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Showmax’s Crime and Justice is both different and familiar

Like most people, I do love a good crime TV series and naturally, they form the staple of the content I consume. With the right script, cast and good plot – a crime TV show can literary last forever. No matter how many times you do it and how predictable it becomes, there is nothing as satisfying as seeing the culprit in handcuffs at the end of the episode or sometimes season.

It’s a pleasure because we are often denied in real life where some mysteries have endured. So when our curiosity is denied the answers it seeks in the real world, it finds solace and comfort in made-up shows. For the most part, Africa doesn’t produce such shows in the kind of quality that would rival western productions like NCIS, which have become the gold standard. Instead, we have to make do with whatever the Fergussons give us. Stuff like the atrocious Kings of Joburg.

But there is a new product that is promising to change all that. And for me, the first positive thing about this new show is that Gwydion Beynon and his pal Phatu Makwarela (Tshedza pictures) were not involved in its making. These two one-trick ponies have made so many similar TV shows I can tell you what’s going to happen in them just by looking at the cast and often I am right.

No, this is an East African production (on Showmax) that is both familiar and very different, a good kind of different. It’s a familiar kind of crime show, the one we have seen a thousand times on TV but this time around the crimes being investigated take place in Kenya.

Normally African policemen are often portrayed as bumbling, corrupt idiots with a poor grasp of English in western productions. Here they take off their villain stereotypes and members of their force heroically investigate heinous crimes and even take on corrupt government officials who like eerr… I think you should watch the trailer below and see the whole show to know what I am hinting at.

There are plenty of good parts but sadly there is the usual pandering. The producers realise that most people who watch shows such as Crime and Justice are quite familiar with the rudiments of the American justice system and criminal procedure and seek to capitalise on that at the expense of showing off the systems in their country.

In Africa, the police wield a lot of power and are often accused, not without reason, of using physical force to extract confessions. They are also regularly accused of taking shortcuts in violation of the law. How many times have you seen the police bother to get a warrant before searching a home even without probable cause? None of this is fully explored, not in the first episode anyway. Instead, we have the usual attorney nonsense we see on US TV.

Here lawyers are often called lawyers and not attorneys. The police are often underfunded with rickety vehicles, they use actual rope instead of fancy yellow tape to secure crime scenes and we have pathologists who do the post-mortems and not medical examiners who do autopsies. I do wish shows would show that side of us and how some dedicated officers and detectives persevere in the face of this sort of adversity to actually deliver justice to those who deserve it.

Despite its shortcomings, the first episode was actually quite good and I found myself engaged although I was more forgiving given the fact that it was an African show. I was also a little annoyed by the excessive use of English as opposed to Swahili. The CookOff was also guilty of doing something similar but with too little Shona. Otherwise, this is a good show which hints at the promise of what Africa can deliver.

Also check out Sakho and Mangane

Got a taste for African crime shows? You can also checkout Sakho and Mangane which is also now on Netflix. This one goes full African although it’s in French. So you would have to make do with subtitles. Both shows are produced in partnership with Canal+.

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