David Simon, based on his experience following a Baltimore Police Department homicide unit. Simon, who became a consultant and producer with the series, said he was particularly interested in the demythification of the American detective. While detectives are typically portrayed as noble characters who care deeply about their victims, Simon believed real detectives regarded violence as a normal aspect of their jobs. Simon sent the book to film director and Baltimore native Barry Levinson with the hopes that it would be adapted into a film, but Levinson thought it would be more appropriate material for television because the stories and characters could be developed over a longer period of time. Levinson believed a television adaptation would bring a fresh and original edge to the police drama genre because the book exploded many of the myths of the police drama genre by highlighting that cops did not always get along with each other, and that criminals occasionally got away with their crimes. Levinson approached screenwriter Paul Attanasio with the material, and Homicide became Attanasio's first foray into television writing. Subsequently, all episodes of Homicide display the credit, "Created by Paul Attanasio" at the end of their opening sequence, a credit which both Eric Overmyer and James Yoshimura dispute on the DVD audio commentary to the season 5 episode, "The Documentary," claiming instead the show was created by Tom Fontana and Yoshimura. The series title was originally Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, but NBC changed it so that viewers would not believe it was limited to a single year; the network also believed the use of the term "life" would be more reaffirming than the term "killing streets." The opening theme music was composed by Baltimore native, Lynn F. Kowal, a graduate of the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.