Locating sound in UK/US television crime drama: The affective impact of sound effects and music in Happy Valley and Hannibal

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In television crime drama, place is frequently emphasised, with the specifics of a local environment providing a backdrop for the drama and information about a series relationship to its genre (gritty, cosy, heritage, realist and so on). Location might come to the fore through narrative, performance, promotional strategies, and even the title of the programme, for example Happy Valley (BBC 1, 2014-), Hinterland (S4C, 2013-) and Shetland (BBC 1, 2013-), while the life of a television series can be extended through visits to the location, for example the tourism created in connection to visiting the Oxford of Inspector Morse (ITV, 1987-2000). The importance of location to crime drama focuses attention on the place, while space is afforded particular importance within the genre by virtue of the crucial link between the work of the detective and their environment through examination of crime.

The importance of space and place to the crime drama might lead us most directly to discussion of visual aesthetics, especially in the atmospheric contribution of landscape to setting, as this introduces a certain surface topography where crimes are hidden, and where criminal encounters might be exposed. Christine Geraghty recently noted the use of location as spectacle in series such as Shetland, Vera (ITV, 2011-) and Trapped (Ófærð) (RVK Studios, 2015), a connection that would indicate the potential for investment in the look of crime drama, and the genre’s propensity for visual stylishness. However, I would like to highlight the importance of sound to the television crime drama, and especially in terms of the work sound effects do in both the communication of place and putting us in a particular space. In this chapter I will explore the dramatic achievement of sound design in a number of recent UK / US crime drama, including Fargo (FX, 2014-), Hannibal (NBC, 2013-2015), Shetland and Happy Valley. This examination of sound will concentrate on the role played by sound effects in rendering the work of the detective and the horror of crime, as well as its sensory contributions in embedding us within different landscapes of detection
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEuropean Television Crime Drama and Beyond
EditorsKim Toft Hansen, Steven Peacock, Sue Turnbull
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISBN (Electronic)9783319968872
ISBN (Print)9783319968865
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018

Publication series

NamePalgrave European Film and Media Studies


  • Television
  • Sound design
  • Crime drama
  • Detectives
  • music
  • affect


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