TV: Murder One Review

Back in the mid 1990s, Sky One was one of the best channels available in the UK. Whether it was Games World (anyone remember Big Boy Barry?), The Simpsons (when it was still good) or WWF, there was plenty there to keep me occupied.

Now I can’t even remember the last time I watched Sky One, or what is even on it anymore (I just checked; it’s still The Simpsons, but also Modern Family, and that’s about it).

The point is, it used to be as important a channel to me as BBC One.

And one thing I remember most of all about it back in those days was a TV show I never even watched.

Murder One.

I think what made it such a striking show, purely based on the weekly adverts, was the sight of leading man Daniel Benzali; an actor with a head like a white chocolate Malteser. The vision of him clearly stuck in my mind.

Fast forward nearly 20 years, and I decided to buy the boxed set, based on nothing but those memories of the adverts. I didn’t even check whether it was highly rated before I bought it.

So far, I’ve only seen the first season.

Was it any good?

Murder One: What’s It About?

From the mind of StevenBochco – probably the most famous TV Crime writers in America with hits like Hill Street Blues,NYPD Blue,Columbo (a few episodes at least) and L.A. Law to his credit – Season One of Murder One focuses on the

There's the man with a head like a white chocolate Malteser, Daniel Benzali

There’s the man with a head like a white chocolate Malteser, Daniel Benzali

“Goldilocks Murder Case”, in which famous movie star Neil Avedon is accused of raping and murdering the 15-year-old call-girl, Jessica Costello. Avedon must call upon the help of Defence Attorney Theodore Hoffman and his team to prove his innocence.

But with the millionaire businessman – and alternate suspect – Richard Cross seemingly intent on making the defence’s lives as hard as possible while claiming to be on their side, Hoffman & Associates have their work cut out for them.

Over the course of 23 episodes, the case – from Avedon’s arrest through to his trial – is fully dealt with before the truth is finally revealed.

Murder One: Who’s In It?

The leading man is Hoffman, played by the aforementioned Dr Bunsen made flesh, Daniel Benzali. Other than him, recognisable actors these days would include Mary McCormack (West Wing, In Plain Sight), Stanley Tucci (he makes movies you know) and Gregory Itzin (the rat bastard slimeball President from 24)

Murder One: How Highly Is It Rated?

Murder One is critically acclaimed and has a cult following. In the UK and Europe it was a hugely popular show at the time, but in the US it struggled with ratings, with viewers apparently unable to cope with the season-long story arc format. Those silly Americans…

Right now on imdb, it gets an 8.0 rating.

Murder One: Was It Any Good?

I would say so, yes.

In some respects, Murder One is quite dated. Now that’s not going to come as a shock seeing as it’s 18 years old, but being dated can sometimes work to a show’s advantage. Personally, I love watching old episodes of Columbo, as they have a time capsule like quality to them; it’s like you’re watching a show made in a completely different world. Stuff from the mid-90s though can be dated in a poor way. You look at the outfits, the hairstyles and the production values and think “Urgh, I remember those days”.

Mostly what dates it is the aforementioned production values. The opening credits look extremely old-fashioned, and they are made worse by the attempts at using “hi-tech” CGI. Then there’s the incidental music, which often sounds like something from a Sega Megadrive game. Awful.

As well as that though, the mid 1990s were a time when TV wasn’t taken quite as seriously across the pond as it is now. It feels as though Television acting wasn’t deemed as worthy as the cinema back then, and arguably the reverse is true now. But what that means is that you watch the show and see some examples of acting – like that of Bobbie Philips and Patricia Clarkson, who played Julie Costello and Annie Hoffman respectively – that are so bad, you know that they wouldn’t be deemed acceptable in 2014.

So in those respects, it suffers, but thankfully the good outweighs the bad.

Daniel Benzali and Stanley Tucci are both excellent in their starring roles and bring a sense of authenticity to the part, and while most of the other actors are of a good standard, Gregory Itzin must also get a special mention for being possibly even more unlikable as the slimey District Attorney, Roger Garfield.

Beyond that, the season long story arc is well paced, and though there are the occasional lulls and distractions – like Hoffman’s marital crisis which came out of nowhere – I felt it kept moving smoothly from episode to episode and kept me entertained.

It was also interesting to see court procedure laid out in more detail than you’d usually expect on TV. In particular, I found the episodes dedicated to juror selection intriguing.

Finally, the conclusion to the whole thing kept me guessing, and I found myself pleased to know I hadn’t manage to work out the ending in advance.

Who Should Watch Murder One?

I’d recommend that anyone who enjoys crime drama or long, winding story arcs would enjoy Murder One.

I certainly did.

Give it a shot.

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