I remember my first crush. He was older than me, quite a lot actually. And as some crushes invariably go, he had no idea I was alive. But that didn’t bother me; I was content to see him once a week – on my television set. You see, my secret crush was Dr. Quincy. Yeah, that rumpled California coroner who was portrayed by Jack Klugman in the decades old series, Quincy, M.E.
I was in my late teens, and Quincy was – well, older. As a younger girl, I got hot and bothered over David Cassidy or the band Chicago – but eventually I became infatuated with older men like the good doctor. Or perhaps it was just Quincy (although that Detective Columbo kind of had it going on). It was that great mind that got me. This expert medical examiner quietly did his thing week after week, way before criminal forensics were the hot topic.
And these days, hot is cold. Cold as in a city morgue or cold case. Cold as in the chill of goosebumps a viewer will feel when hearing a real 911 call as a neighbor reports gunshots – and the victims’ daughter screams in the background – in Spike TV’s Murder: Real People Solving Real Crimes. The new, unscripted-style show by Bunim-Murray Productions (The Real World, The Simple Life, The Bad Girls Club) will follow the work of several civilians as they step into a highly detailed re-creation of a homicide scene. These amateurs will have 48 hours to collect evidence, watch witness interrogation tapes, even meet with the coroner in the attempt to name a suspect before the other team.
Yes I said team. As in much of the world of reality or unscripted television, there is competition on Murder. In the first episode, “Hometown Homicide”, six regular people are divided into two teams of three. They are not professional investigators, but do have helpful backgrounds; firefighting, EMT training, or law students or professors. One individual was even a former gang member. But this is where a very interesting premise could be compromised by the need for drama. A real murder investigation is already loaded with pathos, to conduct even a re-creation of this investigation as a contest is questionable entertainment.
The show is hosted by homicide Detective Tommy Le Noir, a well known 27-year veteran of the Arlington, Texas police department. He has been earned numerous awards and commendations and some of his cases have been featured in the media, such as CBS’s Cold Case Files, among others. Not a flashy host, Le Noir tends to be a bit stern, and he has to chastise each team in their early evidence gathering efforts.
He doesn’t try to pit one team against another, but I noticed that one team tended to squabble amongst themselves and whether this wee rivalry was contrived or not, I imagine real detectives don’t always agree while building their cases. However, this arguing and the concept of having the investigation turn into a competition are too suggestive of the unsavory parts of reality TV. An additional flaw was that one team obviously dressed more professionally than the other, as if they were being set up to “win.”
As you might expect, Murder is gruesome, which will be appealing to some viewers, and a turn-off to others. But based on the popularity of the C.S.I. franchise (and Quincy?), the chance for average citizens – and the home audience – to play “whodunit” will be a huge draw. Another redeeming feature of the show is that a donation is made to a selected victims’ charity in the names of the winning team members.
Murder will have to walk a fine line to avoid overt crassness, but shows promise. It premieres tonight, July 31, at 10:00 p.m. (ET) on the SPIKE network.