Code of a Killer, ITV, Trailer

Code of a Killer from ITV Press Centre on Vimeo.

This looks like a really interesting drama from ITV, starring David Threfall and John Simm. It is based on the extraordinary true story of Alec Jeffreys’ discovery of DNA fingerprinting and its first use by Detective Chief Superintendent David Baker in catching a double murderer. It goes out on Monday 6 April and there will be a preview of it here tomorrow…

The Game, BBC2, Tom Hughes, Brian Cox PREVIEW

Tom Hughes and the cast of The Game BBC2
Watch your back – Tom Hughes and the cast of The Game. Pics: BBC

 

• Espionage thriller with action, sex appeal and a lot of beige 1970s decor. It’s to die for…

★★★★

BBC2: broadcast time to be announced

WE LOVE a good spy yarn. Everything from Bond to Le Carre, all those betrayals and secrets have made for some great film and TV series.

In recent years we’ve had the movie of Tinker Tailor, TV’s Spooks (MI-5 in the US), Foyle’s War, Spies of Warsaw, Homeland and The Americans. So, in this league is The Game an asset or a discard (intelligence slang for an agent to be sacrificed for a more valuable one).

Going by the look of it, The Game is standard spy fare. It’s set in 1972, begins with a double-cross in Poland and is full of uptight, tight-lipped British men in raincoats. So far, so Le Carre.

Tom Hughes and Victoria Hamilton

Victoria Hamilton as Sarah Montag in The Game BBC2
Victoria Hamilton as Sarah Montag

But while it all feels familiar, The Game soon grips. It is a cracking tale of a massive Soviet

conspiracy against Britain, set at the time of the first miner’s strike, which seriously disrupted the country. It has some ripe characters in it, from slippery eel Waterhouse (delicious performance by Paul Ritter) to the talented woman among the male egos, Sarah Montag (Victoria Hamilton), and the charismatic and dark Joe Lambe (Tom Hughes).  [Read more…]

Third Degree: Peter Robinson

PETER ROBINSON is the author of the Inspector Banks novels – the fourth series of which has just started on ITV (see the post below). A multi-award-winning novelist, he was born in Yorkshire and now divides his time between Toronto and Richmond, North Yorkshire. We brought him in for questioning, and here he makes a full and frank confession of his criminal viewing and reading habits…

Your favourite British crime series or thriller on TV?
Oldies. Prime Suspect, Cracker, Trial and Retribution, Inspector Morse and Poirot, but they’re no longer running.

Favourite US crime series or thriller on TV?
I’m enjoying Lilyhammer at the moment. Before that it was Breaking Bad.

Are there any good Canadian TV crime series we should know about?
No. There used to be Night Heat and DaVinci’s Inquest, which were pretty good, but none I know of these days.

Top TV cop?
Morse.

Which unfilmed book/character should be made into a TV drama?
I’m looking forward to Bosch. There’s been a pilot and I think there’s a series on the way [just started on Netflix]. It would be interesting to see William McIlvanney’s Laidlaw on TV, and some of Bill Knox.

DCI Banks has just returned to ITV for a fourth series. What is it like to see your hero being transformed into a TV series?
It’s a process of loss. I thought the first few books adapted were relatively close to the originals, even though Annie disappeared and returned as a single mother and DI Helen Morton, a character I never wrote about, was added to the cast. Then DS Winsome Jackman disappeared, to be replaced by Tariq. The adaptations themselves were almost unrecognisable by the third series, and in the fourth Left Bank will be going with original stories. But if you take any expectations of fidelity to the original plots out of the equation, I think it’s a pretty damn good cop series.

DCI BANKS SERIES 4. ANDREA LOWE as DS Annie Cabot and STEPHEN TOMPKINSON as DCI Banks
Stephen Tompkinson and Andrea Lowe in ITV’s DCI Banks


How involved are you in the making of the series?
Not much, though I have enjoyed being on set and I do get to look at the treatments and scripts before filming. I make occasional minor suggestions for changes, and sometimes they even listen to me!

[Read more…]

DCI Banks 4, ITV, with Stephen Tompkinson, Andrea Lowe, Caroline Catz PREVIEW

ANDREA LOWE as DS Annie Cabot, STEPHEN TOMPKINSON as DCI Banks and CAROLINE CATZ as DI Helen Morton
DS Cabot (Andrea Lowe), Banks (Stephen Tompkinson) and DI Morton (Caroline Catz)

★★½ ITV: Wednesday, 4 March, 9pm

Story: When Banks suffers a massive personal loss, along with knowledge that Annie is back with her former boyfriend, David, he is forced to navigate a complex murder investigation while still grieving.

I HAVE made the mistake of criticising past series of DCI Banks, and then having to duck as fans of the show – and of Stephen Tompkinson in particular – sent their outraged comments raining down on this site.

My indifference to the drama is that is has largely abandoned the merits of Peter Robinson’s well-written books and that Tompkinson is miscast. He’s a good actor with hit productions on his CV – Drop the Dead Donkey, Brassed Off, Wild at Heart – but as the tough but occasionally charming Alan Banks he seems entirely wrong to me.

The feedback I’ve got in the past has been from viewers who adore him, however, and get upset if he is criticised. Fans, in other words. Which is why, of course, ITV and the Beeb occasionally plonk any popular star in a totally inappropriate role. Because he/she is popular.

The murder of a woman found buried

The other letdown is that DCI Banks offers nothing fresh. Let’s face it, crime dramas are 10 a penny on TV, and the police procedural is most rundown, hackneyed genre going.

In this opening story, What Will Survive, it’s the same old, same old. Banks turns up at a remote spot near a power station where the forensic bods are tending to a partially buried female body.

[Read more…]

Arthur & George, ITV, Martin Clunes, Arsher Ali PREVIEW

★★★½

ITV: starts Monday, 2 March, 9pm

Story: Set in 1906 in Staffordshire, Hampshire and London, the drama follows Sir Arthur and his trusted secretary, Alfred ‘Woodie’ Wood, as they investigate the case of George Edalji, a young Anglo-Indian solicitor who was imprisoned for allegedly mutilating animals and writing obscene letters.

ARTHUR & GEORGE, based on Julian Barnes’s 2005 novel, is inspired by the story of Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle’s reinvention of himself as a real-life investigator.

George Edalji was a half-Indian solicitor who was convicted of the rather revolting Great Wyrley Outrages, in which horses were mutilated in the countryside – crimes that the judge called ‘depraved and bazarre’. Edalji was sentenced to seven years, read Holmes’s adventures while incarcerated, and on his release appealed to the world-renowned author for assistance in clearing his name.

And what an extraordinary tale it is. Like The Suspicions of Mr Whicher – also filmed by ITV – it is an intriguing window into the Victorian mindset and attitudes.

Martin Clunes as Conan Doyle

While this production – with Martin Clunes playing Conan Doyle and Arsher Ali as Edalji – is pretty

Conan Doyle (Martin Clunes) and Jean Leckie (Hattie Morahan)

standard frock coat and carriages fare, the tale itself can’t fail to chill and fascinate.

It is replete with full moons, foggy nights, spectral figures and a sinister hate campaign against Edalji and his multiracial family. Conan Doyle himself would have been hard-pushed to concoct such a yarn.

The drama, like the novel, also touches on Conan Doyles’ seemingly sexless relationship with Jean Leckie following the death of his wife, Louisa.

Martin Clunes is fine as the writer rejuvenated by his investigation, though the Scottish accent wobbles a bit. While he appears to bumble along, wondering whether he should don disguises as his fictional consulting detective would do, Conan Doyle does see through police prejudice and uncover some very unpleasant goings-on.

Better Call Saul – slick follow-up to Breaking Bad

SURELY, after his scene-stealing in one of the most talked-about TV series of recent times, Breaking Bad, the only way was down for Bob Odenkirk.

Expectations for his headlining the spin-off prequel Better Call Saul were muted, but most BB devotees would expect at least a dignified effort seeing as the Netflix 10-parter is written by Vince Gilligan, BB‘s showrunner.

But delight of delights, from its opening episode BCS has been assured, grimly amusing and very promising indeed.

It is, of course, the early adventures of scamster and shyster lawyer Saul Goodman – whom we meet under his real moniker of Jimmy McGill. Gilligan, in cahoots with co-writer Peter Gould, has fashioned another delicious piece of twisted Americana.

The action kicks off in 2002, six years before the events of Breaking Bad. Walt and Jesse are BCS to develop it own identity. Jim/Saul is a struggling public defender, working from a disused storeroom at a beauty parlour, driving a jalopy.

nowhere to be seen, which allows

The writing and production are superb, subtly conjuring a set of pressures that start to shift our anti-hero into the realms of dishonesty. Again set in Albuquerque, it has BB‘s eye for alienating car parks and grubby civic spaces.

And Gilligan’s genius for torturous moral dilemmas still has us squirming, such as the desert scene in episode 2 where Jim/Saul and his two skateboarding partners in a scam face a horribly grim end.

Do yourself a favour – get legalled up with Saul.

Broadchurch 2 verdict – guilty of being a letdown

AFTER the hoo-hah it attracted during its second outing, Broadchurch finished with the announcement that there will be a third series.

The papers had a field day slamming the drama this time round, loudly blowing raspberries as the ratings drooped – Telegraph: ‘Loses two-million viewers'; Independent: ‘Lowest ratings'; Daily Mail: ‘Boredchurch’.

I felt the first episode was a good jump-start to the second series. But after that, it became implausible and dull. I quickly caught up by watching several episodes last week in time for Monday night’s finale, but still felt it was a shadow of the first, multi-award-winning season.

The performances were again terrific, but it was criticised for its legal inaccuracies and tortured plot. My own gripes were these:

• The storytelling was manipulative and the courtroom scenes irritating. Alex and Ellie performed like novices when questioned. Every time barrister Sharon Bishop made a wild accusation, we got reaction shots of the Latimers and the detectives looking distraught, ramming home the point that everything the defence asserted was on target with the jury. And the flashbacks showing Lee creeping about the woods and at the furnace were another attempt to steer viewers rather than let us work things out for ourselves.

• Even if it was possible, the idea that Joe would get off because the defence suggested a number of totally baseless fantasy scenarios – Ellie and Alec’s affair, Danny spotting his dad in a tryst and dad Mark ending up killing him etc – was deeply unsatisfying.

Radio Times describes Joe Miller’s acquittal as a ‘shock verdict’. Surely this was the most predictable verdict since as early as episode two. The constant judicial decisions in favour of the defence were a flashing neon sign that Joe was going to get off. So was a guilty man declared innocent here? My guess is that writer Chris Chibnall’s big series-three twist is going to be that it was Ellie and Joe’s son Tom that really killed Danny and Joe was protecting him.

[Read more…]

Bosch, Amazon Prime Instant Video, with Titus Welliver PREVIEW

Titus Welliver in Bosch
Harry’s place – Bosch at home with his troubles

★★★★

Amazon Prime Instant Video: All 10 episodes from Friday, 13 February

AMAZON PRIME Instant Video – whichever marketing whiz thought up that snappy moniker should be buried in concrete – won its first two Golden Globes ever in January for its dark transgender comedy Transparent. 

The online vendor-turned-streaming service clearly needs to be taken seriously now as a producer of quality entertainment alongside Netflix.

So the launch this Friday of its new 10-parter based on Michael Connelly’s multi-million-selling

Jamie Hector and Titus Welliver in Bosch
On the case – Jerry Edgar and Bosch

crime novels should make us sit up and pay attention.

And Bosch is a pretty good screen grab of those sharply written tales about the LAPD homicide detective. It was commissioned after Amazon Prime Instant Video (just trips off the tongue, doesn’t it?) released a pilot of the show and asked customers to vote on whether they wanted it turned into a series.

Titus Welliver as Harry Bosch

I thought the pilot was a bit bland and unimpressive, but there are millions of Michael Connelly fans who are desperate to see Bosch on screen and Amazon got a big response in favour of making it.

The re-edited series pilot is far superior to the one that was knocked out for the vote. The production and look of it, a beautifully filmed noirish vision of modern Los Angeles, is really well done.

In the lead is Titus Welliver, who will be familiar to fans of the brilliant The Good Wife, Lost, Sons of

Annie Wersching and Titus Welliver in Bosch
Julia and Bosch

Anarchy and Deadwood. Again, he wasn’t my personal vision of Harry Bosch when I watched the first pilot, but he is a very good actor and he grows on you as the show hits it stride.

The story’s a gripper, too. It fuses three of Connelly’s novels into a series-long narrative – City of Bones (2002), The Concrete Blonde (1994) and Echo Park (2006).

In the books Bosch is a man of few words, internalising most of his thoughts and feelings. That would obviously be dull on TV, so Michael Connelly and his team of scriptwriters cleverly begin the series with Bosch in crisis, having shot a suspected serial killer in an alleyway.  [Read more…]