Hawaii Five-0 REVIEW

Rating ★★★

UK transmission: 2011, Channel to be confirmed

Let’s get one thing straight before the purists go all sniffy about remaking old classics – Hawaii Five-0 was no classic.

Fondly remembered for Steve McGarrett’s swaying bouffant, yes. For the opening music, for ‘Book ’em, Danno,’ certainly. But let’s not get misty-eyed about the original (1968-80) with Jack Lord, James MacArthur and Kam Fong. Check out YouTube (below) for a reminder of acting that made Crossroads look like the Royal Shakespeare Company.

McGarrett (Alex OLoughlin) and Danno (Scott Caan)

Exec producer Peter Lenkov calls this year’s CBS model a tribute, and as an hour of glam-action primetime the new show hits the mark.

The pilot is a mega-bucks affair with helicopter ambushes and explosions, but it actually takes the trouble to set up the characters too.

Aussie actor Alex O’Loughlin, star of such TV backwaters as Moonlight and Three Rivers, gets the lead as McGarrett, an all-round hardman from special military outfits, given the job of running Hawaii’s new law-enforcement task force. His agenda is to get the villain (Buffy‘s James Marsters) who killed his father in the prologue.

Where Jack Lord was po-faced and by-the-book, O’Loughlin cracks a smile occasionally and is a bit more gung-ho.

James Caan’s son, Scott, is a personable Danno – so-called because that was how his three-year-old daughter pronounced his name, we learn. The Hawaiian characters – Daniel Dae Kim as Chin and Grace Park as a butt-kicking Kona (replacing the lumbering Kono in the original) – are more feisty and interesting than their prototypes.

The McGarrett-Danno deal is more of a buddy/odd couple routine here, some of which is cheesy and some of which raises a smile (Danno’s ringtone for his ex-wife is the screeching violins from Psycho).

The opening story, something to do with Chinese gangsters and people trafficking, is ludicrous, but for a glossy procedural with adorable scenery and explosions, the Hawaii Five-0 re-boot does the job.

It even has a revamp of the original music and McGarrett says, ‘Book him, Danno.’ Only the quiff is sadly gone.

The show was due to go out in the UK on Bravo next month, but the programming powers have pushed it back to next year somewhere ‘on the Sky platform’.

Whitechapel ITV1 PREVIEW

Rating ★★★

ITV1, 9pm Monday 11th October

A man’s been pinned to a snooker table with a bayonet. Another’s had his buttocks slashed. The cops are on the take, and victims are afraid

(Pics: ©ITV)

to talk…

It’s just like the old days when the Krays cruised East London dishing out backhanders and beatings.

In Whitechapel 2, no sooner has a copycat Jack the Ripper been dispatched by Rupert Penry-Jones and Philip Davis, then – gawd help us – but a Kray twins novelty act turns up on the manor.

Whitechapel’s first outing, last year, was fresh and spiky enough to be an engrossing yarn about the East End’s notorious serial killer.

The announcement that ITV was going to attempt the formula again – this time regurgitating the Kray killings – suggested they were flogging a horse now floating lifeless in the Thames.

But while some of the gloss has inevitably gone from the premise, Whitechapel 2 still cherishes the folklore and ‘geezer aesthetic’ enough to make this an atmospheric jaunt into the past.

Chelsea smile
Writers Ben Court and Caroline Ip showed with their original an appreciation of East End history and atmosphere, and that comes out well in the detail of Whitechapel 2. Identifying a corpse by the ‘last’ (or the wooden mould) of his handmade shoe, or recounting the gang punishment known as a Chelsea smile (a cutlass is used to slice a victim’s mouth wide open) are throwbacks that give this drama its vintage, violent texture.

Once again the major part of Whitechapel’s good points are the characters. In the original, Penry-Jones as uptight DI Chandler struggled to prove himself worthy of fronting the Ripper investigation. This time, it is his sergeant, the streetwise and sour Miles (Phil Davis), who appears out of his depth and rattled as some strangely reminiscent slashings and a murder suggests the Krays stalk the East End once again.

Steve Pemberton returns as the oddball amateur sleuth Buchan, breathlessly reliving every juicy detail of every lengendary murder. It is he who predicts the next killing will echo that of Jack The Hat McVitie in 1969, much to Miles’s annoyance.

‘Rock stars of murder’
‘The Krays were the original British gangsters,’ Buchan says, almost salivating. ‘They invented the firm. They were the rock stars of murder.’

It’s all complete tosh, and not as good as the first series. But the three leads still spark off each other, and the whole production captures a strange duality between past and present, using period footage and sound eerily.

One scene has Miles taking Chandler to an East End pub. He asks his boss to look round and tell him what he sees. In the gloom sit old lags with busted noses and facial scars, looking like ghosts from forgotten gang fights.

And you can just imagine two stocky blokes in Italian suits marching into the pub and freezing every conversation.

Third degree – Sam Millar

Belfast crime-writing ace Sam Millar is the first novelist to be hauled down to 
crimetimepreview headquarters for questioning. Sam has published six novels, 
including The Redemption and The Darkness of Bones, as well as the 
award-winning memoir On the Brinks. Here he reveals how Sean Penn 
might have portrayed him on the big screen…
 
Your favourite British crime series or thriller on TV?
 
Life on Mars. I was totally hooked from the very first show. One of those 
rare classics that only hits our screen every decade, if we’re lucky.
 
 
Favourite US crime series or thriller on TV?
 
Always loved The Sopranos, but then came the brilliant The Wire, and
knocked them off the top of my list. 


Top TV cop?
 
Columbo. Oh, one more thing...
 
 
Which unfilmed book/character should be made into a TV drama?
 
Er, my Karl Kane series of books, which accidentally, are being considered 
as we speak by Carnival Films. Sorry for such grovelling self-promotion.
 
 
If one of your novels were filmed, who would you cast to be the hero?
 
Liam Neeson, would be the obvious choice, as Karl Kane is a Belfast PI. 
But when Warner Brothers bought the rights to my memoir, On The Brinks
they were looking at Sean Penn to play me, which I found slightly bizarre, 
if highly complimentary.
 
 
What do you watch with a guilty conscience?
 
Mad Men. I hate smoking and sexism, but I’ve become totally addicted 
to the show and all its vices and non-pc jargon.
 
 
Least favourite cop show/thriller?
 
Heartbeat. A paradox title for a show with very few actors’ hearts 
actually beating.
 
 
Do you prefer The Wire or The Sopranos?
 
The Wire (sorry, Big Tony).
 
 
Marple/Poirot or Sherlock Holmes?
 
Poirot.


Wallender – BBC or the original Swedish version?
 
The Swedish version. I find it grittier, even though fellow Belfastian, 
Kenneth Branagh is in the BBC adaptation and doing a fine job.
 
 
Your favourite crime/thriller writers?
 
So many great ones, it’s hard to be selective. Cormac McCarthy, 
Nelson DeMille, Jon Land, Declan Hughes, and two powerful crime 
writers to watch out for in the future: Leigh Russell (Road Closed
and James Thompson (Snow Angels). 
 
 
Favourite non-crime/thriller author?
 
Graham Greene. Timeless writing.
 
 
Favourite crime movie or thriller?
 
 
I have two. No Country for Old Men, even though it wasn’t 
half as good as the book, and The Long Good Friday, arguably 
the best British gangster movie ever made, for my money.
 
 
 
You’ve been framed for murder. Which 
fictional detective do you want to call up?
 
Jim Rockford. He mightn’t get me off, but 
he’s cheap!

Sam Millar’s latest Karl Kane novel is 

‘The Dark Place’

The ’20s roar again – in America, anyway

Lucky viewers in the US will see Martin Scorsese’s prohibition saga Boardwalk Empire tomorrow night. Sky is tight-lipped about when – and where (Sky1, or a pay-movie channel?) – UK viewers will get a glimpse. The Independent suggests Blighty won’t be treated to the most anticipated (and perhaps expensive) TV series of the year until 2011. Next Easter, anyone? It’s enough to make you reach for a bottle of hooch – or place an order for the boxset.

DCI Banks: Aftermath PREVIEW

Rating ★★½

Stephen Tomkinson as Banks (pics ITV)

ITV1, starts Monday 27 Sept, 9pm

Stephen Tompkinson has thrived in comedy and light drama roles. Stretching back to his breakthrough in Drop the Dead Donkey, to All Quiet on the Preston Front, Brassed Off, playing an alien in Ted and Alice, and most recently as the Bristol vet relocating to Africa in Wild at Heart.

Now he’s taking on DCI Banks in Aftermath, ITV1’s grisly serial killer two-parter, based on Peter Robinson’s popular crime novels.

Coming soon after Shameless creator Paul Abbott’s complaint about ‘gutless’ TV bosses casting the same old faces in new dramas, has Tompkinson been miscast here?

The best that can be said is that he looks the part of a senior detective. Acting it is another matter.

He veers between softly spoken to staring belligerence with nothing in between, apart from one toe-curling moment when he tries to schmooze Annie from the complaints office into bed (the ad break couldn’t come quickly enough).

In the shadow of Frost

 Two PCs find a shocking scene

Apart from David Jason, few actors have convincingly moved from comedy to crime drama – and Frost rarely had the unpleasant multiple rape and murder dealt with here.

Tompkinson‘s not helped by the erratic way his character is written. One minute he’s rowing with Annie (Andrea Lowe, Coronation Street), the next trying to get jiggy with her, then threatening a doctor and tangling with a victim’s father.

Banks isn’t so volatile in the novels, but UK television is addicted to cramming in as many incidents and twists as it can to stop viewers hitting the remote, reducing Banks to a mess of scowling confrontations.

Breakout novel – Aftermath
And ITV, which seems to lack faith in this pilot, has given it just two 60-minute instalments in which to make us like Banks and resolve a mulitude of criminal storylines.

Killer’s wife (Charlotte Riley)

Aftermath came out in 2002 and was Robinson’s breakout novel. It is basically the kind of police procedural adored by TV bosses, and the author does try something interesting with the format.

It starts with the arrest of a rapist and killer called Marcus Payne when two officers are called to a ‘domestic’ at his home. Crime solved, the story then flashes backwards and forwards to explore Payne’s crimes and the fallout from them.

The missing fifth woman
ITV1’s version echoes the novel’s jolting, violent opening. But we soon realise there is much more to come about the nosy neighbour across the way, the killer’s battered wife, and Banks’s dealings with the careerist Annie, who is investigating the female constable who put Marcus Payne into a coma. And where is the missing fifth young woman?

It’s a lot to sort out in the second and final part. And that’s one of Aftermath’s problems. There’s too much going on, too many murders and storylines.

The other is that Paul Abbott is right. TV bosses should stop framing the same old faces for every new crime drama in town.

Spooks new series, BBC1 PREVIEW

Lucas North and Harry Pearce (all pics BBC/Kudos)

Rating: ★★★½

BBC1, Mondays at 9pm from 20 Sept

Section chief Harry Pearce is stressed. He’s even thinking of getting married, or resigning, anything to escape the pressure of saving London from foreign nutters every week.

Who can blame him? The highest level of stress most of us have at work is looking at Facebook without being caught. As series nine of Spooks opens, Harry is still surrounded by traitors and megalomaniacs, still has to calculate how many innocent Brits he can sacrifice to stop them.

He asks Ruth, his intelligence analyst, if she ever feels she can’t go on.

‘Can’t go on, must go on,’ she says.

Dimitri (Max Brown)

New shocks for the Spooks
Too right. The last time we saw Section D, Ros was racing to save the Home Secretary when she was caught in an explosion. The new series opens with several shocks resulting from that climax, and Harry is immediately faced with personally taking revenge on someone he thought was a trusted friend.

Iain Glen’s first appearance

Actor Peter Firth has perfected a constipated look of alarm-cum-panic. ‘This is my I-want-some-good-news face,’ he says as the latest crisis looms, which looks exactly like his ‘My-buttocks-are-tightly-clenched face’, and his ‘Will-you-marry-me face’.

His mood isn’t helped by Lucas’s attempt to terminate a Somalian Al Qaeda boss, Abib, going disastrously wrong. Pirates hijack the container ship carrying Abib and Lucas, who is pretending to be a crew member. But are they pirates? And what is in the sealed container? And who is that frightened Russian prostitute?

The Russian prostitute

Sophia Myles and Max Brown
This is a cracking opener to the series, with plenty of tension and action. But there is also some fleshing out of character here, and between the shoot-outs and shouting we learn more about the principals and meet intriguing new faces.

Of which there are four – Sophia Myles is Beth Bailey, some kind of privately contracted spook who wants to join M15.

Home Secretary (Simon Russell Beale)

Typically, Lucas doesn’t think Beth is all she appears to be – which is rich coming from him, as we discover when Iain Glen lurches into the story as an ominous figure from Lucas’s past, confirming series nine’s mission to delve into hidden recesses of the characters.

Section D’s hunky he-men
Simon Russell Beale is the new Home Secretary. And Max Brown is ex-Special Boat Service operative Dimitri, who will give Richard Armitage as Lucas a run for his money in the show’s hunky he-man stakes.

Lucas is taken prisoner

It all amounts to a fine re-boot for one of the Beeb’s most avidly followed series (just check out the online Spooks communities).

As the chilled-out Home Secretary says to a rather ragged Harry Pearce at the end of this opener, ‘Until the next catastrophe.’ Which will be along every Monday for the next eight weeks.

Killed in the line of TV duty

Did you know there was a US TV series about Serpico, the cop who blew the whistle on corruption in New York and was played by Al Pacino in the 1973 movie?

The TV show came three years later and starred David Birney. The small-screen spin-off made less of Serpico’s bleak stand against his bent colleagues than the film version, and instead turned him into an action hero.

Which kind of missed the point. NBC cancelled the show four months after its big launch.

This much I’ve picked up on The Rap Sheet blog, which is running a quirky trip down the forgotten byways of US prime-time cop shows now long forgotten. The month-long series of articles, by J Kingston Pierce, is called Killed in the Ratings, and recounts those network shows that must have looked good on paper, but were soon terminated by channel execs, a breed more ruthless than a godfather’s consigliere.

It’s a fascinating glimpse of lost cops and formats from the 70s, 80s and 90s, and well-researched. There’s Leg Work from 1987 starring Frances McDormand as the best pal of a mini-skirted private eye. Pierce has also given us Joe Forrester, starring Lloyd Bridges as a beat cop. It lasted 22 episodes.

Check out Killed in the Ratings. It’s a time tunnel to past trends in cop-show TV, and not all the victims deserved their ignominious ends.

New Tricks, old farts

New Tricks returns this week. For the Beeb, the seventh series of New Tricks is old tricks – safe, cosy, no swearing and often a bit silly. But while the nation may not be dancing in the streets at its reappearance, that is probably because many are indoors watching it.

Eight or nine million tune in to hear Dennis Waterman warbling It’s Alright, to say nothing of its audiences in France, Argentina, the US, Iran and 16 other countries.

Sandra and the boys – overjoyed to be back (BBC)

All right, I watch it too – occasionally. But that’s not because of the stories about magic tricks ending in murder, or dead circus ringmasters. Friday’s opener, Dead Man Talking, is typical, featuring a clairvoyant who spooks Sandra Pullman (Amanda Redman).

Nor is it all the moaning from the old farts – sorry, retired detectives – about how everything was better in the old days. Or the excruciating attempts at humour (Bolam and Waterman organising their own piss-up in a brewery was flatter than day-old lager).

I dip in because of the cast. They’ve all had great moments in their screen pasts – particularly James Bolam (who plays Jack Halford) with The Likely Lads and The Beiderbecke Tapes, and Dennis Waterman (Gerry Standing) in The Sweeney and Minder.

Amanda Redman, the youngest of the principals in her early fifties, has been a prime-time regular with At Home with the Braithwaites, Dangerfield and others, while Alun Armstrong (Brian Lane) has a long list of superb performances behind him, from Get Carter to This Is Personal – The Hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper, Little Dorrit and Garrow’s Law.

So, on a slow night, it’s good to see the old stagers firing off each other. But the danger is that now Last of the Summer Wine has happily been shot, the BBC will keep flogging New Tricks for decades to come (series eight has already been commissioned, apparently).

That really would be something to moan about.

In the meantime, welcome back, New Tricks. But it would be nice if someone at the Beeb, ITV or C4 would commission a fresh crime series that wasn’t as cosy as Horlicks and slippers. Something that didn’t involve vintage cops (Heatbeat, George Gently), Agatha Christie, or cops with stupid names (Rosemary and Thyme).

Something with a bit of grit about it, such as Prime Suspect. Or The Take, which Sky1 did a good job of last year.

Fingers crossed for Sky1’s six instalments of DI Thorne next month with David Morrissey (see the trailer).

New Tricks starts on BBC1, Friday 10 Sept, 9pm

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