Breaking Bad fans will love this trailer for the spin-off Better Call Saul, which returns to Netflix this spring. Who could forget Gus Fring?
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.
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…]
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.
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.
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.
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.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.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…]
In case you haven’t caught it yet, there’s a new version of Douglas Adams’s Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency just started on Netflix. Watch this trailer to get a taste of the off-kilter crime show, starring Samuel Barnett (Penny Dreadful), Elijah Wood (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy) and Hannah Marks (The Amazing Spiderman). BBC4 did a version starring Stephen Mangan back in 2010. It was OK and ran for two series. Crime-comedy rarely works well, but this new US update looks like it has plenty of energy…
Vote for your favourite crime drama of 2016
So, what had you on the edge of your sofa this year? There were quite a few high-quality dramas around in 2016, from new series such as The Night Manager and the fantastic Icelandic saga Trapped, to returning favourites like The Fall. If any of the 10 below gripped you, go ahead and vote for it…
What was your favourite crime drama/thriller in 2016?
- Line of Duty 3 (BBC2) (27%, 75 Votes)
- The Night Manager (BBC1) (23%, 63 Votes)
- Trapped (BBC4) (16%, 43 Votes)
- The Night of (Sky Atlantic) (10%, 28 Votes)
- Marcella (ITV) (8%, 21 Votes)
- The Fall 3 (BBC2) (4%, 12 Votes)
- Narcos 2 (Netflix) (4%, 11 Votes)
- The People v OJ Simpson (BBC2) (4%, 11 Votes)
- The Level (ITV) (2%, 5 Votes)
- Maigret (ITV) (2%, 5 Votes)
Total Voters: 274
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
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…]
If you feel that Christmas is a bit quiet and tame, treat yourself to the mayhem of series 4 of the French policier Braquo, out on DVD/Blu-ray on 12 December. It’s the continuing story of a squad of Paris police officers who crossed the ‘yellow line’ after their colleague Max was unfairly accused of criminal misconduct and committed suicide. Now Eddie Caplan (Jean-Hugues Anglade), Walter Morlighem (Joseph Malerba), Theo Wachevski (Nicolas Duvauchelle) and Roxane Delgado (Karole Rocher) exist on the edge of the law. Try the trailer above and, if you haven’t caught the series yet on BBC4’s excellent Saturday noir nights or on Fox, then you’ll realise Braquo packs more of a wallop than Midsomer Murders.