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6 Degrees Entertainment

'Murder Investigation Team: Series One'
(Samantha Spiro, Lindsey Coulson, Michael McKell, et al / 3-Disc DVD / NR / (2003) 2011 / Acorn Media)

Overview: Leaders of an elite squad of detectives, brusque DI Vivien Friend (Olivier Award winner Samantha Spiro) and intuitive DC Rosie MacManus (Lindsey Coulson, EastEnders) single-mindedly pursue those who do unthinkable deeds as part of the Special Crimes Unit of London’s Metropolitan Police.

DVD Verdict: In truth, half the blurb on this 2003 TV show (first time on DVD here in the US) is true, whilst the other half is complete garbage! True = 'MIT: Murder Investigation Team' is a British police drama series produced by ITV (UK) as a spin-off from the long running series, The Bill. It is based around the investigations of a London Murder Investigation Team. False = It is closely styled after the American series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CSI: Miami and CSI: NY. What a load of old tosh to throw those quality shows up against this lame-ass wannabe!

I'm sorry, but it doesn't gel with me from the off re: these characters, and especially their boss, the overly-Shakespearian DI Vivien Friend (Samantha Spiro). I mean, yes, the fact she won an Olivier Award for her stage acting is one thing, but she brings that to the small screen each and every other sentence she utters. There is not one ounce of expressive acting from her face, her eyes remain wide-eyed and rabbit like the whole time, and she 'blends' into police raids like Liberace at a Truck Stop on Route 66!

Anyway, and knowing in hindsight that the TV Gods associated with this show must have thought the same (as the second - and last - season of this series only featured 3 of this cast), the first episode, 'Moving Targets' concentrates on the killing of a beat cop and a black youth. And, it features the worst scene in the series as the boss, DI Vivien Friend (Samantha Spiro) goes to buy some crack from a flat dealer, and peers through his letterbox (as a junkie) asking to come in and purchase! My God, this woman is clean cut, doe-eyed, and constantly has said eyes so wide open that the whites of her eyes are truly white (ie: not drug ravished and blood shot!) ... and yet he still lets her in!

In 'Daddy's Little Girl,' well, after all these kind of crime dramas if you can't guess what this one is all about from the title you need to back away from the remote now! A body is found on a construction site and by the time we're done here we're knee deep in gay bars and sex-change men! Well, that and some incest thrown in for good measure, of course! But, it does come with a nice twist ending. In 'Rubbish,' this time a mightily dismembered young African boys body is found on a river barge. His heart is missing and so could it be a ritual killing? A slow burner this one that comes with a perverse ending, sorry.

In 'Reading, Writing and Gangbanging,' a tramp witnesses a death, robs the guy of his shoes, and then gets killed himself! Along the way we get a great line spoken: "We should charge him for that crime anyway. Just for being a pillock!" Two cases merge into one here in this slow page turning episode. In 'Red Heads,' another body is found buried along the river bank and we also discover that necrophilia is alive and well amongst the community! Another drawn out episode (either that or I am so bored with this series that I can't wait for it to end most viewings!), reveals that the main culprit gave aids to his wife after contracting it from a corpse! Niiiiice!

In 'Lambs To The Slaughter,' a just-released pedophile is stabbed and emasculated sending the MIT to his house to find out why. But, looking through his past it seems he might not have been quite who they all thought he initially was. Indeed, halfway through the whole case gets turned on its head. This, by far, is the best episode-driven case. In 'Models & Millionaires,' a murdered porn model's bloated body is found beside the Thames. Funnily enough, in this episode, DI Friend's hair and make-up have taken a turn for the better as she looks more relaxed, more put together, more polished! Anyway, she goes head to head with chief suspect Gary Kemp, the woman's husband; and also a member of the UK band, Spandau Ballet.

It also comes complete with the best line spoken, as DI Vivien Friend (Spiro) as DS Trevor Hands (McKell) if she threatens him, to which his reply is, "No, it's because you're a stuck up cow who needs to take the pole out of her ass!"

In the last episode of the first series, 'The Bigger The Lie,' a young female journalist's big scoop leads to her brutal murder just of a busy market trading alley. Dealing with racial problems which grow bigger, and deeper as the episode runs, it culminates in one of their own being murdered. It has to be the most incredible scene portrayed by this bunch throughout, and is so sad to watch. The audio commentary on the first episode is boring, but the interview with DS Trevor Hands (Michael McKell) is brilliant - and very revealing!

FYI: Although it is the actual name of the police unit portrayed in the series, the "MIT" acronym was removed from the show's title for international (non-UK) release after complaints from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The show was retitled as simply "Murder Investigation Team" for the second season in the UK, as was the season one DVD release. [RT] This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.66:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Episode 1 commentary with series creator Paul Marquess and series consultant Jackie Malton
Interview with actor Michael McKell (25 min.)