New Blood, BBC1

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 24/05/2016 - Programme Name: New Blood - TX: 02/06/2016 - Episode: New Blood BTS (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: BTS ICONIC IMAGE UNDER EMBARGO UNTIL 24 MAY 2016 Stefan (MARK STREPAN), Rash (BEN TAVASSOLI) - (C) 11th Hour Films - Photographer: Des Willie

Unlikely lads: Stefan (Mark Strepan) and Rash (Ben Tavassoli)

Anthony Horowitz’s fast-paced contemporary thriller

★★★½ BBC1, Thursday, 9 June, 9pm (special preview BBC iPlayer from Thursday 2 June)

BEST-SELLING AUTHOR AND TV writer Anthony Horowitz has successfully turned his creativity to a mind-boggling variety of genres. He’s recently taken on James Bond with a new 007 adventure, Trigger Mortis, he’s done a couple of Sherlock Holmes adventures, has his Alex Rider franchise bubbling away and recently concluded Foyle’s War.

His latest adventure is this sharp take on the work of the Serious Fraud Office, a neat change of crime angle on the usual cops and whodunits.

New Blood - TX: 02/06/2016 - Episode: New Blood Episode 1 (No. 1) - Picture Shows: IMAGE UNDER EMBARGO UNTIL 24 MAY 2016 Eleanor Davies (ANNA CHANCELLOR) - (C) 11th Hour Films - Photographer: Des Willie

The boss: Eleanor Davies (Anna Chancellor)

In a short prelude we see an ominous medical experiment being conducted on hard-up travellers in India. We know the treatment hasn’t gone well because one of the guinea pigs, Henry, starts wielding a scalpel.

Jump cut six years forward and in London we learn more of the fallout from that experiment by pharma-giant Remicon. One of the patients, Mark, is found dead.

Ben Tavassoli and Mark Addy

The conspiracy set-up is certainly intriguing, the filming of London dazzling and slick, but it is the characters that really make this seven-parter a draw.

New Blood - TX: 02/06/2016 - Episode: New Blood Episode 1 (No. 1) - Picture Shows: IMAGE UNDER EMBARGO UNTIL 24 MAY 2016 DS Derek Sands (MARK ADDY) - (C) 11th HOUR FILMS - Photographer: Des Willie

Forbidding: DS Derek Sands (Mark Addy)

We have cocky wannabe detective Rash Sayyad (actor Ben Tavassoli), who is annoying to his colleagues but smart enough to get teamed up with disdainful DS Derek Sands (nice turn from Mark Addy). They start to investigate Mark’s death, which appears to be a suicide plunge, though Rash realises it’s murder.

Parallel to this storyline is Stefan Kowolski (Mark Strepan), a junior investigator at the SFO, working undercover spying on David Leese, chief pharamacist for six London hospitals. Stafan suspects Leese is taking bribes from Remicon.

The rivalry between the idealistic Rash and Stefan, one an Iranian-Brit, the other a Polish-Brit, is a little corny but still fun and nicely performed.

Into the mix is thrown a couple of sinister female assassins. Horowitz has endeavoured to create fresh characters and a distinctive take on London in a skilful mesh of  conspiracy and suspense. It’s also a clear attempt to shift gear from the more sedate fare of Foyle’s War, to create something full of action and very 2016.

Foyle’s War series 8, ITV, Michael Kitchen, Honeysuckle Weeks, PREVIEW

Samantha Stewart (played by Honeysuckle Weeks), Christopher Foyle (played by Michael Kitchen)
Honeysuckle Weeks and Michael Kitchen return in Foyle’s War. Pics: ITV

Rating: ★★★

ITV: Sunday, 4 January, 8pm

Story: Foyle is drawn into the world of the Nuremberg trials and corporate-Nazi collusion when a London University Professor, William Knowles, is found dead in a park after working as a translator in Germany.

WHY DO viewers watch Foyle? I don’t mean Foyle’s War, but Foyle the character.

Michael Kitchen’s protagonist is a widower who is modest, honest and loyal. He enjoys trout fishing

Arthur Valentine (played by Tim McMullan) in Foyle's War
In the shadows – Valentine (Tim McMullan)

and a bit of golf.

Exactly. He’s rather dull. Columbo had his bumbling persona, Sherlock his brilliant arrogance, while Sarah Lund was self-destructively dogged.

But Foyle’s writer and creator Anthony Horowitz seems to give his man so little to do. Foyle seems to virtually ghost through his adventures.

Frasier’s John Mahoney

Meanwhile, he’s surrounded by drama. As the latest series begins, his driver Samantha (Honeysuckle Weeks) has big news that causes marital friction with her MP husband, Adam (Daniel Weyman).

Elsewhere in this first of three two-hour films, entitled High Castle, London University Professor William Knowles is found dead in a park after working as a translator at the Nuremberg trials.

And then there is the scheming rich American father and son duo, the Del Mars (played by Frasier’s John Mahoney and British actor Nigel Lindsay), who are mixed up with a suspected Nazi war criminal and MI5.

Amid all this is unassuming, emotionally constipated Foyle, asking awkward questions and riling his MI5 superiors, particularly Sir Alec Myerson (Rupert Vansittart). He’s more like a tax inspector than a detective hero.


Honeysuckle Weeks and Ellie Haddington

What does impress about the show is the ambition of Horowitz’s stories. This opener is, as

Hilda Pierce (played by Ellie Haddington in Foyle's War
Keeping an eye on Foyle – Hilda Pierce (Ellie Haddington)

usual, inspired by true and sinister events of the Second World War and after.

It’s a complex intrigue involving Nazi collaborators from the business world, the Nuremberg trials and Russian assassins. It also touches on the lesser known story of 30 executives from IG Farben who built their own concentration camp near Auschwitz called Monowitz, which housed its labourers.

Upcoming tales involve the founding of the Jewish state and Black Market Britain. Few TV dramas open up historical times with such serious intent while remaining so entertaining.

The films also look very handsome and the casting is spot on. Honeysuckle Weeks seems to have developed the clipped delivery of dialogue straight from a 1940s Brit flick, while Ellie Haddington as Hilda seems to have stepped out of an Ealing comedy, and Tim McMullan looks suitably sly as a spymaster.

Foyle’s cancellation and comeback

Despite all this, the series has had its storms. In the dark days of 2007 it was cancelled, but then

Centre of the web – Clayton Del Mar (Nigel Lindsay)

showed plenty of Dunkirk spirit in turning the tide against defeat, and with the backing of its TV viewing allies managed to get itself recommissioned.

The series hasn’t looked back and remains a quietly popular ITV fixture. This is its eighth series and Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle is, as fans will know, now part of MI5 having left behind his police duties in wartime Hastings.

It’s audience must be in the older age bracket, and perhaps they like Foyle just as upright as he is – a decent chap with a stiff upper lip.

But one day it might be nice to see him put on a zoot suit, slip some knock-off nylons to a floozie and crack a smile.

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Foyle’s War returns 2013

‘It’s great to be wanted and a pleasure to be back,’ says actor Michael Kitchen, as ITV announces the return of Foyle’s War in 2013. The setting for the much-loved period detective drama will shift from the war years to 1946-47, with Foyle in a new role of Senior Intelligence Officer on the trail of various traitors. The three stories – two written by author Anthony Horowitz, one by David Kane – will include Foyle tracking down atomic spies and a true tale of government corruption. ‘I have returned to Foyle’s War because there are still some amazing stories I want to tell,’ says screenwriter and novelist Anthony.  ‘The war may be over but Foyle’s career goes on.’ Honeysuckle Weeks should return as Samantha Stewart, who is now married. The return of Foyle’s War has been in development since Acorn Media, a leading distributor of British television in the US, purchased rights to the series in 2010, when some fans feared the show was finished for good after series seven. ITV previously cancelled it in 2007, only for fan complaints to prompt its revival. Production starts in London in September.

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The House of Silk, The Silence

• Next week’s Book at Bedtime on BBC Radio 4 is The House of Silk, Anthony Horowitz’s ‘missing’ Sherlock Holmes case, read by Derek Jacobi (weeknights, 10.45pm). Dr Watson wrote the case up but considered it too shocking to be published in Holmes’s lifetime. Only now can the full story be told…

• I should thank the folk at Soda Pictures for sending me a copy of the new German crime movie The Silence (above). I was completely locked into the pace and mood of this unsettling story of two abductions of adolescent girls that occur 23 years apart, and the shattering impact these crimes have on the police and community of a town. A retired police inspector, Krischan Mittich, is convinced there is a connection between the crimes, but he is shunned by the officer in charge. This time he is determined to find the man responsible. The film moves slowly and averts its eyes from the horror of the crimes, but it is compelling, and director/writer Baran Bo Odar gives the film a distinctive, almost abstract look. Like the original version of The Killing, the film doesn’t revolve around car chases and gun fights, and it’s not a whodunit. It’s about the characters. The relationships between the killers – one reluctant, one lonely – the grieving parents, and the detectives with their smug, incompetent boss, are all superbly depicted. And the whole story reaches a shattering but believable climax. It’s a terrific debut feature from the director, with fine performances from some leading European actors – Ulrich Thomsen, Sebastian Blomberg, Katrin Sass. ★★★★★

• Latest viewing figures show the Philip Glenister thriller on BBC1, Hidden, catching a very decent 5.5m viewers on Thursday nights. That’s not far behind Spooks (5.27m). It’s the final episode tonight, and I think Glenister is superb in what has been one of 2011’s best thrillers.

Injustice starring James Purefoy and Dervla Kirwan PREVIEW

James Purefoy as William Travers. Pics: (C) ITV

Rating ★★★★

ITV1, Monday 6 June to Friday 10 June, 9pm

The writer and creator of this drama, author Anthony Horowitz, says it’s based on a simple question about barristers – ‘How do people live with themselves when they get a horrible killer off on a teachnicality.’

ITV is devoting five consecutive nights to tell the story of Horowitz’s psychological thriller, making it the TV event of the week. James Purefoy takes the lead as William Travers, a criminal barrister who is living in Ipswich and recovering from traumatic events that have shattered his belief in the legal system.

James Purefoy and Dervla Kirwan (as Jane)

Dervla Kirwan is his wife, Jane, who sacrificed her publishing career to move back to the sticks with their kids to aid his recovery.

DS Wenborn – aggressive, snarling
In tandem with their story, we meet DS Mark Wenborn – a show-stealing shift from actor Charlie Creed-Miles. Wenborn’s aggressive, snarling, constantly eye-balling his poor partner, DC Nick Taylor (Obi Abili). As one colleague tells Wenborn, he’s a bastard – but a very watchable one, not above calling an elderly witness a ‘daft old bat’ to her face. Wenborn’s idea of treating his wife is to show her postmortem murder photos…

During the opening episode, we see William’s comfy middle-class life, his kids, his boat, the nice home. But we learn that he longer takes murder cases, that he has trouble sleeping and is haunted by an incident at Ipswich train station when he spots a man on the opposite platform and, agitated, decides to follow him.

Obi Abili (Taylor) and Charlie Creed-Miles (Wenborn)

It’s a slightly confusing episode because the shifts backwards and forwards in narrative are tricky to follow. But the whole story is suddenly pulled into focus at the end of this first hour with a stunning twist involving the shooting of a farm labourer at a remote cottage. This packs the remaining episodes with plenty of tension – what just happened, and what were the devastating events that led to Travers’ breakdown?

New murder case
The intrigue quotient is upped considerably during the second episode, when Travers is reluctantly pulled into representing another murder defendant. It’s his old friend, Martin Newall, who is accused of killing a much younger office colleague in a hotel room. Though they haven’t seen each other for years, Newall plays on their old friendship to secure Travers’ services.

Nathaniel Parker as Martin Newall

Nathaniel Parker is perfect as the classic married middle-aged man falling for the charms of a young woman. Travers believes Newall, who says he was out of the room when the murder was committed and whose laptop, containing sensitive commerical information, was stolen during the crime.

With Wenborn investigating the murdered farm labourer near where Travers lives, and Travers involved in a new and very murky case, the drama is bulging with jeopardy and the characters vulnerable. Anthony Horowitz is a skilful storyteller and has come up with a potent mystery here.

The production is also well made, with terrific theme music from composer Magnus Fiennes.

Cast: William Travers James Purefoy, DS Mark Wenborn Charlie  Creed-Miles, Jane Travers Dervla Kirwan, Martin Newal Nathaniel Parker, DS Nick Taylor Obi Abili, Natalie Chandra Sasha Behar, Maggie Wenborn Kirsty Bushell, Jeremy Forbes-Watson Nick Dunning, Philip Spaull Robert Whitelock, Terry Cooper Ian Burfield, Kate Travers Lisa Diveney, Caroline Newall Camilla Power, Robin Miller Adam Grant, ACC Stephen Packard David Schofield, Lucy Wilson Jayne Wisener, Alan Stewart Joe Cole, Susanna Susannah Doyle, John Slater Peter Ferdinando, Michael Bankes Andrew Tiernan, Pamela Stewart Amelia Lowdell, Gemma Lawrence Imogen Stubbs, PMO Adam Christie Hilton McRae


Sherlock and Luther return, plus new ITV commissions

Holmes re-boot (© BBC)

Sherlock, the most assured and enjoyable new UK crime series of the year, has been re-commissioned for autumn 2011, the Beeb has confirmed.

The inspired update of the Baker Street sleuth, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, was pacy, had great music and humour, and, most importantly, won 7.5 million viewers on its launch in July.

Perhaps more surprisingly, Luther is also returning with two two-hour specials. The drama starring The Wire‘s Idris Elba promised a lot, with a good cast and intriguing premise (about a genius detective), but eventually fizzled out with stories that were as convincing as spray-on hair. Still, it clearly did well enough for a recall.

Talking of the Sherlock recommission, which is coming back in three new 90-minute episodes, co-creators, Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, say, “We’ve been overwhelmed by the warmth of response to our new Sherlock Holmes and John Watson and can’t wait to take them on three new adventures next year. There’ll be baffling new puzzles, old friends and new enemies – whether on two, or four legs. And we might well be seeing the cold master of logic and reason unexpectedly falling. But in love? Or over a precipice? Who can tell?”

The BBC also announced Undisclosed (working title), written by Ronan Bennett (Public Enemies, The Hamburg Cell). It is described as “a taut and compelling mystery thriller revolving around Harry Venn, a small-time solicitor. Forced to delve into his murky past when asked to find a missing alibi witness, Venn soon finds himself caught up in a bigger and more complex conspiracy.”

Meanwhile, ITV has announced three crime dramas for 2011. There’s an Anthony Horowitz story – Injustice. It stars Jame Purefoy as William Travers, a criminal barrister recovering from traumatic events that have blasted his belief in the legal system. It follows Horowitz’s success with Collision on the channel.

Scott and Bailey will star Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharp in the title roles of two homicide detectives from Greater Manchester Police’s prestigious Major Incident Team.  The series is scripted by Sally Wainwright, whose drama Unforgiven won the  RTS Award for Best Drama earlier this year.

Finally, The Jury is a series about ordinary people finding themselves at the centre of a major controversial criminal re-trial. It’s written by Bafta-winner and Oscar nominee Peter Morgan.

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