For TV viewers who have seen Making A Murderer or The Jinx, tonight’s new series on ITV will not be shocking or different. But for millions of regular ITV viewers, The Investigator: A British Crime Story will take some getting used to.
In the past, crime documentaries have lasted an hour on TV, or perhaps 90 minutes on the big screen. Now things are changing: there is almost a new sub-genre.
Netflix’s Making A Murderer was a ten-part, ten-hour crime documentary. US series The Jinx (shown here on Sky Atlantic), which Simon Cowell watched and loved, was a six-part crime documentary series – with the added bonus that it uncovered new information about its subject Robert Durst.
Crucially, both shows helped hook in viewers by dramatising key moments of crimes as if we were watching an episode of Broadchurch or a flashback scene from The Missing. And both series were talked about on forums, and discussed on other TV shows and in magazines and became even more popular by word of mouth.
So surprise, surprise, Simon Cowell wants a piece of that publicity and success, with his own series combining documentary and drama on British TV. His Syco TV company has teamed up with a production company called Shiver, for a new type of documentary for ITV.
Watching The Investigator, you have to let yourself go and immerse yourself in the story, aware that some scenes are a bit over the top or a bit too stylish, and there is a mixture of hard fact and other scenes with more than an element of drama.
The Investigator is fronted by Mark Williams-Thomas, who re-examines the murder of Carole Packman. Her body has never been found after she disappeared 30 years ago. Mark is not shy as a presenter and although he doesn’t make huge breakthroughs in the first episode, having seen the second episode I can tell you this series is definitely worth sticking with for shocking revelations.
Initially it may feel odd for some TV viewers to be watching what’s essentially a slick version of a Crimewatch reconstruction, alongside real interviews with witnesses and new facts from the present day. But if the ITV audience goes with it and there is enough discussion after the episodes, this style of programme will be here to stay on British TV.
The Investigator feels like a series that will crack many more cases in the future.
The Investigator begins tonight, 9pm ITV
Mark Jefferies is Showbiz Editor at the Daily Mirror.