From Darkness, BBC1, Anne-Marie Duff

Claire Church (ANNE-MARIE DUFF), John Hind (JOHNNY HARRIS)

Ex-partners in crime: Claire (Anne-Marie Duff) and John (Johnny Harris)

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.

Claire Church (ANNE-MARIE DUFF) in From Darkness

Haunted: Former detective Claire

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.

Programme Name: From Darkness - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. 1) - Picture Shows: - (C) BBC - Photographer: Nicola Dove

Escape: Claire’s home on the Western Isles

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.

[Read more…]

Midwinter of the Spirit, ITV, Anna Maxwell Martin, David Threlfall

From ITV Studios Midwinter Of The Spirit on ITV Pictured: Lol Robinson [Ben Bailey Smith], Rev. Merrily Watkins [Anna Maxwell Martin] and Rev. Huw Owens [David Threlfall]. Merrily is deeply human in her doubts and scepticism, but her knowledge of the paranormal underworld brings her to the notice of local police who need her advice in the investigation of a grisly murder. This photograph is (C) ITV Plc and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the programme or event mentioned above, or ITV plc. 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

Chill factor: Lol Robinson (Ben Bailey Smith), the Rev Merrily Watkins (Anna Maxwell Martin) and the Rev Huw Owens (David Threlfall)

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…]

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…]

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