The scope and authority of those in the US Marshals Service (USMS) are incredibly extensive. And they have a long history that began in the late 18th century when then-President George Washington signed the Judiciary Act.
So what exactly do US Marshals do? Well, without going into all the history and details, the USMS enforces the jurisdiction of federal law and courts, primarily when it concerns fugitive operations.
If you skim through their official website, you can check out fact sheets on the operations they cover including prisoner transportation, judicial security, witness security, sex offender investigations, and a lot more!
To make it easier to understand what a US Marshal does and how important their job is, we’ve put together a list of TV shows about US Marshals.
Most of these shows are scripted, but there are also a few reality shows in there to give you a taste of real-life on the job!
Justified (2010 – 2015)
Based on the series of short stories written by Elmore Leonard, FX’s Justified was critically acclaimed throughout its six-season run, gaining eight Emmy nominations and winning two of them. The original stories featured tough lawman Raylan Givens, who’s on-screen character was played by the ever-charming Timothy Olyphant.
Rylan Givens is a deputy US Marshal known for his unconventional methods of enforcing justice, making him both hated (and targeted) by criminals and disliked by his colleagues and superiors. Because of a quick-draw shooting incident, Givens was reassigned to Harlan County under the jurisdiction of the Eastern District of Kentucky in Lexington. Harlan County also happens to be Givens’ hometown, where he had left in his youth and hoped never to return to.
In Plain Sight (2008 – 2012)
Not to be confused with the British miniseries of the same name*, USA Network’s In Plain Sight went through various production and creative changes within the first few seasons, but successfully ran for five seasons.
In Plain Sight mainly follows Deputy US Marshal Mary Shannon (played by Mary McCormack), who works with WITSEC, more commonly known as the Witness Protection Program, based out of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Working with her partner, US Marshal Marshall Mann, the show details her struggle with balancing her professional relationships with her troublesome personal life. From the second season, however, the show focused more on how Shannon handled her cases and less on the personal aspects.
*The British series In Plain Sight is unrelated but also does seem quite fascinating, as it covers the crimes of notorious UK serial killer Peter Manual, nicknamed “the Beast of Birkenshaw”, who killed seven people in two years in the late 1950s.
Chase (2010 – 2011)
Chase aired for one season on NBC. While 22 episodes were ordered initially, this was eventually cut down to 18, and after a brief hiatus was eventually canceled. It was, however, picked up to broadcast internationally following its cancellation in the UK, Philippines, Canada, and New Zealand.
Taking from the show’s title, Chase follows the US Marshals operating within the agency’s fugitive apprehension team based in Houston, Texas. The show mostly revolves around Deputy US Marshal Annie Frost (played by Kelli Giddish from Law & Order: SVU ) and her fellow Marshals as they assist the federal government to investigate, locate, and apprehend the most dangerous criminals in South Texas.
Breakout Kings (2011 – 2012)
A&E’s Breakout Kings had a pretty successful two-season run despite mixed reviews. It was the most-watched original drama series from the network amongst two adult age groups and was distributed internationally to 20 countries.
When watching the show, you might recognize a familiar face: Theodore “T-Bag” Bagwell, the leader of the white supremacist gang in Fox’s Prison Break. This does hint at a shared universe between the two shows, especially considering certain elements of the plotlines, but Breakout Kings isn’t a direct spin-off.
In Breakout Kings, a special task force of US Marshals is formed to locate and recapture escaped convicts. Occasionally, they tap into the knowledge of current prisoners and offer them a chance to help in exchange for a reduced sentence and transfer to a minimum-security prison. But one wrong move could land them with a double their original sentence!
Karen Sisco (2003)
Before In Plain Sight and Chase, both of which prominently featured a female lead, there was ABC’s Karen Sisco with bombshell Carla Gugino playing the title role. The show was based on a character created by Elmore Leonard (who, if you recall, also wrote the short stories that were the basis for Justified), who also went on to create the series itself. Sadly, the show was canceled after just seven episodes leaving the last three unaired.
Karen Sisco is a US Deputy Marshal based out of the Gold Coast in Miami, Florida. Throughout the season, she spearheads the search for fugitives on the run along South Beach and Palm Beach while struggling to gain the respect of her colleagues. Her father, an experienced and retired officer himself, occasionally provides her with the advice and guidance she needs.
The Finder (2012)
The Finder is based on The Locator series of novels by Richard Greener, and it actually a direct spin-off of Fox’s highly successful series, Bones. Sadly, The Finder wasn’t as fortunate as its predecessor in terms of tenure, as it was canceled after just one season.
This is the first (and only) show on our list that doesn’t feature a US Marshal in the lead role and is a supporting character instead. The protagonist is Major Walter Sherman, a retired US Army veteran who, after surviving an IED explosion in the Iraq War, is suddenly blessed with an unusual investigative ability that allows him to see patterns where others can’t. Helping him solve the cases are his manager and legal advisor Leo Knox, and deputy US Marshal Isabel Zambada.
Eagleheart (2011 – 2014)
Being a US Marshal is no joke, but Eagleheart does a pretty good job of injecting a little comedy in an otherwise dangerous job. But what else could you expect from a show produced by comedian and talk show host Conan O’Brien, and from a program on the Adult Swim network?
Throughout its three seasons, we follow the (mis)adventures of US Marshal Chris Monsanto and his partners, Brett Mobley and Susie Wagner. Brett is a little slow on the uptake while Susie is a stickler for the rules, making their team a little disorganized – but they never fail to get the job done chasing smugglers, thieves, and convicts. While it is a comedy, be forewarned: there are some scenes that depict some pretty graphic and violent scenes! It is Adult Swim, after all.
The Marshal (1995)
We’re going to take things back in time a little bit with this next series. ABC’s The Marshal aired for two seasons back in 1995. Here’s an interesting fun fact about the show: the idea for it came when one of the producers, Carole Myers, obtained a formal letter from the USMS. She presented it to fellow producer Don Johnson (Miami Vice) who jumped on the idea after realizing that no series had yet been focused specifically on US Marshals.
The series follows Winston MacBride (played by Jeff Fahey from Lost), a deputy US Marshal who’s in charge of pursuing criminals across the country. Due to the nature of his work, he often travels to different states and comes across a variety of characters in pursuit of the fugitives assigned to him. According to Johnny Larue’s Crane Shot, MacBride had a “somewhat quirky approach to his work” and a necessary sense of humor.
Unscripted TV shows about US marshals
The last two bonus shows on our list are unscripted shows that portray the reality of life as a US Marshal. So if you feel like detaching from the fictionalized versions and want a small glimpse of reality, these next two shows are for you.
Marshal Law: Texas
Marshal Law: Texas was actually produced in cooperation with the US Marshal Service and homes in on the officers and cases handled by the elite Gulf Coast Violent Offenders and Fugitive Task Force. It shows the team working with various law enforcement agencies across the country as they search for America’s most wanted criminals.
Manhunters: Fugitive Task Force
Lastly, Manhunters: Fugitive Task Force is pretty similar in premise to the previous show, particularly in that the team is locating and pursuing criminals all across the country. However, this show focuses on the New York/New Jersey Regional Fugitive Task Force that’s based out of New York City.