Silent Witness is flogging a dead horse

The Silent Witness team. From left, Jack Hodgson [DAVID CAVES], Nikki Alexander [EMILIA FOX], Thomas Chamberlain (RICHARD LINTERN), and Clarissa Mullery [LIZ CARR]
The Silent Witness team. From left, Jack Hodgson [DAVID CAVES], Nikki Alexander [EMILIA FOX], Thomas Chamberlain (RICHARD LINTERN), and Clarissa Mullery [LIZ CARR]
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Is there a better way of beating the January blues than settling down in front of the TV and enjoying a good mystery drama, cup of cocoa in one hand, pack of digestive biscuits in the other?

Well, if you’re settling down in front of Silent Witness (BBC1, Mondays and Tuesdays, 9pm), it turns out there is.
This soapy pathology drama has been a mainstay of the BBC schedules for years now, first featuring Amanda Burton staring mournfully into the distance, now more of an ensemble piece, in which every main actor is contractually obliged to deliver at least one important plot point per episode.
Having only just watched my first episode, I can’t for the life of me see why it has managed to hang around for so long.
The murder our Scooby gang of forensic pathologists have to tackle is generally more gruesome than your run-of-the-mill TV cop drama, but the rest of the show is a dull grind through the investigation.
There’s a lot of Basil Exposition-type explanations of fingerprints, DNA matching and blunt force trauma, lots of stereotypical straight-talking coppers and mockney street kids, and lots of scenes full of drawn-out drama school emoting.
There’s one character – supposedly the head of the crime lab – who does nothing except frown, while any plot twists – this week involving a Strangers on a Train type reciprocal murder – are so well signposted the killer may as well have a neon sign over his head.
It’s clunky, plodding drama posing as hi-tech, glossy excitement, and it just doesn’t work.
They may as well stick it away in a refrigerated drawer and let us have some closure.

The best thing on TV this week was a half-hour long film full of whimsy, wit and heart-warming moments. Urban Myths (Sky Arts, Thursday, 10pm) was a much-needed winter tonic.

Homeland (Channel 4, Sundays, 9pm) returned with a slow-burning scene-setter of an episode. The only trouble is, how on earth is it going to compete with the US drama unfolding in real life?