The Crime Thriller Club, ITV3, with Bradley Walsh

Rating: ★★★★

ITV3: starts Monday, 15 September, 9pm

JUST WANTED TO GIVE  a shout for this returning crime magazine show, presented by Bradley Walsh. It’s a fun and interesting hour going behind the scenes of new series – tonight they’re taking a glimpse at The Interceptor, starring Trevor Eve and Jo Joyner – profiling top writers and talking to actors and crime authors.

It’s all part of the build-up to the CWA Crime Thriller Awards in October, one of the biggest gong shows of the year for crime fiction and screen dramas.

I watched them filming an instalment last week because I’d been invited to go on the show and take part in its short quiz section. Stephen Tompkinson was also in the studio talking about DCI Banks, and author Mark Billingham was discussing new books.

I called on the services of Ali Karim, Literary Editor of Shots Magazine, to be my team mate because

Ali Karim and myself in the Green Room

he’s so knowledgable about authors – he knows Lee Child, among many, many others, and has met Stephen King. He even got into the role by dressing as Heisenberg from Breaking Bad.

It was a laugh watching the show being made at Cactus Studios in Camberwell, London. Bradley Walsh is great fun as host, and is of course a good all-round choice for the show as he was the mainstay of ITV’s Law & Order: UK until recently.

Anyway, despite Ali’s expertise and my TV knowledge things didn’t go according to plan for us during the quiz. Our moment in the limelight comes later in the series, so in the meantime enjoy tonight’s review of Lucie Waterhouse’s Before We Met and the Club’s profile of the brilliant thriller writer Robert Harris.

Host Bradley Walsh with author Peter James and Peter Davison in an upcoming edition

Check out these links…

TV Daggers – who should win
Crime Thriller Awards 2014
Shots Magazine

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Bradley Walsh leaves Law and Order: UK — is this the last ever episode?

BRADLEY WALSH as DS Ronnie Brooks, GEORGIA TAYLOR as Kate Barker, DOMINIC ROWAN as SCP Jacob Thorne and BEN BAILEY SMITH as DS Joe Hawkins. Law & Order: UK
Bradley Walsh, Georgia Taylor, Dominic Rowan and Ben Bailey Smith

IT’S THE FINAL episode of series 8 tonight – but it could also be the last ever story from Law & Order: UK.

Called Repeat to Fade, it was due to go out in April but was cancelled following the tragic stabbing of teacher Ann Maguire. In the meantime Bradley Walsh has announced that he is leaving the drama after eight successful seasons to take on other projects in drama and entertainment.

‘There may well come a time when we revisit Law & Order: UK,’ says ITV’s Director of Drama Commissioning Steve November. ‘For the moment we’ll be resting the series whilst we continue to refresh our drama slate.’

Bradley Walsh has said: ‘Ronnie Brooks [his character] is one of my best friends. It’s been an absolute pleasure to inhabit Ronnie’s Mac for as long as I have. Eight series is a wonderful achievement for everyone involved in the production. This has been one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make. I hope one day to revisit him, but for now I’d like the opportunity to pursue other drama projects which ITV are developing.’

Huge turnover of cast in Law & Order: UK

One feature of the series, a spin-off from Dick Wolf’s long-running US show, is that it has had a spectacular turnover of cast. Jamie Bamber, Paul Nicholls, Harriet Walter, Paterson Joseph, Ben Daniels, Freema Agyeman and Bill Paterson have all departed, leaving Bradley Walsh as the only original actor still in place through all the changing faces.

Losing all these fine performers has not helped the series, and you wonder if Bradley Walsh found it difficult striking a rapport with new partners and cast members for every series.

Ben Bailey Smith only joined the show as Joe Hawkins for series 8, but he has been Ronnie Brooks’s fourth partner. What was clear amid all the upheaval was that L&O: UK would struggle to keep its identity if Bradley Walsh ever joined the exodus.

The taut format of police and legal characters dealing with crimes whose outcomes were often morally and legally ambiguous has been a steady ratings winner for ITV. L&O: UK was also sold around the world.

Is the show now out of date?

But is the police procedural finally losing its lustre for drama commissioners? With series such as Broadchurch and Happy Valley proving ratings and critical hits, it could be that ITV and the BBC are looking for more character-driven stories that reach a conclusion at the end of each series. Steve November does refer to ‘refreshing our drama slate’.

Law & Order: UK. SHARON SMALL as DI Elizabeth Flynn
Sharon Small as DI Flynn

As for tonight’s episode, it’s easy to see why it was pulled in April because it is about a stabbing at Borough Market. Ronnie Brooks is at the centre of the drama, as he is needled by a 15-year-old suspected of the crime. Ronnie says eventually the lad has confessed to him that he did stab the woman. Trouble is, no one else, including Joe, hears this confession.

Sharon Small arrives on the scene as DI Elizabeth Flynn, replacing Ronnie and Joe’s former boss Wes Layton, and her character’s not impressed with Ronnie’s conduct of the case.

So, Ronnie bows out on a very difficult investigation. He’s been the best thing in the series during its five-year run, and will be missed.

Law & Order: UK is on ITV at 9pm.

See also…

Our interview with L&O: UK lead writer Emila di Girolamo
Our review from 2010

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Law & Order: UK, Repeat to Fade TRAILER

After last week’s shocking events there’s a new face joining the cast for this series finale, called Repeat to Fade (ITV, Wednesday, 30 April, 9pm). Sharon Small steps in as Ronnie and Joe’s new boss, DI Elisabeth Flynn. Her big priority is stamping down on knife, so it is a bit embarrassing when the team’s first case is a stabbing and Ronnie and Joe, under huge pressure, struggle to get enough evidence together. It’s a good final episode to what has been a pretty decent series, with Ben Bailey Smith starting to find his feet as DS Joe Hawkins. It would be good if the cast could bed in for the next series and the changes kept to a minimum, though by the look of this trailer, could it be that Ronnie’s on his way out? DS Brooks dead wood? How dare they?

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Law & Order: UK – trailer for ‘Pride’

Big episode on the ever excellent Law & Order: UK tonight (Wed, 2 March, ITV, 9pm), with Harriet Walter returning as Ronnie’s old boss – but now she’s in a spot of bother herself. The episode is called Pride, and in it Ronnie (Bradley Walsh) and Joe (Ben Bailey Smith) are looking for a murderer and find that the accused is a guy called Eddie Stewart (Martin Jarvis), who happens to be ex-DI Natalie Chandler’s father, making it a tough day for Ronnie. Here’s a trailer…

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Law & Order: UK series 8, ITV, with Bradley Walsh, Ben Bailey Smith PREVIEW

BEN BAILEY SMITH as DS Joe Hawkins and BRADLEY WALSH as DS Ronnie Brooks. Law and Order: UK, ITV
DS Ronnie Brooks and new partner DS Joe Hawkins (Ben Bailey Smith). Pics: ITV

Rating: ★★★★

ITV: starts Wednesday, 12 March, 9pm

Story:
Ronnie and his new partner Joe are leading an investigation into the death of jeweller Harry Bernstein who is found dead with no hands or teeth.

THE cast of ITV’s hit reworking of Dick Wolf’s hugely successful US drama may chop and change, but Bradley Walsh’s dependable old trooper Ronnie Brooks soldiers on.

Which is great for the series. ITV has exported L&O: UK all round the world – even back to the US – and in eight series over five years, it has become a very successful part of the channel’s drama line-up, nabbing 5.4million viewers during the last series.

It won’t challenge the best shows around – currently led by True Detective on Sky Atlantic – but its taut stories exposing the vagaries of the legal process are far more gripping than Midsomer Murders or Death in Paradise.

Ronnie Brooks is now the face of the show

Bradley Walsh doesn’t do anything spectacular as an actor on the show, but he is likeable as an

 Law and Order: UK, ITV. ROSALYN WRIGHT as Miranda Jones, GEORGIA TAYLOR as Kate Barker and DOMINIC ROWAN as SCP Jacob Thorne
Barker and Thorne with their witness, Rosalyn (right)

idealised decent, by-the-book copper with his neat hair, spectacles and mac, and no one else on it has his sheer watchability. The former footballer turned comic, quizmaster and actor has now earned his acting spurs to such a degree that he was up against David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch at the National TV Awards (Cumberbatch won).

His character’s veteran status – he’s the only original face still on duty – is highlighted in this new series by the arrival of his latest partner, DS Joe Hawkins, played by Ben Bailey Smith (aka rapper and standup Doc Brown).

Hawkins is straight in from child protection and early on there is friction between him and Ronnie when they are interviewing a young lad who may have witnessed a horrible murder in a car park. Joe, the younger man, effectively tells Ronnie that the boy is traumatised and should be questioned more gently, and Ronnie doesn’t initially like being told how to do his job.

Dale Horgan, drug dealer and vicious murderer

The friction between them is just one story strand in yet another strong start to a L&O: UK series, typically appearing at first to be about one crime, but

 Law and Order: UK, ITV. PETER BARRETT as Dale Horgan
Nasty piece of work – Dale Horgan

then turning into an investigation into a different offence, and on this occasion one that is much more harrowing.

It opens in adrenaline-pumping style with a car chase, a crash and a grisly discovery. The driver pursued by police is dead, but in his boot is a corpse with no hands or teeth. This is the body of a gem dealer, and at first this appears to be some kind of business vendetta.

But instead, Brooks soon finds himself up against a really nasty operator, Dale Horgan, a drug dealer and vicious murderer who the detective sergeant has been trying to imprison for years.

Future guest stars

The legal team of Thorne (Dominic Rowan) and Barker (Georgia Taylor) raised the stakes in court, but the episode ends badly for Brooks. All of which sets things up nicely for ensuing weeks.

Helen Baxendale and Diana Quick are among the bewigged characters in this opener, and upcoming guest stars include Hattie Morahan, Joseph Millson, the late Roger Lloyd Pack, Colin Salmon, Roy Hudd, Christopher Fulford, Haydn Gwynne and Harriet Walter.

A fine line-up – but it’s unlikely any of their characters will outshine Ronnie Brooks.

Cast: Bradley Walsh DS Ronnie Brooks, Ben Bailey Smith DS Joe Hawkins, Paterson Joseph DI Wes Leyton, Dominic Rowan Jacob Thorne, Georgia Taylor Kate Barker, Peter Davison Henry Sharpe, Helen Baxendale Eleanor Richmond, Tracy Brabin Lyndsey Bernstein, Diana Quick Judge Hall, Christopher Fulford Mickey Belker, Michael Culkin Justice Lockwood, Dale Horgan Peter BarrettSonny Serkis Danny (Eyeris) 

Law & Order: UK series 7, ITV, with Bradley Walsh, Paul Nicholls PREVIEW

DS Sam Casey (PAUL NICHOLLS) and DS Ronnie Brooks (BRADLEY WALSH) in Law and Order: UK 7
Sam and Ronnie find the cause of the train wreck – an abandoned vehicle. Pics: ITV

Rating: ★★★★

ITV: starts Sunday, 14 July, 9pm

Story: A commuter train collides with a car that’s been abandoned on the tracks in Streatham, resulting in deaths and a huge number of injuries. A man is charged with murder – but was he after revenge or acting through diminished responsibility?

MANY SHOWS LIKE to end a series with a bang. This latest batch of L&O: UK, however, kicks off with one – a train smash that kills 15 people and injures hundreds.

It’s a spectacular opener, which has the added job of injecting new faces into the legal and cop halves of

PATERSON JOSEPH as DI Wes Leyton in Law and Order: UK series 7
New guvnor Paterson Joseph

the drama. Paterson Joseph steps in as the new detective inspector, Wes Layton, and Georgia Taylor is Kate Barker, who faces Dominic Rowan’s established prosecutor, Jake Thorne, when a man is charged for mass murder following the crash – though there’s a nice twist to her story after she gets in Jake’s face during the trial.

Ronnie tries to calm Sam down

The tragedy of the crash is rammed home when DS Sam Casey (Paul Nicholls) tries but fails to save a boy on the train. Reliable Ronnie (Bradley Walsh) attempts to calm his younger colleague and keep him focused on finding out who left the vehicle on the tracks.

They zone in first on an arrogant, abusive husband who owns the abandoned wheels, then on Finn Tyler, a sad case, separated from his wife and with an alcoholic background and suicidal tendencies.

When the case goes to trial, Sam and Jake are desperate to nail Tyler, who they see as a man who, through his own selfishness, recklessly caused the death of 15 people and devastated hundreds of lives. They want him to serve life sentences for each victim.

New face Kate claims diminished responsibility

Defending Tyler is Kate Barker, who has a bee in her bonnet about the mistreatment of people with

DOMINIC ROWAN as Jacob Thorne, PETER DAVISON as Henry Sharpe and GEORGIA TAYLOR as Kate Barker
Actress Georgia Taylor joins the team

mental health issues and cuts to their services. She argues Tyler  was suffering an abnormality of mind.

In line with the best episodes of Law & Order (this one, called Tracks, is based on the US episode Locomotion), the drama’s loaded with twists and ambiguity, refusing to tell viewers which side to take.

It’s got a great performance from Aidan McArdle as Tyler (unrecognisable here from the smarmy lawyer he played in Garrow’s Law), and there’s a nice scene when Jake basically discards court protocol and just makes a speech slamming the accused. Not realistic, perhaps, but emotional all the same.

What is DS Casey up to?

Where many dramas, such as Broadchurch, benefit from the slowburn, Law & Order‘s template is all about concisely told dramas packed with characters who have murky motivations. The truth is usually hard to discern and the good guys don’t always win. It’s a formula that kept the original US series going for a record-breaking 20 years.

Scriptwriter Emilia di Girolamo, a stalwart of the series and fan of the US version, has written a powerful one here. She tells me series seven features her last two scripts for Law & Order: UK, which is a shame, while she focuses on other projects.

The good news is that it’s a two-part opener, and she’s written the next instalment, which has some pretty big questions to answer about DS Sam Casey after his apparently dodgy behaviour at the end of part one.

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DS Ronnie Brooks (BRADLEY WALSH), DS Sam Casey (PAUL NICHOLLS), DI Wes Leyton (PATERSON JOSEPH), Jacob Thorne (DOMINIC ROWAN), Kate Barker (GEORGIA TAYOR) and Henry Sharpe (PETER DAVISON). Law and Order: UK, ITV
The law and order sides of the story

Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards 2012 Winners

Sherlock's Benedict Cumberbatch and event host Bradley Walsh
Benedict Cumberbatch collects the TV Dagger for Sherlock. Pics:ITV

Leading faces from the crime world – Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Jo Nesbo, Lara Pulver, Stephen Graham, Kathy Reichs – were on the black carpet for last night’s Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards.
And it was BBC1’s Sherlock that again scooped several awards – TV Dagger, best actor (Mr Cumberbatch), best supporting actor (Mr Freeman). 
BBC4’s The Bridge shoved aside major dramas such as Homeland, Boardwalk Empire and The Killing 2 to take the International TV Dagger. Meanwhile, viewers voted Lewis and Hathaway from ITV1’s Lewis as their favourite cop duo.
Claire Danes got a gong in recognition for her superb performance in Homeland as the CIA agent on the edge. Ann Cleeves, author of the Vera Stanhope novels (played by Brenda Blethyn on ITV1) was inducted into the Hall of Fame, along with Foyle’s War creator Anthony Horowitz.
ITV3 is showing the full event, hosted by Bradley Walsh, on 23 October at 9pm.
Host at the Grosvenor Hotel, London – Bradley Walsh

The Film Dagger

  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Studio Canal)
The TV Dagger
  • Sherlock: Series 2 (Hartswood Films/BBC1)
The International TV Dagger
  • The Bridge (Danmarks Radio, Sveriges Television/BBC4)
The Best Actress Dagger
  • Claire Danes for Homeland (Teakwood Lane Productions, Showtime Productions, Cherry Pie Productions, Keshet Media Group, Fox 21/Channel 4)
The Best Actor Dagger
  • Benedict Cumberbatch for Sherlock (Hartswood Films/BBC1)
The Best Supporting Actress Dagger
  • Kelly Macdonald for Boardwalk Empire (HBO/Sky Atlantic)
Martin Freeman won best supporting actor

The Best Supporting Actor Dagger

  • Martin Freeman for Sherlock (Hartswood Films/BBC1)

Best Detective Duo: 
  • Lewis – DI Robbie Lewis & DS James Hathaway

And the books awards were won by:

The CWA Gold Dagger – sponsored by Constable & Robinson
  • The Rage by Gene Kerrigan (Harvill Secker)

The John Creasey New Blood Dagger – sponsored by Goldsboro Books
  • A Land More Kind than Home by Wiley Cash (Bantam)
The Ian Fleming Steel Dagger – sponsored by Ian Fleming Publications
  • A Foreign Country by Charles Cumming (HarperCollins)
The Specsaver’s Bestseller Dagger 2012:
  • Kathy Reichs

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Law & Order: UK with Paul Nicholls, Bradley Walsh PREVIEW

Paul Nicholls and Bradley Walsh. Pics: ITV

Rating: ★★★★

ITV1, from Friday, 6 January, 9pm

Story: In a drive-by shooting outside the Old Bailey, DS Matt Devlin is killed and another officer hit by gunfire. It appears to be a targeted attack on a young witness giving evidence in an attempted murder trial. But then DS Sam Casey learns the gunman was targeting police officers.

Paul Nicholls puts in a decent shift as Bradley Walsh’s new sidekick as season six gets off to an emotionally charged start following the shooting of Matt Devlin (Jamie Bamber) in the previous series’ cliffhanger.

He plays detective sergeant Sam Casey, brought in to help with the investigation into Devlin’s shooting outside the Old Bailey in a drive-by killing. Brooks is devastated by seeing his partner shot. He gets off to a rocky start with Casey when the new man tells him not to jeopardise the investigation by interfering when he should be off duty recovering.

Justice league – the Law & Order: UK team

Ronnie Brooks turns ‘Robocop’
Streetwise Brooks, of course, ignores the advice and is slammed by his boss, Chandler, for turning ‘Robocop’.

Devlin was hit in what was thought to be an attack on a young witness giving evidence in an attempted murder trial. But Casey tracks down a suspect, student Jamal, and it appears he could have been targeting police officers.

The strength of this spin-off from the US series is that the cases are often realistic in their messiness and ambiguity. Here, the defence barrister (Paul Salmon) argues that Jamal is the victim of police racism, a claim helped by Brooks’ misguided interference. As Jamal’s true motivation becomes apparent,  prosecutors Jake and Alesha are not sure they can get him convicted of murder.

Brooks to his the booze again?
While Paul Nicholls, whose credits include EastEnders and Candy Cabs, looks the part of a young detective, this episode is really Bradley Walsh’s show because he has a lot more to get his teeth into in this story.

Brooks is teetering on the point of coming off the wagon. He says of himself, ‘Married too many times, got my girls. Matty never got any of that.’

On the edge: DS Brooks

Whether checking on his partner’s flat, dealing with Devlin’s sister or taking possession of his trademark raincoat, now covered in his friend’s blood, Walsh is the episode’s heart. 

Emotional punch
It’s a strong opening episode and lives up to writer Emila di Girolamo‘s desire to inject more emotion into the lead characters’ lives, which is difficult given the tightly packed police/courtroom formula. While the conclusion is a bit neater than is often the case with this series, it still highlights the legal system’s alarming fallibilities, on this occasion a pathologist being the dodgy link.

Law & Order: UK‘s success in regularly hitting an average of 5.6million viewers is deserved and based on its no-nonsense, strong storytelling – the kind of focused cop show The Bill used to be back in the 1980s before it went off the rails and became a dodgy soap.

No chance of that happening with L&O: UK so long as it sticks to the original franchise’s formula and keeps recruiting good actors and writers.


Cast: Bradley Walsh DS Ronnie Brooks, Paul Nicholls DS Sam Casey, Freema Agyeman Alesha Phillips, Dominic Rowan Jake Thorne, Peter Davison Henry Sharpe, Harriet Walter Natalie Chandler, Colin Salmon Doug Greer, John Boyega Jamal Clarkson, Ken Drury Justice Pedotti, Victoria Gould Dr Jeanette Barnton

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