Suspects, Channel 5, with Fay Ripley, Damien Molony PREVIEW

Suspects: Damien Molony, Fay Ripley and Clare-Hope Ashitey. Pics: Ch5
Damien Molony, Fay Ripley and Clare-Hope Ashitey. Pics: Ch5

Rating: ★★★ 

Ch 5: starts Wednesday, 12 February, 10pm

Story: Police investigate the reported abduction of a two-year-old girl from her home.

A NEW British drama commissioned by Channel 5? But surely Channel 5 is all reality rubbish, Aussie soaps and bought-in US cop shows?

This was my response when I saw Suspects in the channel’s highlights. ‘But Channel 5 doesn’t make dramas…’

Well, they do now. Suspects is a fresh venture into original drama, and it ain’t bad. The 10-part series is filmed documentary-style with the cast ad-libbing their roles according to a plot description.

It stars Fay Ripley (Cold Feet), Damien Molony (Being Human) and Clare-Hope Ashitey (Top Boy), and they carry the story along with believable naturalness.

Child killer working down the road

The opener is a knotty case, an investigation into the abduction of a toddler from her home. The family

Ch5 Suspects: DI Bellamy (Ripley), DS Weston (Molony) and DC Steele (Ashitey)
Suspects is filmed like a fly-on-the-wall documentary

set-up is difficult – dad and mum have separated, dad has custody of the children, including an older son – but alarm bells ring when it is discovered that a convicted child killer is working in the offie down the road.

The story moves at pace, with shifting perspectives and disclosures uncovering more and more of what happened.

Suspects is a decent drama, inexpensively made, with a plot-driven format that means we never get much insight into the characters of these London detectives – DI Bellamy (Ripley), DS Weston (Molony) and DC Steele (Ashitey). While it won’t have HBO quaking in its boots, it’s good to see Channel 5 investing in something more ambitious than Big Brother and Botched Bodies.

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Murder: Joint Enterprise, BBC2, starring Karla Crome and Robert Pugh PREVIEW

BBC2 Joe Dempsie, Karla Crome
Stefan and Coleen – did they act together in killing Erin? Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★★½ 

BBC2: Sunday, 26 August, 10pm

Story: A woman lies dead in a Nottingham flat, her terrified sister barricaded in the bathroom. At 2am a young man in a bloodstained shirt is pulled over for speeding. The three only met that afternoon – what happened in those fatal hours? All there is to go on is what the two survivors say.

Birger Larsen, who called the shots on The Killing, came to the UK to direct this documentary-style murder drama that is bold, messy and totally compelling.

The hour-long narrative delving into the death of Erin at the Nottingham flat she shared with her sister, Coleen, is fragmentary, told to camera by those involved in the case in conflicting and self-serving statements. as well as in flashbacks, CCTV footage, family snapshots and evidence photos.

Erin is killed with an Amaretto bottle
It’s messy because real life is messy, and the script by Robert Jones resoundingly exposes the fallacy of most TV crime shows with their neat denouements. Murder: Joint Enterprise taxes the viewer by forcing you to try to locate the truth in what unfolds.

BBC2 Stephen Dillane
Raglin, the prosecution QC outlines his tactics

At first, it seems clear cut. Erin and Coleen are out at a snooker hall when they meet Stefan, who barges his way back to their flat. Coleen says she felt threatened by the pushy young man and that he killed Erin while she was locked in the bathroom. Stefan is arrested later that evening while driving Erin’s car, and has her blood on him. Erin was battered with an Amaretto bottle.

The case is not as clear as it first appears
But by day two of the investigation, the story shifts. Erin and Coleen, abandoned nine years before by their mother, often fought. Was there some sexual rivalry between the sisters with Stefan back at the flat. What was the role of Coleen’s boyfriend, Heskett Jupp, in what happened.

And while Stefan admits he’s ‘done stuff’, he denies murder. The past histories of Stefan and the sisters clearly impacts on their present day lives and hang-ups, and Robert Jones’s script – which he says was the hardest he’s ever written – sensitively explores their backgrounds, particularly the trauma caused by the sisters being deserted by their mother.

Coleen says of the time after she was taken into care, ‘There’s something about being locked out of your own flat and looking in. It’s like being dead.’

Claire Rushbrook
Claire Rushbrook as mum Ellen

We only briefly see the characters interacting, and that’s a CCTV glimpse of Coleen and her mother. But the truth slowly comes into focus as the twisting trial of Stefan and Coleen proceeds and then a final revealing flashback gives us the full, disconcerting picture.

It’s a haunting, atmospheric and affecting hour, brilliantly acted and directed. And unlike most mainstream dramas, it packs an ending that sticks in your mind for some time after. Terrific.

Cast: Karla Crome Coleen, Joe Dempsie Stefan, Stephen Dillane Raglin, Robert Pugh DI Sheehy, Claire Rushbrook Ellen, Lara Rossi Erin, Darren Campbell Heskett Jupp, Lauren Socha Deena, Kate Donnelly Pathologist

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