Suspects is a fast-moving police procedural from British TV’s Channel 5. It has a rough-cut feel, almost documentary style, with hand held cameras and no attempt to make anything look polished or sound scripted. In fact, much of the dialogue is improvised, based on detailed storylines are given to the cast. The result is, perhaps, the most realistic feeling cop series out there, network or streaming online.
There are three central characters: DI Martha Bellamy (Fay Ripley), DS Jack Weston (Damien Molony), and DC Charlie Steele (Clare Hope-Ashitey). Though Bellamy’s role is significant, much of the focus is on Weston and Steele. He is impulsive and quick to decide on a suspect’s guilt. Steele is younger, thorough and methodical; she always plays by the book. All the other police, except Bellamy, are essentially extras; rarely do they get a line of dialogue.
We get little insight into the personal lives of Bellamy, Weston or Steele. They are never shown at home, and we don’t hear about spouses or friends. (This changes somewhat in the second season, but not much.) The most personal moments happen on the roof of the police station, where cigarette breaks are taken and brief private conversations occur.
Suspects rarely has a wasted moment. Scenes jump back and forth from the interview room to Bellamy’s office or to an event in the field. The forensics lab and other support staff in Suspects may be the most efficient on TV. Cases and scenes advance quickly; the audio from an interview may start while we watch a suspect being booked. The viewpoint is often the police station’s CCTV.
The cases are standard police show fare: murders, kidnappings, blackmail, child abuse or all of the above. Each show is a single case, usually resolved at the end of the episode – though the ending does not always wrap up loose ends. We sometimes are left to assume or infer some aspect of the case. In Suspects season 2, the cases stretch over two episodes.
Five seasons of the Suspects TV series are currently available on Acorn TV, which can be purchased as an add-on subscription through Amazon Prime. The series was created by Paul Marquess. The seasons are short, four or five episodes each, and since it first aired in 2014, it has been produced at the rate of two seasons (or series, as the Brits say!) per year. Suspects season 5 has been completed, but is not yet available in the US. For viewers looking for a different approach to typical police dramas, the Suspects TV series is highly recommended.