Crime series rule at 2015’s Baftas

Happy Valley series 1 BBC1

Siobhan Finneran and Sarah Lancashire in Happy Valley

CRIME certainly pays on TV. Mysteries and thrillers dominate this year’s Bafta nominations, with Happy Valley, Line of Duty, The Missing, Peaky Blinders, Sherlock and The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies all featuring.

These were all engrossing, first-class dramas, with some of the actors involved giving the performances of their lives. Keeley Hawes and Sarah Lancashire were simply superb in Line of Duty – which was better in its second series – and Happy Valley, and both are nominated. Georgina Campbell also put in a stand-out performance in BBC3’s Murdered by My Boyfriend.

Benedict Cumberbatch will hope it is fifth-time lucky at Bafta as he steps onto the red carpet again for his performance as Sherlock. The BBC1 modern reboot of the consulting detective is a dazzlingly good drama, though not nominated this time. Cumberbatch is in the running, however, but he faces formidable competition from nominees James Nesbitt – another lifetime-best performance for The Missing – Toby Jones (Marvellous) and Jason Watkins (The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies).

The Missing series 1 BBC1

James Nesbitt in The Missing

Choosing the ‘best’ is a thankless task, but my personal faves this year are Sarah Lancashire (by a whisker over Keeley Hawes), James Nesbitt – an actor I don’t usually warm to, but this was a brave performance. Then there’s Ken Stott for the same reason in The Missing, and perhaps Charlotte Spencer for Glue.

I also thoroughly enjoyed Peaky Blinders, and in the International category I would probably go for True Detective, though I am slightly addicted to The Good Wife.

Who do you think should win? Post your comments above…

DRAMA SERIES

HAPPY VALLEY Sally Wainwright, Karen Lewis, Euros Lyn, Nicola Shindler, Red Production Company/BBC One; LINE OF DUTY Jed Mercurio, Simon Heath, Peter Norris, Douglas Mackinnon, World Productions/BBC Two; THE MISSING Charlie Pattinson, Willow Grylls, Jack Williams, Harry Williams, New Pictures/BBC One; PEAKY BLINDERS Production Team – Caryn Mandabach Productions/Tiger Aspect Productions/BBC Two

LEADING ACTOR

BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH Sherlock, BBC One; TOBY JONES Marvellous, BBC Two; JAMES NESBITT The Missing, BBC One JASON WATKINS The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies ITV

LEADING ACTRESS

Keeley Hawes in Line of Duty 2

Keeley Hawes in Line of Duty 2

GEORGINA CAMPBELL Murdered by My Boyfriend, BBC Three; KEELEY HAWES Line of Duty, BBC Two; SARAH LANCASHIRE Happy Valley, BBC One; SHERIDAN SMITH Cilla, ITV

SUPPORTING ACTOR

ADEEL AKHTAR Utopia – Channel 4 JAMES NORTON Happy Valley, BBC One; STEPHEN REA The Honourable Woman, BBC Two; KEN STOTT The Missing – BBC One

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

GEMMA JONES Marvellous, BBC Two; VICKY MCCLURE Line of Duty, BBC Two; AMANDA REDMAN Tommy Cooper: Not like That, Like This, ITV; CHARLOTTE SPENCER Glue, E4

SINGLE DRAMA

A POET IN NEW YORK Aisling Walsh, Ruth Caleb, Andrew Davies, Griff Rhys Jones, Modern Television/BBC Two; COMMON Jimmy McGovern, David Blair, Colin McKeown, Donna Molloy, LA Productions/BBC One; MARVELLOUS Peter Bowker, Julian Farino, Katie Swinden, Patrick Spence, Fifty Fathoms/BBC Two; MURDERED BY MY BOYFRIEND Pier Wilkie, Regina Moriarty, Paul Andrew Williams, Darren Kemp – BBC/BBC Three

MINI-SERIES

Jason Watkins in The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies

Jason Watkins in The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies

CILLA Jeff Pope, Paul Whittington, Kwadjo Dajan, Robert Willis, ITV Studios/GroupM Entertainment/ITV; THE LOST HONOUR OF CHRISTOPHER JEFFERIES Gareth Neame, Peter Morgan, Roger Michell, Kevin Loader, Carnival Film & Television/ITV; OUR WORLD WAR Production Team – BBC Factual/BBC Three PREY Chris Lunt, Nicola Shindler, Tom Sherry, Nick Murphy, Red Production Company/ITV

INTERNATIONAL

THE GOOD WIFE CBS Television Studios in assoc. with Scott Free/King Size Prods/More4; HOUSE OF CARDS Beau Willimon, David Fincher, Joshua Donen, Kevin Spacey – Donen/Fincher/Roth and Trigger Street Productions, Inc. in assoc. with Media Rights Capital/Netflix; ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK Jenji Kohan, Lisa I.Vinnecour, Sara Hess, Sian Heder – Lionsgate Television/Netflix; TRUE DETECTIVE Nic Pizzolatto, Cary Joji Fukunaga, Scott Stephens, Steve Golin – HBO Entertainment in assoc. with Neon Black, Anonymous Content, Parliament of Owls and Passenger/ Sky Atlantic

Best TV crime dramas of 2014

THIS ROUND-UP of the year’s best TV crime dramas has for the past four years comfortably listed 10 outstanding series.2014, on the other hand, is a tougher proposition. There were so many terrific stories and performances that I found it impossible to restrict it to 10. So, to celebrate the New Year, here is my top 14 for 2014…

True Detective, Sky Atlantic

A simply indelible series that was unlike anything else out there in 2014. Haunting, a little mad and with a dream-like – or perhaps that should be nightmarish – atmosphere. Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson put in a shift, too. Our review

Happy Valley, BBC1

Sally Wainwright’s gritty drama was engrossing and powerful, and also had one of the performances of the year from Sarah Lancashire. The second series will have a tough act to follow. Our review

Peaky Blinders, BBC2

Really hit its stride in this second series. Great to see a revival of the British gangster drama that dared to be brash and different. Our review

Sherlock 3, BBC1

Some people did not like this flamboyant third series, but we did and so did most reviewers. Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat were really on their game, producing a drama that fizzed with jaw-dropping surprises and delights. Our review

The Bridge 2, BBC4

Superb follow-up to the first series, which pushed our heroes Saga and Martin into new intrigue and emotional turmoil. Kim Bodnia won’t return to series 3 because his character, of course, ended up in jail, but Sofia Helin will (see Digital Spy’s interview with them)
Our review

Line of Duty 2, BBC2

Another feather in BBC2’s cap this year, this drama about police corruption was superb and completely outshone the first series. Keeley Hawes dominated proceedings with a compelling performance as the inspector under suspicion. Our review

The Widower, ITV

Once again ITV came up with a fascinating exploration of a real crime. Reece Shearsmith as the slippery killer Malcolm Webster was haunting, in a drama that was way better than his other series this year, the unconvincing Chasing ShadowsOur review

Fargo, C4

It never came close to catching the bleak logic and black humour of the Coen brothers’ cult film, but this series starring Martin Freeman and Billy Bob Thornton was quirky enough to keep everyone frozen to the screen. Our review

The Missing, BBC1

Sober, intelligent and always engrossing eight-part tragedy. The disappearance of a five-year-old British boy on holiday in France was a difficult subject, but this was a truthful and heartfelt series that was totally involving. Our review

Gomorrah, Sky Atlantic

Powerful Italian series, based on Roberto Saviano’s frightening book about the Neapolitan Camorra, which revealed how insidious and slightly unhinged Southern Italian crime organisations are. Our review

The Honourable Woman, BBC2

Twisting, full of intrigue and beautifully made and acted, this follow-up to The Shadow Line from writer/producer/director Hugo Blick was one of the most captivating dramas of 2014. Maggie Gyllenhaal stepped out of her Hollywood comfort zone and gave a blockbuster performance. Our review

Scott & Bailey, ITV

Once again this ITV staple with Lesley Sharp and Suranne Jones got all the basics of good drama right, while coming up with some really intriguing crime stories. Our review

Boardwalk Empire, Sky Atlantic

A series that has never really grabbed audiences in the UK, but as it approached its finale it was always beautifully written, acted and produced. Our review

The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies

ITV specialises in dramas inspired by real events and again came up with a sober, fascinating series about the wrongful arrest of the eccentric ex-school teacher. Jason Watkins was terrific in the lead. Our review

Honourable mentions to… 
The Fall 2 – even if the finale made a hash of Stella’s character and was ultimately disappointing (see our mini-poll, above right), this had some great moments along the way; Brooklyn Nine-Nine; Suspects; Endeavour 2; Mammon; 24: Live Another Day; Amber; Utopia; Crimes of Passion; The Driver; Legends; Glue; Grantchester; and Common.
Fond farewells…
to Ronnie Brooks (and Law & Order: UK as well?), and Southland.
Disappointments…
Hostages; Salamander; the pilot for Bosch; Babylon did not quite cut it; Turks & Caicos – all prestige production and cast that failed to grip; Prey; Hinterland; Chasing Shadows; and Stalker, which was pretty dire.

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Crime Thriller Award winners 2014 – best crime fiction and TV shows of the year

Here are the results of tonight’s 2014 Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards.

CrimeTimePreview predicted all the correct winners apart from one – that was Keeley Hawes nabbing Best Actress over Sarah Lancashire. Still, Keeley Hawes put in a terrific performance in Line of Duty 2 and deserves the plaudits.

James Norton also won his first ever award for his chilling portrayal in Happy Valley. Here are the winners in full…

Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards Winners are:

Keeley Hawes for Line of Duty – Dagger for Best Actress

Matthew McConaughey for True Detective – Dagger for Best Actor

James Norton for Happy Valley – Dagger for Best Supporting Actor

Amanda Abbington for Sherlock – Dagger for Best Supporting Actress

Happy Valley – Dagger for Best TV Series

Actor James Norton before Crime Thriller Awards 2014
James Norton being interviewed before the awards

True Detective – Dagger for Best International TV Series

Cold in July – Dagger for Best Film

Peter May – Crime Thriller Book Club Best Read of the Year

Wiley Cash – CWA Goldsboro Gold Dagger

Ray Celestin – CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger

Robert Harris – CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for Best Thriller of the Year

Denise Mina, Robert Harris and Midsomer Murders were inducted into the Hall of Fame

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TV Daggers 2014 – who should win

AS A VOTING member of the Academy of British Crime Writing, I’ve already selected my nominations in this year’s Crime Thriller Awards for the best TV series.

What were your favourites? It’s been a terrific year for powerful new dramas, with True Detective, Happy Valley and The Honourable Woman all in  contention.

The CWA/ITV3 Crime Thriller Awards have become the most exciting annual awards do for crime books, TV and film. This year’s event is on Friday, 24 October, at the Grosvenor Hotel in London, and will be shown on ITV3 the following week.

ITV3 is also showing a series of one-hour shows from 15 September called the Crime Thriller Club in the run-up to the gong show. Each one will showcase a crime book or bestselling author.

Here are the TV nominees, and I’ve picked my faves.

But what do you think? Please comment below.

TV Dagger


Happy Valley

Line of Duty series 2

Sherlock series 3

The Bletchley Circle series 2

The Honourable Woman

And the winner should be… Happy Valley
Line of Duty was more compelling than the first series and Sherlock – a recurring winner in recent years – again dazzled, while The Honourable Woman was a sophisticated series that found a large and committed audience. But the BBC’s Happy Valley was the most powerful drama by far, with moving performances and a nail-biting storyline.

International TV Dagger

Fargo

Inspector Montalbano series 9

Orange Is the New Black

The Bridge series 2

True Detective

And the winner should be… True Detective
Again, there are blockbuster contenders here. The Bridge was once more distinctive and captivating, while Fargo captured some of the Coen brothers’ movies’ off-beam sinister mood, and Orange Is the New Black was fresh with a dark humour. But True Detective was something else… brooding and original, scary and oblique – it must have prompted the most online comment and theorising of any crime series this year. Totally breathtaking.

Best Actress Dagger

Brenda Blethyn Vera

Maggie Gyllenhaal The Honourable Woman

Anna Maxwell Martin Death Comes to Pemberley

Sarah Lancashire Happy Valley

Keeley Hawes Line of Duty

And the winner should be… Sarah Lancashire
A bugger to choose, with Keeley Hawes in one of her best ever roles as the detective under suspicion and Maggie Gyllenhaal sublime in Hugo Blick’s political thriller. But Sarah Lancashire had to push herself furthest in Happy Valley, mixing grit and violence with vulnerability and glimpses of wit. Fabulous performance.

Best Actor Dagger

Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock

Shaun Evans Endeavour

Martin Freeman Sherlock and Fargo

Matthew McConaughey True Detective

Steve Pemberton Happy Valley

And the winner should be… Matthew McConaughey
This one’s easier. Matthew McConaughey is by far the most mesmerising performance of the year as the almost unhinged detective Rust Cohle.

Supporting Actress Dagger

Amanda Abbington Sherlock 

Vicky McClure Line of Duty

Helen McCrory Peaky Blinders

Gina McKee By Any Means

Michelle Monaghan True Detective

And the winner should be… Amanda Abbington
It’s not easy to stand out in this series with Sherlock and Watson hogging the limelight, but Amanda Abbington gave the drama an added dash of fun and mystery.

Supporting Actor Dagger

Mark Gatiss Sherlock 
David Leon Vera
James Norton Happy Valley
Mandy Patinkin Homeland
Billy Bob Thornton Fargo
And the winner should be… Billy Bob Thornton
James Norton made our flesh creep as the sadistic brute in Happy Valley (he’s a vicar next in ITV’s Grantchester – talk about versatile), but I think Billy Bob Thornton just pips him in Fargo – a brilliantly queasy blend of hilarious and menacing all in one.

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Why Happy Valley is the best drama on TV

Siobhan Finneran and Sarah Lancashire in BBC1’s Happy Valley. Pics: BBC

BBC1’s excellent Happy Valley reaches episode 5 tonight (9pm), following last week’s cliffhanger in which Catherine stumbled in a bloody mess into the street after her fight with Tommy. The violence in that episode stirred some media controversy, but overall Happy Valley has been a great ratings success. Here we look at what makes it one of the year’s stand-out dramas…

Sarah Lancashire 

The Bafta-winning actress has put in some fine performances in recent years, from Corrie to Last Tango in Halifax, but it will be a long time before she gets a role to draw out the full emotional range of her talents as Sgt Catherine Cawood has. Audiences of up to eight million have warmed to this woman carrying the mental scars of her daughter’s rape and suicide, but who is physically and morally tough, and sometimes dryly humorous despite everything. Where The Killing‘s Sarah Lund was a dour enigma, Catherine shows her emotional side and is liked all the more for it. She is also not perfect, venting her frustrations out on little grandson Ryan, sleeping with her ex, and she can be horrible to her sister, Clare. Sarah Lancashire has put in a brilliant performance portraying this woman battling demons past and present and must give Olivia Colman a run for her money at forthcoming awards ceremonies. Writer Sally Wainwright is talking to the Beeb about doing a second series – but surely she couldn’t put her lead actress through so much again?

Great characters and cast

What a cast. Steve Pemberton as the self-serving cretin Kevin Weatherill who sets the kidnap nightmare

Joe Armstrong as Ashley Cowgill

in motion and then tries to blame everyone else (by the end you almost think he’s more vile than Tommy); George Costigan as the tormented dad of hostage Ann (Charlie Murphy); Joe Armstrong as the villain Ashley Cowgill; Siobhan Finneran as Catherine’s sister, Clare; and, of course, James Norton has been very creepy as the deluded sexual predator Tommy Lee Royce. All of the main characters have been distinctive, believable and well-developed, which no doubt helped to summon terrific performances from the actors.

Setting

Sophie Rundle as Kirsten

So many dramas seem to get commissioned simply because they have pretty settings – Oxford (Lewis), Cornwall (Doc Martin), Northumberland (Vera), Shetland (you know where). But Hebden Bridge informs and enriches the story in Happy Valley. The ironic title picks out the fact that this community has a problem – drugs, with all the attendant criminal and social chaos they bring. The place is woven into the plot so that it’s almost a character. Ashley Cowgill facilitates the kidnap, but he’s also the frontman for the drug kingpins, and the whole narcotics epidemic is what Catherine asks her ex-husband early on to investigate. There’s more to this place than pretty scenery.

Sarah Lancashire in make-up

Six of the best

Well done to the Beeb for giving it six episodes. So many series are crammed into two or three (Prey, Undeniable), which limits the space for writers to showcase the characters, to reveal their contradictions and hidden sides. Whereas the best – The Fall, Broadchurch and the top US shows – always play out over a longer run and are a far richer experience. Sally Wainwright filled these six episodes with twists and violence, as you’d expect, but also tears, emotion and warmth.

Writing that is engrossing

The final two episodes pack quite an emotional wallop, and by then most of the crime element of the story has been resolved, except the whereabouts of Tommy. Instead, writer Sally Wainwright takes the time to explore the fallout from the kidnap – for victim Ann, for Ashley Cowgill and particularly for Catherine, who is in complete turmoil having been traumatised by her confrontation with Tommy. In most series concerned with a crime, the impact of the violence is glossed over – the baddies are arrested or killed, and the cops walk off into the sunset unscathed. Sensitive, heartfelt writing brings Catherine and the story alive in these episodes. Catherine is bloody-minded, angry, unreasonable – but we know what she’s been through. And scenes such as the one in which she tells Nevison about Ann’s rape are just wonderfully written and very moving. It’s a very fine drama.

Check out…

BBC1 Happy Valley
Sally Wainwright on the Happy Valley controversy

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Happy Valley, BBC1, Sarah Lancashire, Steve Pemberton PREVIEW


Rating: ★★★★

BBC1: starts Tuesday, 29 April, 9pm

Story: When accountant Kevin Weatherill enlists a local dodgy businessman into a badly thought-out extortion plan, he sets off a sequence of disastrous events that will impact on a small Yorkshire town and its local police sergeant, Catherine Cawood.

OF THIS week’s four major new drama series, Sally Wainwright’s Happy Valley is the most engrossing.

Vera and Hinterland conform to the whodunit procedural format. While they will delight many

viewers, they are the usual murder-investigation-solution plot we’ve seen a million times.

ITV’s Prey has the advantage of the very popular John Simm in the lead, and runs Happy Valley a close second in raising anticipation levels. But Prey, an adrenaline-pumping, action-packed thriller, is very different to the BBC1 six-parter.

Sarah Lancashire, seen recently in Wainwright’s other acclaimed hit Last Tango in Halifax, takes the lead here as a police sergeant in a beautiful West Yorkshire town blighted by drug crime.

Sarah Lancashire as Sgt Cawood

She plays Catherine Cawood, a good cop with a life that’s been through the storms. As she tells an addict head whose about to set light to himself in a playground, ‘I’m Catherine, by the way! I’m 47, I’m divorced, I live with my sister – who’s a recovering heroin addict – I have two grown-up children. One dead and one who doesn’t speak to me. And a grandson!’

And that’s not the half of it. She is shaken by news that a convicted drug dealer, Tommy Lee Royce, is out of prison after eight years inside, and we can guess that this news is going to affect on her in a big way.

But already there is more going on here than you get in 10 series of Midsomer Murders.

In a second story string there is Steve Pemberton as Kevin Weatherill, an accountant in Nevison Gallagher’s firm. He wants to send his daughter to a posh school and asks for a raise. When Nevison (George Costigan) initially blows cold, Kevin, being greedy and stupid, decides to involve a local crook in a scheme to extort the money from Nevison.

Fine cast, fine setting, great plot

This plotline bears a staggering similarity to Fargo the movie, with Weatherill as the Jerry Lundegaard

character, who sets in train an appalling chain of events through his bungling and selfishness. And by the end of the episode, we realise this tragic twist is going to entangle Sgt Cawood too.

Sally Wainwright, who also helped to develop the very successful Scott & Bailey with Suranne Jones, has created characters who immediately pull you in to a rich, finely balanced story. All the cast are terrific, with Lancashire as believable as ever, Pemberton perfect as the man you want to punch, and Joe Armstrong menacing as the ‘businessman’ Weatherill involves in his scheme.

The setting – a lovely town with major problems – is interesting without having to be chocolate-box twee.

There will no doubt be tears for these characters before the end, but Happy Valley should have viewers committed to their journey by the conclusion of episode one.

Cast: Sarah Lancashire Catherine Cawood, Steve Pemberton Kevin Weatherill, James Norton Tommy Lee Royce, Adam Long Lewis Whippey, Joe Armstrong Ashley Cowgill, George Costigan Nevison Gallagher

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