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.
Worse still, the show’s main characters aren’t given enough introduction before we are supposed to start “feeling” for them (our lead, portrayed by cougar Samantha Spiro, loses her onscreen father in the pilot, but it’s handled in such a manner that you just don’t care). In fact, the show’s constant in-your-face “the world is a scary place and everyone is going to kill you so you might as well stay at home and be terrified by our television shows so our ratings will go up” grittiness is enough to not make you feel. Period.
Honestly, if it hadn’t been for The Bill, Murder Investigation Team might not have gone anywhere. The show seems to be depending on something that isn’t there, such as taste, quality, or an accepting audience. Fortunately, though, the show only lasted two series in the UK before they called it quits — and now you can see how bleak it is by checking out Acorn Media’s Murder Investigation Team: Series One for yourself. The three-disc set brings us all eight episodes from the show’s freshman (and sophomore) season, all of which are presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with 2.0 Stereo sound and English (SDH) subtitles.
A duo of Special Features are also included with this release: an audio commentary on the pilot episode with series creator Paul Marquess, and 25-minute interview with actor Michael McKell. If you actually find yourself enjoying Murder Investigation Team, then you may derive a little pleasure in seeing these bonus items — but then, I don’t want to know what kind of “pleasure” you might derive from life if this show really , truly appeals to you. Stay away from me and my family, you freaks, or you may find yourselves being the subject matter of another gritty, disturbing, and very short-lived police procedural.
In short, Murder Investigation Team is one that I could have gone the rest of my life without seeing, but one that I shan’t waste anymore time in reflecting over. Appropriately enough, the show’s third episode is entitled “Rubbish” — which pretty much sums the whole series up for me.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go open the window and let the smell of this tripe out.