The Guardian gave this three stars in an “if you like this kind of thing” way, and I almost didn’t watch it because it was made by the same people who did the silly submarine thriller (Vigil), and it did look like it was going to be another one of those stripped procedurals, the kind both the BBC and ITV are too fond of. But it’s November, we’re in Beatles Limbo waiting for Get Back later this month, and everything else is a bit shit. I’m off the Succession train. I watched the first two seasons and honestly wish I hadn’t. There was so much out of proportion hype for the 3rd season, and I find it quite bewildering, because the show is okay, in the way that a lot of television is, but it’s definitely not as good as journalists think it is. Of course, they all think it’s marvellous because it’s a thinly disguised portrayal of the Murdoch dynasty, which is the soup they all swim in. So after all this, I no longer think Succession is okay. I think it’s terrible.
And the tendency of people who work in the media to get things wrong is really why I set the first episode of Showtrial to play, and I’m glad I did. Because it was better than the Guardian review indicated. It wasn’t perfect, and the title is ridiculous, but it had a lot to redeem it in my eyes.
Consider this. I complain frequently about TV series that seem to go out of their way not to have any (or any important) female characters. Explorers in the arctic? No women. North Sea Whalers? No women. And if you give it any thought you realise that people are actually going to a deliberate effort to direct their creative powers towards creating narratives in which men are isolated from society and have no women around them.
So how refreshing it is, in Showtrial, to note the following. Murder victim: woman (obvs); but: prime suspect: woman; all the barristers and solicitors: women; judge: woman; lead investigator: woman.
Written down like that, you might make a whiny noise and complain that such a set up isn’t “realistic”, but here’s the thing. I bet most viewers didn’t even notice, because it’s not as if there were no men in the way that there are no women in so many television/film narratives. There are men: other lawyers; a couple of other cops; the father of the prime suspect; the other suspect; the creepy university professor; the drug dealer. So you’re looking at the screen and what you see is a reflection of society rather than a fantasy created out of whole cloth in order to exclude 50% of the population.
And here’s another thing. If I tell you a girl has been strangled, sexually assaulted and dumped in the water, you’re going to picture all of the genre shows you’ve seen where a woman’s body is set out, naked, on a slab in the morgue and examined in minute detail by the camera eye. And you would be forgiven for thinking that, because it’s one of the clichés of the genre. Or: you’d be thinking there would be flashback scenes of sexual assault, rape, torture, strangulation.
And you would be wrong on both counts. Five episodes, and not a single shot of the dead victim, not a single autopsy scene with milky white dead flesh and an erect nipple. Nope. Instead, they show enough of the effects of the victim (her rucksack, her sleeping bag) without ever feeling the need to run the camera up and down her body.
And the story was suspenseful and interesting, the main cast excellent. I’ll forgive it the one clunky moment and recommend you give it a watch.