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Court TV Takes Tough 'Shots'

Court TV's special Shots in the Dark
offers a fascinating glimpse into the world of crime photography, an hourlong look that has the potential for future expansion.

Hosted and narrated by Harold Evans, the show is divided into segments on police evidence photographers, the history of crime photography, "accidental historians" and privacy issues in an era of omnipresent video surveillance — all of which could lend themselves to fuller treatment.

Evans also wrote the script from research by associate producer Gail Buckland; Derek Cianfrance was the director.

Viewers should be advised that some of the photos of corpses are unsettling. As Evans observed, "The crime photographer goes where we never want to go and sees what we never want to see."

Tyrone Hancock — a Newark, N.J., cop who's an evidence photographer — lets us know that the career's not as easy as CBS'CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
may make it seem. Murders of children are especially upsetting, he notes.

Evans — the onetime editorial director of U.S. News & World Report
and the
New York Daily News
and former Random House publisher — then segues into dismantling "myths of the criminal face" by pointing to serial killer Ted Bundy as someone who appeared to be "normal, even attractive," for example.

In a brief history of crime photography, Evans says the first wanted posters to incorporate photos appeared in 1865, when a $100,000 reward was posted for President Lincoln's killer, John Wilkes Booth.

Following quick cuts of celebrity mug shots — from Al Pacino and Frank Sinatra to Jane Fonda and Malcolm X — Evans shows the infamous O.J. Simpson shot that ran on the covers of Time
and Newsweek. As proof that "the myth of the criminal face continues," he faults Time
for having darkened the photo to make it more ominous.

The segment on "accidental historians" cites Abraham Zapruder's film depicting President John F. Kennedy's assassination and TV news crews' footage of Jack Ruby killing Lee Harvey Oswald (1963), but spends most of its time on the infamous 1991 video of the Rodney King police beating.

That was shot by a white man — Los Angeles plumber George Holliday — who had brought out his camera to tape family doings.

If the piece were reshot today, it surely would have included some home-video pictures of the World Trade Center twin towers collapsing in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Shots in the Dark
bows on Oct. 2 at 10 p.m.