Prime Suspect 1973, Stefanie Martini

ITV PRIME SUSPECT 1973 Pictured :STEFANIE MARTINI as Jane Tennison. This photograph is (C) ITV Plc and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the programme or event mentioned above. 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 For further information please contact: Patrick.smith@itv.com

If the cap fits – Stefanie Martini as novice cop Jane Tennison

A prequel that tries hard but is nowhere near as arresting as the original

★★★ ITV, Thursday, 2 March, 9pm

IT’S BEEN nine years since DCI Jane Tennison, played so unforgettably by Helen Mirren, gave up her warrant card. Lynda La Plante’s Prime Suspect originally launched in 1991 and had a huge impact with its depiction of a determined woman in a workplace male stronghold and some gritty storylines.

As happened with Morse, however, ITV couldn’t let it go. Where Endeavour has gone already, Prime Suspect 1973 now follows.

Stefanie Martini is the fresh-face WPC Tennison. She’s a ‘posh sort’ from Maida Vale, defying her stuffy parents to work as a put-upon constable in Hackney.

Tennison’s first murder case

If the sexism was bad in 1991, it was epic in 1973. The 22-year-old Tennison is obliged to make tea, put up with regular bollockings, male leering and wipe up vomit when a prisoner pukes.

ITV PRIME SUSPECT 1973 Pictured L-R :JESSICA GUNNING as Kath Morgan,TOMMY MCDONNELL as DC Hudson,STEFANIE MARTINI as Jane Tennison,SAM REID as DCI Len Bradfield,JOSHUA HILL as DC Edwards,DANIEL EZRA as DC Ashton and BLAKE HARRISON as DS Spencer Gibbs. This photograph is (C) ITV Plc and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the programme or event mentioned above. 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 For further information please contact: Patrick.smith@itv.com

Police line-up – Jessica Gunning as Kath Morgan,Tommy McDonnell as DC Hudson,Stefanie Martini as Jane Tennison,San Reid as DCI Len Bradfield, Joshua Hill as DC Edwards, Daniel Ezra as DC Ashton and Blake Harrison as DS Gibbs

Meanwhile, a teenage female is found strangled on the Kingsmead Estate. She is a young runaway.

What lets this series opener down is that it feels flat. The male neanderthals we know well. And how many crime series have opened with the corpse of a young woman.

Love in the air already?

Romance with Tennison’s sympathetic boss, the similarly posh DI Bradfield (Sam Reid), could be looming and it’s obvious that the novice is going to try to solve the murder case single-handedly.

The original set such high standards that it was hard not to hope that this reboot, based on Lynda La Plante’s bestselling novel Tennison, would shake us up with something distinctive. Instead, it’s sort of OK.

ITV PRIME SUSPECT 1973 Pictured :STEFANIE MARTINI as Jane Tennison. This photograph is (C) ITV Plc and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the programme or event mentioned above. 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 For further information please contact: Patrick.smith@itv.com

Sharp end – Tennison’s first autopsy

Many TV dramas these days have intricately woven stories running simultaneously. This has a little business going on in prison with Alun Armstrong, but otherwise it follows Tennison’s introduction to vomit clean-ups, the emotional next-of-kin visit and an autopsy.

Its good points are a pretty decent cast, the realistic Hackney setting and that the period depiction is not a nostalgia fest. Alun Armstrong is always good value, and Stefanie Martini has the star presence to hold together what is, unfortunately, a rather cliched story.

Prime Suspect – Killer TV No5

SS-GB, Sam Riley, Kate Bosworth

SS-GB - Episode: SSGB - Picture Shows: Detective Superintendent Douglas Archer. Detective Superintendent Douglas Archer (SAM RILEY) - (C) Sid Gentle Films - Photographer: Sid Gentle Films

Trapped – Detective Superintendent Douglas Archer (Sam Riley)

The Nazis rule Britain in this decent adaptation of Len Deighton’s thriller

★★★ BBC1 Sunday, 19 February, 9pm

WHAT WOULD have happened if the Battle of Britain had been lost?

SS-GB, based on Len Deighton’s 1978 novel, imagines how this scenario plays out. Buckingham Palace in ruins, Swastikas over Westminster and the SS breathing down our necks, is the vision offered.

As alternative histories go – we’ve had Fatherland, The Man in the High Castle, 11/22/63 in recent years – this BBC production is better at the personal drama than depicting the nightmare of Britain subverted by Nazism.

Starring Sam Riley

The Man in the High Castle had more impact at slapping us in the face with chilling and imaginative scenes of Axis occupation in the USA. Whereas in SS-GB, it is the plight of detective Douglas Archer that is the nightmare that keeps us watching. It’s basically a good police procedural with What-If backdrop.

SS-GB Dr Oskar Huth (LARS EIDINGER) - (C) Sid Gentle Films Ltd - Photographer: Screen Grab

Nazi piece of work – Dr Oskar Huth (Lars Eidinger)

Archer, played by Sam Riley (who looks too young to be a 1940s senior Scotland Yard detective), investigates what seems a simple black market murder. But when he is informed that Himmler’s right-hand Rottweiler, SS Standartenfuehrer Dr Oskar Huth (Lars Eidinger), is flying in from Berlin to oversee the case, it’s clear there is something darker going on.

The English detective is met by torn loyalties at every turn. His lover, Sylvia Manning (Maeve Dermody), puts him to shame with her ballsy defiance of the occupiers. His sergeant, Harry Woods (James Cosmo), also seems less under the thumb of the Germans than he should be.

SS-GB - Episode: SSGB - Picture Shows: Detective Superintendent Douglas Archer. Detective Superintendent Douglas Archer (SAM RILEY) - (C) Sid Gentle Films - Photographer: Sid Gentle Films

Allies – Archer with Barbara Barga (Kate Bosworth)

Kate Bosworth adds mystery

His own schoolboy son is growing enamoured of the smart Nazi uniforms. And finally, Archer has mixed feelings about the British resistance movement – for how long will he be able to work under Huth’s brutal direction? [Read more…]

Broadchurch 3 trailer

It’s coming back soon to ITV. Here’s a taster…

Apple Tree Yard, BBC1, Emily Watson

Apple Tree Yard - TX: n/a - Episode: Apple Tree Yard - early release (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: (L-R) Costley (BEN CHAPLIN), Yvonne Carmichael (EMILY WATSON) - (C) Kudos - Photographer: Nick Briggs

Close encounter: Costley (Ben Chaplin) and Yvonne Carmichael (Emily Watson)

Gripping, mature psychological thriller about the disastrous fallout from an illicit affair

★★★★ BBC1, Sunday, 22 January, 9pm

THIS IS A THRILLER for grown-ups. There is no elaborate concept, fancy stunts or evil masterminds. Instead, it’s contemporary and down-to-earth as it delves into the life of a successful woman tempted to indulge in a raunchy affair.

With a hugely sympathetic leading performance by Emily Watson and an enigmatic lover portrayed by Ben Chaplin, Apple Tree Yard is a rich mix of the illicit and dangerous.

Watson is Dr Yvonne Carmichael, scientist, wife and mother. She is trapped in a web of intrigue when she takes a walk on the wild side with a mysterious stranger. Finding herself alone with him in the crypt of the House of Commons, Yvonne gives in to sudden temptation.

As she confides to her diary: ‘Before I met you I was a civilised woman…’

Who is Apple Tree Yard’s enigmatic lover?

The stranger is Mark Costley and they start to meet for risky sex – risky in that he is fixated with doing it in public places. She is just fixated with him.

Apple Tree Yard, Emily Watson and Ben Chaplin, BBC

Guilty look: Costley and Yvonne in the Crypt

But who is charming Mark? He seems at home in Parliament, says he is something in Crown properties management… but Yvonne starts to suspect he more shady than that. A spy, perhaps?

Apple Tree Yard is based on an excellent thriller by novelist Louise Doughty. I was a judge on the CWA Ian Fleming Thriller of the Year Award and can reveal that all the judges loved this smart, dark tale. It was shortlisted for the prize, but narrowly edged out by eventual winner, Robert Harris’s An Officer and a Spy. [Read more…]

The Witness for the Prosecution, BBC1

Programme Name: The Witness for the Prosecution - TX: n/a - Episode: Witness For The Prosecution (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: *** This image is under strict embargo until Mon 28th November 2016 00.01 *** L - R Emily French (KIM CATTRALL), Romaine Heilger (ANDREA RISEBOROUGH), John Mayhew (TOBY JONES), Leonard (BILLY HOWLE), Janet McIntyre (MONICA DOLAN) - (C) Mammoth Screen - Photographer: Todd Antony & Robert Viglasky

Rough justice: Kim Cattrall, Andrea Riseborough, Toby Jones, Billy Howle, Monica Dolan

Gripping, dark adaptation of Agatha Christie’s courtroom mystery

★★★★ BBC1, Boxing Day 9pm

I MUST COME CLEAN and confess all. I’m not an Agatha Christie fan. I admire her craft and ingenuity, but the stories’ often laughably convoluted solutions irritate me and the characters leave me cold.

So, this two-part production of The Witness for the Prosecution wrongfooted me – absolutely gripping, unsettling and tinged with sadness, it packed a far bigger emotional wallop than these costume pantomimes usually have.

The Witness for the Prosecution - TX: n/a - Episode: Witness For The Prosecution (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: ** THIS IMAGE IS UNDER STRICT EMBARGO OF 24th NOV 2016 ** Janet McIntyre (MONICA DOLAN) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Milk

Service without a smile: Janet McIntyre (Monica Dolan)

Toby Jones is particularly affecting as the poor solicitor John Mayhew, who takes on the seemingly unwinnable defence of Leonard Vole, played by Billy Howle. Vole is accused of bludgeoning his sugar mummy Emily French, former Sex and the City star Kim Cattrall.

Kim Cattrall’s plaything

On the prowl for company, Emily sees Leonard getting fired from his job as a waiter, taking him home and paying him to be her plaything.

All this is watched by Emily’s rather insubordinate maid, a performance veering between unhinged and sinister by Monica Dolan. When the maid finds her employer in a bloody pool on the carpet, she points the finger at Leonard.

Crime author Sophie Hannah is an Agatha Christie champion and often speaks of the Queen of Crime’s psychological depth. This has always eluded me, but The Witness for the Prosecution again breaks the pattern, as the twisted, tortured characters are truly absorbing.

The Witness for the Prosecution - TX: n/a - Episode: Witness For The Prosecution (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: This image is under strict embargo 3rd December 2016 00.01 Romaine Heilger (ANDREA RISEBOROUGH) - (C) Mammoth Screen - Photographer: Robert Viglasky

Swinging star: Romaine Heilger (Andrea Riseborough)

Andrea Riseborogh as Romaine

Andrea Riseborough as Leonard’s doe-eyed but hyena-hearted girlfriend Romaine is scary, while Mayhew, haunted by the loss of his son, is the story’s tragic hero.

Writer Sarah Phelps, who also adapted last Christmas’s BBC hit And Then There Were None, has done a great job in injecting emotion and passion – particularly in the bedroom.

And for once the period is not just nostalgic window dressing. The atmosphere is foggy and threatening, and you get an appreciation of what it was like in pre-war Britain to have no means or status.

See also…

Maigret’s Dead Man, Rowan Atkinson, ITV

ROWAN ATKINSON as Maigret. This photograph is (C) ITV Plc and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the programme or event mentioned above. 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 For further information please contact: Patrick.smith@itv.com

He’s back – Rowan Atkinson as Maigret

It’s a Gallic shrug for Rowan Atkinson’s return as the Parisian detective

★★½ ITV, Christmas Day, 9pm

‘TIS THE SEASON to enjoy cosy costume crime. Nothing too bloody or realistic. So while the Beeb is giving us Agatha Christie’s The Witness for the Prosecution, ITV has another helping of Rowan Atkinson’s Maigret.

This take on Georges Simenon’s creation hardly caused a ripple when it was unveiled to us with Maigret Sets a Trap last Easter. In fact, as I write this, Maigret is currently in last place in our poll of favourite 2016 crime series (see below). However, ITV seem desperate to make this work having finally run out of Poirot’s to make.

 This photograph is (C) ITV Plc and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the programme or event mentioned above. 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 For further information please contact: Patrick.smith@itv.com

Rough stuff – John Light as baddie Dacourt

There are 76 Maigret novels and 28 short stories to plunder. That would keep us up to our trilbies in Parisian sleuthing for decades.

Shaun Dingwall, Lucy Cohu and Aiden McCardle

So does Maigret’s Dead Man finally ignite into a must-see drama? It is handsomely produced and the cast features good performers, such as Shaun Dingwall, Lucy Cohu and Aiden McCardle.

 MAIGRET Pictured : LUCY COHU as Madame Maigret. This photograph is (C) ITV Plc and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the programme or event mentioned above. 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 For further information please contact: Patrick.smith@itv.com

Lucy Cohu as Madame Maigret

And the dual tale – of a farmhouse slaughter in Picardy and the kidnap and killing of a man in Paris – are pretty juicy.

However, despite the money and expertise lavished on the production, it is plodding and unconvincing. Anyone who has got into Nordic noir in recent years or top French series such as Spiral over on BBC4, have got over the language hangup and enjoy the foreignness of it all. [Read more…]

Rillington Place, Tim Roth, Samantha Morton

Programme Name: Rillington Place - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: Ethel Christie (SAMANTHA MORTON), John Christie (TIM ROTH) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Des Willie

Married to a monster: Ethel (Samantha Morton) and John Christie (Tim Roth)

One of Britain’s most chilling serial killers is depicted in this dark drama

★★★★ BBC1, starts Tuesday, 29 November, 9pm

JOHN REGINALD CHRISTIE’S crimes during the 1940s and 50s shocked and haunted Britain. 

He murdered at least eight women, including his wife, Ethel. He also testified against Timothy Evans for the murder of his wife and infant daughter, whom Christie had himself murdered.

Official dismay over the miscarriage of justice that resulted in Evans’ being hanged eventually helped to end capital punishment in 1965.

Dramatising the life of such a notorious psychopath is a delicate proposition if it is not to be labelled cheap or sensationalist. Writers Ed Whitmore and Tracey Malone have gone to great lengths to produce a serious drama, using original sources at the National Archives and interviewing surviving relatives.

The resulting three-part miniseries is dark, but does a good job of looking at a period of Christie’s life and trying to glimpse into how his type functions.

Tim Roth and Samantha Morton

 John Christie (TIM ROTH) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Des Willie

Voyeur: John Christie

The production is helped hugely by stunning performances. Tim Roth and Samantha Morton as Christie and his wife are superb. These are quiet characters and so much of the drama and menace comes from tone of voice and glances.

And what a purple period this is in Tim Roth’s career. We’ve recently seen him as one of Quentin Tarantino’s Hateful Eight. Next up, he’s a sheriff in Canada in Tin Star. Then we’ll see him in David Lynch’s next instalment of Twin Peaks.

Rillington Place‘s three episodes are told from the viewpoints of different characters: Ethel, Timothy Evans (played by Nico Mirallegro) and finally Christie.

The opener asks how it is that Ethel could live with the manipulative, creepy pervert. She has family in Yorkshire,  where she and Christie are from, but still returns to him. [Read more…]

In Plain Sight, ITV

ITV IN PLAIN SIGHT EPISODE 1 Pictured :DOUGLAS HENSHALL as Muncie and MARTIN COMPSTON as Peter Manuel. This photograph is (C) ITV Plc and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the programme or event mentioned above. 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

Best of enemies: Douglas Henshall as Muncie and Martin Compston as Peter Manuel

Chilling, fact-based portrait of Peter Manuel, infamous Scottish psychopath from the 1950s

★★★★ ITV, Wednesday, 7 December, 9pm

ITV HAS A good record of adapting true-crime events into mini-dramas. The appalling cases of the Moors Murderers, Fred West and the Yorkshire Ripper have all been portrayed, usually with some controversy, but they have been pretty sensitive and serious-minded.

In Plain Sight goes back a little further back into the crime annals to a notorious case from 1950s Scotland. Peter Manuel was a truly nasty criminal. He was a rapist, robber and killer who inflicted a reign of grief on the quiet communities of South Lanarkshire.

This three-parter shows the duel that arose between Manuel and detective William Muncie, who – in spite of opposition from his boss – waged a campaign to put the psychopath behind bars.

Martin Compston and Douglas Henshall

In Plain Sight Pictured :DOUGLAS HENSHALL as Muncie and MARTIN COMPSTON as Peter Manuel. This photograph is (C) ITV Plc and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the programme or event mentioned above. 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

Threatened: family man Muncie

Douglas Henshall (Collision, Shetland) plays the cop with a near obsession. Peter Manuel is played with convincing swagger and odiousness by Martin Compston (Line of Duty).

Released from prison in 1955, Manuel embarked on a two-year killing spree, claiming eight lives in South Lanarkshire. He also made various veiled threats against Muncie, the man who had him put away for sexual assault.

1950s setting is skilfully done

Manuel evaded justice for so long because the local police had never encountered such a spree killer. He was a cold-blooded psycho who committed callous, motiveless crimes.

Henshall brings tight-lipped passion to Muncie, while the brash, controlling Manuel is excellently brought to life by Compston. The 1950s setting is also skilfully done, emphasising the modest lifestyles and how vulnerable the community was to the brute on the loose.

 Pictured :DOUGLAS HENSHALL as Muncie and MARTIN COMPSTON as Peter Manuel. This photograph is (C) ITV Plc and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the programme or event mentioned above. 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

One of the few who stands up to Manuel: his sister Theresa (Bobby Rainsbury)

The drama steers clear of depicting Manuel’s crimes in detail, but still captures what a toxic presence he was. He taunted the authorities, and manipulated his family, the courts and anyone who crossed his path. For a textbook example of a psychopathic personality, it’s hard to beat.

It’s called In Plain Sight because Manuel was a high-visibility killer. He loved the limelight, but being in his audience was not to be recommended.

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