Life and Death Row, review: Compelling case for BBC3 to stay on TV
Ellen E Jones
Ellen is The Independent's TV critic. She writes a daily review of Last Night's TV and a weekly 'Inside TV' column for the i paper, as well as a column on general topics for the main paper most Wednesdays. Ellen is a former Hollywood correspondent and a contributing editor to Little White Lies, she's written on TV, film, lifestyle, travel and politics for publications including the Guardian, The Times, The Sunday Times, Esquire and Total Film.
Tuesday 18 March 2014
The "villains" featured in last night's BBC3 documentary Life and Death Row were about to receive justice, but in this instance our feelings were complicated.
Like over half of death row inmates, Richard Cobb from Texas was a young man – just 18, in fact – when he committed the crime for which he was sentenced to die by lethal injection.
After a decade in prison, he seemed to understand his position in the eyes of the state: "I'm an unregenerable speck of cancer that needs to be excised from humanity before I grow and develop into something darker," he said.
Anthony Haynes, another young inmate nearing the scheduled date of his execution for the murder of an off-duty police officer, was in a better mood. Call it denial or call it religion, but even as they were dishing up his last meal, Hayne's still had an unshakeable faith he'd be delivered from the executioner's table.
Werner Herzog's On Death Row mini-series remains the definitive documentary on this topic, but director Ben Anthony had sense enough to borrow Herzog's powerful technique of letting the camera linger on the interviewee's faces after they'd finished speaking. It's these moments that haunt the viewer long after the credits have rolled.
Life and Death Row is not only a cleverly structured, well-balanced look at both sides of the death penalty argument.
A documentary of this quality also makes a compelling case for BBC3's own stay of execution.
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awardsTheatre
Grace DentChannel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin file for divorce after 10 years of marriage
- 2 Rarest Beanie Baby bought for just £10 at car boot sale could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 3 Katie Hopkins and The Sun editor David Dinsmore reported to police for incitement to racial hatred following migrant boat column
- 4 Bookies now say Ed Miliband is more likely to be prime minister than David Cameron
- 5 Australian student Tommy Connolly, 23, adopts his pregnant, homeless 17-year-old cousin to give her a chance at 'a better life'
Safe House, TV review: Plenty of teasers to keep us guessing but spare us the cliches
Britain's Got Talent 2015: RSPCA investigating Marc Metral's miming dog after cruelty complaints
Star Wars: Rogue One trailer: Watch the teaser for the Jedi-less Death Star heist film
Avengers Age of Ultron 'after credits' scene leaks online days before cinema release
Louis Tomlinson is launching his own record label and has already 'signed two acts'
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
Katie Hopkins on LBC: Listen to caller taking The Sun columnist to task over migrant comments