Best new mini-series on TV

The FiveThe Five, written by international best-selling crime fiction author Harlan Coben and coming to Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD on July 4th, is just the latest in a crop of classy TV mysteries that have had viewers hooked in what has to be a golden age for crime TV. Here we take look at The Five and some of its similarly gripping mystery bedfellows to see what keeps audiences coming back…

The Five

Harlan Coben, the internationally best-selling author has sold millions of books around the world and has had a staggering eight consecutive number ones in the New York Times bestseller list, so you’d think he’d know all about putting together an enticing mystery. And you’d be right – The Five delivers one of the juiciest set-ups for a mystery in recent times (the DNA of a young boy who went missing 20-years earlier turns up at a murder scene being investigated by a friend of the missing boy’s brother), and turns it into the televisual equivalent of one of Coben’s un-put-downable page turners. Throw in a superb cast of British rising stars (including Tom Cullen from Downton Abbey, Sarah Solemani from Him & Her and OT Fagbenle from Looking) as well as respected stalwarts like Geraldine James (Utopia) and the overall effect is one of extreme class and quality that stands up alongside some of the big US guns for binge-ability. See our review

The Night Manager

Another author fairly familiar with the top of the bestseller list was behind what has arguably been the biggest UK TV production of recent years, with Tom Hiddleston perfectly capturing John Le Carre’s heroic, eponymous central character alongside a faultless-as-usual Olivia Colman and a never better Hugh Laurie. The twists and turns in the relationship between sort-of double agent Jonathan Pine and the moral black hole that is Laurie’s Richard Roper form the spine of the series, with the mystery element coming as much from the cat and mouse of that relationship as from the slight fear throughout that Pine might be playing everyone to advance his own interests. With stunning cinematography and a drum-taut script, it’s hardly a surprise that both Hiddleston and series director Susanne Bier are both apparently in the running for the next entry into the James Bond franchise. See our review [Read more…]

Third degree: Adrian McKinty

Matthew McConaughey in True Detective

Adrian McKinty is one of the most acclaimed new crime writers from across the Irish Sea, routinely mentioned alongside Ken Bruen, Declan Hughes and John Connolly. His series of edgy thrillers about Catholic detective Sean Duffy and the character’s exploits while working in the none-too-comfortable surroundings of the RUC during the Troubles, and later MI5, are developing a big following and have been hugely praised by reviewers. These include The Cold Cold GroundIn the Morning I’ll Be Gone and his latest, Gun Street Girl. Here, he reveals his favourite TV shows, characters and authors…

Adrian McKinty

Your favourite British crime series or thriller on TV?
Can I cheat and have a tie between two? Well I’m going to anyway: I really enjoyed The Fall, even though I had real reservations about the denouement of season 2! It was nice to see an ordinary crime drama set in Belfast, with brilliant acting and a tight economical script. My other favourite is Broadchurch. What a terrific bit of writing that was – unpacking the threads from an entire society with great little subplots and an ending that – although I saw coming (and which strangely involved zero detective work) – was very powerful none the less. Great stuff (and I LOVED the creepy psychic).

Favourite US crime series or thriller on TV?
True Detective. I so didn’t want to watch this when I heard it involved an alleged conspiracy of satanists, which is a pretty hacky premise. But then I watched the pilot and was blown away by its audacity: three timelines, the philosophy of pessimism and entropy, extraordinary acting and cinematography… And then the series only got darker, deeper and better. Wow.

Do you have a favourite Irish TV crime series?
I’ll throw The Fall in there too.

Top TV cop?
Gotta be Columbo. Outwitting the rich and famous with the power of his mind alone.

Which unfilmed book/character should be made into a TV drama?
I’m shocked that they haven’t made Ellroy’s Underworld trilogy into anything…

If one of your novels were filmed, who would you cast to be the hero? 
Fassbender would be a great Sean Duffy.

What’s your guilty pleasure on TV? 
I don’t believe in the concept of guilty pleasures to be honest. I like what I like and I don’t feel any shame or guilt. One thing I like that no one else seems to like in my family is the programme Mighty Ships? Heard of that? Didn’t think so. Could just be a niche interest there.

Least favourite cop show/thriller? 
Not a fan of British nostalgia mystery shows set in the 1950s or 40s when there were no black people and poor people knew their place…

Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad

Do you prefer The Wire orThe Sopranos
Haven’t seen The Wire and I – gasp – think The Sopranosis over rated. All those tedious scenes with Carmela and the priest or the annoying kids… I’ll say Breaking Bad.

Marple/Poirot or Sherlock Holmes? 
Marple. Despite the answer I gave two questions ago. I love cops who solve things with that big gray muscle between their ears and Miss M does that in spades…

Wallander – BBC or the Swedish version?
Gotta go with Ken Branagh. Love him.

US or British or Euro television crime dramas?
They are quite different animals but nothing I’ve seen recently on Brit or Euro TV can compete with True Detective and Breaking Bad…

Your favourite crime/thriller writers?
Rankin, Ellroy, Peace, Neville, McGilloway, Woodrell.

Have you read a crime novel that’s really knocked you out lately?
I’m reading a sci-fi crime novel called Great North Road that I’m very much enjoying, set in a future Newcastle…

Favourite non-crime/thriller author?
Adrian McKinty, Gun Street GirlJG Ballard or Angela Carter.

Favourite crime movie or thriller?
Miller’s Crossing.

You’ve been framed for murder. Which fictional detective/sleuth would you want to call up?
I’d want Marple. I think she has the best brain of all of them.

• Adrian’s latest Sean Duffy novel, Gun Street Girl, is available from Amazon. His blog is also an interesting and enjoyable read, The Psychopathology of Everyday Life

See also CrimeTimePreview’s Q&A with Ian Rankin

David Tennant filming Gracepoint

HERE’S a shot of David Tennant shooting Gracepoint, the US version of ITV’s Broadchurch, which is being made by Fox. It was taken in Sidney, British Columbia. David is starring alongside Breaking Bad‘s Anna Gunn (who replaces Olivia Colman). His character of DI Alec Hardy has become Detective Emmett Carver, complete with US accent. Carver and his partner Ellie Miller will investigate the killing of young Danny Solano on an idyllic Californian beach. Gracepoint is very much part of the current craze for foreign makeovers – The Bridge (twice), The Office, The Killing, Low Winter Sun, Life on Mars have all had the treatment. Sometimes they work (The Office was brilliant), often they don’t (The Killing). But this one does have a terrifc cast. The 10-parter is expected to air this autumn, so we’ll find out how good it is quite soon. Picture courtesy of Tyson Elder rocktographer.ca

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Broadchurch on DVD

DVD: ★★★★½
Extras: ★★★★

IT’S BEEN the most talked about crime series of the year and a real triumph for ITV. Audiences and critics were gripped by the whodunit and  seven million people were tuning in, which in these multi-channel days is a blockbuster figure.

But despite all the hoo-haa about whether young Danny’s killer was his dad or his friend or the vicar or creepy Susan, the eight-part drama had a lot more to it than the jaded mechanics of a traditional whodunit.

Broadchurch broke the mould of police procedurals by discarding the corpse before each ad break that is the norm in shows such as Midsomer and Lewis along with the clever detectives deducing who the perpetrator was. It was about the gut-wrenching tragedy of the Latimer family, the behaviour of the press, the strife at the police station and the role of the church.

It was beautifully written by Chris Chibnall and had a first class cast, headed by David Tennant and Olivia Colman, brilliantly supported by Jodie Whittaker, Andrew Buchan, Vicky McClure, Arthur Darvill, Pauline Quirke and Will Mellor.

Chibnall reveals in the excellent special features on this new DVD release that he wrote the drama on spec because it was something he really wanted to write. And that desire to produce a really good, heartfelt  story before taking it to ITV is perhaps the secret to its success.

Broadchurch on DVD, released 20 May, running time 400 minutes on three discs. RRP: £25.99. Cert TBC

PRIZE DRAW

We have one copy of the complete series of Broadchurch worth £25.99 to give away. All you have to do is join the CrimeTimePreview gang (see the column on the right) to enter a prize draw for this fantastic series. The first name drawn on the closing date of Friday, 24 May, will be sent a copy of the DVD.
This offer is open to UK residents only. Prize Draw entrants must register as members of CrimeTimePreview (see column, right); one name will be drawn on the closing date (Friday, 24 May) and will be posted a free copy of Broadchurch. The selectee will need to provide their postal address. No prize alternatives. If anyone registers but declines the Broadchurch DVD, an alternative winner will be selected. Good luck!

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Broadchurch — great finish for the best new UK crime series

ITV's Broadchurch, starring Oskar McNamara as Danny
Oskar McNamara as Danny. Pics: ITV

Broadchurch revealed its secrets in the final episode last night and confirmed its position as the best new UK crime series since Sherlock. The Beeb, BSkyB, Channel 4 and ITV churn out dozens of murder dramas each year but none has generated the buzz that Broadchurch did.

Much of the watercooler chat was about whodunit, but Broadchurch was a much better show than those that are simply puzzles over a perpetrator’s identity, intriguing though that was. The bookies, and most of us in the audience, strongly suspected it was Joe, anyway.

Broadchurch worked so brilliantly because it learnt from the first series of The Killing and was a seering exploration of a crime and its painful fallout for a community – ambitions way above most TV crime fare. Central to the whole story was the Latimers and the heartbreak and confused loss they were suffering. Hats off to writer and creator Chris Chibnall (United, Law & Order: UK) for devising such a rich, compelling drama.

Olivia Colman, David Tennant in Broadchurch, ITV
Olivia Colman and David Tennant

Olivia Colman was superb throughout, but really went above the call of duty in portraying the nightmare that befell Ellie during the finale. David Tennant was very good – as usual – as Alec, the lead detective who was by turns irritating and vulnerable. And, for my money, Andrew Buchan also stood out at times as Danny’s dad, particularly early in the series in the scene when he had to identify his son’s body.

  • Daily Telegraph final episode review
  • Guardian final episode review
  • Independent final episode review

ITV wasted no time last night in announcing that Broadchurch will be back. Which will be interesting, seeing that Alec is being invalided out of the force and Ellie will have to leave town. The story is, of course, being kept under wraps, but will go into production next year. More than nine-million viewers have been watching, so another series is not a surprise.

My guess is series two could involve Sandbrook, Alec’s previous and disastrous case.

Anyway, final word to Chris Chibnall  – ‘The whole Broadchurch team has been delighted and properly gobsmacked by the response from ITV viewers. When I first talked to Peter Fincham and Laura Mackie, ITV’s Director of Drama about Broadchurch, I mentioned that if people liked it, there was another very different story we could tell afterwards. I’m really thrilled we’re going to tell that story too.’

Here’s the extra scene from Broadchurch that was posted on Facebook last night…

• In other news, ITV also announced yesterday that there will be a fourth series of Vera. Brenda Blethyn will this summer start filming four new 120-minute stories based on the character created by crime author Ann Cleeves.

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Broadchurch, ITV, starring David Tennant, Olivia Colman

Broadchurch with Olivia Colman and David Tennant
Washed up? DS Miller with new boss DI Hardy (David Tennant), who has a lot to prove. Pics: ITV 

Rating: ★★★★

ITV: Monday, 4 March, 9pm

Story: DI Alec Hardy and DS Ellie Miller are summoned to investigate the discovery of 11-year-old Danny Latimer’s body on Broadchurch beach, a death that profoundly affects the small seaside community.

Bog-standard crime series can’t be bothered to deal with the pain that follows a murder, with victims usually treated simply as an excuse to kick off a whodunit. The cops hog the limelight and the victims’ stories are left on the slab.

Broadchurch is not bog standard. It is an emotional thriller that follows the ripples through a close-knit seaside community caused by the suspicious death of a schoolboy.

Screenwriter Chris Chibnall explains his motivation in writing the series like this, ‘When I was writing Law & Order: UK, I always used to worry for the victim’s relatives we would bring in for one scene: what happened to them when they left the screen? Broadchurch is, in part, an answer to that, a desire to honour those people more fully.’

The Latimer family in Broadchurch, ITV
The Latimer family

Jodie Whittaker and Andrew Buchan
The sunny mood of Broadchurch, a largely crime-free seaside town, is shattered one morning when the body of 11-year-old Danny is found on the beach. His parents don’t know at first that he is even missing because he always leaves the house early to do a paper round.

It is only at a school sports day that mum Beth, played by Jodie Whittaker, realises Danny is not there. From the word go we are alongside frantic Beth and her husband, Mark (Andrew Buchan), trying to locate their son.

When Danny’s body is found, DI Alec Hardy, a new face drafted in only recently, and DS Ellie Miller, a local woman, are called in to investigate. Hardy has just got the promotion Ellie was hoping for, so they immediately have a frosty relationship.

Maggie, Karen and Ollie in Broachurch, ITV
The press – Maggie, Karen and Ollie

Vicky McClure and Pauline Quirke
David Tennant and Olivia Colman portray the detectives, and they make a fine clashing partnership, with Tennant as a stiff boss with something to prove and Colman completely alienated by him. ‘Don’t look at me like that,’ he tells her. Colman is the mistress of the sour look.

But it is Andrew Buchan, a long way from his Garrow’s Law days here, who steals the opening episode. The scene in which he identifies Danny’s body, having hoped against hope that the dead child was not his boy, is absolutely heartrending.

The cast is good throughout, with Vicky McClure as a Fleet Street reporter sniffing for a scoop, Pauline Quirke as a suspicious and scruffy local, and Will Mellor as a telephone engineer with a connection to the case.

‘My character wasn’t supposed to cry half as much as she ended up doing’
Everyone from the vicar (Arthur Darvill) to the hotelier (Simone McAullay) are affected or implicated in Danny’s story, not least Ellie’s own son, who was Danny’s best friend.

Nige and Susan in Broadchurch, ITV
The locals – Nige and Susan

Interestingly, the cast were not told who was behind Danny’s death during filming to maintain the level of intrigue – they apparently had a sweepstake on the killer’s identity.

But it is the story’s emotional journey that is Broadchurch‘s distinguishing feature. As Olivia Colman reveals, ‘My character wasn’t supposed to cry half as much as she ended up doing but I couldn’t stop myself; it was so sad.’

Cast: David Tennant DI Alec Hardy, Olivia Colman DS Ellie Miller, Andrew Buchan Mark Latimer, Jodie Whittaker Beth Latimer, Vicky McClure Karen White, Arthur Darvill Rev Paul Coates, Pauline Quirke Susan Wright, Will Mellor Steve Connelly, Carolyn Pickles Maggie Radcliffe, Matthew Gravelle Joe Miller, Simone McAullay Becca Fisher, Jonathan Bailey Olly Stevens, Oskar McNamara Danny Latimer, Charlotte Beaumont Chloe Latimer, Susan Brown Liz Roper, Adam Wilson Tom Miller, Joe Sims Nige Carter, David Bradley Jack Marshall, Jacob Anderson Dean Thomas

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