Forensics: The Real CSI review – the antidote to tawdry true crime

In the real-world CSI, there’s plenty of blood and some harrowing stories – but because life doesn’t wrap up neatly in 45-minute chunks, there’s no telling you’ll get the bad guy

The great problem with programmes like Forensics: The Real CSI (BBC Two), which deliberately evoke CSI: Miami/New York/somewhere equally glamorous and free of gun control, is that real life just doesn’t have a big enough budget. It’s a bit drab, you know? A bit meh. The lighting isn’t great, the surfaces aren’t shiny enough and almost no one gets to deliver gnomic one-liners as he stands over a carefully arranged corpse and puts on his shades.

Art, in other words, has ruined us for life. Nearly 30 years ago, in his book Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets (before they turned it into Homicide: Life on the Street, the best police series ever made, even though it appears for some reason to have been largely written out of televisual history), David Simon noted police concerns that juries were becoming less willing to convict criminals because the evidence rarely seemed as plentiful or clear-cut as they were used to seeing on screen. Now, even documentaries seem lacking.

It is not that there was anything wrong with this tracing of two cases being investigated by Newcastle police and some of the 26 forensic specialists the Northumbrian force has at its disposal. It was a conscientious look at “the harvest” – the painstaking gathering of evidence in the immediate aftermath of an apparent crime – after two incidents on opposite sides of the city. One, a gun fired through the patio windows of a potential witness in an upcoming court case; the other, a bloodstained young man found dead in an equally bloodstained flat by the father who called round because his son had seemed worried last time they had met.

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