In the ratings war, the Winner loses all

IT WAS A brutal, premeditated axeing. Last week, Michael Winner's True Crimes (ITV), a programme loudly going on about its ratings, was savaged by an unrepentant programme controller. In mitigation, it has to be said that the perpetrator of the killing was at the back of a very long queue: Winner's show was generally regarded as the salacious, sensationalist end of the wedge of television crime re-enactment. Lest it be thought, however, that the slaying signalled the demise of the genre, last night's schedules came up more loaded with the stuff than a blagger's lock-up.

If Winner's True Crimes was the Sunday Sport of real-life crime telly, then Crimewatch (BBC 1) is page three of the Telegraph: mildly titillating, self-congratulatory, but fulfilling a proper function. Crimewatch File, a 50-minute run- through of how Nick and Sue had double-handedly solved the murder of Christoph Scliack, was a reminder of that function. It also served as a model as to how these things should be done.

A harmless eccentric on the fringes of the London legal scene, Christoph Scliack's fatal error was to attempt the casual pick-up of a psychopath in the autumn of 1990. Shepherd's Bush police (the BBC had to go a long way for the location reports for this one) reached a dead end in their inquiries and turned to Crimewatch. A re-enactment followed, seen by two Irish policemen watching in Dublin. They recognised the photofit, tipped off the Bush, and an arrest was made. All this was told in flat, matter-of- fact police-speak, which would have made the Jeffrey Dahmer case sound bland and served to reinforce Crimewatch's guiding principle that it is plod, rather than pyrotechnics, that solves crime. The only worry with Crimewatch is the degree to which it has become an extension of police thinking. Publicising police investigations is one thing, taking their line on justice is less editorially sound. Scliack's killer was found guilty not of murder but of manslaughter ('a worrying judgment', the detective who had led the murder hunt said). He could be out of prison in December. Harmless eccentrics in Shepherd's Bush won't be sleeping cheerfully in their beds at that news, was Sue Cook's dangerously Winner-esque conclusion.

Network First's 'Date Rape: The Investigation' (ITV) was another programme helping the Metropolitan Police PR department with their image-making. It was also a new departure for true-crime television: it wasn't about a true crime at all. Circumventing the rules which protect the identity of rape victims, the programme presented real police with a hypothetical date rape, presented in stunningly accurate manner by a group of actors. Then, it asked them to solve it.

The police had presumably granted their co-operation in the making of a lengthy film because they were anxious for it to be known that they took date rape seriously and would treat victims with dignity and kindness; otherwise all these cops playing at acting could be charged with wasting their own time.

If it was a PR strategy, however, it failed. After watching the scenes in which the victim was asked to strip on to a sheet, wrap herself up in a paper suit and then answer a series of, albeit gently phrased, questions about her sex life, it would take a tough constitution indeed to reach for the phone after being attacked by someone you know.

Nevertheless, Network First made rivetting viewing. Simply because, as with Crimewatch, it was not remotely salacious, sensationalist or objectionable despite the tricky material. Also, and perhaps this is no coincidence, it was not presented by Michael Winner.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Muscling in: Noah Stewart and Julia Bullock in 'The Indian Queen'

opera
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn