Engrossing tale about a woman trying to escape her former life as a police officer
★★★★ BBC1, starts Sunday, 4 October, 9pm
WE HAVE evidence that a new gang has muscled in to shake up crime shows on British TV. The members behind it are all women and the results have been pretty disturbing.
That’s because writers such as Sally Wainwright (Happy Valley), Abi Morgan (the forthcoming River) and here Katie Baxendale with From Darkness have moved firmly away from the jaded whodunit format into more haunting territory.
Their dramas offer more than crime scenes and forensics, but look into lives damaged by enforcing the law or being a victim of crime. Happy Valley was a character-driven portrayal of a female police officer’s private and case-related battles, while River is an off-kilter look at a detective traumatised by the loss of his partner.
Anne-Marie Duff as Claire
From Darkness is another drama delving into the psychology of a young officer, this one damaged by her experience working on the vice scene. Claire Church, played by Anne-Marie Duff, has run away just about as far as possible from her former life as a Manchester constable can get. She now lives quietly with her new partner and daughter in the Western Isles of Scotland.
She is not pleased when her former boss, John Hind (a gruff Johnny Harris), turns up wanting her input after the remains of two women are found on a building site. He believes her knowledge of the Manchester vice trade 16 years previously could unlock his investigation.
‘Claire, what are you doing here?’ the city slicker detective says, on arriving at her island, home to 43 residents and no TV. She tells him that he should not have dropped by, that he’s become a fat, drinking, embittered, middle-aged police cliché.
Wowie Bowie! The man himself has written and recorded the title music for Sky Atlantic’s big new thriller six-parter The Last Panthers. Starring Samantha Morton and John Hurt this is a trans-Euro production about banksters and heists. Director Johan Renck says: ‘I was looking for one of the icons of my youth to write the music for the title sequence, but was presented with a God. His first response was precise, engaged and curious. The piece of music he laid before us embodied every aspect of our characters and the series itself – dark, brooding, beautiful and sentimental (in the best possible incarnation of this word). All along, the man inspired and intrigued me and as the process passed, I was overwhelmed with his generosity. I still can’t fathom what actually happened…’
A crime series with a supernatural twist
★★★½ ITV, starts Wednesday, 23 September, 9pm
GENRE-CROSSING crime series look set to be come a bit of a trend. We’ve recently seen Fox’s Wayward Pines with Matt Dillon, a sci-fi tale with crime elements. ITV Encore’s The Frankenstein Chronicles, starring Sean Bean, ‘reimagines’ the story from the standpoint of a police investigator.
Meanwhile, James Nesbitt has been filming Sky1’s high-concept series Lucky Man, based on comic-book legend Stan Lee’s idea about a detective who finds a magic bracelet that brings him good luck.
And here we have Midwinter of the Spirit, a three-parter that mixes supernatural themes with crime ingredients. It would appear that the cop-drama clogged TV schedules have bled the genre dry, and writers are now juicing the formula up with sci-fi/horror twists.
Anna Maxwell Martin as Merrily
Anyway, the first thing to say about Midwinter is that it does what it says on the tin. It is definitely creepy, helped by the fact that it’s based on Phil Rickman‘s chilling novels and a terrific performance by Anna Maxwell Martin.
She plays the Rev Merrily Watkins, a single mum with a teenage daughter who’s taken on a new role in her small-town parish – that of exorcist. [Read more…]
The latest Swedish crime series to hit BBC4 is based on a classic series of books
★★★½ BBC4, starts Saturday, 12 September, 9pm
BECK is the latest Scandi-noir series to fill BBC4’s Saturday-night slot. Since The Killing alerted the channel’s viewers to the distinctive mood and quality of Nordic TV dramas five years ago now, a new audience has been cultivated for death with subtitles in a cold climate.
Martin Beck is, of course, the character featured in the groundbreaking Swedish crime novels written by husband-and-wife Marxists Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö back in the 1960s. These two crime-writing pioneers wrote a superb series of novels that often delved into society’s sore points, such as police corruption, while following Beck’s investigations.
The books are well worth exploring and this new series, set in the present day, is a polished adaptation, with Peter Haber – who starred in the Swedish version of The Girl with Dragon Tattoo – playing Beck. Mikael Persbrandt co-stars as Beck’s rough, tough colleague Larsson, a guy who, on taking out a biker in an alley fight, says, ‘Sometimes you have to make your mark.’
Beck’s on the trail of a serial killer
The first story, Buried Alive, starts with the discovery by a child of a crate buried in her playground’s sandpit. Her mother thinks she can hear a noise from inside and Beck and Larsson are soon on the scene. The crate contains the body of a prosecutor who’s been investigating a criminal biker gang. [Read more…]
HERE’S a first look at Rowan Atkinson in ITV’s new series about the French detective Jules Maigret. Filming has just started in Budapest on Maigret Sets a Trap, one of two standalone dramatic films, with the second being Maigret’s Dead Man. The setting is Paris in the 1950s and each story will be 90-minutes long. Other cast include Fiona Shaw (Harry Potter, True Blood), Aiden McCardle (Mr Selfridge, The Mill) and Shaun Dingwall (Silent Witness, Death In Paradise). It looks like a big production for ITV and a lot will be riding on how well Rowan Atkinson sheds his Mr Bean baggage to convincingly portray author Georges Simenon’s much-admired creation.
THIS NEW Canadian series reminds us of Southland with its on-the-beat depiction of a patrol cops, veering from darkly humorous to just dark. Starring Adrian Holmes and Jared Keeso as Nick Barron and Ben Chartier, who work for Service de police de la Ville de Montréal, dealing with crime on the streets, station politics and their personal problems. The series went out on Spike TV in the UK and, while not as polished as the superb Southland, certainly packs a lot of action and some decent characters. If you missed it on Spike, series one is now coming out on DVD on 21 September (RRP £19.99).
A terrific cast comes together for this intriguing cold-case drama
★★★½ ITV, starts Thursday, 8 October, 9pm
UNFORGOTTEN brings together an odd-couple lead pairing of Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar as coppers probing a 39-year-old cold case.
Walker is currently on the crest of a career wave following a versatile run of successes in Last Tango in Halifax, Babylon and a menacing turn in Scott & Bailey. She is also excellent as a shadowy presence in the BBC’s forthcoming River, another crime series.
Meanwhile, Bhaskar has a track record as a terrific comedy presence in the likes of The Kumars and Goodness Gracious Me, and has been flexing his dramatic muscles in series such as The Indian Doctor.
With Bernard Hill, Tom Courtenay, Trevor Eve
Do they work as a dramatic pairing here? Walker is a dramatic actress who can pull off the light-hearted moments, whereas Bhaskar seems a light actor who remains light. So,on the basis on having seen only the opening episode, I would say the jury’s still out. [Read more…]