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The First 48 is an American documentary television series on A&E. Filmed in various cities in the United States, the series offers an insider's look at the real-life world of homicide investigators. While the series often follows the investigations to their end, it usually focuses on their first 48 hours, hence the title. Each episode picks one or more homicides in different cities, covering each alternately, showing how detectives use forensic evidence, witness interviews, and other advanced investigative techniques to identify suspects. While most cases are solved within the first 48 hours, some go on days, weeks, months, or even years after the first 48.

The First 48
The First 48.jpg
Narrated byDion Graham
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons17
No. of episodes362 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s)
  • John X. Kim
  • Alexis Robie
  • Laura Fleury
  • Peter Tarshis
Running time42 minutes
Production company(s)ITV Studios America
Original networkA&E
Picture format480i (SDTV)
1080i (HDTV)
Original releaseJune 3, 2004 (2004-06-03) –
Related shows
External links

The series was nominated for a Distinguished Documentary Achievement Award in the Continuing Series category by the International Documentary Association, eventually losing to American Experience. By season 6, The First 48 had become the highest rated non-fiction justice series on television, and had gained critical acclaim along with controversy.[1] The season 8 premiere, "Gone", which aired on January 1, 2009, garnered a domestic audience of 2.3 million viewers which made it the series' most watched episode at the time.[2]

Title sequenceEdit

Until the 28th episode of the 12th season, the opening title sequence featured the conceptual statement "For homicide detectives, the clock starts ticking the moment they are called. Their chance of solving a murder is cut in half if they don't get a lead within the first 48 hours." The original soundtrack, opening title theme and dark ambient sound design for the overall program were composed by Chuck Hammer (2004–2006). Later composers included Brian and Justin Deming (2006–2008) and Paul Brill (2008–2018), who continued with a combination of dark ambient music integrated with sound design.


SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
113June 3, 2004 (2004-06-03)November 18, 2004 (2004-11-18)
213January 6, 2005 (2005-01-06)August 11, 2005 (2005-08-11)
312October 6, 2005 (2005-10-06)March 2, 2006 (2006-03-02)
419June 15, 2006 (2006-06-15)December 28, 2006 (2006-12-28)
513January 11, 2007 (2007-01-11)May 31, 2007 (2007-05-31)
618June 21, 2007 (2007-06-21)December 6, 2007 (2007-12-06)
726January 10, 2008 (2008-01-10)September 11, 2008 (2008-09-11)
816September 18, 2008 (2008-09-18)April 23, 2009 (2009-04-23)
911June 18, 2009 (2009-06-18)September 17, 2009 (2009-09-17)
1016January 14, 2010 (2010-01-14)June 10, 2010 (2010-06-10)
1136July 8, 2010 (2010-07-08)June 9, 2011 (2011-06-09)
1243June 16, 2011 (2011-06-16)December 20, 2012 (2012-12-20)
1336March 7, 2013 (2013-03-07)May 29, 2014 (2014-05-29)
1424June 19, 2014 (2014-06-19)May 21, 2015 (2015-05-21)
1530November 5, 2015 (2015-11-05)September 5, 2016 (2016-09-05)
1623December 1, 2016 (2016-12-01)August 3, 2017 (2017-08-03)
1729October 19, 2017 (2017-10-19)November 13, 2018 (2018-11-13)


After the First 48 title card

The series has several follow-up episodes entitled After the First 48—detailing the trials of those accused in previous episodes—and the aftermath of victims' survivors.

The First 48: Missing Persons follows the same story format as the original series.

The Killer Speaks, depicts convicted felons as they describe their crimes through their first-hand accounts.

The latest spin-off, Marcia Clark Investigates: The First 48, follows a similar story format but focuses on highly publicized cases such as those of Casey Anthony, Drew Peterson and Robert Blake, presented by O. J. Simpson trial prosecutor Marcia Clark.


A 2016 study by The New York Times of the 50 TV shows with the most Facebook Likes found that The First 48 "has a classic Black Belt audience pattern".[3]


On November 18, 2009, 21-year-old Taiwan Smart was charged with two counts of second-degree murder of his two roommates in Miami's Little Haiti neighborhood.[4] His story aired later as an episode titled "Inside Job." Evidence later established that police made important mistakes in their investigation. Additionally, The First 48 misrepresented a key witness's statement on the program. Smart was released in June 2011 and has since sued the city of Miami for false imprisonment. The episode continues to air without correction.[4]

On May 16, 2010, a 7-year-old Detroit girl named Aiyana Jones was shot and killed during a "special weapons and tactics" (SWAT) raid that was filmed by The First 48 cameras.[5] Detroit SWAT unit raided the duplex while searching for a homicide suspect. On October 5, 2011, prosecutors charged the Detroit police officer with the involuntary manslaughter of Jones. Allison Howard, an A&E Television Network camera operator filming that night, was charged with perjury and obstruction of justice after lying under oath.[6] She pleaded no contest to obstruction of justice and was sentenced to two years of probation.[7]

On December 16, 2015, Shawn Peterson pled guilty to manslaughter for the triple murder of his ex-girlfriend, Christine George, their son, Leonard George, and her daughter, Trisa George in the Gentilly neighborhood of New Orleans. Peterson's defense attorneys argued that producers from The First 48 withheld video evidence that could have exonerated their client. A judge rejected the motion but conceded that the show did complicate the case.[8] In 2016, the city of New Orleans announced that it would be ending its contract with A&E, ending any future productions of episodes of The First 48, or Nightwatch, another A&E show set in New Orleans, in the city.[9]

The show's unprecedented access to police departments has generated some controversy because such access is not typically given to traditional local news media. Moreover, the show has been criticized for putting witnesses in danger by revealing their faces and their voices on a nationally televised program and for not being sensitive to what might happen to them in the form of retaliation. In response to such criticism, witnesses often ask producers to have their faces blurred out and voices changed or to speak off camera.[citation needed]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Breaking News - A&E Real Life Series - the First 48 & Swat Return for Sixth and Third Seasons Respectively". June 27, 2007. Retrieved November 6, 2013.
  2. ^ "Breaking News - A&E Kicked Off the New Year with the Record Breaking Season Premiere of 'The First 48'". January 5, 2009. Retrieved November 6, 2013.
  3. ^ Katz, Josh (2016-12-27). "'Duck Dynasty' vs. 'Modern Family': 50 Maps of the U.S. Cultural Divide". The New York Times.
  4. ^ a b "The First 48 Makes Millions Off Imprisoning Innocents". Miami New Times. January 16, 2014.
  5. ^ "Lawyer questions police version of raid that killed girl". CNN. May 17, 2010.
  6. ^ "Nightcap - A Different Kind of News". Retrieved November 6, 2013.
  7. ^ "Allison Howard, 'The First 48' Videographer, Pleads In Fatal Detroit Raid That Killed Aiyana-Stanley Jones". June 21, 2013. Retrieved November 6, 2013.
  8. ^ Paul Purpura (July 17, 2015). "Judge Ends The First 48 Debate".
  9. ^ Mike Scott (June 1, 2016). "New Orleans Ending Contracts with A&E's 'First 48' and 'Nightwatch'".

External linksEdit