Stan Lee’s Lucky Man hits audience jackpot

James Nesbitt as DI Harry Clayton and Sienna Guillory as Eve in Stan Lee's Lucky Man (an original British drama for SKY 1) Episode One Photographer: Steffan Hill / © 2015 Carnival Films

Twist of fate: James Nesbitt and Sienna Guillory in Stan Lee’s Lucky Man

SKY1 HONCHOS certainly feel like winners right now as their gambling-themed thriller Stan Lee’s Lucky Man has been getting hefty backing from viewers.

Sienna Guillory as Eve in Stan Lee's Lucky Man (an original British drama for SKY 1) Episode One Photographer: Steffan Hill / © 2015 Carnival Films

Sienna Guillory as Eve

Starring James Nesbitt, the 10-parter (Fridays, 9pm on Sky1) saw its viewing figures jump after the first episode from 1.14m to a consolidated audience  of 1.74m. This is the biggest increase in viewing figures that the first episode of any Sky original drama series has ever achieved in the week after transmission. It also makes it the best performing original drama series launch on Sky1 for nearly four years (see our preview of the show here).

Adam MacDonald, Director of Sky 1, said: ‘I’m thrilled that our customers are enjoying the show as much as we are.

‘This record increase in viewing figures shows that they continue to value the flexibility that we offer them, to watch their favourite shows wherever and whenever they want.’

The series is the idea of comic legend Stan Lee and plays with themes of gambling and fate.

It sees DI Harry Clayton (Nesbitt), a cop from Central London’s Murder Squad, being given a mysterious bracelet that is said to endow the wearer with immense luck.

Roulette wheel at the Green Dragon Casino in Stan Lee's Lucky Man (an original British drama for SKY 1) Episode One - behind-the-scenes Photographer: Steffan Hill / © 2015 Carnival Films

The Green Dragon Casino in Stan Lee’s Lucky Man

The story exudes a glamorous side of London, the characters are familiar with the kind of high-adrenaline leisure found on sites such as Casino UK, and the show has panache, mixing an off-beat crime tale with spectacular depictions of the night-time capital with terrific action scenes.

However, Harry’s luck comes with a price and soon he finds himself at the heart of a sinister crime wave hitting town. The series also stars Amara Karan (The Darjeeling Limited), Sienna Guillory (Fortitude), Eve Best (Nurse Jackie), Steven Mackintosh (Inside Men), Darren Boyd (Spy) and Omid Djalili (Moonfleet).

This Friday the intrigue continues as Harry makes a wrong move that lands him in a life or death situation…

James Nesbitt as DI Harry Clayton in Stan Lee's Lucky Man (an original British drama for SKY 1) Episode Three Photographer: Steffan Hill / © 2015 Carnival Films

Life or death: DI Harry Clayton

 

Post Mortem, Kate London – book excerpt

Kate London 1 credit Tim FlachTHERE IS a lot of crossover between crime TV and books – Vera, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, Morse and many more started life on the page and transferred brilliantly to the screen. Because many of our followers enjoy both forms of entertainment, we’re taking a break from TV for a moment to offer this exclusive extract from an exciting new crime novel – Post Mortem by former police officer Kate London.

Kate graduated from Cambridge University and trained in theatre in Paris. In 2006 she joined the Metropolitan Police Service, first working in uniformed response and then moving to the CID. She qualified as a detective constable and went on attachment with the police nationale in France. Kate finished her career working as part of a Major Investigation Team on SC&01 – the Metropolitan Services’ Homicide Command. She resigned in August 2014 to write full time. Post Mortem is her first novel…

 

9781782396147

POST MORTEM 3

The ambulances and fire engines had gone and Collins had moved her car up into the outer cordon. She sat in the front seat working through the printouts of the linked dispatches that were the police records of the incident. Head down, she scribbled in her counsel’s notebook.

There was a tap on her car window. Detective Chief Inspector Baillie was leaning down looking at her. His thin, intelligent face was dusted with freckles, and above his pale blue eyes was a shock of flaxen hair. He smiled, pleased to have caught her off guard. She flicked open the door lock so that he could join her on the passenger side. As he crossed in front of the car, she saw how his dark pinstriped suit hung off his coat-hanger shoulders. He slid the seat back to its full extent and stretched his legs into the footwell.

‘Bit of a problem, Sarah. Don’t know whether you are aware? We’ve been looking at informing the families. Turns out that Younes Mehenni, the father of the dead teenager, is currently in police custody on remand to court tomorrow.’

Collins felt immediately wrong-footed: she should have known this. ‘I’m sorry, sir…’

[Read more…]

The Killing — Killer TV No 7

3033360-low-the-killing

DR1 (Danish TV), 2007 series one, 2009 series two, 2012 series three

‘Why do you insist on going to work, now you can have a proper life?’ – Sarah Lund’s mother

Sofie Gråbøl, Lars Mikkelsen, Bjarne Henriksen, Ann Eleonora Jørgensen, Søren Malling, Nicolas Bro, Charlotte Guldberg

Identikit: In Copenhagen, Detective Inspector Sarah Lund is about to begin her last shift before moving to Sweden with her fiancé when she becomes entangled in the disappearance of 19-year-old Nanna Birk Larsen.


logosFour years after it was shown in its homeland of Denmark, The Killing turned up complete with unknown cast and subtitles on minority channel BBC4 in the UK – and sent a thunderbolt through television drama. Not since Prime Suspect had anyone realised just how engrossing and emotionally deep a crime series could be. The advantages it had were that 20 hour-long episodes were devoted to the story of Sarah Lund and her team investigating the rape and murder of Nanna Birk Larsen; the cast was superb, fronted by an enigmatic performance from Sofie Gråbøl, who single-handedly blew away the cliché of the Nordic blonde dollybird; and the writing (by Søren Sveistrup) focused on character and the impact of a violent crime on the victim’s family, rather than just the whodunit. Moving and engrossing, set in an alien Nordic world, this was a mature, fascinating drama. Series two and three were also a cut above your average TV crime fare, but the first instalment was a true classic. TV execs at the Beeb and ITV hate to hear it, but The Killing was far superior to just about every drama made in the UK in recent years.

Spin-off: The 2011 US copy fiddled with the story and failed to convince viewers, but somehow kept going for another couple of series.

Classic episode: number 18, in which Jan Meyer is murdered at the warehouse. Having spent the entire series trying to get Sarah to clear off and being rude to her, Jan had – without any verbal acknowledgement between them – become a partner with Sarah, a team that had begun to value each other, with Meyer expressing concern for Lund and addressing her ‘as a friend’. His death was a shocking, emotionally affecting twist. Lund almost cracks when she’s told the news.

Music: Soundtrack composed by Frans Bak.

Watercooler fact: Sofie Gråbøl had no formal training as an actor. Encouraged by her mother and having responded to a newspaper ad, she got the role of a young girl in a film about Paul Gauguin and that ‘summer job’ led to others and suddenly she was an actor. She’s done Shakespeare and appeared in a Danish romantic drama, Nikolaj go Julie, before achieving international stardom as Lund.

Happy Valley 2 with Sarah Lancashire

Happy Valley series 2 - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: Catherine (SARAH LANCASHIRE) - (C) Red Productions

Cut above: Catherine (Sarah Lancashire)

Sarah Lancashire is back in a second, gripping series as the fearless small-town cop

★★★★½ BBC1, Tuesday, 9 February, 9pm

SO FAR this winter we’ve had new series of Midsomer Murders and Death in Paradise. Both are hugely popular, marvellous entertainment, lovely settings – and ever so dull.

Returning Vera and Shetland are decent whodunits, lovely settings, etc. Endeavour 3 is perhaps the best of the comeback bunch.

But now we’re getting down to the good stuff. The much talked-about The People v OJ Simpson arrives this month, along with Better Call Saul 2, The Night Manager – and the second series of the superb Happy Valley.

Writer/creator Sally Wainwright did something distinctive with the crime format in series one. The story of small-town police sergeant Cath Cawood – the awesome Sarah Lancashire – was much more than a cop procedural.

Tommy Lee Royce returns

As anyone who has previously been immersed in Last Tango in Halifax or Scott & Bailey knows, Wainwright’s stories offer living, breathing characters whose lives can be ordinary, profound, flawed and funny.

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 02/02/2016 - Programme Name: Happy Valley series 2 - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. 1) - Picture Shows: **EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION UNTIL TUESDAY 2ND FEBRUARY** Catherine (SARAH LANCASHIRE) - (C) Red Productions - Photographer: Ben Blackall

Rock and a hard place: Catherine deals with a sheep

The good news is that series 2 picks up nicely where the first concluded, offering a further mesh of compelling narratives. The BBC now issues a long decree about what should be mentioned in previews such as this, so I’ll stick precisely to what is mentionable.

Catherine is getting back to rebuilding her life, now that the vicious Tommy Lee Royce – James Norton, fresh from War and Peace – is behind bars. However, his hatred of Catherine is resurrected when he learns she has discovered a rotting body…

Sarah Lancashire is again very believable in the emotionally challenging role of a police officer battling to be a good family member and cop in the drug- and poverty-hit Calder Valley of West Yorkshire. As we know from series one, her daughter committed suicide after being raped by Royce, and as she endeavours to bring up her daughter’s son, Ryan, this heartache comes back to haunt her in series 2.  [Read more…]

Homicide: Life on the Street — Killer TV No 8

70727-1NBC, 1993-99

‘It’s hard to meet single woman on this job. You meet plenty of widows, but the timing just don’t seem right.’ – Det Stan Bolander

Richard Belzer, Clark Johnson, Yaphet Kotto, Kyle Secor, Andre Braugher, Melisso Leo, Daniel Baldwin, Ned Beatty, Jon Polito

Identikit: Police procedural delving into the work of a fictional version of Baltimore’s homicide detectives.


logosBefore The Wire there was Homicide: Life on the Street, based on a non-fiction book by The Wire‘s creator, David Simon. A former Baltimore Sun reporter, Simon spent a year shadowing homicide cops and the resulting book was an unforgettable glimpse at the lives and work of detectives in that city – the slog of investigation, the tricks of the trade, the galling frustration of knowing whodunit but not being able to prove it. The TV series was an intelligent attempt to dramatise the book, and gave us a series that steered clear of stock characters and cop-show cliches. The cases ranged from the heinous to comic, such that involving the body of an old guy who turned out to still be alive. The cops bicker, ramble on, made bad-taste jokes. Filmed on 16mm handheld cameras on location in Baltimore, jump cutting scenes and with wonderfully natural performances from the likes of Richard Belzer, Ned Beatty and Melissa Leo, the series had a distinctive style, while the stories portrayed the camaraderie and occasionally the soul-sapping nature of the job. It included non-traditional elements of detective storytelling, such as unsolved cases and criminals escaping, and had more psychological depth and truth in it than all of the forensic fantasy shows that clog the networks these days.

Classic episode: Three Men and Adena (season 1, episode 5). Three characters – two detectives (Pembleton and Bayliss) and a suspect – in an interrogation room as the officers try to get a murder confession. Intimidation, bickering among the two cops, failure and how inscrutable the truth can be – masterful writing that won an Emmy for scriptwriter Tom Fontana.

Watercooler fact: Despite all its awards (Television Critics Association, Peabody) and critical acclaim, the seven seasons of Homicide always saw the series in a precarious position because of low ratings (it lagged behind the likes of Nash Bridges!). TV Guide called it the ‘Best Show You’re Not Watching’.

The Night Manager: Tom Hiddleston, Olivia Colman

The Night Manager : Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston) and Roper (Hugh Laurie) - (C) The Ink Factory - Photographer: Mitch Jenkins

Watch your back: Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston) and Roper (Hugh Laurie)

HERE IS an early glimpse of BBC1’s The Night Manager, the first TV adaptation of a John Le Carré novel in 20 years and which stars Tom Hiddleston, Olivia Colman and Hugh Laurie.

The six-parter focuses on ex-British soldier Jonathan Pine (Hiddleston), who must become a criminal in order to infiltrate the murky nexus between the secret arms trade and the intelligence community.

Quality oozes from this drama (which we’ll preview soon). It’s a co-production with AMC in the States, which made Breaking Bad and Mad Men. In addition to major international stars such as Hiddleston (The Avengers) and Hugh Laurie (House), there is the abundantly watchable Olivia Colman (Broadchurch).

The Night Manager: Corkoran (Tom Hollander), Burr (Olivia Colman), Jed (Elizabeth Debicki), Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston), Roper (Hugh Laurie) - (C) The Ink Factory - Photographer: Mitch Jenkins

In the frame: Roper (Hugh Laurie), Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston), Jed (Elizabeth Debicki), Burr (Olivia Colman), Corkoran (Tom Hollander)

In addition it is directed by Susanne Bier, who won an Oscar for In a Better World, with a script by David Farr, whose credits include Spooks and Hanna.

Le Carré’s novel was published in 1993 and was one of his most acclaimed.

Hugh Laurie says: ‘I loved The Night Manager when it was published, and for more than 20 years have yearned to see it realised on screen. I am now thrilled and honoured to have the frontest of front-row seats. All the moving parts are finely machined – we just have to not mess it up.’

With this crew, that seems unlikely.

The Night Manager is coming soon! Watch this space…

NYPD Blue — Killer TV No 9

600x600bb-85ABC, 1993-2005

‘Andy, I don’t know if you should be a cop, but I think you got a lot of guts.’ – Lt Fancy

‘ Yeah well, for a while there, I was wearing them outside my clothes.’

– Andy Sipowicz, on returning to duty after being shot

Dennis Franz, David Caruso, Jimmy Smits, Rick Schroder, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Kim Delaney, Gordon Clapp, Sharon Lawrence

Identikit: The personal and professional grind of law enforcement at the fictional 15th precinct of Manhattan.


logosMoving on from Hill Street Blues, Steven Bochco and David Milch created this much-admired, long-running new show and simultaneously hauled the genre further away from TV’s homogenised world of The FBI, Hawaii 5-O and Madigan. Location shooting, bad language and nudity – the latter of which had the American Family Association frothing – gave the drama edge and depth, and it had a greater level of perspective on the harshness and injustice of police work than was common on mainstream TV at the time. The series hit the ground with sirens blaring. From the pilot onwards, NYPD Blue was focused on the characters. Our first glimpse of the abrasive Andy Sipowicz (Dennis Franz, another Hill Street veteran) is of him ‘flipping out’ in the courtroom as he loses a case against a mob guy (he appears to have broken the rules in getting Alfonse Giardella to court, anyway). His alcoholism is destroying him and his career, and later Sipowicz drunkenly attacks the gangster. Giardella retaliates eventually by shooting Sipowicz. This storyline, however, is used to give prominence to the characters of Sipowicz and his partner, John Kelly (David Caruso). Kelly is going through an emotionally cutting divorce, and now seems to be losing his work partner too – ‘You were like a father to me, man,’ he tells the unconscious Sipowicz in hospital. Dennis Franz played Sipowicz as the epitome of a hard-bitten New York cop (though with a heart of gold), David Caruso did his finest work here, and there were many standout performances along the way from actors who went onto further excellent series – David Schwimmer, Sherry Stringfield, Daniel Benzali and more. Booze, corruption, marital mayhem and death – NYPD Blue is a powerful drama. It survived Caruso’s departure during season two, with Jimmy Smits stepping in in fine style as Bobby Simone, another character with demons (he’s grieving for death of his wife). Bochco and Milch, with the invaluable input of Bill Clark, a former NYPD officer turned producer, guided the cop show into a grittier, more adult landscape with this indelible series.

Classic episode: True Confessions (season 1, episode 4). No fireworks here, but just a finely crafted episode in which Sipowicz bristles at working for a new boss, the alcoholic, slapdash detective Walker, and Kelly assists a wealthy, battered wife who shoots her husband. The episode, rated by TV Guide in the US as one of the 100 greatest of all time, is also a shock reminder that there was a time when David Caruso used to act, as revealed in the scene where Kelly’s addressing a tenants’ association and chokes up at the memory of his father, who was the victim of a shooting.

Watercooler fact: Dennis Franz was the only cast member to stay on the beat for the entire run of NYPD Blue, appearing in all 261 episodes.

New DVDs – Endeavour, Rectify

Endeavour 1-3 DVD 3DEndeavour

ITV’s stylish and intelligent Morse prequel is released on bulk – that includes the latest third series just finished on UK TV, along with the preceding two series as a box set. Shaun Evans as DC Endeavour Morse and Roger Allam as DI Fred Thursday make a good team, the writing is strong and the period detail terrific in all of these sophisticated mysteries. The stakes were certainly high in the most recent outing, when Endeavour had to move on from being framed for a crime he didn’t commit. The setting is the 1967 Summer of Love…

Endeavour Series 3 – Discs: 2,
Cert: 12 – £12.99: Amazon

Endeavour Series 1-3 -Discs: 7
Cert: 12 – £29.99: Amazon

Rectify S2 DVD 3DRectify

The continuing struggle of Daniel Holden (Aden Young) to rebuild his life after having his conviction overturned for the rape and murder of his girlfriend has been a quiet hit. While it hasn’t created a huge stir among viewers yet, the critics have the praised both series of this Southern Gothic legal drama. All agree the first series was riveting, but some claim this second outing is even better as Daniel tries to lay his past to rest.

Rectify Series 2. Discs 3 (10 episodes).
Cert: 15. £14.99: Amazon