Reality cop show stars explain challenges of life in television glare at Edinburgh TV Festival

The stars and producers of two hit programmes examining police investigations contributed to a fascinating session at the Edinburgh TV Festival presided over by Krishnan Guru-Murthy.

Martin Hart

Martin Hart, who appeared in a compelling episode of Channel 4's '24 Hours in Police Custody', described how he'd returned from a holiday in Las Vegas to find cameras all over Luton police station where he works. Coincidentally, a break in a major case he'd been working on meant he was thrown into the thick of it before he'd had a chance to finish regaling his colleagues with tales of Siegfried & Roy and his wins on the gaming table.

Recognising the way TV can have an unexpected impact on the lives of its subjects, he consulted his family before signing the clearance forms that would mean he'd appear in the programme.

Accepting a description of himself as a 'natural performer', Hart said he had professional reservations as well as concerns about the impact his appearance might have on his wife and children because he was adamant that nothing "get in the way of my job".

In the event, he said, nothing did. During an intensive series of interviews with a suspect facing a 'conspiracy to murder' charge, Hart became so immersed in the interrogation process and the importance of doing his job that he forgot all about the cameras.

Owing to the nature of the programme he appeared in, Hart only had to tolerate the cameras in short bursts... by contrast, Carol Barlow, who appeared in BBC's 'The Detectives', had 18 months of continuous dealings with the producers and crew who followed her investigation of Ray Teret.

Unlike Hart, Barlow felt the presence of the cameras definitely affected her behaviour as she headed the investigation into Teret, an old friend of Jimmy Savile's, with the same disturbing appetites.

Guru-Murthy introduced clips from the programmes themselves as the duo described the impact their appearances in them had had on their lives.

Both felt it had been a positive experience even if it hadn't been quite what they expected. Carol Barlow gained the attention of colleagues she hadn't known before and described the "acclaim of other police officers" to be a meaningful reward for her participation.

A natural raconteur, she recalled how she knew she'd 'arrived' when "the lady in the canteen gave her extra onions on her sandwich". The attention had its downside though... she secured a stalker whom - she assured us - is now residing on a secure ward in a mental hospital.

Since the programmes were broadcast, she's even won the admiration of those she seeks to prosecute because - as she put it - "nobody likes a rapist and nobody like a child rapist... not even the criminal fraternity."

On a more serious note, Barlow recalled how she had frequently been talked into allowing cameras to film sequences when her initial feeling was that it was inappropriate. It was clear she sometimes found the persuasiveness of the director discomfiting and it was hard to miss the irony of her being put under this kind of pressure when her working life is occupied with making people understand that 'no' means 'no'.

It was probably for this reason more than any other that Barlow - unlike Hart - said she wouldn't participate in a similar programme if she was offered the chance. Though she would be up for 'The Great British Bake-Off'... while Martin Hart has been told by his family that under no circumstances is he to turn down 'I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here' if it's offered to him.

Jason Stone is a media writer and editor of David Reviews. Follow our live coverage from the Edinburgh International TV Festival here

Join us, it's free.

Become a member to get access to:

  • Exclusive Content
  • Daily and specialised newsletters
  • Research and analysis

Join us, it’s free.

Want to read this article and others just like it? All you need to do is become a member of The Drum. Basic membership is quick, free and you will be able to receive daily news updates.