Under self command of Must Watch More Television, I settled down to Murder City last night. I like crime fiction, though less taken by police proceedurals, especially the cosy two hour ITV jolly old game variety. Well Murder City certainly isn’t that. Nor is it anywhere near as gritty as its title might suggest. Instead it is an grimly comic mismatched buddy cop drama with big doses of CSI thrown into the mix.

Amanda Donahoe plays DI Alembic (a name so close to Lambic that as far as I am concerned she might as well be called DI Beer), possibly a poor womans DI Jane Tennison. But instead of the Prime Suspect hand wringing of being a woman in a mans world she instead has to put up with Kris Marshall’s DS Stone as sometime Holmesian genius, some time autistic gimp. This is not a buddy pairing we were calling out for, from the homoeroticism of Starsky & Hutch we can add a mother/son relationship. Marshall’s schtick here is to make Grissom like forensic leaps, but couched in the arrogance of a bad tie wearing twenty something. It makes for a good pairing, Donohoe playing up the comedy, while Marshall tries to play his down.

Last nights tale included for London colour a drive by shooting between Turks and Kurds, but was actually a much cosier affair of domestic murder. Theirry is a random victim of the drive by, however it turns out that he had already been killed by a blow to the face, a heart attack and poison before he got shot. This is a classic CSI set-up and Murder City plays that riff about as far as it dares (it luckily decides to leave the drive-by as a coincidence). Cliches abound, but this is cop drama: it thrives on it (but subverts it, the prominence of casting rul does not work here). That said it does feel nicely home grown, it takes place in a real London untainted by the bumblers of Sun Hill. Most impressive was the sequence where, in reconstructing the murder, Marshall makes a scale model of the street Blue Peter style. Utterly pointless, but an interesting shift from the ubiquity of computers in this kind of drama. Despite its generic title and seemingly second hand characters, Murder City already has enough of its own rythmn to run for more preposterous mysteries to come.

(And IMDB search throws up the interesting fact that it was both called Kill City and Murder Squad in production. So we hope to see a CSI Miami style spin-off called Kill Squad in the future.)