We’ve all been there; screaming at the TV whilst your favourite detective blindly overlooks that clue that has been blaringly obvious since the start of the series. I could do that, we think, I could solve that case. Well Sherlock, now is your time to shine. Murder Island puts regular people in the shoes of a detective – but will they find out whodunnit? With £50,000 up for grabs, they’re sure as hell going to try.
Really, a reality TV show? Investigative drama? We hear you say. This genre-bending crimeality drama, let’s call it, has a Cluedo-esque premise. Eight people travel to a remote Scottish island, with the task of solving the murder case of Charly Hendricks, with real life former chief superintendent Parm Sandhu, who demands to be addressed as “ma’am” sternly overlooking. The only catch – none of it is real.
The case, which is beautifully layered with intricate twists and turns, feels like a novel and very well could be. It’s written by critically acclaimed crime writer Ian Rankin, so whilst one half of the show could easily fall into the trash TV category, the other, consisting of well executed re-enactments of Rankin’s murder mystery, gives the series an integrity which makes it both indulgent and gripping. Win, win.
But what do the critics think? Well, writer for The Financial Times, Suzi Feay is unsure of its “peculiar mix of the spontaneous and the pre-planned” but admits that the premise “is intriguing”. The Times’s James Jacksonis also fascinated by the reality drama, awarding it “the prize for 2021’s most high-concept show”, the perfect watch for all “armchair detectives”. However, The Guardian’s Lucy Mangan is unconvinced, arguing that “the goal of all hybrid genres is to double the value of watching”, yet Murder Island “simple halves it because neither contribution is fully developed”, resulting in a “hybrid reality show [which] seems half-baked and unpropitious”. Yikes.
Criticism aside, it’s one of a kind and most definitely worth a watch – even if solely for the moment the two London girls are warned not to step in the victim’s pool of blood, on their first trip to the crime scene. Think The Apprentice with a dash of murder.
First shown October 2021.