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New series review: Murder (Spike TV)

Arlington-based detective Tommy LeNoir and wife Pauline after a Beverly Hills press conference for Spike TV's Murder. Photo: Ed Bark

Premiering: Tuesday, July 31 at 9 p.m. (central) on Spike TV
Starring: Tommy LeNoir
Produced by: Jon Murray

Spike TV's new Murder series deploys an excessively gruesome look apparently aimed at dazzling the cable network's already Hostel-hardened, young male target audience.

One of the show's amateur sleuths marvels at the premiere episode's realistic crime scene, which features a female corpse with half "her" head blown off.

"There was just blood and head and guts everywhere," he says.

The 10-episode series invites two competing, three-member teams to re-solve real-life capital crimes, with Arlington, TX-based detective Tommy LeNoir in charge of their investigations. The winners will have an unspecified sum donated to their favorite crime victim-related charity.

"You are their voice. You are their only avenue to justice," LeNoir says after the teams have traipsed through the remnants of a blood bath that took the lives of a middle-aged couple given the pseudonyms of Allen and Diane Walker.

Viewers are warned -- or rather their appetites are whetted -- to look out for "explicit and gruesome crime scene photos and re-creations."

On that the program delivers. The bedroom containing the remains of Murder's two victims looks like a Texas Chainsaw Massacre starter kit. Blood from the badly damaged fake corpses is spattered nearly everywhere. And the one-hour show doesn't shy from repeated closeups of the carnage.

One member from each team also gets to shoot a watermelon pumped full of fake blood. It's apparently important to give the sleuths a taste of how the dead woman's head would have exploded.

LeNoir presides firmly but without condescension over teams whose members include a former gang member nicknamed Tank and a paramedic called Dawn.

Tank, now a law student, can be pretty hard on himself.

"Once again it is confirmed. I am absolutely stupid," he says at one point.

Each team gets 48 hours to amass evidence and make a case before LeNoir reveals what really happened. Three suspects are furnished, with actors standing in for them.

Murder, scheduled to run for 10 episodes in its first season, is morbidly fascinating at worst and fairly gripping at best. It's also voyeuristic in the extreme, which likely is the principal lure for many of today's red-blooded, blood-craving young men.

Grade: C