What’s On TV – Silent Witness

List Item:  Watch half of the 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die
Progress: 186/501
Title: Silent Witness
Episodes Aired: 174
Episodes Watched: 20
Year(s): 1996-now
Country: UK

This is the first 1001 TV Shows entry that I am writing about since myself and the hub ended our podcast. So I might be a wee bit out of practice when it comes to writing up TV shows that are not anime (see: over 1000 words on Yuri!!! On Ice). Still, let’s do this.

I have to start out this write-up of Silent Witness with the acknowledgement that this is actually two distinct shows: the Amanda Burton era and the post-Amanda Burton era. The show had already begun to change by the time Amanda Burton left, but when you watch an episode from Series 1 and then the opening episodes from Series 9 there is a world of difference.

If you have never seen Silent Witness the best way to describe it is: a crime procedural with the pathologists as the focus. Nowadays these types of procedural are fairly common, but back in 1996 this was a bit more unusual. Especially by having the main expert be a woman. When I think of other shows that have been made since (e.g. Bones, Waking the Dead and Body of Proof), the pathologist does tend to be a woman.

What’s a bit sad is how this show has ended up. Granted, this show has been on for 20 years, and that is an amazing achievement, but the work that is being done has started to feel more and more unbelievable.

In the earlier series the team would be doing their work as consultants with that little bit of pushing against the police in order to generate conflict. In the more recent episodes that I saw (because I figured with a show like this, it makes sense to hop around the years) these pathologists have become the crime-fighters and the cops are just in their way. I don’t know anyone who solves murders personally, but this feels a bit outside of reality.

That aside, I absolutely loved the episodes with Sam (Amanda Burton) because of how they developed her character. This started in 1996 and featured a Northern Irish woman as a central character.  This is two years before the bombing at Omagh and the tail-end of ‘The Troubles’. Needless to say I have learned a lot about how people in Northern Ireland were affected by this turbulent chapter of their history thanks to this procedural.

This is not to say that the later series aren’t enjoyable. I am a bit fan of a good pathology series and this still hits the spot (granted I haven’t seen anything from the last few series, so it might have taken a nosedive for all I know). This is a show that I will continue to watch outside of the blog; something I can’t say for all shows.

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