TV Review: Murder in the First [Season 1]

murder in the first img 2Murder in the First is a ten episode American detective drama series that aired on FOX at 10pm on Friday evenings. According to BARB, seven of the first eight episodes placed in the channels top ten for their respective weeks, three times placing in the top four (figures for weeks nine and ten are not yet available). It drew an average in excess of 170,000 viewers per week across this time span.

The show stars Taye Diggs (Private Practise, Kevin Hill) and Kathleen Robertson (Beverly Hills 90210, Maniac Mansion) as Inspectors English and Mulligan, partners in the San Francisco PD homicide unit.

Season one is, despite some meanderings, a single story arc. English and Mulligan get assigned to, what seem to be, two unconnected murders. It quickly becomes apparent that there is a larger story at hand when it is revealed that both victims had connections to Silicon Valley prodigy Erich Blunt (Harry Potter’s Tom Felton).

First off, let me just say that while Murder in the First does not rewrite the rule book on detective dramas (in a market this saturated, that is as difficult as ever to do), it is a very enjoyable show.

For all intents and purposes, the plot is formulaic, and nothing is truly a huge surprise, nor is there any huge twist ‘that you won’t see coming’. But that’s cool, as it makes the story more believable. It is the believability of the show, coupled with some strong performances that make this worth your time.

Diggs and Mulligan have some good chemistry, making the partnership of English and Mulligan feel natural. They are a very likeable duo, which helps the audience will along their investigations into the slimy Blunt.

Felton is pretty good as the creepy Zuckerbergian genius at the centre of it all. He revels in the role of party hard, playboy philanthropist – you’re hoping that he’s guilty, so that our heroes can put this slimeball away.

The rest of the supporting cast ranges from solid to be darn good. At the forefront are Richard Schiff (The West Wing) and James Cromwell (Star Trek: First Contact, L.A. Confidential) as Blunt’s personal attorney, and the super lawyer hired to defend Blunt respectively. Cromwell particularly brings a level of gravitas to the role that helps elevate the show above its run-of-the-mill contemporaries. Steven Weber (Ultimate Spider-Man, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) puts in a good turn as Blunt’s private pilot Bill Wilkerson, and Charles Baker (Breaking Bad, One Piece) shines as affable fall guy Chris Walton in a slightly unexpected subplot. Also, while she overacts the role at times, Bess Rous is enjoyable as the absolutely bonkers Ivana West – second in command at Blunt’s company.

Ten episodes feels about the correct length for the storyline. It allowed a natural progression to the main plot, while giving each of the major players enough screen time to develop their characters a bit. Pretty much every subplot that needs to be resolved is done, and those that can be explored down the line (in the now confirmed second series) are left to be.

One or two subplots don’t quite hit the mark, and it sags ever so slightly in the middle, but, all in all, while not as original as elite shows such as The Wire, Murder in the First is a very enjoyable bit of television. If you’re looking for a better quality, easy to follow detective show with some likeable leads, then this is the show for you. We await series two (airing this summer!) in anticipation.

3.5/5

I stumbled across the existence of Murder in the First thanks to Geektown, a website dedicated to reporting the UK release dates of cult shows from both home and abroad. If you have never used the site before, you should definitely give it a go – you never know what television gem you may uncover!

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