Ihe might not be the right time to launch a new entertainment series focused on investigating the murder of a young woman. The outrage surrounding the conviction of a metropolitan police officer on duty for the rape and murder of Sarah Everard, and the visibility it has given to rampant violence against women, is a hurdle to be overcome. Channel 4’s six-part offering Murder Island also has another point of connection with the case and the context. One of its participants is former Chief Superintendent Parm Sandhu, who last week gave a interview with Radio 4’s World at One on his experience at the Met. She spoke of the reluctance of female police officers to report sexist and misogynistic behavior for fear that men would close ranks, and said that “the fear of most female police officers is that when you call for help, you press. the emergency button on your radio, they will not come and you will be kicked out in the street â.
On the other hand, the vulnerability of women to rapists and murderers is not really new information and it has not curbed the appetite for its exploitation as entertainment so far. So maybe it’s by the way. Plus, the USP of Murder Island is that it’s a new genre – a hybrid drama / reality show that minimizes police involvement. Instead, four pairs of amateur detectives will battle it out to solve a murder mystery written by Ian Rankin, about the stabbing of Charly Hendricks in a cottage on a remote Scottish island by one or more unknown people. One team will be eliminated at each stage of the survey – winners will receive a prize of Â£ 50,000.
So said, I’m even less sure than I was that this counts for rather than against the new venture.
Aside from the context, how is the new format doing? The reality show element sings its usual mermaid song, giving us contestants spanning the gamut of abilities. On one end of the spectrum are Andrew and Nick, ambitious, articulate and with the lean and hungry gaze of leopards on the prowl. Andrew’s father and grandfather were detectives and he hopes the genetics will go away. While they should be warned like everyone else to speculate rather than gather evidence and see what it tells them, they appear to have a basic understanding of the procedure and, when it comes to assess time frames and compare testimonials, logic. If you had the money and cared enough about it, you would bet on them to win.
On the other end are Dot and Rox, who must be told not to stay in the pool of blood at the crime scene. They became friends when they worked in the same pub, and think they can read people. This will be very helpful once we move on to a fully intuitive criminal justice system, but as it stands just makes them extremely fun to watch. Told by Simon Harding, one of the former detectives who oversees and assesses the teams, for taking more photos of the processed crime scene than he would take on vacation, they wonder aloud how badly his vacations must be boring.
As we cut between scenes from the reality show, âfullâ dramatic scenes unfold with the fictional characters. As contestants roam the village interviewing friends, acquaintances and other people of interest to Charly played by actors, a story builds on a development project on the island that divides the community, activism de Charly on behalf of those who oppose the scheme and a possible love triangle between her, Jean the shopkeeper and particularly austere local Hamish. There’s also pregnancy, mysterious events in the far-off Glasgow area that have yet to be fully uncovered and the pub owner Toby looks devious to all of us.
The goal of all hybrid genres is to double the value of viewing. In most cases, however, it simply halves it because neither of the two contributions is fully developed and each undermines the other’s momentum. Murder Island, judged on the first episode, falls into the latter camp. Things could improve as more teams are eliminated, allowing the time to tighten up. It will also help if the interactions between detectives and actors become less scenic and awkward as they relax in the situation and its bizarre demands.
The importance of context, of course, is up to us.