New Maigret with Rowan Atkinson

ITV has commenced filming Maigret Sets A Trap one of two stand-alone dramatic films featuring the legendary French fictional detective Jules Maigret, played by Rowan Atkinson. This image is the copyright of ITV and must be used in relation to Maigret. Photographer John Rogers.

Cop this – Jules Maigret, played by Rowan Atkinson

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.

Unforgotten, ITV, Nicola Walker, Sanjeev Bhaskar

MAINSTREET PICTURES FOR ITV UNFORGOTTEN EPISODE 1 Pictured : NICOLA WALKER as DCI Cassie Stuart and SANJEEV BHASKAR as DS Sunil Khan. Photographer: JOHN ROGERS This image is the copyright of ITV and must be credited. The images are for one use only and to be used in relation to UNFORGOTTEN, any further usage could incur a fee.

Nicola Walker as DCI Cassie Stuart and Sanjeev Bhaskar as DS Sunil Khan

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.

 UNFORGOTTEN EPISODE 1 Pictured : NICOLA WALKER as DCI Cassie Stuart and SANJEEV BHASKAR as DS Sunil Khan. Photographer: JOHN ROGERS This image is the copyright of ITV and must be credited. The images are for one use only and to be used in relation to UNFORGOTTEN, any further usage could incur a fee.

Digging for clues: DCI Cassie Stuart and DS Sunil Khan

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…]

An Inspector Calls, BBC1, David Thewlis, Miranda Richardson

The Inspector (DAVID THEWLIS) Credit: BBC Pictures/Drama Republic

Unwanted guest: David Thewlis as the mysterious inspector

The classic mystery is updated in gripping style

★★★★ BBC1, Sunday, 13 September, 8.30pm

8958140-low_res-an-inspector-calls Eric Birling (FINN COLE), Sybil Birling (MIRANDA RICHARDSON), Arthur Birling (KEN STOTT), Sheila Birling (CHLOE PIRRIE)

The Birlings: played by Finn Cole, Miranda Richardson, Ken Stott and Chloe Pirrie

WHILE AMERICAN networks push the boundaries of TV drama with nihilistic protagonists and provocatively adult storylines – Breaking Bad, Banshee, True Detective – their British cousins still prefer the drawing-room comforts of the classic cosy-era detective tale.

So, hot on the heels of Poirot, Father Brown and Tommy and Tuppence comes this adaptation of JB Priestley’s 1912-set country house mystery play, first performed in 1945 and which went on to become something of a classic, even a staple of the GCSE syllabus.

Many viewers will be familiar with it. It’s undoubtedly a contrived, stagey and preachy drama, but this BBC production, adapted by playwright Helen Edmundson and directed by award-winning Aisling Walsh, breathes life into the rather spooky tale with a classy and compelling production.

Miranda Richardson and Ken Stott

And the cast! Everyone is terrific as the mystery unfolds, with David Thewlis severe as the unwanted inspector who turns up during a dinner party at the wealthy Birling residence. Ken Stott is spot on as industrialist Arthur Birling and Miranda Richardson horribly callous as his wife, Sybil.

As their implicated but rebellious children Chloe Pirrie (recently seen in The Game) and Finn Cole (Peaky Blinders) are both pitch perfect. Finally, Kyle Soller is suitably patrician as Gerald, veering from smug to horrified at his own misuse of Eva Smith

Sophie Rundle appears in flashbacks as Eva, the victim of all the Birlings’ sneers and betrayals. This character never appears in the play, but Helen Edmundson follows the 1954 Alastair Sim movie in bringing her decline into focus. [Read more…]

The Trials of Jimmy Rose, ITV, Ray Winstone, Amanda Redman

Trials of Jimmy Rose episode 1 ITV

New start – Ray Winstone as Jimmy Rose

Ray Winstone plays a hardman with a difference in this well-acted family drama

★★★½ ITV, starts Sunday, 30 August, 9pm

IN THE ROLE that made him a star, as young offender Carlin in 1979’s Scum, Ray Winstone rose to the top of a brutal prison system to emerge as the Daddy. It’s ironic that now in middle age he’s back playing a thug, but this time he’s the Grandaddy, and a bit of a has-been.

Which makes for a good role for Winstone. The actor is apparently wary of gangster roles, aware that his hardman actor image might be seen as an easy option, but he was won over by Jimmy Rose because the story is about family and making a new start. While he’s never going to win us over with his Richard III or playing lord la-di-da, when he’s in the zone – Nil by Mouth, Sexy Beast – he is bloody good screen company.

These days he shifts between TV and movies, from The Departed to Great Expectations, Moonfleet to the upcoming remake of Point Break. It’s good to see him back on the box now, with the opening episode of ITV’s three-parter setting up an intriguing story for his lead character.

Ray Winstone sings Sinatra

We meet Jimmy Rose as he emerges from a 12-year stretch inside. The opening moments, with Winstone singing his own tribute to Frank Sinatra’s That’s Life for the soundtrack, is upbeat.

ITV STUDIOS PRESENTS The Trials Of Jimmy Rose EPISODE 1 Pictured : RAY WINSTONE as Jimmy Rose and AMANDA REDMAN as Jackie Rose. Photographer: BEN BLACKALL. This image is the copyright of ITV and must be credited. The images are for one use only and to be used in relation to The Trials Of Jimmy Rose, any further usage could incur a fee.

Jimmy and Jackie (Ray Winstone and Amanda Redman)

The twist comes as soon as he gets home, with the welcoming party falling flat. His granddaughter Ellie is not around, his son Joe doesn’t want to see him and his wife Jackie has no time for him. Amanda Redman, looking like a proper actress again after sleepwalking through New Tricks for the last couple of seasons, plays Jackie. She and Winstone are old friends from the time they co-starred in Sexy Beast (2000) and she complements him well as the woman with whom he has seen better days. [Read more…]

River, BBC1, Stellan Skarsgard, Nicola Walker

8876050-low_res-river

Captivating new crime drama in which the victims having starring roles

★★★★ BBC1, day, date to be announced

CASTING Stellan Skarsgärd as a British detective was a bold but canny move by the makers of this intriguing thriller. If you want a performer who can play a troubled soul, then who better than a man from the land of long winter days and Ingmar Bergman, a director whose fave themes were death, bleakness and insanity?

Death is also the theme of River and Skarsgard also a Swede, familiar from movie hits such as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Mamma Mia! He is terrific in this unusual series as Detective Inspector John River, a cranky cop traumatised by the shooting of his partner.

What starts off as a police procedural abruptly swerves into unusual territory when we realise River is no ordinary cop. The reason he is grumpy – and brilliant – is that he is haunted by the dead.

Eddie Marsan as a Victorian killer

If that sounds a bit Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), don’t be put off. This series, written by Emmy award-winner Abi Morgan (The Hour, The Iron Lady), is far more emotionally affecting.

The people who invade River’s mind are the murder victims of his cases, in addition – bizarrely – to a serial killer from annals of Victorian crime called the Lambeth Poisoner. Eddie Marsan is suitably disturbing in this role.

River is seen talking to himself – actually to the dead – and is viewed as a bit of a nut by most officers around the police station. He hangs onto his job because of his 80 percent clear-up rate.

Nicola Walker is River’s ex-partner

While the story is good at exploring grief and loss, it is buoyed up by some beautifully funny moments. Nicola Walker (Last Tango in Halifax) is wonderful as River’s ex-partner, Stevie, all fast food and disco songs. And Adeel Akhtar – unforgettable in C4’s Utopia – turns up as another put-upon character, Ira, who is assigned to be River’s new partner.

Chalk and cheese doesn’t begin to cover it, and their scenes together veer between very funny and quite moving.

With so many fine performers and such an emotionally nuanced story, River is a notch above so many mainstream crime series out there.

New Tricks final series, BBC1

Programme Name: New Tricks - TX: n/a - Episode: New Tricks Series 12 - generics (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: Danny Griffin (NICHOLAS LYNDHURST), DCI Sasha Miller (TAMZIN OUTHWAITE), Ted Case (LARRY LAMB), Steve McAndrew (DENIS LAWSON) - (C) Headstrong Pictures - Photographer: Amanda Searle

Final four – Danny Griffin (Nicholas Lyndhurst), DCI Sasha Miller (Tamzin Outhwaite), Ted Case (Larry Lamb), Steve McAndrew (Denis Lawson)

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.

New Tricks series 12 Gerry

Skeletons come back to haunt Gerry

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. [Read more…]

Ripper Street 3, Matthew Macfadyen, Jerome Flynn

Whitechapel series 3

East Enders – Jackson, Long Susan, Reid and Drake

The crime-fighters of Victorian Whitechapel return with a new spectacular series

★★★ BBC1, Friday, 31 July, 9pm

STAR TREK and Cagney and Lacey were both among those shows axed by TV honchos only to be resurrected after fan pressure. Both vindicated their reprieves and went on to huge success.

Ripper Street 3, Capt Jackson

Gung-ho Jackson to the rescue

Ripper Street is unlikely to enjoy such admired longevity. It’s lurid and as believable as a graphic novel. with its theme-park depiction of Jack the Ripper’s London.

But back it is, so a hardcore of devotees will be delighted that their favourite is the first UK show to be revived by a streaming service, in this case Amazon Prime Video (which originally showed the series to its UK subscribers last autumn). In addition, Amazon Prime has already ordered series four and five for future production and seem to have pumped more money into this fairly lavish eight-part instalment.

Train disaster for Reid to investigate

The opener, Whitechapel Terminus, features a spectacular head-on train smash, with the carriages and mutilated

Ripper Street series 3 in production

Behind the scenes of Ripper Street

bodies raining down on Leman Street. This all picks up four years after the previous series, which finished with Detective Inspector Edmund Reid (Matthew Macfadyen) and the American surgeon Captain Homer Jackson (Adam Rothenberg) at loggerheads and Bennet Drake (Jerome Flynn) broken in grief.

Here they are pulled back together in the search for the “general” behind the rail calamity. Robbery was the motive and before the episode’s end, Reid already has his suspicions about who may have been behind it. [Read more…]

Agatha Christie’s Partners in Crime, with David Walliams, Jessica Raine

Tommy (DAVID WALLIAMS), Tuppance (JESSICA RAINE)in BBC1's Agatha Christie's Partners in Crime

On the run – Tommy (David Walliams) and Tuppence (Jessica Raine)

Agatha Christie’s investigative husband and wife Tommy and Tuppence in a jolly decent period mystery

★★★½ BBC1, starts Sunday, 26 July, 9pm

FROM THE cosy era of crime novels comes this cosy drama, starring David Walliams and Jessica Raine as Agatha Christie’s sleuthing couple Tommy and Tuppence.

Tommy (DAVID WALLIAMS), Tuppance (JESSICA RAINE)

Detective novels for Tuppence, the newspaper for Tommy

It’s a polished Sunday-night, 1950s piece, with lovely costumes, twee villages full of Morris Minors and a dog called Tiffin. With ITV having mined the Poirot/Marple library to exhaustion, the Beeb must be delighted to get its hands on the Agatha Christie jewels at last.

As David Walliams says: ‘In bringing these thrilling stories to the screen, it is our ambition for Tommy and Tuppence to finally take their rightful place alongside Poirot and Marple as iconic Agatha Christie characters.’

David Walliams and Jessica Raine well cast

The most popular author of all time wrote the first Tommy and Tuppence mystery in 1922, and this new screen incarnation does a good job of breathing life into the duo for a modern audience. Walliams and Raine are certainly well cast as the cack-handed Tommy – ‘pipe-and-slippers man’, according to his uncle – and the have-a-go Tuppence.

Robert Whitelock (as Conrad) and David Walliams (as Tommy Beresford) Episode One: ‘The Secret Adversary’

Rough stuff – Tommy in a tight spot

David Walliams can play ineffectual fastidiousness in his sleep, while Jessica Raine is very good as the wife who wears the trousers. Award-winning author Zinnie Harris’s adaptation has fun with the pair, giving the stories a modern feel with some delicate fruity banter between the couple, such as Tuppence in a blonde-wig disguise pricking Tommy’s buttoned-up ardour.

The Secret Adversary is the first of two three-part tales. It begins with T&T encountering a lady who vanishes on a train. They’re travelling from Paris to London when Jane Finn disappears and the passengers are ordered to change trains. [Read more…]

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