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Thursday, February 23, 2012


If you like shows about murder investigation teams, then chances are you'll like MURDER INVESTIGATION TEAM: SERIES TWO, a two-disc DVD from Acorn Media.  It's not the best of its kind that I've seen, but it's a solid and slickly-made cop series that manages a few nifty surprises along the way.

Even if you missed out on the first season as I did, it doesn't take long to get to know these characters. (It doesn't hurt to check out the character profiles on disc one before watching, though.)  There's DC Rosie MacManus (Lindsey Coulson), a wise, seasoned cop who acts as the squad's conscience and mother figure; DC Jed Griffiths (Will Mellor), the cocky ladies' man; DC Simon Tait (Abhin Galeya), a shy, mild-mannered type; and DC Barry Purvis (Richard Hope), the obligatory tech geek who gathers info and peruses CCTV tapes all day.

Keeping everyone on their toes and generally shaking things up is DS Trevor Hands (Michael McKell), a hardheaded bantam rooster with an abrasive personality.  When he isn't bumping heads with his lady boss, DCI Anita Wishart (Meera Syal), he's giving the new girl in the squad a hard time.  Diane Parish plays DC Eva Sharpe, the usual rookie character who must prove herself before she's accepted by her new peers.  Sharpe does so by living up to her name as well as handling a nightstick like a pro, but thankfully her character is believably written rather than coming off like a superheroine.

Following the standard template for this type of show, each episode gives the team a new murder to investigate while they work out various professional and interpersonal conflicts.  We don't spend as much time obsessing over the forensic details as a show like CSI--this is more of a traditional procedural where the plot is driven mostly by relentless interrogation, dogged detective work, and meticulously putting together the puzzle pieces yielded by their efforts. 

Unlike some cop shows, we don't follow these guys home every night and get bogged down in their personal lives--we may learn about such things and see how they affect the characters as they go about their jobs, but their professional interactions yield more than enough material for strong drama. I cringed during a later episode at an attempt to ramp up the melodrama by having one cop surprise another with an unwelcome kiss, which is just the kind of predictable nonsense this show doesn't need.

With a longer running time (69 minutes), there are only four episodes in this series rather than the previous eight.  "Phone Tag" gets the ball rolling with a mysterious icepick murder during an otherwise harmless party game, leading the team into a search for a shadowy internet entity lurking amongst violence-inciting websites and threatening to strike again.  Clare Higgins of HELLRAISER guest stars. 
"Viper's Nest" begins with a young doctor falling to his death from a hospital balcony, which opens up an investigation into why a woman died needlessly after a minor surgery.  The extended cat-and-mouse interrogation scene with Anthony Head ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer", "Merlin") as an arrogant surgeon under suspicion is riveting.

"Professional" is about the death of a famous footballer whose perceived betrayal of his team may have incited a sports-crazy stalker to violence.  The final episode, "Sexual Tension", is the best of the lot, with a serial killer on the loose and none other than a member of the Murder Investigation Team as one of the main suspects.  (Danny Dyer guests in this one, and look for Jaime Winstone in a bit part.)

The show is nicely shot with a brisk pace and cool incidental music.  Mostly these are the usual sort of murder-mystery cases seen on shows of this type, but the crackling character interaction and the occasional stand-out scenes really spice things up.  There are plenty of red herrings to throw the viewer off so that the identity of the killer isn't too obvious, and while there is some humor, the dialogue is refreshingly free of wisecracks and obvious gags.  Performances by the cast are consistently top-notch.

The 2-disc DVD from Acorn Media is in 16:9 widescreen with Dolby stereo and English subtitles.  Extras consist of character profiles and a 12-minute interview with star Michael McKell and producer Jonathan Young.

While MURDER INVESTIGATION TEAM: SERIES TWO didn't quite blow me away, it's still one of the most entertaining shows of its kind that I've seen.  The four episodes in this set start out good and keep getting better and better, until I was left wishing that this team had stayed together longer than a mere two seasons. 

Buy it at

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