Original Air date: February 12, 2014
I have seen my fair share of police procedurals (more than some could say). It’s a tried and true story format. Suspects, however, tries to do something a little different. It attempts to present the information as organically as possible, "fly on the wall storytelling" was the way it was described. The show takes on a documentary and semi-news footage feel to it. This isn't a slick crime show, with fast talking detectives, who always know more than their audience members. In fact, the actors were regularly told to use improvisation in their scenes, which in turn made for some clunky pieces of dialogue.
Starring Fay Ripley, Clare-Hope Ashitey, and Damien Molony the premiere episode throws us right into the story already in progress. There’s no introduction of our three detectives and we’re expected to just fall into step with the action. The audience watches news-like footage and listen to a reporter’s voice over explaining the basics of the crime that has occurred.
A 2 year old girl has been kidnapped from her crib during the night. The story moves forward through witness interviews and listening to the detectives connect the dots while analyzing the evidence presented. The audience only knows what the detectives know and we only see what the detectives see. An orange t-shirt with blood stains is found. The audience doesn't witness it being found, we only later see the photographs as the detectives discuss it.
There's no happy ending, the case is solved, and the detectives give a quick wrap up. This is a show that isn't afraid to be dark because in real life sometimes it's already too late before the cops even show up. Then just as quickly the show began, the show ends. The screen fades to black. Next week's promo is running before you've had time to process what has just happened.
In my opinion, by making it so “real”, it puts a wall between the audience and the action happening on the screen. The cameras are restricted to where they can physically fit, sometimes that means shooting from around the corner or through windows of a room (sometimes with blinding glares obscuring the actors’ faces). Background sounds are loud and distracting, a squeaky door overlapping with a piece of dialogue. The audience is always aware that we are watching through the lens of a camera and all the limitations that comes with that. It prevents an audience from fully connecting to these actors moving across their screens.
Personally, while I find this an interesting take on the traditional format, I probably would not be immediately drawn to this show if I was not already a fan of Damien Molony. As a reader of my blog, I’m sure you've noticed I love getting lost within shows. I love being able to get into a character’s mind and see things through their eyes. This format prevents that from happening. I'm missing the connection between audience and character. Therefore, I cannot say how long I will continue to watch future episodes. I know I will be watching next week, but past that I can't say.
I recommend everyone try at least the first episode, though. It may not be my exact cup of tea, but perhaps it is yours. It's not a bad show, by any means.
The second episode of Suspects airs Wednesday February 19th on Channel 5.