In the ratings war, the Winner loses all
Wednesday 07 September 1994
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.
Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Katie Hopkins attacked me on Twitter — so I reported her to the police for inciting racial hatred
- 2 Replica Back to the Future Hoverboard released
- 3 Gamers confess the worst things they've done in The Sims
- 4 Dylan Moran on quitting smoking, being about as sexy as the Pope and why comedy panel programmes are 'c*ck shows'
- 5 Modern society encapsulated in five seconds
Poldark, review: Demelza’s insouciance is almost as impressive as Ross’ pecs
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
James May hints he will not continue on Top Gear without Jeremy Clarkson
Menstruation-themed photo series artist 'censored by Instagram' says images are to demystify taboos around periods
Jeremy Clarkson Top Gear return: Suspended host set for live event in Norway next week
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
David Cameron calls Labour 'hopeless, sneering socialists' while announcing 7-day NHS plans