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‘The Trial’ Redefines Reality TV With Mock Proceedings

While the crime for the Channel 4 miniseries is fictional, real lawyers, judges and jury members aim to show the true workings of the U.K.'s justice system.

Courtroom dramas have long been a staple of film and television, but how accurate they are to real-life court proceedings is often debatable. A five-part Channel 4 documentary series,

The Trial: A Murder in the Family

, aims to give viewers a full look at the U.K.’s justice system using a fake murder… but everything else is authentic.

Using real lawyers, a retired judge and a dozen of jurors from the public, the trial of the alleged killer (played by an actor) unfolds just as if it was an actual court case.

“It was almost like making a nature documentary, we baited the traps, edge back, erected hides and shot the lawyers in their natural habitat on the rig,” director Nick Holt explains to Televisual. “As soon as the door of the court closed it was vital the trial—and court—behaved exactly like a real one.”

“If this was scripted, you’d have an overview of the main story,” explains executive producer Jonathan Smith. “With this, on the day of the murder, you have 12 people with their own lives, which means 12 different scripts of what happened on that day. The police have investigated from their point of view, the barristers from theirs and all the characters from theirs. The actors have had to learn their stories in much the same way you’d revise for an exam. So trying to stop that all falling apart has been the knife edge we’ve had to live on.”

Read the full Q&A


 and more about the project