The prize for the most morbid and possibly most exploitative series of the year goes to this one - three one-hour studies into the deaths of the famous starting with Michael Jackson then adding investigations into Whitney Houston and Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith for good measure
The shows from Britain's Channel 5 come with plenty of tabloid whirl, talking heads pondering the deaths and promises of shocking new revelations. But keeping it all grounded is the programme's own star, world-renowned London pathologist Dr Richard Shepherd, whose high-profile work has included the aftermath of September 11, the Bali bombing attacks and the inquest into Princess Diana's death.
But what's an eminent figure like him doing in a show like this?
"'If people understand better the processes, then some of the fear of death might be dissipated," he told the Sydney Morning Herald. "And as long as we go with the truth, in the end, although it is sometimes painful to hear, it is far better to have than fantasies and beliefs that are incorrect. Even relatives whose loved ones died a tragic and traumatic death - as a murder victim or in an accident - would much rather know the truth because then they can deal with it. The fantasies people have are almost always far worse."
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The first instalment uses dramatisations using a Jackson stand-in who ends up playing a cadaver for much of the show. "It's only Michael we show in that particular position and that's a picture that's been widely distributed," defends Shepherd.
"These people have been public property all their lives. I think it's important to realise a lot of people have a lot of false beliefs about how each of these people died, and we've managed to bring it together now in one coherent story so we can get as close to the truth as we can possibly manage."
Shepherd has made three more Autopsy shows: Karen Carpenter, Brittany Murphy and Michael Hutchence. No doubt they'll turn up at another time when the primetime schedule is looking a little dead.
When: Wednesday December 3, 8.35pm
What: CSI Celebrity
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