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…]

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.

Ripper Street 3, Matthew Macfadyen, Jerome Flynn

Whitechapel series 3

East Enders – Jackson, Long Susan, Reid and Drake

The crime-fighters of Victorian Whitechapel return with a new spectacular series

★★★ BBC1, Friday, 31 July, 9pm

STAR TREK and Cagney and Lacey were both among those shows axed by TV honchos only to be resurrected after fan pressure. Both vindicated their reprieves and went on to huge success.

Ripper Street 3, Capt Jackson

Gung-ho Jackson to the rescue

Ripper Street is unlikely to enjoy such admired longevity. It’s lurid and as believable as a graphic novel. with its theme-park depiction of Jack the Ripper’s London.

But back it is, so a hardcore of devotees will be delighted that their favourite is the first UK show to be revived by a streaming service, in this case Amazon Prime Video (which originally showed the series to its UK subscribers last autumn). In addition, Amazon Prime has already ordered series four and five for future production and seem to have pumped more money into this fairly lavish eight-part instalment.

Train disaster for Reid to investigate

The opener, Whitechapel Terminus, features a spectacular head-on train smash, with the carriages and mutilated

Ripper Street series 3 in production

Behind the scenes of Ripper Street

bodies raining down on Leman Street. This all picks up four years after the previous series, which finished with Detective Inspector Edmund Reid (Matthew Macfadyen) and the American surgeon Captain Homer Jackson (Adam Rothenberg) at loggerheads and Bennet Drake (Jerome Flynn) broken in grief.

Here they are pulled back together in the search for the “general” behind the rail calamity. Robbery was the motive and before the episode’s end, Reid already has his suspicions about who may have been behind it. [Read more…]

The Interceptor, BBC1, with O-T Fagbenle

The Interceptor - Ash (OT FAGBENLE) - (C) BBC

Flat-out action – O-T Fagbenle as Ash in The Inceptor

Thrills and spills in Beeb’s new cop show, an all-action hour with the subtlety of a Riot Squad.

★★★ BBC1, starts Wednesday, 10 June, 9pm

IF YOU want a taste of The Interceptor – BBC1’s ‘gripping drama’ about state-of-the-art law enforcement – just think of Sky1’s Strike Back, the smash-bang-wallop military series based on former SAS man Chris Ryan’s novels.

Tony Saint, a writer on Strike Back, is the creator/writer of The Interceptor. It’s about a surveillance team called the UNIT, which tries to outsmart some of the country’s biggest criminals.

You may think undercover surveillance requires stealth and a low-profile, but in the hands of these guys it’s all car chases, punch-ups and guns going off. They’re about as clandestine as the Glastonbury Festival.

In a nutshell, The Interceptor is all-action, but little heart.

Cast shot for BBC1's The Interceptor

The gang’s all here – The UNIT

O-T Fagbenle is Ash

Leading the cast is O-T Fagbenle as Ash, who – as he tells us several times in the opening episode – wants to bring down the big fish. When we meet him he’s working for HM Customs with his partner Tommy. They’re larking about at Waterloo, to all appearances about to have a beer or travel to a football match.

But no, they’re actually surveilling a guy who is couriering drugs through the station. It’s no surprise when the larky boys cock-up the arrest and end up larkily chasing him round the station, falling over pushchairs and tumbling down stairs.

[Read more…]

Cuffs starts filming in Brighton

Just as Brighton shakes off its description as the city that looks like it is “helping police with their enquiries”, along comes a starring…

CURRENTLY creating a hubbub in Brighton is the crew filming BBC1’s new crime series Cuffs. The Brighton Argus has been getting a lot of calls from locals asking what is going on as the film folk take over various parts of the city.

This looks set – if the Beeb gets it right – to be one of the year’s big new dramas. It’s starring Ashley Walters (above, in the Argus‘s picture), along with Sherlock‘s Amanda Abbington and Shaun Dooley, currently on our screens in BBC2’s The Game. It’s focuses on the town’s police officers and detectives and how they deal with local crime in a lively seaside area.

What it also has going for it is writer Julie Gearey, ex-Corrie and woman behind the terrific series Prisoners’ Wives. It is also said to be going out on weeknights at 8pm, perhaps taking over the mantle of the once-excellent The Bill.

Check out the Argus‘s article below for the latest on it. It even quotes CrimeTimePreview on the new show…

Source: BBC has high hopes for new cop drama set on streets of Brighton (From The Argus)

Silent Witness series 18, Emilia Fox, Richard Lintern, David Caves PREVIEW

Thomas Chamberlain (RICHARD LINTERN), Nikki Alexander [EMILIA FOX], Jack Hodgson [DAVID CAVES], Clarissa Mullery [LIZ CARR] in Silent Witness
Silent Witness returns with Richard Lintern, Emilia Fox, David Caves and Liz Carr. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★

BBC1: starts Tuesday, 6 January, 9pm

Story: When three people are shot dead at a petrol station, Nikki and Jack strive to track down the sniper at large in London and stem a public crisis.

HOW IRONIC that a drama so obsessed with death refuses to die. Every year since 1996 Silent Witness has got off the slab and come back with fresh traumas, gougings and splatters.

It’s survived the first eight series with po-faced Professor Sam Ryan (Amanda Burton), wonderfully satirised by French and Saunders as Witless Silence and by Dead Ringers – ‘Just by looking I can tell

Jack Hodgson [DAVID CAVES], Nikki Alexander [EMILIA FOX] in BBC1's Silent Witness
Jack and Nikki at a crime scene in Sniper’s Nest

that this was a man aged 35-37 called John, who was having an affair with his secretary.’

It has brushed off controversies over being too gruesome. And it rarely excites the critics or judges at the Baftas or the Crime Thriller Awards.

But there is clearly an audience for it and the BBC are happy to devote 10 episodes to a season. The reason it endures is perhaps that the many modes of death so accurately portrayed are used to glimpse into lives encapsulated by their violent demise.

Certainly, the leading players – forensic pathologists Nikki and Tom, and scientist Jack – play second fiddle to the forensics and victims.

Silent Witness‘s lifeless characters

In this season’s two-part opener, Sniper’s Nest, they are working with DCI Jane De Freitas to work out the motivation and profile of a gun nut on a killing spree. There is an attempt to flesh these character’s out a little by giving De Freitas and Tom relationship bust-ups to contend with, and by hinting at Nikki’s loneliness.

But it’s not long before we return to fingers poking brains or staring down the rifle sight as the killer lines up another unsuspecting victim. All of this is dressed up with baffling dialogue, such as De Freitas saying, ‘It’s our daily routines that govern the ecology of victimisation,’ or Nikki stating the obvious – ‘Here’s blood and brain matter travelling in the same direction as the bullet.’

Sights for gore eyes: Forensic TV shows
Quincy, Waking the Dead, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, 
CSI Miami, CSI NY, Bones, Body of Proof

It’s a show that is more concerned with ensuring that the post-mortems are as lifelike, so to speak, as possible, rather than delving into characters that are believable. When it tries to introduce some drama for the living, such as the press officer turning up and telling De Freitas she’ll lose her job if she doesn’t immediately turn herself into a media darling, it is jarringly implausible.

Continued…

[Read more…]

The Missing, BBC1, with James Nesbitt, Frances O’Connor, Tcheky Karyo PREVIEW

Tony (JAMES NESBITT) in The Missing
Stranded – Tony’s life is shattered by his son’s disappearance. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★★

BBC1: starts Tuesday, 28 October, 9pm

Story: Tony and Emily Hughes’ life changes forever when their five year-old son Oliver goes missing on a family holiday to France.

IT’S SAID THAT CRIME DRAMAS are a way for viewers to confront the nasty, violent side of life from the safety of their sofas. Well, The Missing is different. It confronts you with something more haunting – a living nightmare.

Because this tale of child abduction is so truthfully and simply told, it is much more affecting than run-of-the-mill murder and mayhem tales can ever be.

James Nesbitt ditches the smarmy and cheeky side of his repertoire to offer a powerful portrayal of a man none of us wants to be – the parent who loses his five-year-old son.

A normal holiday turned nightmare

He plays Tony, a normal, hard-working guy on his hols in France with wife Emily and little Oliver.

Tony (James Nesbitt) and Oliver (Oliver Hunt)
When everything was normal – Tony with Oliver

When his car breaks down they stop in Chalons du Bois and put up in a little hotel while the vehicle is repaired.

France is gripped by a big soccer tournament featuring their team. After taking Oliver for a swim, Tony and the boy go to a resort bar that is packed with football-enthralled locals. When he turns round, Oliver is gone. While everyone is celebrating the big match, Tony charges around in a mounting panic.

This eight-parter swings the narrative between this traumatic moment and events eight years later, when Tony and Emily have split. Continued…

Heartbreaking drama

Tony has gone off the rails, obsessed that Oliver is still alive, stalking the streets of Chalon du Bois

Emily (Frances O'Connor) in The Missing
Emily has tried to rebuild her life

grabbing people in the street for news of his boy. Emily, now settled with the UK police liaison officer assigned to their case, appears to have adjusted, but she is merely covering up how damaging the memories of her son still are to her.

It’s a heartbreaking drama, built on small details that make the story grounded in real life and painful. The parents are not perfect. Tony is hitting the booze and has become an outcast in this forlorn quest.

If this all seems to echo real-life tragedies involving stolen children, such as Madeleine McCann, then that impression is reinforced when Tony is told in France that his presence is making people ‘uncomfortable’.

Retired French detective

Tony’s torment is heightened because he is given hope. He has found a recent photo of another boy,

Tcheky Karyo plays Julien in The Missing BBC
Retired detective Julien

a tourist’s son, in Chalon du Bois wearing Oliver’s initialled yellow scarf. Tony appeals to the retired detective who initially ran the investigation, Julien Baptiste, now retired, to help him.

Reluctantly, Baptiste quietly returns to the town and starts snooping. By the end of the opener, he and Tony are making disturbing progress.

Written by Harry and Jack Williams, The Missing is an engrossing story that definitely begs the awful question in the viewer of how they would behave in these circumstances. It is an honest attempt to look at a frightening crime against a family.

James Nesbitt is compelling as Tony

Interviewed in the weekend’s Observer, Nesbitt says this is the most challenging role he’s had since Bloody Sunday, and he rises to it well.

James Nesbitt as Tony in The Missing BBC
Tony looks for Oliver during the celebrations

He also says: ‘We are becoming inured to the horror of a lot of these [crime] shows, so whether it will be too much for viewers is an interesting question. I believe if these stories are told truthfully, then audiences will go there.’

Personally, I put off watching this for more than a week. There was always something less traumatic around to watch. But having seen it now, I would say it’s a wonderfully understated drama that is moving and gripping.

Cast: James Nesbitt Tony, Frances O’Connor Emily, Tcheky Karyo Julien, Oliver Hunt Oliver

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The Driver, BBC1, with David Morrissey, Ian Hart, Colm Meaney PREVIEW

Vince McKee (DAVID MORRISSEY) in The Driver
Driven to desperation – cabbie Vince McKee (David Morrissey). Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★★

BBC1: starts Tuesday, 23 September, 9pm

Story: Taxi driver Vince McKee finds his life taking an unexpected turn when he accepts an offer to drive for a criminal gang. It’s been engineered by his old friend Colin, who has resurfaced after a six-year stretch in prison.

‘HOW WOULD YOU like to earn a bit extra?’ These are the words that slowly tempt cabbie Vince McKee into a faustian pack with a gangster known as the Horse in this stylish and gripping slice of Manc noir.

David Morrissey is very good at playing men on the edge – remember him in State of Play? – and he is the man caught in crisis here. His life consists of crap money, customers puking in his cab and a burnt-out marriage to Rosalind.

Since their son cut his ties with them, they’ve drifted apart, and Vince is finding it hard to get on with his teenage daughter. He is depressed and stressed.

Colm Meaney as the Horse in The Driver
Colm Meaney is a man called Horse

Poker with the Horse

His world takes a swerve for the reckless when he meets his old chum Colin, just released from prison for armed robbery. Colin thinks he is good at being a criminal, despite his recent long stretch inside.

He and Vince discover that the woman in Colin’s life has been made pregnant while he was inside by his twin brother. Colin is, in other words, a sad case – and a bit toxic. When he invites Vince to play poker at his mate The Horse’s place, you know the cabbie should see a red light here and steer clear.

When the Horse, played by Colm Meaney in his first UK television role since the police drama Strangers in 1982, offers him ‘a bit extra’, Vince is adamant he doesn’t want to get sucked into the perils of Colin’s circle.

Part thriller, part family drama

However, when he has a run-in with two drunken young women who assault, rob him and flee his

David Morrissey as Vince McKee, Claudie Blakely as Ros McKee in The Driver
Vince and Ros

taxi down a dark back street, Vince accepts the Horse’s offer.

The Driver is a sharp story, part thriller and part family drama, directed with noirish intensity by Jamie Payne. It is written by Danny Brocklehurst (Accused, The Street) and Jim Poyser (Shameless), two writers who can build characters that have depth and moral complexity.

No one is perfect here, and when Vince goes for the offer to be a driver for the gang, we can see how seductive this is for him. The beauty of the story is that Vince is initially a changed man with his moonlighting role.

Brutal twist and a rubber-ripping car chase

The Horse pays well, Vince has cash to buy driving lessons for his daughter and remembers his

Woodsy (CHRIS COGHILL), Darren (ANDREW TIERNAN) in The Driver
Not a pretty sight – Woodsy and Darren

wedding anniversary (which Ros has forgotten). By the end of the opener, however, the story takes a brutal twist, and Vince knows he is in deep.

Manchester is filmed beautifully as a night-time backdrop to much of the action, and Jamie Payne builds some of the scenes very effectively. The meeting in which Vince accepts the work offer at the Horse’s swanky house, watched by his goons, is brilliantly atmospheric, combining visual warnings, off-kilter Hawaiian-style music on the gangster’s sound system and thinly veiled threats.

It’s only a three-parter, but The Driver tears off with a rubber-ripping car chase and packs plenty of absorbing drama. Fasten your seatbelts…

Cast: David Morrissey Vince McKee, Claudie Blakely Ros McKee, Ian Hart Colin and Craig Vine, Sacha Parkinson Katie, Colm Meaney The Horse, Darren Morfitt Mickey, Andrew Tiernan Darren, Christopher Coghill Woodsy, Lee Ross Kev Mitchell, Shaun Dingwall Detective Ryder, Lewis Rainer Tim McKee, Harish Patel Amjad, Tom Gibbons Ryan

Check out these links…
David Morrissey on bbc.co.uk
The Driver on bbc.co.uk

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