DCI Banks series two with Stephen Tompkinson PREVIEW

DCI Alan Banks is back leading the serious crimes team. Pics: ITV1

Rating: ★★★

ITV1: starts Wednesday, 10 October, 9pm 

Story: DS Annie Cabbot is pregnant and about to go on maternity leave, and DCI Alan Banks is going to miss her badly. But then a mysterious phone message draws him to Harrogate to search for his estranged younger brother, Roy.

Banks is back for the first of six new episodes. Series one didn’t create a huge splash, but Stephen Tompkinson, who plays Banks, has a quite a following from comfy family fare such as Wild at Heart and the drama did well enough in the ratings to be quickly recommissioned.

This story, Strange Affair, begins with an appeal from the detective’s estranged brother, Roy, in a juicy mystery that offers insights into the character’s family background.

Banks is trapped in his brother’s turmoil

Caroline Catz as DCI Morton

‘I’ve got myself into a bit of trouble and need some help,’ Roy pleads. Banks, after a tense evening with his sidekick Annie Cabbot, who’s about to go on maternity leave, shoots off to find his brother. Andrea Lowe, who plays Annie, really is expecting, but has vowed to support Banks in future cases – which should entail further romantic tension.

Banks’s disappearance causes a major problem because a woman is found with a bullet in her head and he is needed as senior investigating officer. But to complicate matters, in the glove compartment of the victim’s car is a hand-drawn map to Alan’s cottage, so Banks is a key witness.

New deputy Helen Morton should make Banks look even angrier
This delicate situation is the cause of a bust-up between Annie and her replacement, Helen Morton, who is now put in charge of the case.

Caroline Catz’s introduction to the show as Helen adds a fresh spark to the drama. A mother-of-four, she’s very efficient but is chucked in at the deep end with Banks’s loyal team, who are not happy that she treats him as a witness. It’s likely that her stern approach to policing is going to wind up Banks no end.

Banks with his parents (Keith Barron and Polly Hemingway)

Keith Barron as Banks’s dad
Also in the cast are Keith Barron and Polly Hemingway as Banks’s parents, who seem to prefer the dodgy Roy to steady Alan. However, it soon turns out that Roy’s troubles are a lot closer to Banks the copper than he could ever have feared.

Average homegrown TV police procedurals rarely stretch their characters like this, and this is a strong curtain-raiser to the series. Whether fans of Peter Robinson‘s acclaimed novels will think the series does the books justice is a different matter.

Tragic cliffhanger
Tompkinson has passion – and some powerful scenes here – but he is a bit sour to capture Banks’s charisma, stoicism and occasional sexiness.

Still, his devotees will love it, and the episode finishes with a tragic jolt, setting up the next instalment nicely.

Cast: Stephen Tompkinson DCI Alan Banks, Andrea Lowe DS Annie Cabbot, Caroline Catz DCI Helen Morton, Jack Deam DC Ken Blackstone, Lorraine Burroughs DS Winsome Jackson, David Westhead Gareth Lambert, Keith Barron Alan’s dad, Polly Hemingway Ida

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My Murder, DCI Banks, Justified 3

Danny (Malachi Kirby), Samantha (Simona Zivkovska), Shakilus (John Boyega). Pic: BBC

BBC3 is showing My Murder tonight (26 March, 9pm), a factual drama telling the true story of Shakilus Townsend, the 16-year-old boy lured to his death by 15-year-old Samantha Joseph. Shakilus was smitten with the girl, but she betrayed him to her ex-boyfriend and his gang. This hard-hitting, sad story was written by Levi David Addai and is produced by BBC Current Affairs. This story is given added power and poignancy by the real-life testimony of Shakilus’s mother, Nicola.

• DCI Banks with Stephen Tompkinson will be back, a new series of three two-stories having just been commissioned by ITV. I must admit the attraction of this series and its leading man has passed me by entirely (though the books are terrific), but followers of CrimeTimePreview have made it perfectly clear in their comments that Tompkinson is ‘tremendously sexy’ and ‘appealing’. In the first of the new stories – ‘Strange Affair’ – we gain more knowledge of Banks’s family, his parents, Arthur (Keith Barron) and Ida, and his brother, Roy, a roguish wealthy businessman, who becomes embroiled in the case.

Endeavour, the Inspector Morse prequel shown in January, was such a hit that there is no surprise in ITV announcing that it will return. There will be four two-hour episodes, filming on location in Oxford later this year. Shaun Evans will return as Endeavour, along with Roger Allam as his boss DI Fred Thursday.

• ITV1 is also making The Last Weekend, which will also star Shaun Evans. Blake Morrison’s  psychological study of male jealousy takes place over one hot Bank Holiday summer weekend. Rupert Penry-Jones, Genevieve O’Reilly and Claire Keelan also star.

• And ITV has also commissioned a drama based on Ruth Rendell’s 13 Steps Down.

Justified series 3 hits 5USA on Wednesday, 28 March, at 9pm. This is the coolest cop show on TV at present, with Timothy Olyphant superb as the lawman with the itchy trigger finger. Boyd Crowder is out for revenge as the series starts, following Ava’s shooting at the end of the last series.

• So it seems the next series of Luther could be the last, as creator/writer Neil Cross prepares a cinema version of the maverick, unorthodox detective. I’ve just reviewed Cross’s brand new novel, The Calling: A John Luther Novel, which is a prequel to the first series. The review is over on Shots, the crime ezine.

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• Crime Zapper – DCI Banks, Garrow’s Law, Silent Witness •

• OK, I admit it. I wasn’t a fan of DCI Banks: Aftermath on ITV1. It didn’t do Peter Robinson’s book justice, and its lead player, Mr Everyman Stephen Tompkinson, was too manic and just plain wrong in the part. Banks is pretty hot with the ladies in the novel, whereas on screen Tompkinson was forever ranting and looking psychotic. He seems to be in the Robson Green-Martin Clunes knee-jerk favourite zone at ITV – every part that comes along, no matter how unsuitable, being put his way. The newspaper reviews were also lukewarm, many saying it was a bit too routine a procedural. The great British viewership, however, switched on to it. Banks got higher ratings (5.6m) on its opening night than Spooks, which is impressive bearing in mind the latter’s huge fanbase and eight-year headstart. And now Left Bank Pictures has announced that there will be three new further Banks adaptations in 2011 – Playing with Fire, Friend of the Devil and Cold as the Grave (six hour-long episodes, two per story). 

• The ludicrously brief series of Garrow’s Law – just four episodes – was short but compelling, and ended with a terrific finale on Sunday. Andrew Buchan wrung tears and snot in a highly charged story as Garrow faced ruin and disgrace along with the woman he loves, Lady Sarah (Lyndsey Marshal). Apart from the central drama and Garrow’s brilliant performances in the old Old Bailey, the series has reflected on the grotesque legal system of the late 18th century – with a 12-year-old boy being hung for theft in this episode. Alun Armstrong as Garrow’s solicitor and mentor, Southouse, gave a grandstanding speech at Garrow’s trial for Criminal Conversation (adultery to us), and Sir Arthur (made very loathsome by Rupert Graves) got his humiliating comeuppance. Anyone intrigued by these stories, based on the records of the Old Bailey, may be interested in knowing more about the real cases behind the series’ dramas from its legal consultant on historical matter, Mark Pallis, who has a blog. And the Beeb has a round-up of all the buzz created by Garrow’s Law here.

Emilia Fox in Silent Witness (BBC)

• In addition to Zen with Rufus Sewell coming along on BBC1 in the first week of January, a new series of Hustle and the 14th of Silent Witness are also lined up (though no dates and times have been announced yet). Silent Witness opens with a two part story called A Guilty Mind, in which three patients die unexpectedly in the same ward of a London hospital. Emilia Fox, who plays Dr Nikki Alexander, says, ‘The case affects Nikki deeply and personally and looks at the less tangible part of pathology, which is the mind. We are used to the team finding things out through the organs and the body, but of course when it comes to the mind it’s a lot harder to deal with.’ Previews will follow on crimetimepreview.

• The Beeb has also announced another new thriller series for 2011, Stolen starring Damian Lewis (Band of Brothers, The Forsyte Saga, Life). He plays Detective Inspector Anthony Carter, who’s trying to rescue some children from child slavery. It’s to be directed by Justin Chadwick, whose credits include The Other Boleyn Girl and Bleak House.

Foyle’s War is thrashing all-comers in crimetimepreview‘s poll of 2010’s top crime series. Only Sherlock is putting up a fight, with the likes of Spooks and Poirot taking a pasting. Just 13 days of voting to go…

Watching the new detectives this autumn

Two popular Brit detectives make the leap from the novel to small screen soon – Mark Billingham’s spooky cop Tom Thorne and Peter Robinson’s DCI Banks.

Sky1 has filmed David Morrissey in two Thorne mysteries, the original story in the series, Sleepyhead, and the second, Scaredy Cat.

Sleepyhead, the chilling story of a serial killer who induces in his victim a conscious state of paralysis, also has Natascha McElhone, Aidan Gillen and Eddie Marsan among the cast (Sandra Oh from Grey’s Anatomy will appear in Scaredy Cat). For Sky1, Sleepyhead is one of its marquee shows this autumn and details of its broadcast time will be out soon.

Meanwhile, ITV1 has lined up one of its favourite actors, Stephen Tompkinson, to breathe life into Banks. Whether Tompkinson, star of such family faves as Wild at Heart, has the oomph to cut it as a cop pushed to his limits by yet another serial monster in Aftermath should be interesting.

UK telly honchos are always seeking the holy grail of the next Morse, or even a Wexford. But the listings mags are filled with forgotten entries for such flops as Rebus, ITV miserably failing to capture the cussedness and self-destructiveness of Ian Rankin’s brilliant character.

We’ll soon know whether Peter Robinson, Mark Billingham and their many readers will enjoy a better result. In the meantime, for a taste of Thorne’s first outing, check the grisly trailer on Mark Billingham’s site.

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