Shoestring: Complete Series on DVD

DVD ★★★

Release date: 16 October
RRP: £59.99
Discs: 6
From Network

NOSTALGIA FANS are in for a treat with the re-release of this fondly remembered series. Trevor Eve stars in an early breakthrough role as the radio presenter and ‘Private Ear’ Eddie Shoestring.

The series, created by Robert Banks Stewart (who went on to create Bergerac too), was a big hit in 1979-80 for the BBC. It also has Michael Medwin as Shoestring’s long-suffering boss at Radio West, Liz Crowther as station receptionist Sonia and Doran Godwin as Eddie’s landlady and part-time lover.
The fun begins when Radio West receives poison-pen letters and Eddie, a private detective, is called in to investigate. He ends up with a job as a presenter who helps the public solve cases affecting them.
British TV stalwarts such as Diana Dors, Harry H Corbett, Geraldine James, Christopher Biggins, Toyah Willcox and Celia Imrie are among those who put in an appearance.
How does it stand up? There are a lot of bubble perms and some dire acting in places. It’s meant to be noirish, but Shoestring is terribly uncool as the protagonist. But the biggest mystery is how Radio West, playing hits from the 1930s, manages to get any listeners.
The pace is also pretty slow. This one is strictly for devotees who remember it well. It includes a book on the making of the show.

Rellik starring Richard Dormer, Jodi Balfour

Programme Name: Rellik - TX: n/a - Episode: Rellik - Generics (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: Gabriel (RICHARD DORMER), Elaine Shepard (JODI BALFOUR) - (C) New Pictures - Photographer: Joss Barratt

Marked man – Markham (Richard Dormer) and Elaine Shepard (Jodi Balfour)

Pay attention! This intriguing hunt for a serial killer is told backwards…

★★★★

BBC1, starts Monday, 11 September, 9pm

IF YOU’RE the kind of person that likes to come in from work, switch on the box and enjoy a cosy drama with a beginning, middle and end, Rellik is not for you. Try Doc Martin – it’s just started a new series on the other side.

Rellik is about DCI Gabriel Markham’s attempt to track down a serial killer. He’s personally invested in the case because the culprit burned his face with acid.

But the most singular aspect to the story is not its disfigured hero, but that it is told in reverse. You, the viewer, are not spoon-fed here – you have to work at this one.

I admit that as I watched I had to keep saying to myself, Hang on, what’s happening again?

Rellik is written by Harry and Jack Williams

So, what’s the point of all this buggering about with the narrative? The pay-off should be that as we delve into the past we should eventually find out who the monstrous killer is and how he got that way.

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 05/09/2017 - Programme Name: Rellik - TX: n/a - Episode: Rellik - Ep 1 (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: *STRICTLY NOT FOR PUBLICATION UNTIL 00:01HRS, TUESDAY 5TH SEPTEMBER, 2017* Gabriel (RICHARD DORMER) - (C) New Pictures - Photographer: Joss Barratt

Shrouded in mystery – Markham on the trail of a serial killer

It’s written by Harry and Jack Williams, who have also written the ITV series Liar (see preview below), which the TV bosses have fiendishly scheduled in the same time slot on the other side. Quite an achievement to have two big news series competing against each other like this.

They were also behind The Missing, the hard-hitting BBC series that was also inventive with its structure. So what are they playing at? Responding to the question with one voice, they say, ‘Playing with story and structure and trying to find new ways to tell stories is something we’re fascinated by, so it started there [working on The Missing].

‘But we didn’t want it to be a technical exercise so we had to ask ourselves why you’d tell a story that way. It became clear quite quickly that it was all about motive. That things happen for a reason and those reasons lie in the past. So, what happens when you start at the end and find your way back to the past sounded like an interesting thing to explore.’

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Liar, starring Joanne Froggatt, Ioan Gruffudd

2 BROTHERS PICTURES For Itv LIAR EPISODE 1 Pictured: JOANNE FROGGATT as Laura Nielson AND IOAN GRUFFUDD as Andrew Earlham. Photographer JOSS BARRATT This photograph is (C) iTV and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the programme or event mentioned above. Once made available by ITV plc Picture Desk, this photograph can be reproduced once only up until the transmission [TX] date and no reproduction fee will be charged. Any subsequent usage may incur a fee. This photograph must not be manipulated [excluding basic cropping] in a manner which alters the visual appearance of the person photographed deemed detrimental or inappropriate by ITV plc Picture Desk. This photograph must not be syndicated to any other company, publication or website, or permanently archived, without the express written permission of ITV Plc Picture Desk. Full Terms and conditions are available on the website www.itvpictures.com For further information please contact: Patrick.smith@itv.com

Where does the truth lie? Joanne Froggatt as Laura Nielson and Ioan Gruffudd as Andrew Earlham

What happens when a first date does horrifically wrong for a young woman?

★★★ ITV, starts Monday, 11 September, 9pm

LIAR IS A SHARPLY written psycho-thriller dealing with a delicate theme. It stars Joanne Froggatt and Ioan Gruffudd as a couple tentatively going out on a first date.

He plays Andrew, a surgeon and a single parent, while she is Laura, a teacher just coming out of a long-term relationship. His son is in her class.

There’s an attraction and they meet up for dinner. However, when Laura wakes up later she suspects she has been drugged.

Is Ioan Gruffudd’s character the Liar?

What happened? A devastated Laura tells her account to police, while Andrew insists on his innocence. Both are plausible…

2 BROTHERS PICTURES For Itv LIAR EPISODE 1 Pictured: JOANNE FROGGATT as Laura Nielson. Photographer JOSS BARRATT This photograph is (C) iTV and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the programme or event mentioned above. Once made available by ITV plc Picture Desk, this photograph can be reproduced once only up until the transmission [TX] date and no reproduction fee will be charged. Any subsequent usage may incur a fee. This photograph must not be manipulated [excluding basic cropping] in a manner which alters the visual appearance of the person photographed deemed detrimental or inappropriate by ITV plc Picture Desk. This photograph must not be syndicated to any other company, publication or website, or permanently archived, without the express written permission of ITV Plc Picture Desk. Full Terms and conditions are available on the website www.itvpictures.com For further information please contact: Patrick.smith@itv.com

Piecing together what happened – Laura

Date rape is a serious subject and one that the writers, brothers Harry and Jack Williams, have attempted to treat sensitively. At the same time the drama works as a compelling story with strong characters and tension.

Ioan Gruffudd is convincing as the dad who is either a psychopathic-level liar, or a seriously wronged man.

Joanne Froggatt’s superb performance

Joanne Froggatt has the further emotional distance to cover as Laura, upbeat and confident at the start, and a damaged woman before the end of episode one. The former Downton actor shows here why she has become one of ITV’s leading stars.

The Williams brothers are the duo behind the BBC’s powerful drama The Missing. In Liar they again play with the timeframe to throw us back and forwards in the narrative as Laura remembers more of what happened on the fateful night.

A sign of the duo’s rising status in the drama-writing world is that on Monday night BBC1 has scheduled another series by them, Rellik, to go up against Liar.

2 BROTHERS PICTURES For Itv LIAR EPISODE 1 Pictured: DANNY WEBB as DS Rory Maxwell and SHELLEY CONN as DI Vanessa Harmon. Photographer JOSS BARRATT This photograph is (C) iTV and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the programme or event mentioned above. Once made available by ITV plc Picture Desk, this photograph can be reproduced once only up until the transmission [TX] date and no reproduction fee will be charged. Any subsequent usage may incur a fee. This photograph must not be manipulated [excluding basic cropping] in a manner which alters the visual appearance of the person photographed deemed detrimental or inappropriate by ITV plc Picture Desk. This photograph must not be syndicated to any other company, publication or website, or permanently archived, without the express written permission of ITV Plc Picture Desk. Full Terms and conditions are available on the website www.itvpictures.com For further information please contact: Patrick.smith@itv.com

Questions – Danny Webb and Shelley Conn as the investigating detectives

The Missing was an unforgettable series. Liar is more intimate but still intriguing. It is difficult to guess which way the story is going to go.

I formed an early suspicion about what would happen and many viewers may come up with other views. It will be interesting to see where the story goes over the entire six episodes.

• UPDATE Having seen the second episode, I’ve knocked a star off Liar‘s rating. It often happens with series that the first episode sets up the story well, which then in the second descends into implausibility. Laura breaking into Andrew’s house, losing her earring, the ex-boyfriend organising the police raid on Andrew’s home, Laura continuing to teach Andrew’s son – it’s way too contrived and unbelievable. 

Tin Star, starring Tim Roth, Christina Hendricks

Tin Star with Tim Roth

Rocky road ahead – Tim Roth as Jim Worth

London cop looks for a bit of peace in small-town Canada – and finds murder and chaos

★★

Sky Atlantic, starts Thursday, 7 September, 9pm

LAST TIME we saw Tim Roth he was playing the quietly spoken creepy mass killer in dowdy Rillington Place. What a leap to see him transformed into a police chief in modern-day, small-town Canada.

Of course, the reason he is in demand with everyone from Quentin Tarantino (Hateful Eight etc) to David Lynch (Twin Peaks) is his brilliant malleability.

In Sky Atlantic’s new 10-parter he plays Jim Worth, ex-Metropolitan Police detective who has moved his family to the Rockies. Here they plan a new and better life, with Jim policing a rural community.

However, the setting – though spectacular – is not idyllic. There is a big oil company, North Stream, breathing down the community’s neck.

Organised crime in Little Big Bear

Their new oil refinery promises to bring in cash to Little Big Bear, but with that comes organised crime. When a doctor who spoke out against North Stream turns up dead, Jim investigates and finds himself up against forces he is ill-equipped to fight.

A bullet intended for Jim actually hits a family member and the lawman finds himself sliding back into the alcoholism that had plagued him back home.

It’s a juicy premise. Jim begins as a fish-out-of-water character, swearing in his broad London accent, chivvying his daughter into their new life.

Christina Hendricks and Genevieve O’Reilly

But he becomes a much darker character after episode one. The attack on his family unleashes a more reckless and vengeful man. Quite a few real big-city cops escape into new lives into a more tranquil lifestyle. Except Little Big Bear tips Jim into near madness.

Roth gets first-class support from Mad Men‘s Christina Hendricks as a slightly conflicted PR woman for North Stream, and Genevieve O’Reilly as Jim’s wife, Angela.

The writer and creator is Rowan Joffe – British son of director Roland – who has come up with a strong story about illicit love, corruption and revenge. If you want a drama with a bit of humour and a lot of anarchy, Tin Star should do fine.

Strike: The Cuckoo’s Calling

Programme Name: Strike - The Cuckoo's Calling - TX: 15/11/2016 - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: Robin Ellacott (HOLLIDAY GRAINGER), Cormoran Strike (TOM BURKE) - (C) Bronte Films - Photographer: Steffan Hill

Attraction of opposites: Robin Ellacott (Holliday Grainger) and Cormoran Strike (Tom Burke)

Entertaining three-parter following JK Rowling’s rough-but-ready private eye Cormoran Strike

★★★★

BBC1, Sunday, 27 August, 9pm

A COUPLE of years ago I was at a launch party to announce the nominations for the Crime Writers’ Association annual awards. Many of the UK’s leading crime writers were there.

Word went round the mingling authors and publishing folk that a ‘special’ guest could be arriving soon. Finally, there was a hush – the special guest had arrived. Necks were craned and there she was – JK Rowling.

It seemed extraordinary that a gathering of so many of the best crime authors around should be in near awe of her. She had been nominated for one of her books written as Robert Galbraith, the adult crime series she turned to following the conclusion of Harry Potter.

Tom Burke as Cormoran Strike

But it’s not just Potter fans and other writers by whom she is admired. I’m one of those who like her for taking no crap from ignoramuses on Twitter, for insisting the Potter movies were made in the UK, and for triumphing so splendidly over the critic-snobs who sniffed that she couldn’t write. 

The authors at the CWA that evening no doubt appreciated that only a special talent could sell 100million books. So, her latest adaption coming to BBC1 is bound to attract a huge amount of attention.

Programme Name: Strike - The Cuckoo's Calling - TX: 15/11/2016 - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: Cormoran Strike (TOM BURKE) - (C) Bronte Films - Photographer: Steffan Hill

Cormoran Strike (TOM BURKE)

The Beeb has already offered a JK Rowling miniseries a couple of years ago. The Casual Vacancy starred Julia McKenzie, Keeley Hawes and Michael Gambon. It was a mystery exploring dodgy dealings in an English village.

It was a decent but rather forgettable show. I prefer this latest drama. Tom Burke is a charismatic lead as the one-legged, bear-like private eye Cormoran Strike. He is thrown together with Holliday Grainger as his new, super-efficient temp Robin Ellacott – an odd couple with a spark of attraction.

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Narcos 3 trailer

The drug king is dead, long live the cartel! In series one and two we saw the rise and fall Pablo Escobar. Season three of Narcos, which comes to Netflix on 1 September, will show how the authorities went after his successors in Cali Cartel. This is strong, breathless stuff, but a compelling take on what can happen when the criminals come close to toppling the state. Check out the trailer…

The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper

TELEVISION has offered several superb true-crime documentaries and dramas recently.

Making a Murderer and The Keepers have been thought-provoking and absorbing. Meanwhile, dramas such as Code of a Killer and Rillington Place have sensitively explored crimes that seem inexplicable and shocking.

I have now made a contribution to the true-crime bookshelves with The Hunt for the 60s' Ripper. This is a reinvestigation into a shocking unsolved series of murders from the 1960s – and one that today is largely forgotten.

More victims than Jack the Ripper

The Nude Killings occurred in west London in 1964-65 and saw six prostitutes murdered and left naked in public places. The unknown culprit, indelicately called Jack the Stripper by the media at the time, claimed more victims than Jack the Ripper 77 years previously.

In addition, two other killings – in 1959 and 1963 – were tentatively linked to the tally.

The killing spree sparked the biggest police manhunt ever seen, with hundreds of officers scouring west London for the perpetrator, including WPCs disguised as prostitutes. 

Swinging London's dark secret

It is an extraordinary case, touching the Kray gang and the Profumo Scandal. London was Swinging – the Beatles were performing at the Hammersmith Odeon that year and the Who were making a name for themselves in clubs around the Goldhawk Road. Meanwhile, a calculating killer was stalking those same streets for vulnerable women in the sex trade.

Why was he never caught? Who might it have been? And why is this shocking case unknown to many people these days?

These questions are all explored in The Hunt for the 60s' Ripper, which is currently on discount – £3.85 – on Amazon and at Tesco.

Oh, and one or two TV producers have been prompted by the book to consider the case for a new series…

Top of the Lake: China Girl

Programme Name: Top Of The Lake: China Girl - TX: n/a - Episode: Top Of The Lake: China Girl (No. Generics) - Picture Shows: Detective Robin Griffin [ELISABETH MOSS] - (C) See-Saw Films (TOTL2) Holdings Pty Ltd - Photographer: Grant Matthews

Dark twist: Detective Robin Griffin (Elisabeth Moss)


Top-quality drama, set in Sydney, sees the return of detective Robin Griffin

★★★★½

BBC2, starts Thursday, 27 July, 9pm

JANE CAMPION’S Top of the Lake returns and it really is a distinctive drama. It unsettles and then slowly immerses you in a troubling scenario involving the sex trade and murder.

Detective Robin Griffin, played by Mad Men‘s Elisabeth Moss again, returns to Sydney after her four traumatic years in New Zealand. It was there that she dealt with the child sex-ring case, which was dealt with in the original 2013 series.

She is fragile and struggling after her experiences, not helped by the sniggers and chauvinism of her colleagues in Sydney. She is also still haunted by the daughter she gave up at birth. However, it is a frosty welcome that she gets. Even her brother Liam turfs her out of his flat when he needs her room back.

Gwendoline Christie as Miranda

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 18/07/2017 - Programme Name: Top Of The Lake: China Girl - TX: n/a - Episode: Top Of The Lake: China Girl (No. Ep 1) - Picture Shows: NOT FOR PUBLICATION UNTIL 00:01HRS, TUESDAY 18TH JULY, 2017 Detective Robin Griffin [ELISABETH MOSS], Miranda Hilmarson (GWENDOLINE CHRISTIE) - (C) See-Saw Films (TOTL2) Holdings Pty Ltd - Photographer: Sally Bongers

Cliff-hanger – Detective Robin Griffin [Elisabeth Moss], Miranda Hilmarson (Gwendoline Christie)

Her cop partner, Miranda (Game of Thrones‘ Gwendoline Christie) is one of her few allies. Robin’s hope is that by throwing herself into work she will find some equilibrium again.

She is confronted by a disturbing case. The body of a young woman is swept onto Bondi Beach. While there seems little chance of finding the killer of ‘China Girl’, Robin discovers that the victim did not die alone. The case drags her into the seedier, darker recesses of the city.

Oscar-winning director Jane Campion has created and written a brooding, engrossing six-part series. She lets the story unfold visually in passages without dialogue, pulling you in as you become curious about the characters’ lives.

Nicole Kidman as Julia

Programme Name: Top Of The Lake: China Girl - TX: n/a - Episode: First Look (No. First Look) - Picture Shows: Julia (NICOLE KIDMAN) - (C) See Saw Productions Australia - Photographer: Sally Bongers

Controlling mother – Julia (Nicole Kidman)

Among them are Mary (Alice Englert), a student with an enigmatic ‘professor boyfriend’ Puss (David Dencik). She is the difficult adopted daughter of Julia (Nicole Kidman) and Pyke (Ewen Leslie).

Several storylines overlap, including one in which a group of sleazy young men compare notes on sex workers they use who advertise themselves on the internet.

It is a menacing world for Robin Griffin to get into, but a gripping and brilliantly made drama for us to follow.

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