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Medical Detectives: Interview

Medical Detectives: Interview with Nancy Duffy

Season 15 of Medical Detectives will be hitting your screens on Thursday 10th September at 10pm on CBS Reality (channel 135). The hit show takes a closer look at intriguing crimes, accidents and even outbreaks of disease to explore how the evidence is used to solve some of the trickiest cases. Jam-packed with interviews with medical examiners, physicians, journalists, law enforcement, coroners and legal experts, as well as re-enactments of the crimes and descriptions of cutting-edge forensic techniques, you’ll get to see the puzzle come together in extraordinary and unexpected ways.  

In preparation for the new season, we sat down with Nancy Duffy, the Senior Vice President of Program Development at CNN, to find out the inside scoop on the forensics show.  

For any readers who haven’t seen the show yet, what’s it all about? 

Medical Detectives is exactly what the title implies. The series is about the amazing work of scientists and investigators who use cutting edge forensics to crack the most baffling criminal cases. Criminals often think they’ve committed the perfect crime but due to these astounding forensic techniques, investigators are able to catch the perpetrator. 

As Senior Vice President of Program Development at CNN, what is it about Medical Detectives which made it stand out for you? 

Medical Detectives is the premier true crime television series. It pre-dated the CSI and Law & Order franchises. It’s really unique in that Paul Dowling did a phenomenal job of creating a series that focused on the investigators, the investigation techniques, and science. People think it’s a crime show but it’s really a science series, where new science is used to solve crimes. 

medical detectives facial recognition software

Is there a particular episode or case which has stuck with you? 

We have an episode this season about suitcases that were found floating in the ocean containing different body parts. Now, you would assume that any identifiable evidence of the victim or perpetrator would have been destroyed by the saltwater. But, in fact, investigators were able to solve what seemed to be the perfect crime by using advanced forensics. Stay tuned to see a shocking twist to the story when the perpetrator was revealed. 

Without spoilers, which episode from the new season was your favourite which our watchers should look out for? 

One of my favorite episodes from the new season involves a scientist who creatively uses a vacuuming tool, that was never intended for forensics use, to extract DNA and solve the crime. I don’t want to give away anything else so viewers can be surprised. 

What forensic technique did you learn about through the show which you found the most interesting? 

In this new season of Medical Detectives, I think viewers will be fascinated by an episode that features a new technique called “touch DNA” to create an image of the face of the suspect, which leads to the case being solved. So instead of relying on fingerprints, literally, via this new technique, they can put a face to the suspect and help solve the crime. 

medical detectives swab

What was the most important element of the show to you? The visuals, reenactments, expert testimony, telling a story...? 

I think that the storytelling in Medical Detectives is paramount and what makes the show so special. The elements that go into the storytelling are not just the interviews with investigators, family members of the victim and witnesses, but also the assets that we capture from the crime file, like the evidence photos and through the testimony, re-enactments, and the science that establishes the scenario of the crime. It is really the total picture, the combination of those elements that go into the storytelling.  For example, five different shows can tell the same story, but it’s really how you tell it that makes it compelling. 

This will be Medical Detectives 15th season – what new elements can we expect and why do you think the show has done so well for so long? 

The new season is a refreshing of the series, not a reinvention, but a continuation with new science, and new stories.  We're excited that we can feature these new investigators and the new forensic scientists with fresh cases. We have stories about technology that just didn’t exist at that time of the earlier episodes. Forensics has come long way! We also upgraded the look of the show and re-shot the show open, which looks and sounds similar to the original but used updated production tools. And, we are fortunate to have actor Bill Camp, known for his roles in acclaimed films “Joker” and “Dark Waters” as the new narrator, taking over for the late Peter Thomas. Clearly this is one of the longest running and most popular crime docu-series ever. One of the reasons it’s so bingeable is that we cram a lot of information, action and intriguing storytelling in approximately 22 minutes.  

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How do you think the reality of forensics differs from how it’s portrayed in crime dramas like CSI: New York?   

Medical Detectives was the precursor of CSI, a drama series that incorporates similar storytelling, and science. A big difference would be, in the CSI episodes that are fictionized, as opposed to the unscripted Medical Detectives, results happen a lot quicker. They get results of an investigation in minutes, so the storytelling concentrates on encountering the criminal, rather than depicting the pieces of the puzzle that lead to identifying the killer. We tell the whole story of how the perpetrator is caught through the investigators and scientists who walk us through the fascinating process. 

What do you watch in your spare time? Are you a big fan of true crime? 

I love true crime. I think it’s fantastic storytelling. It has drama, mystery and sometimes comedy. I know it sounds odd, but there are comic moments in some of these stories, because criminals have been known to make foolish mistakes. For example, The BTK serial killer corresponded with police and as he taunted them, sent them a Floppy disk after being assured by the detectives that it wouldn’t identify him. Shortly after it was received, he was apprehended.  My favorite crime shows are Very Scary People, How It Really Happened and of course Medical Detectives

What other shows on CBS Reality should our true crime fans look out for? 

I’m a fan of procedural dramas, so all of the CSI and Law & Order shows. I was also a big fan of the HBO mini-series The Night Of. 

Thanks Nancy, we can’t wait to check it out! Tune into the first episode of the new season at 10pm on Thursday 10th September, and enjoy double bills every Thursday and Friday at the same time on CBS Reality (channel 135). If you love a good crime drama or true crime documentary, check out our list of the top crime shows on right now.