It’s hard to tell what The Trial is supposed to be. Channel 4’s reality drama puts Simon Davis on trial for the murder of his ex-wife, Carla Davis. The Davises, their lovers and character witnesses are played by actors; the judge, lawyer and jury are ordinary chaps like you and me.
So the murder is invented but the trial, we were encouraged to think, is somehow real. An inverse Big Brother: the contestants are voted into the prison rather than out of it.
The idea is to show us how a trial works from every angle: prosecution, defence, jury deliberation and the judge’s sentencing. But most trials, I’m told, are long and boring. This one is pure Agatha Christie: one revelation followed by another in the way that it doesn’t in real life.
Yep, Simon had to do it: he was known for having a filthy temper. Ah, but it turns out that Carla’s boyfriend, Lewis, was thrown out of the police for beating someone up. And what’s this? Carla was not only pregnant but experimented with drugs! All that’s missing from her CV is “Russian spy” and “white witch”. The show can’t decide if this is a procedural drama or a fanciful whodunit.
The jury are the worst. I could never believe that they took their job seriously. They become like a comical Greek chorus, saying such things as: “Never trust a man who plays with his keys.”
The person who steals the show is real-life barrister Max Hill, who wears a massive white wig on top of his massive white hair, and tells us that it wasn’t his job to judge if his client was guilty or innocent. Instead, he tries to deflect suspicion on to Lewis.
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