KEITH NEWBERY They're miles ahead across the Atlantic...

There was a time when you knew where you were with Silent Witness.

Corpses (or component parts thereof) would stack up in the mortuary to await the attention of Amanda Burton, who would sigh and gaze mistily into the distance before plunging her scalpel into a prosthetic liver.

She would then slice off a bit, sigh and gaze mistily into the microscope before pronouncing upon the cause of death, which was never as straightforward as you thought because they had an hour of BBC drama time to fill after all.

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In fact, if Amanda began by delving into the cerebral cortex, you knew the blame would eventually be attributed to a ruptured spleen or something similar because we were always taken on a guided tour of the innards before the credits began to roll.

That’s the way it always was with Silent Witness, and not even French and Saunders’ inspired spoof, Witless Silence, inflicted any terminal damage.

But, after 16 blood-soaked years, we appear to have a sad case of professional suicide on our hands.

When the series eventually expires and an inquest is held, the post-mortem will be quick and the verdict quite straight forward.

Death will be attributed to sclerosis of the scripts, a bloated sense of self-importance and mass myocardial infarction within the production team.

Put simply, nobody’s heart was in it any more.

Which leads me to make yet another plea for television producers in this country to cast their gaze across the Atlantic and learn once and for all how successful drama series should be made.

In the past 25 years we haven’t produced anything which compares, even remotely, to the sustained quality and class of shows like The Sopranos, The West Wing or Boardwalk Empire.

Then, just when you think the Americans cannot possibly surpass themselves, along comes the ineffable Homeland.

** Would EU believe it? Mandy’s over it

There’s not much to admire about Peter Mandelson – but it would be churlish not to offer up a modest ripple for the man’s asbestos-clad, brass-necked chutzpah.

Here is someone who enjoyed lording it in his role as an unelected commissioner in one of the world’s most undemocratic institutions: the EU.

Now, when his moment in the Brussels sun has passed, he is campaigning for a referendum to be held on Britain’s continuing membership.

But the difference is that now he doesn’t really care.