Gritty police dramas have been airing on television networks from both sides of the Pond since the inception of the boob tube itself. In the early ‘80s, Americans were captivated with a late-night police drama entitled Hill Street Blues. A couple years later, the Brits booted up a series entitled The Bill, which lasted a staggering twenty-six years before being canceled in 2010. Other series soon followed suit, but, whereas many police procedurals in the past had painted a fairly pretty picture of a day in the life at a police station, many of these shows finally erased the picture perfect primetime depiction of cops and replaced it with a much more realistic view.
Then came CSI, as well as an unhealthy obsession with “how things work with forensics folks” — all of which was set to every other hit The Who ever had. Another detrimental fixation also started in the early 2000s: that of the television spin-offs. CSI beget about twenty illegitimate offspring, while, over in that Great Britain place, The Bill gave birth to a bastard child of its own: Murder Investigation Team.
Originally released in the UK with a CSI-style abbreviation preceding the title (it was initially called MIT: Murder Investigation Team, but that was changed when the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said “Hey, wait a sec!”), Murder Investigation Team, Murder Investigation Team’s relation to its parent series was trivial at best. The pilot episode features a regular from The Bill, but the part could just as easily have been written for another, unknown character — especially seeing as how the actor who made the crossover (Tony O'Callaghan) is the premiere’s premiere murder victim. Alas, I guess someone felt it was necessary to pull in an already established audience base. They also felt it was essential to fill Murder Investigation Team with some of the darkest, most depressing, and unsentimental subject matter known to mankind.
Rape, dismemberment, incest, adultery, serial killers…you name it, Murder Investigation Team throws it in — and never once apologizes for its behavior. Sure, gritty can be good, providing it’s well-written, well-acted, and well-photographed. However, it is my opinion that the shoving of cameras directly in the face of every onscreen character so that you can see right up their nose whilst the director yells “Act! Act!” is hardly a substitution for decent photography and acting. And then there’s the writing: you know how — in good shows — they always introduce a red herring and expect us to believe that’s the bad guy, even though we know it’s not? Well, Murder Investigation Team bravely skips that whole “we know it’s not them” style of detecting; the most obvious suspects are, in fact, the culprits. Sure, it’s not clichéd, but it’s not very original, either.