MIT (Murder Investigation Team), ITV1

by | May 3, 2003 | All, Reviews

Cardinal rules of British TV, number 46: don’t try to copy American cop shows. Sticking to this edict has earned ITV’s The Bill a long and successful career, but on the evidence of its opening episode, the people responsible for this Bill spin-off either forgot it or thought they could beat it.

MIT (Murder Investigation Team) is CSI: Crime Scene Investigation crossed with NYPD Blue, with a dash or two of Homicide: Life On The Street and a hint of Cagney And Lacey. The NYPD-style camerawork, all shaky hand-held close-ups, quick zooms and snaky pans, combines with over-moody lighting to create an atmosphere that screams “trying too hard (and failing)”. The members of the elite murder squad have outbreaks of Homicide-style inter-personal friction, but lack Homicide’s bedrock team dynamic. And while CSI is wholly committed to its expositions of forensic detail, MIT drops its flip-chart sessions (such as how to identify a Volvo by its paint layers) in among all the other things it’s trying to be (such as hard-bitten action thriller), where they stick out like sore thumbs. In short, it just doesn’t come off.

MIT could reasonably be titled Friend And Her Friend, after its heavily-featured lead, DI Vivien Friend (Samantha Spiro), and her sidekick, DC Rosie McMahon (Lindsey Coulson). Coulson is fine as McMahon, with a measured, believable performance. But for some reason, Spiro, a fine actress with a wealth of stage, film and TV credits, has been allowed (or told) to go right over the top, creating an irritating caricature of a hard-hitting career woman.

With her permanently arched eyebrows, pursed lips and pointed stare, DI Friend came across like EastEnder Sam Mitchell’s dark-haired auntie having a particularly bad day at the florist. As every third shot seemed to feature Friend, we were soon having a bad day, too. In fairness to Spiro, half of Friend’s team, and the entire staff of Sun Hill nick, seemed to think she wasn’t up to the job, so perhaps the actress was just realising the character as instructed. But perhaps someone else could have done it without making us groan every time she appeared.

MIT’s first case was, of course, the murder of Sun Hill Sergeant Matt Boyden. This explained the plethora of suspects created in recent Bill episodes, as they were needed for the MIT team to bicker and flip-chart over (Boyden’s crack-addicted daughter did it, in case you were wondering, rather than the Snake Head Gang or the boy whose brother fell to his death with, seemingly, Boyden’s encouragement or Sam Nixon, who didn’t want him to reveal that her daughter was the child of a killer, or any of the many people who had been subjected to Boyden’s snidey ways).

Such is the difference between the two shows’ textures that The Bill regulars seemed as if they’d been transported to another planet. Apparently MIT won’t feature them in future episodes, which might seem a bit ungrateful on the part of the offspring series. In practice, it’s likely to be a relief for the Sun Hill crew.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles

03/05/2003

Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!

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