18/01/2016 by Leave a Comment
‘How an English gentleman could behave in such a manner is beyond comprehension.’ – Sherlock Holmes on the traitor and murderer Colonel Walter
Jeremy Brett, David Burke, Rosalie Williams, Charles Gray, Colin Jeavons, Eric Porter
Identikit: The dazzling consulting detective and his trusty lieutenant thwart the most diabolical criminal masterminds of the Victorian age.
Of Arthur Conan Doyle’s 60 Holmes stories, 42 were adapted by ITV for this fond and faithful series, featuring a quintessential Sherlock from Jeremy Brett. Precise, eccentric, twitchy, hawk-like and with his verbal ejaculations, Brett’s sleuth was a riveting turn. The series was a textbook adaptation with pea-soupers, frock coats and hansom cabs. So faithful to Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation was the series that the closing credits of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes featured some of Sidney Paget’s illustrations for the original Strand Magazine stories. However, some storylines and plots were altered for TV, and a big change saw Holmes cleaning up his cocaine habit in The Devil’s Foot (an update approved by Conan Doyle’s daughter). It was hugely popular, particularly in the US, where it was shown on PBS. One weakness that the contemporary reboots Sherlock and Elementary don’t make is having flimsy, vapid versions of Dr Watson and Mrs Hudson (no fault of the actors, Edward Hardwicke, who replaced David Burke after the first series, and Rosalie Williams). Screenwriter John Hawkesworth (Upstairs, Downstairs) developed it for TV and wrote several episodes, along with the likes of Alexander Baron (A Family at War, Poldark) and Alan Plater (The Beiderbecke Trilogy, A Very British Coup). Granada TV even built a full-scale outdoor replica of Baker Street for the series. But it was undoubtedly Brett, veering between eccentric and depressive (a condition the actor suffered from severely), who galvanised the stories. He sadly died of heart failure in 1995, aged 61, bringing the series to an end, though he had apparently occasionally considered giving up the role owing to his ill health, not helped by his 60-a-day cigarette habit.
Classic episode: In The Red-Handed League (series 2) a prank is played on a red-haired man before we meet a man with long fingernails – the Napoleon of Crime himself. Eric Porter is diabolical (in a good way) as Moriarty, Tim McInnerny and Richard Wilson turn up in the cast, and Holmes thwarts a huge robbery of gold. Bizarre and mysterious as the best Holmes adventures often are.
Watercooler fact: Jude Law appeared in the 1991 episode The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place, as the servant who impersonates Lady Beatrice, later going on to play Dr Watson to Robert Downey Jr’s Sherlock Holmes on the big screen.
• The full Killer 50 so far – including The Bridge, Twin Peaks, True Detective, Inspector Morse and more – can be found here
16/09/2015 by Leave a Comment
A crime series with a supernatural twist
★★★½ ITV, starts Wednesday, 23 September, 9pm
GENRE-CROSSING crime series look set to be come a bit of a trend. We’ve recently seen Fox’s Wayward Pines with Matt Dillon, a sci-fi tale with crime elements. ITV Encore’s The Frankenstein Chronicles, starring Sean Bean, ‘reimagines’ the story from the standpoint of a police investigator.
Meanwhile, James Nesbitt has been filming Sky1’s high-concept series Lucky Man, based on comic-book legend Stan Lee’s idea about a detective who finds a magic bracelet that brings him good luck.
And here we have Midwinter of the Spirit, a three-parter that mixes supernatural themes with crime ingredients. It would appear that the cop-drama clogged TV schedules have bled the genre dry, and writers are now juicing the formula up with sci-fi/horror twists.
Anna Maxwell Martin as Merrily
Anyway, the first thing to say about Midwinter is that it does what it says on the tin. It is definitely creepy, helped by the fact that it’s based on Phil Rickman‘s chilling novels and a terrific performance by Anna Maxwell Martin.
She plays the Rev Merrily Watkins, a single mum with a teenage daughter who’s taken on a new role in her small-town parish – that of exorcist. [Read more…]
10/09/2015 by 1 Comment
HERE’S a first look at Rowan Atkinson in ITV’s new series about the French detective Jules Maigret. Filming has just started in Budapest on Maigret Sets a Trap, one of two standalone dramatic films, with the second being Maigret’s Dead Man. The setting is Paris in the 1950s and each story will be 90-minutes long. Other cast include Fiona Shaw (Harry Potter, True Blood), Aiden McCardle (Mr Selfridge, The Mill) and Shaun Dingwall (Silent Witness, Death In Paradise). It looks like a big production for ITV and a lot will be riding on how well Rowan Atkinson sheds his Mr Bean baggage to convincingly portray author Georges Simenon’s much-admired creation.
09/09/2015 by Leave a Comment
A terrific cast comes together for this intriguing cold-case drama
★★★½ ITV, starts Thursday, 8 October, 9pm
UNFORGOTTEN brings together an odd-couple lead pairing of Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar as coppers probing a 39-year-old cold case.
Walker is currently on the crest of a career wave following a versatile run of successes in Last Tango in Halifax, Babylon and a menacing turn in Scott & Bailey. She is also excellent as a shadowy presence in the BBC’s forthcoming River, another crime series.
Meanwhile, Bhaskar has a track record as a terrific comedy presence in the likes of The Kumars and Goodness Gracious Me, and has been flexing his dramatic muscles in series such as The Indian Doctor.
With Bernard Hill, Tom Courtenay, Trevor Eve
Do they work as a dramatic pairing here? Walker is a dramatic actress who can pull off the light-hearted moments, whereas Bhaskar seems a light actor who remains light. So,on the basis on having seen only the opening episode, I would say the jury’s still out. [Read more…]
01/06/2015 by Leave a Comment
THE RECENT FIFTH series of ITV’s Vera is now out on DVD. Inspired by the best-selling novels of Ann Cleeves, Vera has since 2011 established itself as one of the channel’s most popular mainstream crime dramas. Key to its success has, of course, been the casting of Brenda Blethyn as the indomitable DCI Vera Stanhope, who in this new series was joined by Kenny Doughty as her sidekick, DS Aiden Healy.
Apart from Doughty, there were few surprises in season five, but the usual well-produced mysteries in the beautifully filmed Northumberland setting were enough to win audiences of around six million viewers. The stories included here are Changing Tides, Old Wounds, Muddy Waters and Shadows in the Sky. It’s only a shame that they seemed to have scrimped on the DVD extras.
04/04/2015 by Leave a Comment
He’s a former cop, his remote house offering shelter to a troubled family is ‘safe’ and has security cameras – what could go wrong?
★★★★ ITV, Mondays, 9pm
WITH SO many whodunits, police procedurals and foreign cops on TV these days, it’s a tough ask to come up with something fresh.
Safe House is a thriller that has a good go at doing just that. It has an interesting premise and a magnificent, forbidding setting.
Ex-Doctor Who Christopher Eccleston plays Robert, a former cop living in a secluded, ramshackle house in the Lake District with Katy (Marsha Thomason). Robert’s old colleague Mark (Paterson Joseph) points out that the home they plan to turn into a B&B would make a perfect safe house for people who need protection.
Troubled family go to the safe house
Robert’s career came to a violent end when he was shot. He still hankers after the life and is haunted by the shooting, so he accepts Mark’s proposal, with Katy’s agreement.
The plot is thickened nicely by the family they must take in. Someone has tried to kidnap prison officer David’s son at a fun fair and then killed a bystander who intervened. Who is this menacing figure, who tells David’s son his name is Mike? And why was David targeted?
David (played by Jason Merrells), his wife and their teenage daughter and young son move into Robert’s house. Meanwhile, David attempts to contact his other son, who is meant to be at uni but seems to be living on the road. David’s violent stalker could also be homing in on the lad.
28/03/2015 by 2 Comments
A drama based on real events that is truly an awe-inspiring story…
★★★★ ITV, starts Monday, 6 April 9pm
ITV HAS a fine track record at taking true crime cases and – sometimes controversially – turning them into thought-provoking, compelling dramas.
Past successes include This Is Personal: The Hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper, Appropriate Adult and, most recently, The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies.
This latest, Code of a Killer, is the story of Alec Jeffreys’ discovery of DNA fingerprinting in the 1980s alongside its first use by Detective Chief Superintendent David Baker in nabbing a double murderer. You could say it cleverly splices the DNA of two dramatic genres – the great inventor biopic and the police procedural.
Either story has the potential to be great viewing. Here we get both.
David Threlfall and John Simm
It begins in 1983 with the murder in a small village outside Leicester of 15-year-old Linda Mann, who was raped and strangled. David Threlfall – a long way from Frank Gallagher in Shameless here – manages to be charismatic as the ordinary, hangdog detective leading the exhaustive and fruitless hunt for the killer.
Meanwhile, John Simm leaves behind his familiar dour, hard-bitten routine to play the absent-minded scientist Jeffreys. His wife is infuriated by his neglect of parental duties, but Simm’s performance brilliantly captures the lone, eccentric scientist obsessed with uncovering a decipherable method for the DNA code.
Jeffreys was the sort of boy who brought home dead cats found on his paper round to dissect on the kitchen table. As the eccentric beardy grown-up scientist, John Simm is pretty likeable, for once.