26 April 2005

BBC: British Body Count

In 2002, Britain had a population of approximately 50 million people and a murder rate of 1.2 per 100,000 population; this yields an annual pool of murder victims of around 600 people, a number which is ridiculously low by American standards. In 2002, Chicago (2.9 million population) and Los Angeles (3.8 million population) thinned their populations by 647 and 658 murdered people respectively; Washington DC and Detroit, with a combined population of 1.5 million overachieved by killing off 662 in 2002.

Considering that a Brit's risk of death by tooth decay is probably many multiples of his risk of being murdered, it's always seemed somewhat strange to me that the British have such a longstanding obsession with murder mysteries. I'm not criticizing, mind you -- it's an obsession I wholeheartedly share. The wife and I watch Wire in the Blood, Inspector Morse, Midsomer Murders, Poirot, McCallum, Miss Marple, and pretty much any other British murder mystery program we can get in front of our eyeballs. If a limey's been killed anywhere on television in the past five years, we've seen it.

Watching these programs without reference to real-world statistics, one would naturally conclude that every person in Britain is a) a serial killer; b) a victim of a serial killer; or c) investigating serial killings. It seems that in order to reconcile their viewership's insatiable need for murder programming with the reality that murder is a rare thing in Britain, the BBC has been forced to dramatize each and every instance of foul play on their island.

We misguided Americans aspire to fifteen minutes of fame; in Britain, everyone gets an hour.


Anonymous said...

If you like British murder mysteries, might I suggest for your viewing pleasure the "Mrs. Bradley Mysteries" starring Diana Rigg.

Unknown said...

The wife and I have a couple of sets of "Mrs. Bradley" on DVD; I agree that they are very good. The mysteries are usually intriguing, but the best feature of the programs is the characterization of and relationship between Mrs. Bradley and her chauffeur/co-conspirator. Unlike many TV sidekicks, he has his own backstory and demons with which to struggle. Moreover, the sexual tension between them is more real and compelling than what's generally seen on TV.