Brace yourself readers – we have something a little different for you today. It is (drumroll please) …a prime-time crime drama. Yes, another one. Whilst it may be a path well-trodden, it’s one which viewers decide to waltz down time and time again. So, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?
This BBC series is a little different, however, directing our attention to the courtroom, rather than the murder scene like oh-so-many crime dramas do. Showtrial focusses on the fight between the defence and prosecution of Talitha Campbell, a privileged princess who is accused of murdering a fellow student at her university. By throwing open the courtroom doors, we are free to explore “the mutability of ‘truth’, the tricks memory plays on us and the effect of public opinion on the course of justice”, as Ed Cumming writes in The Independent.
So, we are spared the mind-numbing predictability of the murder-investigation-resolve that we are used to seeing on shows of this ilk. Instead, as Cumming states, the drama “has lots of grand themes – class, prejudice, corruption, the justice system – and doesn’t muck about before plunging us into things”. Likewise, Cumming points to the way in which “the viewer is thrown in via a series of rapid quick cuts, more energetic and stylish than we are used to from this kind of Beeb state-of-the nation drama”, making it compelling, contemporary in its premises and cinematically strong.
But (and there is always a but), we object to a totally shining review of Showtrial. “Much like Vigil, made by the same production company,” The Guardian’s Rebecca Nicholson says, “it ladles on idea after idea”, yet still “feels like such a slow burn”, a crime drama red flag.
However, what it may lack in pacing and plot proper, it makes up for in Talitha’s character. She is, according to The Times’ Carol Midgley, “utterly obnoxious” which is “a nice change, actually, not to have to empathise with a female protagonist”. Midgley goes on to write “the setup is clear: poor noble saint and spoilt despicable sinner”, however a couple of Line of Duty style cliff-hangers reveal that, as Midgley points out “nothing in life or TV thriller is this black and white”. Expect plot twists a-plenty.
Showtrial makes a plea to break through the tired tropes of crime TV, but will it be acquitted? The jury’s out and the case is far from closed.
First shown October 2021.