Scott & Bailey, ITV, with Lesley Sharp, Suranne Jones PREVIEW

LESLEY SHARP as DC Janet Scott and AMELIA BULLMORE as DCI Gill Murray and SURANNE JONES as DS Rachel Bailey
Back in action – Lesley Sharp, Amelia Bullmore and Suranne Jones. Pics: ITV

Rating: ★★★

ITV: starts Wednesday, 10 September, 9pm

Story: After falling out with each other so badly in the last series, Rachel and Janet resolve to move forward and to try to make something of their careers. While they are both preoccupied with aiming for promotion to sergeant, however, a vulnerable young adult goes missing…

SCOTT & BAILEY returns with another captivating episode – is a good sign for series four. Rachel and Janet have decided to set their recent bust-up aside – along with their less than dazzling personal

AMELIA BULLMORE as DCI Gill Murray
DCI Murray at the quarry 

lives – to focus on making something of their careers.

While they are on speaking terms again, both are also focused on promotions to the rank of sergeant. As they face their promotion interviews, the story of the week is about the kidnap of a vulnerable young adult called Robin McKendrick.

The series’ popularity is probably down to a combination of good writing and acting from well-liked stars Suranne Jones, Lesley Sharp and Amelia Bullmore (who also writes this episode), and the skill with which it interweaves the police procedural stuff with their personal stories.

Bittersweet twist for Rachel and Janet

It is not as distinctive or powerful as Happy Valley, The Fall or Broadchurch, but it is looking down on Death in Paradise and Lewis from a great height.

Part of its winning formula is also having characters who feel familiar. Most viewers know a steady

SURANNE JONES as DS Rachel Bailey, DELROY BROWN as DC Lee Broadhurst, LESLEY SHARP as DC Janet Scott, DAVID PROSHO as DC Ian Mitchell, AMELIA BULLMORE as DCI Gill Murray, TONY MOONEY as DC Pete Readyough. L-R Front Row: DANNY MILLER as DS Rob Waddington and DANNY WEBB as DC Chris Crowley.
Debriefing for Syndicate 9

Janet (Lesley Sharp) – here coping with warring daughters and her ‘hindrance’ of a mother following the collapse of her marriage – as well as a reckless Rachel (Suranne Jones), who is trying to move on from her impetuous marriage and become the responsible, instinctive and successful detective she could be.

There is a bittersweet twist in the opening episode about their bids to become sergeant, and again the characters respond to the outcome in a way that is understandable while tinged with sadness for one of them.

Woman missing for 23 years

The other stand-out aspect to the shows is that the cases are not run-of-the-mill whodunits. There is usually some level of insight into the victims’/families’ stories and social context to the drama. And in

 LESLEY SHARP as DC Janet Scott and DELROY BROWN as DC Lee Broadhurst
Jane and Lee Broadhurst looking for the missing man

the last series there was the recurring and chilling story of the apparently bed-ridden man whose elderly wife suffered a gruesome death.

This week’s story of the missing young man is all the sadder when Rachel visits his horrible parents and finds their poor son was neglected and effectively alone in the world. While searching a quarry for the guy’s body, however, the team discovers another corpse first – one that guvnor Gill Murray (Bullmore) suspects may be that of a missing woman called Mandy Sweeting, who’s been missing for 23 years.

Which sets things up nicely for next week.

Check out these links…
Series four of Scott & Bailey announced
Scott & Bailey Facebook page
Series three preview on CrimeTimePreview

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Chasing Shadows, ITV, Reece Shearsmith, Alex Kingston PREVIEW

ITV Chasing Shadows REECE SHEARSMITH as DS Sean Stone, ALEX KINGSTON as Ruth Hattersley and NOEL CLARKE as DCI Carl Prior
Chasing Shadows with Noel Clarke, Reece Shearsmith and Alex Kingston. Pics: ITV

Rating: ★★★

ITV: starts Thursday, 4 September, 9pm

Story: Detective sergeant Sean Stone is sidelined into the Missing Persons Bureau, where he works alongside analyst Ruth Hattersley in trying to spot those missing people who may be prone to fall victim to serial killers.

THE INFLUENCE of the Nordic invasion continues. First there was Saga Noren in The Bridge, now we have DS Sean Stone in ITV’s new crime series, Chasing Shadows. He’s well-named because he has the charm and appeal of a pebble.

Like Saga, Sean – played by Reece Shearsmith – is socially awkward, unable to lie and a misfit. Cue raised eyebrows, outraged expressions from people he meets, and a furious boss.

It is Sean’s inability to massage the facts at a press conference, during which he suggests a murder victim could have been saved, that prompts his guvnor to boot him out of his job and into Missing Persons.

Sean – quirky and annoying

Here almost the first thing he says to his new colleague, analyst Ruth Hattersley (Alex Kingston), is

REECE SHEARSMITH as DS Sean Stone
Loner – DS Sean Stone (Reece Shearsmith)

‘Are you married?’ Ruth is flummoxed. Then he insists they drive to meetings in separate cars because he ‘likes to think’.

You get the picture. Sean is quirky, wacky and pretty annoying.

Saga is not annoying. This is because she is a more rounded character, rather than a collection of traits.

Disobeying instructions

This four-parter is one of those shows where you kind of know what they were trying to do, but don’t pull it off. Sean is constantly charging off on his own, disobeying instructions and rubbing everyone up the wrong way. He’s a one-dimensional hero.

It is also unbelievable that someone this professionally and socially grating would be left to blunder around jeopardising investigations and offending everyone – ‘I don’t need your help,’ he tells Ruth. His new boss DI Prior (Noel Clarke) is also on the warpath.

Saga Noren is abrupt and socially inept, particularly with grieving relatives, but she is adored by viewers because, though flawed, her personal struggle and shortcomings make her hugely appealing.

Serial killers or multiple murderers?

Protagonists who are brilliant oddballs do work when well created, such as the ‘high-functioning

REECE SHEARSMITH as DS Sean Stone and ELLIOTT TITTENSOR as John Meadows. Chasing Shadows ITV
On the hunt – Sean is shown round an abandoned building

sociopath’ Sherlock, or obsessive-compulsive Monk, or that blunt scalpel House.

In fairness, the opening 45 minutes of Chasing Shadows covers a lot of story – particularly, the hunt for a missing teenage girl, Taylor, who may have been targeted by a killer – so that Sean is barely developed and one dimensional.

He does seem to have a carer at home to help him, but no sooner have we met her than we’re being taken through a disused buildings on the trail of killers and bodies.

The most intriguing part of the premise is Sean Stone’s determination to look for patterns, with which he is obsessed, in the profiles of the mis-pers (missing persons to you) to see if they were vulnerable to serial killers. Or multiple killers, as Sean prefers to call them – they’re ‘not fascinating, evil geniuses’, he says, they’re the opportunistic killer next door.

This is a refreshing break from the tedious Hannibal Lecter fixation of many serial killer stories. It would be great if writer Rob Williams were able to develop this side of the drama, along with Sean’s character. There are just three episodes to go.

Cast: Reece Shearsmith DS Sean Stone, Alex Kingston Ruth Hattersley, Noel Clarke DI Prior

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ITV’s best new crime shows autumn 2014

IT’S BEEN a sunny summer for once, but as usual there’s nowt on the box (apart from the Commonwealth Games), so this is a good moment to look in the crystal ball and see what treats ITV has in store for the autumn and beyond.

There are some well-known faces coming back – a few of which are to be welcomed, others a little past their sell-by date – with a couple of intriguing newcomers in production.

Broadchurch 2 One of the hottest shows of last year, it’s even been creating a stir in the US, where

Broadchurch 2 ITV cast rehearsal

David Tennant has reprised his role as detective Alec Hardy in an American version of the series. He will be back with Olivia Colman as Ellie Miller in the ITV follow-up. Charlotte Rampling joins the cast (pictured right). It’s been filming in Dorset and acclaimed screenwriter Chris Chibnall is back masterminding the production. Anticipation factor: ★★★★

Chasing Shadows is one of the interesting new shows. Starring Reece Shearsmith and Alex Kingston, it’s about a missing persons unit. Anticipation factor: ★★★★

Arthur & George is a three-part adaptation of Julian Barnes’s novel, based on true events. Martin Clunes stars as Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle, who challenges a miscarriage of justice. Anticipation factor: ★★★★

Scott and Bailey's Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharp

Scott & Bailey 4 Returns for a fourth series. The drama’s original tendency to portray all men as thick, immature, unfaithful or criminal has faded, while the stories have got more powerful and the cast – Lesley Sharp, Suranne Jones, Amelia Bullmore – have won a big following and the writing – Lee Warburton, Emily Ballou and Amelia Bullmore again! – has been gripping. Janet and Rachel’s relationship is tested to the limit this time round. Anticipation factor: ★★★★½

Grantchester Following in the footsteps of the Beeb’s gentle daytime mystery Father Brown is Sidney Chambers, a charismatic clergyman played by James Norton (the vile villain in Happy Valley). This is also a period piece – set in 1953 – and has a nice cast, including Robson Green, Morven Christie and Tessa Peak-Jones. A six-parter, it was filming in London, Cambridge and Grantchester earlier this year. Anticipation factor: ★★★½

Arthur & George Three-part adaptation of Julian Barnes’s novel, based on true events. Martin Clunes stars as Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle, who challenges a miscarriage of justice. Filming autumn 2014. Anticipation factor: ★★★★

Safe House An atmospheric thriller set in the Lake District. Cast yet to be announced. It’s a four-parter inspired by a true story of a couple who turn their guest house into a safe house. Filming autumn 2014. Anticipation factor: ★★★★

Code of a Killer Two-parter based on the extraordinary true story of Alec Jeffreys’ discovery of DNA fingerprinting and its first use by detective David Baker in snaring a double murderer. With the terrific David Threlfall in the cast, filming starts in September. Anticipation factor: ★★★★½

The Suspicions of Mr Whicher Terrific book by Kate Summerscale, fab first series. But then came the fictionalised re-imaging of the Victorian detective’s career after the infamous country house child murder of the original. I so wanted to like this, and there is probably a great story about Whicher’s later life, but this reboot reduces his tale to a straight cop procedural. Still, fingers crossed, it’s got Paddy Considine returning as the man himself. Anticipation factor: ★★★

Lewis It feels like a tired old regular screen fixture, but there will be attempts to shake-up the formula with a slight reversal of roles for Kevin Whately and Laurence Fox’s detectives, the now retired Lewis and newly promoted Hathaway. Anticipation factor: ★★★
Brenda Blethyn as Vera, ITV
Foyle’s War Three 120-minute stories are in the pipeline, as Michael Kitchen returns as Christopher Foyle, now a senior intelligence office for MI5 in the aftermath of the Second World War. The guest stars include John Mahoney (Frasier), Richard Lintern (Silent Witness), Nigel Lindsay (Four Lions), Jaime Winstone (Mad Dogs) and William Postlethwaite (Midsomer Murders). Anthony Horowitz is back on story duty. Anticipation factor: ★★★½

Vera 5 Filming is under way, with Kenny Doughty joining as DS Aiden Healy after David Leon’s departure as Joe Ashworth (shame, as his storylines were often quite good). Brenda Blethyn (right) still heads proceedings as DCI Vera Stanhope. 2015. Anticipation factor: ★★★½

Let us know which shows you can’t wait to see… comment below or email us

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Broadchurch 2 – cast pictures

SO HERE is the cast for the second series of ITV’s Broadchurch in a script read-through. In a week when series one won three Baftas – best drama, best actress for Olivia Colman and best supporting actor, David Bradley – it seems there is already quite a lot of anticipation for the next instalment of what was one of 2013’s outstanding new crime dramas. Pictured here for the first time are returning cast David Tennant, Olivia Colman, Jodie Whittaker, Andrew Buchan and Arthur Darvill, along with some of the actors who are joining the drama for series two including Charlotte Rampling, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Eve Myles and James D’Arcy. And this is just a few months after former Doctor Who David Tennant was in America filming the US version of the series, called Gracepoint.

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Vera series 4 DVD REVIEW

DVD: ★★★½  

DCI Vera Stanhope is a dumpy, grumpy sleuth. She doesn’t do car chases, punch-ups or catchphrases such as, ‘Get yer trousers on, you’re nicked’.

But as happened with Columbo, viewers like her. When the fourth series came to ITV in April – the series included in this DVD collection – Brenda Blethyn’s character blew away the Sunday night opposition, winning almost six million viewers and leaving The Crimson Fields in the dust.

The drama even beat its own record of 4.5million for the start of last year’s series.

What’s the secret? The 68-year-old actress puts its down to Vera’s bossiness and lack of glamour. ‘She’s ordinary like a lot of people at home,’ Brenda says.

‘It’s a show people feel comfortable with and I’ll continue playing Vera for as long as they audience wants to see her.’

That along with the wonderful Northumberland setting and sidekick DS Joe Ashworth, played by the not-dumpy or grumpy David Leon. Apart from that the format is your typical TV police procedural – body, forensics, where were you on the night of the 14th.

The four films here  – On Harbour Street, Protected, The Deer Hunters and Death of a Family Man –are well-made 90-minute mysteries, beautifully filmed. The last one is particularly good.

Death of a Family Man stars Robert Glenister, and is about the mysterious death of a businessman, found floating under the Gateshead Millennium Bridge. His wife is stunned to discover he was working as a spy – for Revenue and Customs.

This is fine collection for Vera‘s growing army of fans. The only thing it lacks are some DVD extras.

RRP: £19.99. Certificate: 12. Discs: 2. Running time: 355mins approx. Available from Amazon

Also check out our review of On Harbour Street

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Endeavour series 2 DVD REVIEW

DVD: ★★★★

Extras: ★★★

THIS may be sacrilege, but I prefer Endeavour to Morse.

I suspect much of Morse’s renown and popularity are down to John Thaw’s unforgettable portrayal of the gloomy detective, but the character never developed during all the years he was on air. This was par for the course during the series’ run in the late 80s and early 90s. But modern series that have story arcs – anything from The Fall to Broadchurch to True Detective – have shown how much richer series are that don’t stay on a loop of same characters, same investigations every week.

Endeavour, the 1960s-set prequel, has the advantage of showing Morse as he develops and changes, and writer/executive producer Russell Lewis has demonstrated his skill and empathy in taking Colin Dexter’s creation and fleshing him out cleverly. Each series combines the whodunit format with a story arc about the outsider detective, this latest series following his return to duty following the death of his father and his own brush with death after being shot, along with his romance with his neighbour, nurse Monica (Shvorne Marks).

Shaun Evans has been excellent casing as the too bright copper, and Roger Allam – as Thursday, who has his journey in this series – is a terrific co-star. The films from ITV are lovingly shot and have a fine period feel.

This complete collection of series 2’s four films – Trove, Nocturne, Sway and Neverland – also comes with a modest couple of added extras that should still delight fans. There’s a 10-minute feature called Creating Endeavour – The Next Chapter of Colin Dexter’s Legacy, and Spires, Ashtrays, Quads and Pastels, a short feature about the filming of the drama in Oxford.

RRP: £19.99, Certificate:12, Discs: 2, Running time: 360mins. Available on Amazon

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Appropriate Adult — KIller TV No.43

DC Savage (Sylvestra La Touzel) with Leach (Emily Watson) and West (Dominic West). Pics: ITV

2011, ITV1

‘You’re helping me through the most terrible time. You’re my only friend.’ – Fred West
‘I’m not your friend, Fred.’ – Janet Leach
‘You are. We’re going on journey together, Janet.’ – Fred West
Dominic West, Emily Watson, Monica Dolan, Robert Glensiter
Identikit: The true story of how ordinary housewife and mother Janet Leach became the Appropriate Adult, or civilian counsellor, for one of Britain’s most notorious mass killers, Fred West, during his questioning by police.

logos

The crime genre – books and films – frequently and luridly dabbles in depictions of serial killers, but few if any capture some of the mundane and evil truth of such criminals as powerfully as this two-part ITV drama. Extraordinary, sensitive and chilling, it offers a glimpse into the depraved world of Gloucestershire murderer Fred West and his wife Rosemary. It was criticised as insensitive in some quarters, but it is nevertheless a serious and carefully produced mini-series revealing some of the reality behind a crime few people could comprehend. It is based on the true story of Janet Leach, a social worker who volunteered to act as an Appropriate Adult, a liaison to help and support juveniles or vulnerable adults in police custody. Her very first appointment is to assist a 52-year-old man. No sooner has she entered the police interview to sit alongside him than the man is describing how he strangled his own daughter, Heather. ‘Hadn’t wanted to hurt her,’ he explains. ’I was scared, so I was gonna put her in the Wendy house, but then I thought I’d put her in the dustbin…’ He matter-of-factly describes using an ice saw to cut off her legs and head. He is, of course, Fred West, and Janet Leach finds herself acting as a supporting shoulder for one of the most disgusting mass killers in British history. Emily Watson plays Janet with wide-eyed dismay, and watching her the audience cannot help wondering what a trauma she went through. Dominic West, a long way from The Wire here, is extraordinary as the West Country bumpkin who lies, wheedles and charms as easily as he breathes, and who is by turns maudlin and monstrous. ‘Time for a cuppa, I’d say, Hazel,’ he chirps to the detective questioning him. When a third thigh bone turns up in his garden, Fred says innocently to the same detective, DC Hazel Savage, ‘Don’t know where that came from.’ Janet is a woman who must go home to a partner and her children at night and somehow keep a lid on the nightmare she is exposed to at the police station, while also finding it difficult to stop listening to the unfolding horror story she hears as Fred’s confidante. This is an appalling burden for her, but at one point she talks him into telling the whole truth and he admits to a further eight, ‘all right, nine, killings’. It was a controversial production, as any dramatisation touching on victims of recent crimes will be (some police officers were particularly critical), but the portrayal was not sensational or leering at the Wests’ crimes. No horror or crimes were depicted, just a disturbing portrayal of horrendously dysfunctional people. Dominic West, Emily Watson and Monica Dolan, who played Rose West, all won Baftas for their performances.
Watercooler fact: This was the third of ITV’s major dramas exploring real crimes, following This Is Personal (2000, about the Yorkshire Ripper) and See No Evil (2006, the Moors Murders).

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Vera ITV, with Brenda Blethyn, David Leon PREVIEW

VERA IV EPISODE 1 - On Harbour Street  Picture shows: DAVID LEON as DS Joe Ashworth and BRENDA BLETHYN as DCI Vera Stanhope.
Joe (David Leon) and Vera (Brenda Blethyn). Pics: ITV

Rating: ★★★½

ITV: starts Sunday, 27 April, 8pm

Story: Vera investigates the mysterious death of pensioner Margaret Kraszewski on a busy Newcastle Metro train at the height of rush hour.

DCI VERA STANHOPE is back, news that will cheer a growing battalion of fans for the Geordie detective.

This is the fourth series for the character based on Ann Cleeves’ novels and played by award-winning Brenda Blethyn. The show is something of a banker for ITV, with series three winning a consolidated audience of 6.5 million last year.

Why is it so popular? Well, a good setting always seems to win viewers and Vera has the spectacular backdrop of Northumberland going for it. Brenda Blethyn is hugely popular and her irascible, dumpy character – looking a bit like Paddington Bear – who clearly appeals to a lot of viewers.

And for the younger demographic, of course, there is David Leon as sidekick DS Joe Ashworth.

Murder on the Metro

There are four two-hour films coming and as is the norm for these big ITV series, the producers have lined up a good rota of guest actors, including Paul Copley (Last Tango in Halifax, Downton Abbey), Tilly Vosburgh (Holby City, Holding On), Kellie Bright (EastEnders), Clive Russell (Ripper Street, Game of Thrones), William Ash (Great Night Out, Waterloo Road) and Robert Glenister (Hustle, The Great Train Robbery).

VERA IV EPISODE 1 - On Harbour Street  Picture shows: DAVID LEON as DS Joe Ashworth and SONYA CASSIDY as Celine Ashworth.
Joe and wife Celine (Sonya Cassidy)

The opener, On Harbour Street, gets the season off to a good start, too. A pensioner, Margaret
Kraszewski, is found dead with a stab wound on the rush-hour Newcastle Metro. Joe and his daughter Jessie happen to be on the train, and Jessie has the anguish of discovering the body.

The victim lived in a small seaside community (more lovely scenery) that holds a secret, and an interesting aspect to the story is the impact the case has on Joe’s personal life, as Jessie becomes the case’s principal witness and tensions in his marriage to Celine surface.

New pathologist Marcus Summer

All of which is alien territory to loner Vera, who seems out of touch and unsympathetic with the problems Joe is facing.

VERA IV EPISODE 1 - On Harbour Street  Picture shows: KINGSLEY BEN-ADIR as Marcus Summer.
Pathologist Marcus (Kingsley Ben-Adir)

Devotees will no doubt enjoy this latest series, which, apart from the addition of a new young

pathologist, Marcus Summer (TV newcomer Kingsley Ben-Adir), sticks closely to the whodunit/procedural format.

Vera is polished and well crafted, but these ITV series, although popular, are surely beginning to feel a bit dated. The likes of Lewis and DCI Banks all seem a bit shallow these days in the light of more character-driven successes – The Killing, Broadchurch, Line of Duty and Scott & Bailey.

The dated procedural template, complete with scenic backdrops, is easy viewing but reduces interesting protagonists from successful book series into cops on a loop. In every episode Banks, Lewis and Vera do the same thing. They turn up at the crime scene, ask questions, throw a tantrum, solve the crime. They never change or develop.

TV waters down Vera

Rebus was another terrific character, from Ian Rankin’s series of superb novels, who was reduced to a whodunit-solving cliche on TV. And while Ann Cleeves’ is rightly enjoying a lot of success with Vera and Shetland over on the Beeb, her creations are far more fascinating and affecting on the page.

VERA IV EPISODE 1 - On Harbour Street  Picture shows: BRENDA BLETHYN as DCI Vera Stanhope.

In books such as The Crow Trap, Vera is obese, boozy, lonesome and perhaps not easy to like – but able to get through to friends and relatives of victims through her empathy. On TV she’s been niced-up, made more presentable and simplified.

But wouldn’t it be great to see Brenda Blethyn stretching her talent by playing that more challenging and difficult Vera?

Cast: Brenda Blethyn DCI Vera Stanhope, David Leon DS Joe Ashworth, Jon Morrison DC Kenny Lockhart, Clare Calbraith DC Rebecca Shepherd, Sonya Cassidy Celine Ashworth, Kingsley Ben-Adir Pathologist Marcus Summer, Riley Jones DC Mark Edwards, Olivia Armstrong Jessie Ashworth

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