Midwinter of the Spirit, ITV, Anna Maxwell Martin, David Threlfall

From ITV Studios Midwinter Of The Spirit on ITV Pictured: Lol Robinson [Ben Bailey Smith], Rev. Merrily Watkins [Anna Maxwell Martin] and Rev. Huw Owens [David Threlfall]. Merrily is deeply human in her doubts and scepticism, but her knowledge of the paranormal underworld brings her to the notice of local police who need her advice in the investigation of a grisly murder. This photograph is (C) ITV Plc and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the programme or event mentioned above, or ITV plc. Once made available by ITV plc Picture Desk, this photograph can be reproduced once only up until the transmission [TX] date and no reproduction fee will be charged. Any subsequent usage may incur a fee. This photograph must not be manipulated [excluding basic cropping] in a manner which alters the visual appearance of the person photographed deemed detrimental or inappropriate by ITV plc Picture Desk. This photograph must not be syndicated to any other company, publication or website, or permanently archived, without the express written permission of ITV Plc Picture Desk. Full Terms and conditions are available on the website www.itvpictures.com

Chill factor: Lol Robinson (Ben Bailey Smith), the Rev Merrily Watkins (Anna Maxwell Martin) and the Rev Huw Owens (David Threlfall)

A crime series with a supernatural twist

★★★½ ITV, starts Wednesday, 23 September, 9pm

GENRE-CROSSING crime series look set to be come a bit of a trend. We’ve recently seen Fox’s Wayward Pines with Matt Dillon, a sci-fi tale with crime elements. ITV Encore’s The Frankenstein Chronicles, starring Sean Bean, ‘reimagines’ the story from the standpoint of a police investigator.

Meanwhile, James Nesbitt has been filming Sky1’s high-concept series Lucky Man, based on comic-book legend Stan Lee’s idea about a detective who finds a magic bracelet that brings him good luck.

And here we have Midwinter of the Spirit, a three-parter that mixes supernatural themes with crime ingredients. It would appear that the cop-drama clogged TV schedules have bled the genre dry, and writers are now juicing the formula up with sci-fi/horror twists.

Anna Maxwell Martin as Merrily

Anyway, the first thing to say about Midwinter is that it does what it says on the tin. It is definitely creepy, helped by the fact that it’s based on Phil Rickman‘s chilling novels and a terrific performance by Anna Maxwell Martin.

She plays the Rev Merrily Watkins, a single mum with a teenage daughter who’s taken on a new role in her small-town parish – that of exorcist. [Read more…]

Code of a Killer, ITV, David Threlfall

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Test-tube detectives – John Simm and David Threlfall

 

A drama based on real events that is truly an awe-inspiring story…

★★★★ ITV, starts Monday, 6 April 9pm

ITV HAS  a fine track record at taking true crime cases and – sometimes controversially – turning them into thought-provoking, compelling dramas.

Past successes include This Is Personal: The Hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper, Appropriate Adult and, most recently, The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies.

This latest, Code of a Killer, is the story of Alec Jeffreys’ discovery of DNA fingerprinting in the 1980s alongside its first use by Detective Chief Superintendent David Baker in nabbing a double murderer. You could say it cleverly splices the DNA of two dramatic genres – the great inventor biopic and the police procedural.

Either story has the potential to be great viewing. Here we get both.

David Threlfall and John Simm

It begins in 1983 with the murder in a small village outside Leicester of 15-year-old Linda Mann, who was raped and strangled. David Threlfall – a long way from Frank Gallagher in Shameless here – manages to be charismatic as the ordinary, hangdog detective leading the exhaustive and fruitless hunt for the killer.

Baker and his team at the second crime scene

Baker and his team at the second crime scene

Meanwhile, John Simm leaves behind his familiar dour, hard-bitten routine to play the absent-minded scientist Jeffreys. His wife is infuriated by his neglect of parental duties, but Simm’s performance brilliantly captures the lone, eccentric scientist obsessed with uncovering a decipherable method for the DNA code.

Jeffreys was the sort of boy who brought home dead cats found on his paper round to dissect on the kitchen table. As the eccentric beardy grown-up scientist, John Simm is pretty likeable, for once.

[Read more…]

What Remains, BBC1, with David Threlfall, Russell Tovey, David Bamber, Indira Varma PREVIEW

David Threlfall as detective Len Harper in BBC1's What Remains
David Threlfall as detective Len Harper. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★★

BBC1: transmission time to be announced

Story: When a new couple, Michael and his heavily pregnant partner Vidya, move into flat 4 of number 8 Coulthard Street, a leak in the loft causes them to discover the remains of Melissa Young hidden in the eaves. She has not been seen for over two years. No one has raised an alarm or even noticed that she was gone.

SHAMELESS WAS A blindingly good drama from C4, but the end of its decade-long run means we should start to see more of David Threlfall in new roles.

He’s a tad more coherent than Frank Gallagher in What Remains, as you would hope for a detective inspector investigating the mystery of a woman’s remains found in the loft of a house with several tenants/families living there.

Having said that, his character Len Harper is unshaven, grey-haired, shambling and scruffily dressed. On the other hand, he is about to retire so obviously doesn’t have to worry about making an impression.

David Threlfall’s detective is deeply affected by the lonely death

Not that he is demob happy. He is a widower, childless and clearly affected by the last call-out he has to attend.

Melissa Young’s mummified remains are found in the loft, two years after the other tenants thought she moved out. In fact, they’re all a bit unclear about what happened to Melissa, though Joe on the ground floor hasn’t missed her. ‘I didn’t like the girl,’ he tells Harper. ‘I think everyone would agree the house is greatly improved by her absence.’

Harper suggest Joe’s comments are harsh, but he is disturbed by this all too common modern occurrence – the person whose life has meant so little to those around them that no one notices their death or disappearance.

What Remains is much more than a whodunit

What Remains is a tender, compelling four-parter. At first sight it appears to be yet another formulaic police procedural – dead body, cops turn up, ask questions – but it is more three-dimensional than your average cop show. It’s about people living together, the dynamics of the neighbourly relationships, and Harper’s humanity in wanting to see that Melissa gets more consideration in death than she did when alive.

Threlfall is marvellous as the detective coming to the end of a decent, average career, having his low-key leaving booze-up, visiting a former colleague in hospital. He can’t let go of the Melissa Young case, however, perhaps dreading his own lonely years ahead, and he keeps returning to Coulthard Street.

‘Who was she?’ asks the colleague and lover of Keiron, Steven Mackintosh’s character.

‘No one,’ he replies.

Russell Tovey is Michael in BBC1's What Remains
Russell Tovey as Michael

Russell Tovey, David Bamber, Amber Rose Revah

And who are the tenants who lived in the same house with Melissa? Uptight Joe on the ground floor (a terrific David Bamber), an unhappy lesbian couple, Keiron and his teenage son, and the new faces who discovered the body – Michael (Russell Tovey) and Vidya (Amber Rose Revah).

Writer Tony Basgallop (who also wrote last year’s Inside Men) has created a thought-provoking whodunit, brought to life by a top-class ensemble cast.

Cast: David Threlfall Len Harper, Denise Gough Liz Fletcher, Lisa Millett DCI Alice Yapp, Alexander Arnold Adam, David Bamber Joe, Claudie Blakley Keiron’s colleague/lover, Jessica Gunning Melissa Young, Victoria Hamilton Peggy, Steven Mackintosh Kieron, Amber Rose Revah Vidya, Russell Tovey Michael, Indira Varma Elaine, Lee Nicholas Harris Station Desk Sergeant, Terence Beesley DCI Burrows

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