28 March-3 April 2014 #700

Murder on Television

Sophia Pande

Many classic television shows have been premised on death, David Lynch’s eternally riveting Twin Peaks (1990-1991) being perhaps the most famous (and in this writer’s opinion the best). Over the course of the last couple of years, international television has finally retaken up the mantle that they had left dusty for so many years and started to produce some very watchable and in some cases quite stellar television shows.

While some of these shows are not always based on murder (the excellent Danish political thriller Borgen (2010-present) being one of them) most are. Cary Joji Fukunaga’s True Detective (2014), an eight-part series made for HBO being perhaps the most edifying of them in its auteur driven, stylised manner. As with most successful shows True Detective is grounded, you could even say defined, by place. Set in Louisiana, the show deals with the serial cult killings of young drifting girls and stars no less than Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as two troubled homicide detectives who don’t quite know their own limits.

There have also been a slew of excellent shows out of Scandinavia – perhaps the most famous being the Danish The Killing (2007-2012) and now, also The Bridge (2011-present) coproduced by Swedish and Danish television networks. Both shows involve strong women detectives who are struggling with their careers (being female in a male dominated workforce) and their inner demons. While The Killing has spawned an inferior American version and The Bridge is about to be remade for the American audience as well, thankfully discerning viewers still can access these far superior originals – if they so will.

A few other quite compelling dramas have also come out of Great Britain, with the wonderful Gillian Anderson starring in The Fall (2013) as Stella Gibson yet another complicated female detective, and then there is Broadchurch (2013) with David Tennant (of deserved Doctor Who fame) teaming up with Olivia Colman to investigate the death of a young teenage boy who goes missing at the eponymous picturesque seaside town.

Television has come a long way in the last decade in terms of quality programming, and while I admit that I rarely watch it, it would be an extraordinary lapse to turn up one’s nose at these above mentioned shows.

Viewers are more than welcome to indulge in histrionic (but addictive) shows like Scandal (which I admit I watch for the wonderful Kerry Washington) and the sickening Grey’s Anatomy but be duly warned, there are truly well written, brilliantly cast shows out there that are worthy of your attention. If this current trend holds true then hopefully in the coming years television will become the platform for great writers to spin out longer story arcs with truly rounded characters – slowly but surely reeling in the best actors to realise that never boring genre that is the whodunit.

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