Friendly Rating: Older elementary and up
Safety Rating: Bloody violence, creepy voice-overs, probably sexual images in later episodes
Quality Rating: More creepy than interesting
New series premieres tonight on ABC at 10 p.m.
There is something rather voyeuristic about Final Witness. The point of the show is to look at a real-life murder case from start to finish, with the voice-over of the victim leading us through it. In the first episode, we’ve got the the 2008 murder of Penny Caffey and her children. The crime was supposed to include Penny’s husband Terry, but he survived.
It’s not a pretty story and while there is a twist, the object here is not to surprise us. Actors portray most of the individuals involved and many of the real participants in the story, including Terry Caffey, appear on camera to tell their part of the story.
There’s a lot of blood, since the scene is based on the real crime scene photos. You don’t actually see the violent actions, but the first episode in particular is not the sort to make you feel safe about your kids’ friends – which is kind of a problem, when you think about it. We have enough reasons to distrust other people as a society. We don’t need more.
And, frankly, that’s what I think is the biggest problem with this series. It’s all about horrorific crimes – the sort that are actually extremely rare. But because we’re exposed to them in such an intimate way, it’ll be hard not to look at your neighbor and wonder. It’s as someone I was talking to a long time ago pointed out, the problem with violence isn’t that it induces violent actions, it’s that it breeds distrust and fear. And there is significant research to show that watching violent programming desensitizes people to real violence. (Note to self – dig up said studies and post them here.)
On the plus side, Terry Caffey not only found a way to forgive the killers, he asked the judge at their trial not to sentence them to death. But I have to guess that’s more reflective of this particular case than the series in general.