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Murder in Suburbia

Saturday, March 13, 2004 by

“What’s our single most important rule about men, Scribbs?”/”No bad boys.”/”Because?”/”They’re bad.”/”And?”/”They’re boys.”

Yes. You read correctly. That exchange of verbal diarrhoea was used in the script of Murder in Suburbia and represents, quite appropriately, just how bad this show is. Whereas Hustle can get away with bad dialogue thanks to the excellence of its cast, this can’t. The word execrable just about sums it up though excremental would be just as fitting.

Posited as a British version of Cagney and Lacey – down to the one blonde/one brunette pairing – this is, quite frankly, a mess of a show and one that should be pulled off-air immediately. It beggars belief that something as monumentally bad as this has made it onto the Saturday night schedules. That female crime busters have continually managed to fail to convince is hardly news. But here they fail to convince so spectacularly badly that it’s actually quite painful to watch. Trumpeted as “an exceptional investigative team with the irresistible knack for uncovering the truth”, the duo of Ash and Scribbs (yes, really) represent the most laughable pairing of cops since Canon and Ball manned the station in Little Botham. Taking the chalk and cheese chestnut to ridiculous visual lengths – look, I’ve got my hair scraped back, I’m serious! – this is a show in which every single aspect is irredeemably bad.

This opening episode managed to cram in a wardrobe full of clich├ęs without a hint of subtlety – going undercover in schoolgirl uniforms, whingeing about the lack of men in their love lives, the power dressing DI with her scruffy DS sidekick. All the usual suspects were present and correct, right down to the most moronic line of all – “Tell me the truth!” which was uttered to a suspect. Oh for the verbal badinage of Reagan and Carter. I really can’t be doing with this touchy-feely nonsense. All that was missing was for DS Scribbs (that name again!) to ask the suspect if he wanted a really nice mug of peppermint tea. The dialogue was utterly inane and rates as, arguably, the worst script to be heard on television in recent years. Every line is leaden and every sentence is stilted. Up there alongside the previous two quoted examples we had corkers like: “Do you know what I love about suburbia?”, “Do you know what I hate about being single?” and: “What does the detective inside you say?” Question after question after question. I’m struggling to recall anything that has been as badly written as this full stop. Do you know what I mean?

The concept of two detectives solving crimes in the suburban heartlands as they try to catch the man of their dreams whilst arguing about the merits of suede is every bit as ridiculous as it sounds. This is fluff television for the Sex and the City meets Bridget Jones generation who want to empathise with the leads but don’t want to confronted by any nasty, horrible blood or – God forbid – mutilated corpses. That two performers such as Caroline Catz and Lisa Faulkner have found themselves in the middle of this lurid slice of sub-Meyeresque kitsch is indicative of the paucity of decent roles that are written for women. Is it really asking too much to come up with another decent role for a female lead or does the towering, ominous shadow of Jane Tennison cast itself over the imagination of every scribe in the land? Either way, it is verging on the shameful that so few decent parts are written for women in general and for them in police dramas in particular.

It really is incredibly difficult to say anything positive about this show other than it surely can’t get any worse. One can only hope that the two leads were deliberately characterised so badly to allow the viewer to develop with them as they transform from doughnuts who would struggle to match Inch High Private Eye’s intellect to a pair of interesting cops who you can identify with. Currently, the only thing that identifies this show is the smell of its own rotting flesh. And I don’t see anyone in too much of a hurry to claim this fetid corpse.

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