The documentary-style crime show 48 Hours is one of the most popular shows on the CBS network. The show has been a popular mainstay of the network since it first premiered in 1988; since then, it has maintained steady ratings due to its interesting subject matter and its loyal fan base. But what is it about a show like 48 Hours that keeps people returning for more? Let's take a closer look at why people can't get enough of 48 Hours, and shows just like it.
People love true stories
People love fiction--but they also love hearing about true stories, especially things covered in a show like 48 Hours: disappearances, murders, troubles with schools or children, drug crises, and other crimes. One of the reasons that mysteries are popular for documentary-style TV shows like 48 Hours is that it allows people to get sucked into something real-life from the comfort (and safety) of their own home. TV shows are also popular formats for mysteries because they present the information in a visual way, which is more accessible to people than detailed books or journalistic reports.
People love mysteries and crime shows
The current incarnation of 48 Hours is focused exclusively on true crime, although the original incarnation of the show focused on other real-life issues (such as disappearances or rising problems in schools) as well.
True crime shows are so popular that there are actually several networks dedicated to showing them exclusively. The reason that people love crime shows is as varied as crime itself. Some experts have likened their popularity to the “car wreck syndrome”—even though it’s terrible, you just can’t help but look. Others have noted that people have an interest in true crime because it’s exceptional and yet commonplace all the same.
The show has adapted to people’s tastes
As was mentioned previously, the original run of 48 Hours (from about 1998 to the early 2000s) covered a range of different “true life” topics. This included true crime, but it also included other real life documentary subjects, like drug crises, troubles with school or children, and so on.
However, as true crime shows and documentaries became more popular, 48 Hours adapted to suit the tastes of its viewing audience. Now, the show is pretty much exclusive to true crime stories—which has actually increased its viewers in the past few years, and pleased its loyal fan base.