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The Major Differences Between Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders And The Original

"Criminal Minds" is one of the most popular crime procedurals of all time. With an aggregate user rating of 8.1 out of 10 on IMDb and a staggering 15 seasons, the CBS drama remains one of the biggest successes of modern broadcast television. For a decade-and-a-half, fans loved following the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit as they pursued some of America's most twisted and dangerous criminals.

In 2016, however, "Criminal Minds" expanded its reach outside the USA. "Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders" followed agents of the fictional International Response Team (IRT) who follow cases involving Americans in foreign countries. The series was not as well-received as its predecessor, holding a measly 25% critic consensus score and 37% audience approval score on Rotten Tomatoes for its first season. 

It's not unusual for a spin-off to find less success than its source material, but the negative reception to "Beyond Borders" is still surprising, given "Criminal Minds'" dedicated fanbase. What's different about "Beyond Borders," and why didn't it resonate with fans?

Beyond Borders is full of harmful stereotypes about foreign countries

Crime dramas are not known for their nuanced portrayal of policing. Rather, they tend to paint law enforcement agents in an exclusively positive light, ignoring the real-life criticisms and issues civilians have with policing in their communities. "Criminal Minds" is no exception to this, but "Beyond Borders" took to a greater level.

As Daniel Fienberg of The Hollywood Reporter puts it, "Beyond Borders" is "a pure distillation of xenophobia," and "shamelessly mines fears of international locations and foreign cultures." The show's first two episodes take place in Thailand and India, respectively, further emphasizing the harmful and incorrect stereotype of non-white and non-Western countries being a threat to Americans. Feinberg elaborates, saying that on "Beyond Borders," the unsubs are "products of their non-American environments, lurking in wait for tourists, young tourists, as their parents huddle at home in misery" (via THR). 

While "Criminal Minds" focuses on the dangers that appear doing normal, everyday things—like attending church, driving home from work, or going on a date—"Beyond Borders" focuses on horrors that are seemingly unavoidable for Americans who leave their own Star-Spangled home. Regardless of the audiences' own views towards foreigners, the show wasn't even entertaining enough to last, with CBS pulling the plug on the series after just two seasons.