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Case Number 20722

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Murder Investigation Team: Series One

Acorn Media // 2003 // 391 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Adam Arseneau (Retired) // February 17th, 2011

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All Rise...

Judge Adam Arseneau attended the Murder Institute of Technology.

Editor's Note

Our review of Murder Investigation Team: Series Two, published April 26th, 2012, is also available.

The Charge

From the makers of The Bill.

Opening Statement

A short-lived spinoff of the beloved British police drama The Bill, Murder Investigation Team: Series One is the U.K. answer to David Caruso and William Petersen, minus the sunglasses.

Facts of the Case

Lead by DI Vivien Friend (Samantha Spiro) and DC Rosie McManus (Lindsey Coulson), the Murder Investigation Team is an elite squad of detectives and forensic experts tasked with chasing down the most heinous and complex murders in London.

Murder Investigation Team: Season One contains eight episodes on three discs:

• "Moving Targets"
When Sgt. Matthew Boyden (Tony O'Callaghan, The Bill) is gunned down in the street, the Murder Investigation Team springs into action. Who would want to kill a respected police officer?

• "Daddy's Little Girl"
A teenage girl is uncovered encased in concrete at a building site. The team traces her disappearance through the grieving parents to a drunk who frequented the area, but the case soon becomes more complex than first imagined.

• "Rubbish"
A young boy turns up dead in a trash bin, minus one heart. The MIT track down the victim's parents—refugees from West Africa who take sanctuary in a church to avoid deportation.

• "Reading, Writing and Gangbanging"
Two murders, seemingly unrelated become interdependent as the MIT team investigates the falling death of a teacher and the floating corpse of a tramp.

• "Red Heads"
A woman is found floating dead in the river, strangled to death. The MIT team investigates the husband as their prime suspect, but soon has their doubts as a second victim appears.

• "Lambs to the Slaughter"
A pedophile recently released from prison turns up mutilated in his home. The MIT suspect vigilantism, but soon find a trail leading back to the police themselves.

• "Models and Millionares"
A soft pornography model turns up dead, and her husband becomes the prime suspect—until DC MacManus reveals her own ulterior motive in pursuing him.

• "The Bigger the Lie"
A journalist is found dead in an alley, leading the MIT into a tangled web of racial hatred in East London.

The Evidence

So, you're a fan of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, are you? Well, so are the Brits. So much so, in fact, that they created their very own home-grown version, MIT: Murder Investigation Team. And yes, they dropped the acronym from the international broadcast version so people wouldn't mistake a fictional television show with a prodigious technical college from New England. Thank goodness! How embarrassing would that be? Am I right?

Oh, right, the spinoff! Murder Investigation Team is technically one, but only tenuously. The on-screen murder of a police officer from The Bill is investigated by the Murder Investigation Team, and wrapped up cleanly in the debut episode. From this point on, we're on our own, with no more crossovers or references, left to fend for ourselves in the wild of a fast-paced forensics-driven show that pays more homage to CSI: Miami than Rumpole of the Bailey. Fans of The Bill won't find anything familiar here.

Murder Investigation Team sets out to emulate the admirable attributes of American crime dramas, as if hoping to steal a bit of their ratings thunder in a television landscape already saturated with British and foreign police dramas. The end result is a solid homage, strong but never overwhelming. We get the expected frenetic pacing, the endless quips and one-liners, the forensic slant, and the interrogation sequences that always seem to end in a fistfight or with a suspect choking the detectives. And dead women! The seedier the better! Storylines are sensational but well-written; the acting is aggressive but respectable. It's like watching a UK cop show in fast forward. Of particular note is Samantha Spiro as DI Friend, whose wide-eyed gaze and pinched features make her look like the daughter of Dolores Umbridge. She is unapologetically cool and hard-edged for a female lead.

Murder Investigation Team is the television equivalent of an American chain restaurant setting up shop in London, adapting its menu according to the seasonal availability of ingredients and the dining preferences of the locals. The end result is still quintessentially British, but you can taste the American influence in the air like a cloud of smoke. If you're a fan of American home grown crime drama and looking to expand your horizons, this might be right up your alley: something different yet familiar. And hey, if that's your thing, then go get it. Enjoy that Big Mac! Wherever you go, there you are.

Murder Investigation Team: Series One features a stereo language track, English subtitles, and a grainy, muted anamorphic widescreen transfer. Filmed in 2003, the fidelity is decent for DVD, but fails to make much of an impact in this modern age of high definition. Audio is clear and punchy, with respectable bass response. For Acorn, this is about standard.

In terms of extras, we get a commentary track on Episode One with series creator Paul Marquess and series consultant Jackie Malton. We also get a 25-minute interview with actor Michael McKell.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

It can be kind of fun watching a different culture feed us back our own programming, I admit. However, if like this Judge, you despise shows like CSI with a raging passion, this kind of cultural leakage feels hellish.

Look, I admire British police drama because of its slow pacing, its emphasis on narrative, and its attention to detail and character development. Watching the Brits emulate the kind of American crap that drove my television viewing habits overseas in the first place? Pure trauma.

Closing Statement

Fast-paced and Americanized, Murder Investigation Team: Series One can serve as a gateway to the wide and wonderful world of British procedural drama, if you're looking for something with training wheels. Experienced importers can skip this one.

The Verdict

Not my cup of tea, but fans of CSI will feel right at home here.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 88
Audio: 86
Extras: 25
Acting: 82
Story: 80
Judgment: 79

Perp Profile

Studio: Acorn Media
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• English
Running Time: 391 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Crime
• Drama
• Foreign
• Mystery
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Commentary
• Interviews


• IMDb

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