As the evenings begin to draw in and the mercury starts to drop, it’s time to pack away the barbie and settle down with the remote control. At last, we can abandon the pretence of enjoying fresh air and charred meat, and get on with the infinitely preferable pastime of watching some seriously gripping telly. And telly doesn’t come much more gripping than the smorgasbord of captivating criminal delicacies on CBS Reality this autumn. Three documentary series enjoyed their UK TV premieres on the channel in September, cementing its reputation as the home of true crime.
Murder by the Sea is a series best watched in Coton in the Elms, a small village in Derbyshire. Why there? Because it’s the point in the UK that that is the farthest from the coastline which, according to this absorbing series, is absolutely teeming with killers. In amongst the arcades, candyfloss, fairground rides and Punch and Judy shows lies a far more sinister seaside legacy (although, let’s be fair, few things are more sinister than Punch and Judy). Some of the most terrifying murder cases in British criminal history have taken place at our famous beachside resorts. Every Tuesday at 10pm, criminologist Dr Nell Derby turns her forensic gaze upon another creepy case of maritime murder in one of the UK’s supposedly relaxing and fun-filled coastal towns. She has developed a keen eye for spotting trends in a killer’s behaviour, and nowhere are these trends as striking as the not-so-sunny seaside towns of Britain’s coastline. Using
testimony from police and experts, and dramatic reconstruction, she pieces together some of the murkier tales from the annals of villainy. In this year of staycations, it might make you think twice about booking that minibreak to the charming coastal town nearby.
If your thirst for true crime series still isn’t slaked, Evidence of Evil brings some of America’s most astounding criminal investigations across the Atlantic and straight into your living room. The show’s third season, on Wednesdays at 10pm, looks at cases from the past 20 years that left investigators scratching their heads, baffled by seemingly unsolvable crimes. The show’s fascination lies in the jaw-dropping new technological and forensic techniques that, time and again, come to the aid of law enforcement, providing them with the Eureka moments that turn a seemingly fruitless investigation on its head. This enthralling series uses interviews, detailed reconstructions and archive footage to tell the story of the dedicated men and women who work tirelessly to catch the criminals and ensure that they have the evidence to put them behind bars. It is an eloquent testimony not just to the professionalism of the investigating teams, but to humankind’s ingenuity when faced with seemingly insurmountable problems. It also offers the deeply satisfying and reassuring confirmation that when science takes on bad guys, the bad guys tend to come off second best.
Finally, in our televisual true crime trio, we have Medical Detectives (produced as Forensic Files in the US), with double bills showing on Thursdays and Fridays at 10pm. Back for its 15th series, the show that helped spawn the whole crime-science documentary genre remains the original and best of its ilk. Medical Detectives covers cases from all over the world, examining the role forensic science played in uncovering what really happened, and in bringing the guilty to justice. Using cutting- edge forensic techniques, true-tolife re-enactments, and testimony of those who lived through the events, the show leaves no stone unturned in its quest for the truth.
One of the things that sets this consistently informative and intriguing series apart is that you never know quite what direction it’s going to take you in. Sometimes it’s not a tale about catching a killer, but about exonerating an innocent suspect. And it doesn’t just concentrate on crimes, either: the show looks at how forensics allowed experts to get to grips with tragic accidents, and even outbreaks of disease. Not that you get any of those much these days.
This autumn, there’s every chance that there will be a lot of repeats on TV, as the broadcasting industry continues to come to terms with the restrictions under which it is temporarily operating. That means that UK premieres of original content should not be sniffed at. Those already familiar with CBS Reality’s hugely entertaining output will not need a second invitation to track down some of the most riveting, mind-boggling and irresistibly stimulating true crime series on offer. For everyone else, welcome to the home of true crime: CBS Reality.
Murder by the Sea, Tuesdays until 6 October at 10pm. Recommencing in 2021.
Evidence of Evil, Wednesdays at 10pm
Medical Detectives, double bills Thursdays and Fridays at 10pm until 2 October
CBS Reality is available on the following channels: Freeview (66), Sky (146), Virgin (148) and Freesat (135)