The First 48

Last updated
The First 48
The First 48.jpg
Genre Documentary
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 network A&E
Picture format 480i (SDTV)
1080i (HDTV)
Original releaseJune 3, 2004 (2004-06-03) 
Related shows
External links

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.

A&E (TV channel) American cable and satellite television channel

A&E is an American cable television network. It is the flagship television property of A&E Networks, a joint venture between the Hearst Communications and Walt Disney Television subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company. The network is headquartered in New York City and operates offices in Atlanta, Georgia; Chicago, Illinois; Detroit, Michigan; London, United Kingdom; Los Angeles, California and Stamford, Connecticut. The network focuses primarily on non-fiction programming, including reality docusoaps, true crime, and documentary miniseries.

Homicide is the act of one human killing another. A homicide requires only a volitional act by another person that results in death, and thus a homicide may result from accidental, reckless, or negligent acts even if there is no intent to cause harm. Homicides can be divided into many overlapping legal categories, including murder, manslaughter, justifiable homicide, killing in war, euthanasia, and capital punishment, depending on the circumstances of the death. These different types of homicides are often treated very differently in human societies; some are considered crimes, while others are permitted or even ordered by the legal system.

A witness is someone who has, who claims to have, or is thought, by someone with authority to compel testimony, to have knowledge relevant to an event or other matter of interest. In law a witness is someone who, either voluntarily or under compulsion, provides testimonial evidence, either oral or written, of what he or she knows or claims to know about the matter before some official authorized to take such testimony.


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]

International Documentary Association (IDA), founded in 1982, is a non-profit 501(c)(3) that promotes nonfiction filmmakers, and is dedicated to increasing public awareness for the documentary genre. Their major program areas are: Advocacy, Filmmaker Services, Education, and Public Programs and Events.

American Experience is a television program airing on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) television stations in the United States. The program airs documentaries, many of which have won awards, about important or interesting events and people in American history.

Non-fiction or nonfiction is content whose creator, in good faith, assumes responsibility for the truth or accuracy of the events, people, or information presented. In contrast, a story whose creator explicitly leaves open if and how the work refers to reality is usually classified as fiction. Nonfiction, which may be presented either objectively or subjectively, is traditionally one of the two main divisions of narratives, the other traditional division being fiction, which contrasts with nonfiction by dealing in information, events, and characters expected to be partly or largely imaginary.

Title sequence

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.

A title sequence is the method by which films or television programs present their title, and key production and cast members, utilizing conceptual visuals and sound. It typically includes the text of the opening credits, and helps establish the setting and tone of the program. It may consist of live action, animation, music, still images, and/or graphics. In some films, the title sequence is preceded by a cold open.

A soundtrack, also written sound track, can be recorded music accompanying and synchronized to the images of a motion picture, book, television program, or video game; a commercially released soundtrack album of music as featured in the soundtrack of a film, video, or television presentation; or the physical area of a film that contains the synchronized recorded sound.

Composer person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition

A composer is a musician who is an author of music in any form, including vocal music, instrumental music, electronic music, and music which combines multiple forms. A composer may create music in any music genre, including, for example, classical music, musical theatre, blues, folk music, jazz, and popular music. Composers often express their works in a written musical score using musical notation.


SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
1 13June 3, 2004 (2004-06-03)November 18, 2004 (2004-11-18)
2 13January 6, 2005 (2005-01-06)August 11, 2005 (2005-08-11)
3 12October 6, 2005 (2005-10-06)March 2, 2006 (2006-03-02)
4 19June 15, 2006 (2006-06-15)December 28, 2006 (2006-12-28)
5 13January 11, 2007 (2007-01-11)May 31, 2007 (2007-05-31)
6 18June 21, 2007 (2007-06-21)December 6, 2007 (2007-12-06)
7 26January 10, 2008 (2008-01-10)September 11, 2008 (2008-09-11)
8 16September 18, 2008 (2008-09-18)April 23, 2009 (2009-04-23)
9 11June 18, 2009 (2009-06-18)September 17, 2009 (2009-09-17)
10 16January 14, 2010 (2010-01-14)June 10, 2010 (2010-06-10)
11 36July 8, 2010 (2010-07-08)June 9, 2011 (2011-06-09)
12 43June 16, 2011 (2011-06-16)December 20, 2012 (2012-12-20)
13 36March 7, 2013 (2013-03-07)May 29, 2014 (2014-05-29)
14 24June 19, 2014 (2014-06-19)May 21, 2015 (2015-05-21)
15 30November 5, 2015 (2015-11-05)September 5, 2016 (2016-09-05)
16 23December 1, 2016 (2016-12-01)August 3, 2017 (2017-08-03)
17 29October 19, 2017 (2017-10-19)November 13, 2018 (2018-11-13)


After the First 48 title card After First 48 logo.jpg
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.

<i>The First 48: Missing Persons</i> television series

The First 48: Missing Persons is an American documentary television series on A&E that debuted on June 2, 2011 and ended on February 7, 2013.

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

<i>The Killer Speaks</i> American documentary television series

The Killer Speaks is an American documentary television series on A&E that debuted on April 11, 2013 and ended on May 29, 2014. The Killer Speaks features actual convicted felons as they describe their crimes step-by-step in chilling detail. It's a journey through the minds of killers, an autopsy of their psychology, with the goal of shedding light on what leads people to kill. The series includes spree killers, serial killers and domestic violence killers. The Killer Speaks casts killers from all over the country, not just from The First 48 series.

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.

Death of Caylee Anthony death

Caylee Marie Anthony was an American girl who lived in Orlando, Florida, with her mother, Casey Marie Anthony, and her maternal grandparents, George and Cindy Anthony. On July 15, 2008, she was reported missing in a 9-1-1 call made by Cindy, who said she had not seen Caylee for 31 days and that Casey's car smelled like a dead body had been inside it. Cindy said Casey had given varied explanations as to Caylee's whereabouts before finally telling her that she had not seen Caylee for weeks. Casey lied to detectives, telling them Caylee had been kidnapped by a nanny on June 9, and that she had been trying to find her, too frightened to alert the authorities. She was charged with first-degree murder in October 2008 and pleaded not guilty.

Drew Walter Peterson is a retired Bolingbrook, Illinois police sergeant who was convicted in 2012 for the murder of his third wife, Kathleen Savio, a few months after their 2003 divorce. Peterson first received national publicity in 2007 when his fourth wife, Stacy Ann Cales Peterson, disappeared. Although the police and Stacy Ann's family suspect foul play, she has never been found, and Peterson has not been charged in her case.

Robert Blake (actor) American film and television actor

Robert Blake is an American actor. He had starring roles in the film In Cold Blood and the U.S. television series Baretta.


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 also

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  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. 1 2 "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'".