Luther 4, BBC1, with Idris Elba

Luther series 4, Idris Elba

On the edge: DCI John Luther (Idris Elba)

An abominable serial killer is hunted by Luther, who’s still haunted by Alice

★★★ BBC1, day and time to be announced

LUTHER IS BACK, and the new series is as nutty and nasty as ever.

A drama about a genius detective who is daft enough to fall for a genius female psychopath is always going to be a believability-stretcher, but Luther has nevertheless gained a cult-like status. Series one even got 94 percent approval on Rotten Tomatoes, today’s final word in critical assessment.

Idris Elba is undoubtedly the key ingredient to its attraction. The actor has enough charisma and conviction to sweep fans along and make the bonkers stories seem almost rational. The other standout feature is the distinctively creepy London atmosphere it creates.

But Neil Cross‘s series is gratuitously nasty. We have a terrified woman being slashed by a lunatic within the first few minutes of this two-parter’s opening episode. Naked blood-spattered corpses, a ‘Bedlamite’ killer who is a devotee of ‘cannibal erotica’ and eats body parts, in addition to a character nailed to a table combine to push the series to the limits of what is acceptable on BBC1.

Rose Leslie and Darren Boyd

Anyway, we find Luther on leave of absence as the action begins, living in a rundown cottage virtually on top of the White Cliffs of Dover. Detectives Emma Lane and Theo Bloom, played by Darren Boyd (Fortitude) and Rose Leslie (Game of Thrones), visit him with news of Alice Morgan’s death after she has some escapades in Berlin, Madrid and Antwerp.

Luther, BBC1, DCI Theo Bloom (DARREN BOYD), DS Emma Lane (ROSE LESLIE) - (C) BBC

This case stinks: DCI Theo Bloom (Darrren Boyd) and DS Emma Lane (Rose Leslie)

We last saw fiendishly illusive killer Alice – the series’ other major-league presence in Ruth Wilson – at the end of series three, when Luther had needed her help in clearing himself of a murder charge. The big tease is, is she really dead? Luther can’t believe anyone could have got the better of her, and it would certainly set the story alight if she returns. [Read more…]

Luther series 3, BBC1, with Idris Elba, Warren Brown, Sienna Guillory PREVIEW

Idris Elba as John Luther in the third series of BBC1's Luther
He’s a smasher – Idris Elba as DCI John Luther. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★½

BBC1: starts Tuesday, 2 July, 9pm 

Story: Luther is loaded up with two big murder cases – one for a fetishist who is killing women, and the other involving the death of a malicious internet tormentor – while inside the police force itself, an operation is underway to nail the detective for past transgressions.

THE GOTHIC COP is back. John Luther, gloomy, dealing with grotesque cases that often have supernatural echoes, is giving it large once again – dangling suspects over balconies, having punch-ups with other detectives and messing with the minds of the deranged.

Idris Elba in BBC1's Luther, series 3
Out on his own – Luther is targeted

In what could the series’ last outing before creator Neil Cross transfers the character to the big screen,
Luther has a lot on his plate. He’s after a creepy fetishistic killer of women who seems to be emulating 1980s murderer the Shoreditch Creeper, a case that was never solved.

This being Luther, the killer has to have a wacky MO, so the Creeper would pleasure himself while sucking his victims’ toes. The contemporary copycat seems to be dressing up his victims like someone from his past.

DSU George Stark is gunning for Luther

DSU George Stark (DAVID O'HARA) in BBC1's Luther
Stark choice – David O’Hara as Luther’s enemy

The stories are always totally unbelievable in Luther, but what sells it are Idris Elba as the force-of-nature, intuitive cop – once again, he literally towers over everyone here – along with the show’s chilling atmosphere. In this brooding opener, the gore takes second place to some stomach-tightening set-piece moments.

What lifts this third series above the others, however, are two new plot developments. The first is the arrival of David O’Hara as DSU George Stark. The Scottish actor has a presence and raw menace to make him a formidable foe for our anti-hero, and his character is out to see Luther go down for killings he is suspected of carrying out during past investigations.

O’Hara, along with DCI Erin Gray (Nikki Amuka-Bird), intimidates Luther’s deputy and best friend, Ripley, into spying on John. Once again, implausibility reigns and Ripley seems to speedily fall in line.

Love is in the air with the arrival of Sienna Guillory

DCI John Luther (IDRIS ELBA), Mary Day (SIENNA GUILLORY) in BBC1's Luther
Luther dates Mary in a, er, fast food cafe

The plan involves loading another murder case onto Luther – that of a malicious internet tormentor.

Again, the plot is stretched beyond plausibility as Stark and Gray know who the murderer is, but for some reason think Luther will let him go, and then they can arrest the detective.

Yet the drama is still nicely poised for an almighty showdown between Luther and Stark. As Stark says, ‘He doesn’t know it, but his good fortune ran out the day I heard his name.’

The other juicy storyline is another new character that Luther runs into, literally, in his car. This is Mary Day, played by Sienna Guillory. Love is in the air immediately, and the detective, whose wife Zoe was murdered in the first series, seems about to relieve some of his gloomy work obsessiveness with a bit of romance.

Watch out for Alice…

Alice Morgan (RUTH WILSON) in BBC1's Luther
Lurking – Alice Morgan

But with Stark after him, and the impending return of the show’s favourite pantomime genius psychopath, Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson), the woman with whom Luther has a – wouldn’t you know it – reality-defying bond, the course of true love is unlikely to run smoothly.

Luther is a frustrating series. It gets so much right – terrific performers, intriguing conflicts and it’s dripping with atmosphere.

But it’s not just the series’ killers who are off their rockers. The whole drama could do with an occasional reality check.

Cast: Idris Elba DCI John Luther, Warren Brown DS Justin Ripley, Sienna Guillory Mary Day, David O’Hara DSU George Stark, Nikki Amuka-Bird DCI Erin Gray, Dermot Crowley DSU Martin Schenk, Michael Smiley Benny Deadhead

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Luther 3, Scott & Bailey finale, Elementary in London, Mad Dogs 3, Tamzin Outhwaite for New Tricks

Idris Elba in Luther series 3, BBC1
Stormy times ahead for lovestruck Luther. Pic: BBC
• He may not be back on our screens until September, but here is an early peek at Luther to keep fans going. The third series starring Idris Elba as the slightly unhinged detective will see Sienna Guillory joining the cast as Luther’s new love interest, Mary Day. What will psycho Alice have to say about that?

• Watch out for a double bill of Scott & Bailey this week, wrapping up what has been a terrific series (ITV, Wednesday 22 May, Thursday 23 May, 9pm). Here’s a video going behind the scenes of the finale…

Elementary, Sky Living’s US Sherlock Holmes update with Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu, will be filming the opening episode of season two in London — its first venture outside of New York. Sherlock is called to Blighty to revisit an old case and, while doing so, is forced to face his past. Meanwhile, Watson learns more about Holmes’s mysterious life…
Sky1's Mad Dogs series 3, Woody (Max Beesley), Quinn (Philip Glenister), Baxter (John Simm) and Rick (Marc Warren)
The future’s orange… but not so bright for the boys
Mad Dogs makes a welcome return to Sky One on Tuesday, 4 June. The holiday from hell continues for the four guys — Woody (Max Beesley), Quinn (Philip Glenister), Baxter (John Simm) and Rick (Marc Warren) — as we meet them locked up in a dilapidated prison in the desert, where torture and interrogation are the order of the day. Jaime Winstone is also behind bars, playing the feisty Mercedes… 

Tamzin Outhwaite is joining the cast of BBC1’s hit drama New Tricks, lining up alongside Dennis Waterman, Denis Lawson and Nicholas Lyndhurst. She’ll be stepping in as Amanda Redman and Alun Armstrong join James Bolam in leaving the hugely popular show. Former EastEnders star Tamzin will play DCI Sacha Millard. Armstrong is reported to be leaving the show in episode four of the tenth series, while Redman will depart during the eighth instalment.

Orphan Black, BBC America, starring Tatiana Maslany as Sarah Manning
Sarah takes on a dead woman’s identity
• BBC3 has acquired a new thriller called Orphan Black from its US wing, BBC America. Tatiana Maslany plays Sarah Manning, an orphan who witnesses the suicide of a woman who looks like her. Naturally, Sarah assumes her identity, bank account and boyfriend. Then she discovers she’s in the midst of a deadly conspiracy.

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Luther at Harrogate Crime Festival – series 3 is going to be ‘carnage’

Idris Elba as Luther. Pic: BBC

Special report: Charlotte Biermann

BBC1’s popular and critically controversial Luther came under the spotlight at this year’s Harrogate Crime Writing Festival over the weekend. Journalist  Miranda Sawyer led a talk with some its cast and production team, which saw them laughing and joking about the dark and disturbing material the show’s creator Neil Cross foists upon them.
The third series is currently being written and is eagerly awaited. However, it has now been revealed it will be the drama’s last TV outing before it makes its move to the big screen. Having received ‘a million-and-one movie offers’, its star actor Idris Elba and the show creator Neil Cross, as joint custodians, feel the move is evitable. So with the end being nigh, series three is set to go out with on hell of a bang: ‘It means there is no holding back of good ideas, they are all going in, so the intention is to make series three f**king awesome!’
As a result, Warren Brown, on the panel with Neil Cross, was excitedly waiting to see what will happen to his character Ripley, thanks to Cross revealing that we will see the spiritual corruption of Ripley spiral further, and promising it will be Ripley’s best series by far and away: ‘It will be carnage from beginning to end.’ 
Four Emmy nominations for Luther
Neil Cross

While Lutherhas been generally praised all over the world and especially in America, with even President and Mrs Obama admitting to being fans, it has had a bumpy ride with UK critics. Largely panned to begin with, Cross believes this was largely The Wirecasting a shadow and that the reviewers were ‘reviewing their own prejudices’, expecting Idris Elba to again be playing a drug-dealing Stringer Bell.

But as Luther bedded in and  became increasingly popular with TV audiences regardless, there has been a steady change of heart and even the odd apology. This will no doubt be further enhanced with the announcement that series two has been nominated for four Emmys (Neil Cross for best writing, Idris Elba for best actor, best miniseries, Sam Miller for best director)!

Luther has proved itself not to be a traditional cop show and with the whole production team all set to pull out all of the stops in the third series, the ambitions of the BBC for him to be an iconic copper may yet succeed.
Oh, and don’t be surprised if you hear the word ‘Harrogate’ in episode four of this last series. Amidst the dark drama, Cross has set himself the fun challenge to slip the codename into the script.

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Luther DVD series 1 & 2

DVD: ★★★½  Extras: ★★★

Cast: DCI Idris Elba John Luther, Ruth Wilson Alice Morgan, Indira Varma Zoe Luther, Warren Brown DS Justin Ripley, Steven Mackintosh DCI Rian Reed, Saskia Reeves Det Supt Rose Teller, Paul McGann Mark North

When the Beeb went to novelist Neil Cross to commission a new police drama they apparently asked for an ‘iconic character’, like ITV’s Morse. Cross dreamed up a detective who symbolised the maverick as out-of-control avenger in Luther.

Detective chief inspector John Luther is a marauding, passionate and at times furious cop with a volcanic temper. He dominates investigations, occasionally terrifies suspects’ wives and fills the screen with his intensity. Fortunately, Idris Elba was on hand to play him, and this year picked a deserved Crime Writers’ Association Dagger for his performance.

Extreme storytelling
He is almost consumed by his horror at the psychos and mad folk he confronts – and there are some pretty crazed baddies in the two series here. During the first series he is also in the torment of being separated from his wife, Zoe, who has moved onto someone less obsessive and grim in Mark North.

While the series cannot be faulted for its bold storytelling, it is not remotely believable, and as the DVD extra here, Luther – The World of a True Maverick, makes clear, it is not meant to be realistic. As Ruth Wilson says,  this is ‘not realism. The characters are theatrical. It’s very extreme.’

Alice the psycho ally
So Luther is a law breaker and near genius whose hunches are spot on and who thinks nothing of planting evidence to flush out an evil doer. His chief ally is eerie Alice the psychopath, and Ruth Wilson even wonders if her character is real, or part of Luther’s imagination.

Neil Cross created a ‘how-catch-’em’ rather than a whodunit, and in Luther he wanted to fuse the eccentric brilliance of Sherlock Holmes with the ‘moral danger’ of Philip Marlowe. All of the characters operate in their own heightened world.

Killer in a punch mask
This boxset follows Luther’s progression from his return from a breakdown and the separation with Zoe, through to her murder and into the second series, which veers into horror territory in episodes such as the series opener in which Luther hunts a crazed killer in a punch mask, which is full of creaking staircases, creaking doors and nasty murders.

Luther is a long way from Morse, and could never have the mainstream appeal of John Thaw’s hero. He’s unhinged, unbelievable, but – in Idris Elba’s hands – Luther is an indelible presence.

•  The Luther boxset was supplied by

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CWA Crime Thriller Award winners 2011

Sofie Gråbøl collects her best actress award for The Killing. Pics: ITV

And the winners were…

Idris Elba

(also nominated: Luther, The Shadow Line, Vera, Zen)

Film Dagger TRUE GRIT
(also nominated: Brighton Rock, Source Code, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest)

Best supporting actress ANN ELEONORA JORGENSEN The Killing
(also nominated: Amanda Abbington, Case Histories; Tara Fitzgerald, Waking the Dead; Kelly Macdonald, Boardwalk Empire; Ruth Wilson, Luther)

Best supporting actor RAFE SPALL The Shadow Line
(also nominated: Aiden Gillen, Thorne; Bjarne Henriksen, The Killing; John Lithgow, Dexter; Soren Malling, The Killing)

International TV THE KILLING
(also nominated: Boardwalk Empire, Castle, Dexter, Spiral)

Best actor IDRIS ELBA Luther
(also nominated: Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire; Jason Isaacs, Case Histories; Lars Mikkelsen, The KIlling; Rufus Sewell, Zen)

Best actress SOFIE GRABOL The Killing
(also nominated: Brenda Blethyn, Vera; Sue Johnston, Waking the Dead; Maxine Peake, Silk; Kelly Reilly, Above Suspicion; Olivia Williams, Case Sensitive)

CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger SJ WATSON Before I Go to Sleep
(also nominated: Sam Hawken, The Dead Women of Juarez; Danny Miller, Kiss Me Quick; Conor Fitzgerald, The Dogs of Rome)

CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger STEVE HAMILTON The Lock Artist
(also nominated: Craig Smith, Cold Rain; SJ Watson, Before I Go to Sleep; Michael Gruber, The Good Son)

CWA Gold Dagger TOM FRANKLIN Crooked Letter
(also nominated: AD Miller, Snow Drops; Denise Mina, The End of the Wasp Season; Steve Hamilton, The Lock Artist)

ITV3 People’s Bestseller Dagger PETER JAMES
Peter James was also inducted in the Hall of Fame along with David Baldacci, Mark Billingham, Lee Child and Peter Robinson

Law & Order: UK’s Bradley Walsh and host Marcus Brigstocke

The Killing (Forbrydelsen) triumphed at the CWA Crime Thriller Awards at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London last night, picking up the awards for best international crime drama, best actress and best supporting actress.

The Danish cast were there in force and were popular winners. Sofie Gråbøl – looking very elegant without her Shetland jumper – even received a standing ovation in parts of the room.

As a member of the Academy of British Crime Writing, I voted for that magnificent 20-part drama, which stunned viewers and was a runaway surprise hit for the Beeb when it went out on BBC4 at the start of this year. It was up against terrific nominees in the international category such as Boardwalk Empire, Dexter and Spiral, but fully deserved to win.

Idris Elba was another popular winner for Luther, picking up what he said was his first award in the UK. A nod went to the year’s best conspiracy thriller, The Shadow Line, as Rafe Spall collected the best supporting actor Dagger for his role as the disturbing killer.

Sofie Gråbøl and CrimeTimePreview’s dumbstruck correspondent. Pic courtesy of Ali Karim

Sofie Gråbøl made a huge impression on one member of the audience – me. Sadly, I was too starstruck to congratulate her (apologies, Sofie).

I did manage to get some words out when I met author Peter James, and he got round to talking about his love of racing motor cars. He was beaming after beating Lee Child, David Baldacci and the other bestselling Hall of Famers to to ITV3 People’s Dagger.

ITV3 is showing the whole event on Tuesday at 9pm.

Luther series 2 with Idris Elba and Ruth Wilson

Idris Elba returns as DCI John Luther. Pics: BBC

Rating ★★★½

BBC1, from Tuesday, 14 June, 9pm

Luther seems to have morphed from a crime series into a horror show as series two returns.

Dark rooms, creaking staircases, sudden jolts – the show is loaded with the kind of frights that are sprung in a Michael Myers or Freddy Krueger shocker.

Idris Elba is back at his volcanic best as the detective wrestling with his personal demons – including the murder of his wife, Zoe, at the end of the last series – as well as a demon on London’s streets. A man wearing a grotesque Punch mask is stalking the capital randomly murdering lone women (the usual stock victims in slasher films).

Ruth Wilson returns as Alice Morgan
Thomas Harris’s Hannibal Lecter has a lot to answer for – namely, the ongoing vogue for fiendish serial killers with elaborate murder rituals. Lecter has become the template for the modern bogeyman. Where serial murderers are rare, opportunistic and ordinary, in crime series and novels they are now everywhere, with high IQs and a flair for theatrical murders.

Writer Neil Cross (Spooks, The Fixer) gave Luther a brilliant mind too and so perhaps felt his hero has to battle high-achievers on the murder front. In the first series it was Alice Morgan – a convincingly oddball Ruth Wilson – and she returns here. The new killer that Luther is up against this time is another serial bogeyman, who flaunts his crimes and has a near-supernatural ability to vanish when police helicopters, dogs and officers are all around him.

So Luther is really less a police procedural than a cop chiller. It’s a polished, slick production, heavy on atmosphere but light on reality.

John Luther returns to work in the newly created Serious and Serial Unit, which is headed by his former adversary, the complaints officer Martin Schenk (Dermot Crowley).

Luther’s soft spot for Alice the killer is a mystery
Paul McGann also returns as Mark, who had taken Luther’s place in Zoe’s life, before her murder. Despite their former antagonism, they have now bonded over their mutual loss.

Partners again – Luther and Ripley

Luther recruits DS Justin Ripley (Warren Brown) to his team, after the rising star’s career was damaged in the last series when he helped Luther.

Luther also goes to visit Alice in her high-security psychiatric unit (which brings to mind Clarice Starling visiting Lecter). The detective’s desire to help her is one of the more mind-boggling threads of the story.

Kierston Wareing’s new character – Caroline
A new face is that of Kierston Wareing – a very hot actor in crime series right now, having appeared in Martina Cole’s The Runaway and The Shadow Line recently. She plays Caroline, whose husband Luther once had imprisoned for murder. She asks for his help to rescue her daughter from a life in porn.

In another credibility-stretching storyline, she blames Luther for the destruction of her family when her husband was put away. This would be the husband who murdered and chopped up a woman.

This two-parter is the first of two new Luther specials. Idris Elba remains a huge screen presence as he moves on from his terrific performance in The Wire, and as a moody fright fest this new series delivers, but not even Luther’s super-intuition could make the characters believable.

Luther series 2 coming to BBC1

Remember Luther, the super brainy detective who showed a minor lack of judgement in becoming mates with a serial killer? Well, he’s returning to BBC1 in the first week of June. Here’s a taster, and our preview will follow soon…

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