|DS Ronnie Brooks and new partner DS Joe Hawkins (Ben Bailey Smith). Pics: ITV|
ITV: starts Wednesday, 12 March, 9pm
Story: Ronnie and his new partner Joe are leading an investigation into the death of jeweller Harry Bernstein who is found dead with no hands or teeth.
Which is great for the series. ITV has exported L&O: UK all round the world – even back to the US – and in eight series over five years, it has become a very successful part of the channel’s drama line-up, nabbing 5.4million viewers during the last series.
It won’t challenge the best shows around – currently led by True Detective on Sky Atlantic – but its taut stories exposing the vagaries of the legal process are far more gripping than Midsomer Murders or Death in Paradise.
Ronnie Brooks is now the face of the show
Bradley Walsh doesn’t do anything spectacular as an actor on the show, but he is likeable as an
|Barker and Thorne with their witness, Rosalyn (right)|
idealised decent, by-the-book copper with his neat hair, spectacles and mac, and no one else on it has his sheer watchability. The former footballer turned comic, quizmaster and actor has now earned his acting spurs to such a degree that he was up against David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch at the National TV Awards (Cumberbatch won).
His character’s veteran status – he’s the only original face still on duty – is highlighted in this new series by the arrival of his latest partner, DS Joe Hawkins, played by Ben Bailey Smith (aka rapper and standup Doc Brown).
Hawkins is straight in from child protection and early on there is friction between him and Ronnie when they are interviewing a young lad who may have witnessed a horrible murder in a car park. Joe, the younger man, effectively tells Ronnie that the boy is traumatised and should be questioned more gently, and Ronnie doesn’t initially like being told how to do his job.
Dale Horgan, drug dealer and vicious murderer
The friction between them is just one story strand in yet another strong start to a L&O: UK series, typically appearing at first to be about one crime, but
|Nasty piece of work – Dale Horgan|
then turning into an investigation into a different offence, and on this occasion one that is much more harrowing.
It opens in adrenaline-pumping style with a car chase, a crash and a grisly discovery. The driver pursued by police is dead, but in his boot is a corpse with no hands or teeth. This is the body of a gem dealer, and at first this appears to be some kind of business vendetta.
But instead, Brooks soon finds himself up against a really nasty operator, Dale Horgan, a drug dealer and vicious murderer who the detective sergeant has been trying to imprison for years.
Future guest stars
The legal team of Thorne (Dominic Rowan) and Barker (Georgia Taylor) raised the stakes in court, but the episode ends badly for Brooks. All of which sets things up nicely for ensuing weeks.
Helen Baxendale and Diana Quick are among the bewigged characters in this opener, and upcoming guest stars include Hattie Morahan, Joseph Millson, the late Roger Lloyd Pack, Colin Salmon, Roy Hudd, Christopher Fulford, Haydn Gwynne and Harriet Walter.
A fine line-up – but it’s unlikely any of their characters will outshine Ronnie Brooks.
Cast: Bradley Walsh DS Ronnie Brooks, Ben Bailey Smith DS Joe Hawkins, Paterson Joseph DI Wes Leyton, Dominic Rowan Jacob Thorne, Georgia Taylor Kate Barker, Peter Davison Henry Sharpe, Helen Baxendale Eleanor Richmond, Tracy Brabin Lyndsey Bernstein, Diana Quick Judge Hall, Christopher Fulford Mickey Belker, Michael Culkin Justice Lockwood, Dale Horgan Peter Barrett, Sonny Serkis Danny (Eyeris)