Bitchin' Channels

A blog about television and radio with Paul Casserly

Paul Casserly: Are murder trials a guilty pleasure?

Three of the puppies owned by murdered farmer Scott Guy. Photo / File photo
Three of the puppies owned by murdered farmer Scott Guy. Photo / File photo

The Scott Guy murder case has become a strange thing for a news story: It's become a guilty pleasure.

From Ewen Macdonald to the glam wives, the rumours of extramarital affairs, and the puppies, you really can't blame the media for going so large.

The court has been full every day, the papers are bursting at the seams, websites are live blogging every detail and of course it leads the news on TV.

But have you noticed that like McLeod's Daughters or Dallas, the trial is unfolding with the episodic use of witnesses, a jigsaw puzzle approach that sees the main players turning up over and over again.

It's something explained in more depth by Robert Lithgow QC on TVNZ7's excellent Court Report, fronted by Linda Clark.

He also dropped this bombshell: All the reaction shots of Ewen Macdonald are from 15 minutes of footage that the court allows the media to film at the beginning of each day.

He is not in fact reacting to anything at the time he's filmed. We see the lawyer asking the tough questions but the reaction we see, Ewen crying for example, is usually taken from elsewhere.

Another murder that's been back in the news is the Jane Furlong case. The discovery of her body has given her mother some closure.

It has also given us a chance to look back at the predictions and methods of the TV show Sensing Murder.

Furlong's body was found recently in the sand hills at Port Waikato. She went missing from Karangahape Rd in 1993 when she was aged 17. Her disappearance was the subject of a Sensing Murder show in 2007, featuring the talents of Deb Webber and Kelvin Cruickshank.

Both were able to parrot titbits that had long been public knowledge via the TV news and numerous newspaper articles but when it came to predicting where Jane's body was, they weren't so accurate.

You might look at this clip from the episode and think they really are talking to Jane, that they didn't do a little research before the cameras rolled. But I didn't.

Kelvin Cruickshank is filmed "speaking" to Jane: "I just asked if she's been moved from where she was killed, she's shaking her head."

Then: "She's not out of the city, she's giving me images of the hospital and the museum."

Deb is then given a map and points to the Auckland Domain, a place where numerous bodies have been found over the years. Not bad for someone who went missing from nearby Karangahape Rd.

Kelvin, given the same map, devises a sort of Bermuda Triangle, taking in the University, the Domain and Karangahape Rd.

Jane Furlong was eventually found by a woman out walking her dog, many miles away from Karangahape Rd and the Domain. Whatever terrible things happened to her, I don't think she had to endure any kind of conversation with either of these mediums.

Or did she? In one performance, Deb laughs and smiles, presumably in some sort of psychic trance, as she "talks" to Jane.

The dead girl has one thing to say: "Shhhhhhhhhhhh."

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