The cold case oldsters of UCOS return for the last 10 episodes of the popular light-hearted crime drama
★★★ BBC1, starts Tuesday, 4 August, 9pm
AND NOW, the end is near, as the New Tricks crew faces the final curtain. Of course, the crew isn’t what it used to be following the recent spiky departures of hugely popular cast members James Bolam, Amanda Redman and Alun Armstrong.
Dennis Waterman is still there living up to his character’s nickname of Gerry ‘Last Man’ Standing, but even he will be bailing out after the first two episodes of this final series. Larry Lamb, familiar to viewers from EastEnders and Gavin & Stacey, will replace him as the 12th series runs its course.
It may be a little unfair on the newcomers to the show – Denis Lawson,Tamzin Outhwaite and Nicholas Lyndhurst – but it was always going to be a tall order to step in and replicate the chemistry of the original four, who were major audience favourites from earlier classics such as Minder and Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?
New Tricks has been huge for BBC1
But even before their exodus began with James Bolam’s departure in 2011, New Tricks was really past its prime. Bolam called it stale, Amanda Redman said it was bland and Alun Armstrong didn’t like that his character had ‘got saner’.
Still, it’s been a storming success for Auntie. It started in 2003 with the motley crew of retired detectives coming together to probe cold case files under the beady eye of Detective Superintendent Sandra Pullman (Redman).
It often crushed other shows scheduled against it, with series 8 frequently coming close to hitting 10million viewers. Even Dennis Waterman’s jaunty theme It’s Alright couldn’t dent its success.
Fitting two-part send-off for Gerry
The principle characters were well drawn and had some serious dramatic conflicts, such as Brian Lane (Armstrong) with his obsessive-compulsive nature and past as an alcoholic, and Sandra’s discovery that her hero father had not died of a heart attack but had actually committed suicide while being investigated for corruption.
It wasn’t a darling of the critics or the awards academies, but where it really mattered – with the viewers – it won a large and dedicated following.
Anyway, back to the future. Series 12 opens with a two-episode special during which we discover how Gerry bows out. The story kicks off with the discovery of a cop, whose body has laid untouched under a basement for 30 years.
‘Making room for new series’
It’s a fitting send-off for ‘Last Man’ Standing, but the series has certainly lost its winning balance between twinkly-eyed fun and crime-show seriousness.
Back in February, Charlotte Moore, Controller of BBC1 and Ben Stephenson, Controller BBC Drama, said in a joint statement: ‘We are incredibly proud of New Tricks and would like to thank Roy Mitchell, the brilliant creator, Wall to Wall and Headstrong, and all the cast and teams involved across the 12 series.
‘However, on BBC1 it’s important to make room for new series and continue to increase the range of drama on the channel, so it won’t be returning after the next series airs this summer.’