The Ice Cream Girls, ITV, with Jodhi May and Lorraine Burroughs

The Ice Cream Girls on ITV, with Jodhi May and Lorraine Burroughs
Jodhi May and Lorraine Burroughs in The Ice Cream Girls. Pics: ITV

Rating: ★★★½ 

ITV: starts Friday, 19 April, 9pm

Story: Two vulnerable teenage girls are accused of murdering their schoolteacher in the summer of 1995. For seventeen years, the two girls go their separate ways, Poppy having been charged with the murder, while Serena has married a doctor and started a family. Now in 2013, their paths cross again.

ITV is flush with excellent crime dramas in April. During the week of 13 April it will be showing Scott & Bailey, Broadchurch will be nearing its finale and Endeavour and The Ice Cream Girls will be launching.

The latter is a three-part drama derived from a bestseller by Dorothy Koomson. The Ice Cream Girls is how the press dubbed the two teenage girls who were the only witnesses to a murder, Serena and Poppy having briefly been friends during the summer of 1995.

Holli Dempsey as Young Poppy, Georgina Campbell as Young Serena in The Ice Cream Girls on ITV
Old mates – young Poppy and Serena

Seventeen years later, Serena is still disturbed by a love affair she had then with her teacher, Marcus Hansley, a passion that ended in murder. Serena fled the seaside town of her youth and moved to Leeds, where she married a doctor and had a daughter.

Poppy and Serena are back in town 
As the drama begins, Serena moves back home with her family to help her sister cope with her ailing mother. She is on edge, haunted by the past.

It just so happens that Poppy is finishing her sentence for murder and is about to return home too. She is also plagued by what occurred all those years before, and wants to confront Serena and the tragic events that bound them together. Everyone thinks Poppy murdered the teacher, but did she? That’s the question hanging over their lives.

It’s a riveting opening to the drama, with equally fine performances from Lorraine Burroughs as a jittery Serena and Jodhi May as the young woman with a prison pallor who gradually starts to assert herself once she gets used to being on the outside again.

Martin Compston as Marcus in The Ice Cream Girls on ITV
Teacher with secrets – Marcus

Martin Compston as the teacher with a dark side
Serena is so on edge she races away from a cop who stops her for speeding. She has never told her husband about her involvement in the trial. Meanwhile, Poppy has to deal with moving back with her mother and hostile stepfather.

Martin Compston is creepy as the victim and teacher with a dark side revealed in flashbacks. Poppy closes in on Serena, visiting her unknowing husband at his surgery, and there are twists to come in episode two before the women come face to face.

It’s a skilfully made and atmospheric thriller about believable characters trapped by a vulnerable moment in their young lives. Full of surprises, it rounds off a terrific week for ITV drama.

Cast: Jodhi May Poppy, Lorraine Burroughs Serena, Holli Dempsey Young Poppy, Georgina Campbell Young Serena, Martin Compston Marcus, Bryan Dick Al, Dona Croll Rachel, Nicholas Pinnock Evan, Dominique Jackson Vee,  Sara Powell Fez, Eleanor Methven Liz, Owen Roe Jim, Kathy Kiera Clarke Marlene, Michael Mcelhatton Brian, Patricia Martin Poppy’s Gran, Gail Brady GP Receptionist, Dylan Tighe Poppy’s Lawyer, Laura Jane Laughlin Serena’s Lawyer, Caitríona Ní Mhurchú Sgt Reynolds         

Follow @crimetimeprev

Broadchurch, ITV, starring David Tennant, Olivia Colman

Broadchurch with Olivia Colman and David Tennant
Washed up? DS Miller with new boss DI Hardy (David Tennant), who has a lot to prove. Pics: ITV 

Rating: ★★★★

ITV: Monday, 4 March, 9pm

Story: DI Alec Hardy and DS Ellie Miller are summoned to investigate the discovery of 11-year-old Danny Latimer’s body on Broadchurch beach, a death that profoundly affects the small seaside community.

Bog-standard crime series can’t be bothered to deal with the pain that follows a murder, with victims usually treated simply as an excuse to kick off a whodunit. The cops hog the limelight and the victims’ stories are left on the slab.

Broadchurch is not bog standard. It is an emotional thriller that follows the ripples through a close-knit seaside community caused by the suspicious death of a schoolboy.

Screenwriter Chris Chibnall explains his motivation in writing the series like this, ‘When I was writing Law & Order: UK, I always used to worry for the victim’s relatives we would bring in for one scene: what happened to them when they left the screen? Broadchurch is, in part, an answer to that, a desire to honour those people more fully.’

The Latimer family in Broadchurch, ITV
The Latimer family

Jodie Whittaker and Andrew Buchan
The sunny mood of Broadchurch, a largely crime-free seaside town, is shattered one morning when the body of 11-year-old Danny is found on the beach. His parents don’t know at first that he is even missing because he always leaves the house early to do a paper round.

It is only at a school sports day that mum Beth, played by Jodie Whittaker, realises Danny is not there. From the word go we are alongside frantic Beth and her husband, Mark (Andrew Buchan), trying to locate their son.

When Danny’s body is found, DI Alec Hardy, a new face drafted in only recently, and DS Ellie Miller, a local woman, are called in to investigate. Hardy has just got the promotion Ellie was hoping for, so they immediately have a frosty relationship.

Maggie, Karen and Ollie in Broachurch, ITV
The press – Maggie, Karen and Ollie

Vicky McClure and Pauline Quirke
David Tennant and Olivia Colman portray the detectives, and they make a fine clashing partnership, with Tennant as a stiff boss with something to prove and Colman completely alienated by him. ‘Don’t look at me like that,’ he tells her. Colman is the mistress of the sour look.

But it is Andrew Buchan, a long way from his Garrow’s Law days here, who steals the opening episode. The scene in which he identifies Danny’s body, having hoped against hope that the dead child was not his boy, is absolutely heartrending.

The cast is good throughout, with Vicky McClure as a Fleet Street reporter sniffing for a scoop, Pauline Quirke as a suspicious and scruffy local, and Will Mellor as a telephone engineer with a connection to the case.

‘My character wasn’t supposed to cry half as much as she ended up doing’
Everyone from the vicar (Arthur Darvill) to the hotelier (Simone McAullay) are affected or implicated in Danny’s story, not least Ellie’s own son, who was Danny’s best friend.

Nige and Susan in Broadchurch, ITV
The locals – Nige and Susan

Interestingly, the cast were not told who was behind Danny’s death during filming to maintain the level of intrigue – they apparently had a sweepstake on the killer’s identity.

But it is the story’s emotional journey that is Broadchurch‘s distinguishing feature. As Olivia Colman reveals, ‘My character wasn’t supposed to cry half as much as she ended up doing but I couldn’t stop myself; it was so sad.’

Cast: David Tennant DI Alec Hardy, Olivia Colman DS Ellie Miller, Andrew Buchan Mark Latimer, Jodie Whittaker Beth Latimer, Vicky McClure Karen White, Arthur Darvill Rev Paul Coates, Pauline Quirke Susan Wright, Will Mellor Steve Connelly, Carolyn Pickles Maggie Radcliffe, Matthew Gravelle Joe Miller, Simone McAullay Becca Fisher, Jonathan Bailey Olly Stevens, Oskar McNamara Danny Latimer, Charlotte Beaumont Chloe Latimer, Susan Brown Liz Roper, Adam Wilson Tom Miller, Joe Sims Nige Carter, David Bradley Jack Marshall, Jacob Anderson Dean Thomas

Follow @crimetimeprev

The Little House PREVIEW

Lucy Griffiths as Ruth (pics ITV)

Monday, 1 November, 9pm, ITV1

Rating ★★★★

The mother-in-law, once the butt of many a cheesy comedy routine, is given a new and ominous twist by Francesca Annis in The Little House.

She certainly doesn’t look like a dragon, she is considerate and generous to her daughter-in-law, Ruth, offering to give her a country cottage in which to raise a family with husband Patrick.

What’s not to like? Well in this engrossing psychological thriller, based on Philippa Gregory‘s best-selling novel, appearances might be misleading.

Rising star Lucy Griffiths

What works brilliantly in this two-parter (scripted by Ed Whitmore, who wrote the recent Identity on ITV, and episodes of Silent Witness) is that it doesn’t hurry its secrets, and for a long time it’s hard to know if the mother-in-law is a conniving psycho or Ruth is unhinged.

Ruth is played by rising star  Lucy Griffiths (U Be Dead, Robin Hood). We meet her as a young wife in love with her busy, successful husband (Rupert Evans). She a woman who becomes cut-off with her apparently caring in-laws and husband, but in a sinister turn of events she soon appears to be losing her mind.

Her wealthy in-laws, Elizabeth (Bafta-winner Annis) and Frederick (Tim Pigott-Smith) have invited the couple to move into a cottage they have bought just a walk from their own huge country house.

Hidden agendas?
Suddenly, Ruth’s cosy life and aspirations as a teacher and for travel with her husband are derailed – ‘I’m not ready for the good life yet,’ she tells Patrick, dreading isolation in the country.

But Ruth becomes unexpectedly pregnant and the Little House becomes home. After a traumatic caesarian birth, she struggles to bond with her baby son. When she appears to have burned the infant with a cigarette, she is diagnosed with post-partum psychosis.

What works so well with the rich scenario created here is that it is hard to know whether Ruth, with her family history of depression, is really endangering the child. And Elizabeth is an ambiguous figure, with her own daughter having transplanted herself and her children to Canada and having nothing to do with her mother.

Family mystery
When Elizabeth says to Frederick, ‘Little Ruthie’s going to have our baby,’ we wonder about hidden agendas.

The Little House is a wonderful diversion from the usual crime-thriller fare, there being no detectives, serial killers, high-concepts or convoluted plots in sight. It’s a fascinating family mystery, acted with subtlety. And after all the polite, middle-class exchanges, it reaches a full-blooded climax.

DCI Banks: Aftermath PREVIEW

Rating ★★½

Stephen Tomkinson as Banks (pics ITV)

ITV1, starts Monday 27 Sept, 9pm

Stephen Tompkinson has thrived in comedy and light drama roles. Stretching back to his breakthrough in Drop the Dead Donkey, to All Quiet on the Preston Front, Brassed Off, playing an alien in Ted and Alice, and most recently as the Bristol vet relocating to Africa in Wild at Heart.

Now he’s taking on DCI Banks in Aftermath, ITV1’s grisly serial killer two-parter, based on Peter Robinson’s popular crime novels.

Coming soon after Shameless creator Paul Abbott’s complaint about ‘gutless’ TV bosses casting the same old faces in new dramas, has Tompkinson been miscast here?

The best that can be said is that he looks the part of a senior detective. Acting it is another matter.

He veers between softly spoken to staring belligerence with nothing in between, apart from one toe-curling moment when he tries to schmooze Annie from the complaints office into bed (the ad break couldn’t come quickly enough).

In the shadow of Frost

 Two PCs find a shocking scene

Apart from David Jason, few actors have convincingly moved from comedy to crime drama – and Frost rarely had the unpleasant multiple rape and murder dealt with here.

Tompkinson‘s not helped by the erratic way his character is written. One minute he’s rowing with Annie (Andrea Lowe, Coronation Street), the next trying to get jiggy with her, then threatening a doctor and tangling with a victim’s father.

Banks isn’t so volatile in the novels, but UK television is addicted to cramming in as many incidents and twists as it can to stop viewers hitting the remote, reducing Banks to a mess of scowling confrontations.

Breakout novel – Aftermath
And ITV, which seems to lack faith in this pilot, has given it just two 60-minute instalments in which to make us like Banks and resolve a mulitude of criminal storylines.

Killer’s wife (Charlotte Riley)

Aftermath came out in 2002 and was Robinson’s breakout novel. It is basically the kind of police procedural adored by TV bosses, and the author does try something interesting with the format.

It starts with the arrest of a rapist and killer called Marcus Payne when two officers are called to a ‘domestic’ at his home. Crime solved, the story then flashes backwards and forwards to explore Payne’s crimes and the fallout from them.

The missing fifth woman
ITV1’s version echoes the novel’s jolting, violent opening. But we soon realise there is much more to come about the nosy neighbour across the way, the killer’s battered wife, and Banks’s dealings with the careerist Annie, who is investigating the female constable who put Marcus Payne into a coma. And where is the missing fifth young woman?

It’s a lot to sort out in the second and final part. And that’s one of Aftermath’s problems. There’s too much going on, too many murders and storylines.

The other is that Paul Abbott is right. TV bosses should stop framing the same old faces for every new crime drama in town.

U Be Dead, ITV1 PREVIEW

Morrissey and
Fitzgerald
(Pics: ©ITV)

Rating: ★★★★

ITV1, Sunday 5 Sept, 9pm

David Morrissey and Tara Fitzgerald go through the emotional mincer in ITV1’s U Be Dead.

It’s the disturbing true tale of the psychiatrist and his fiancée viciously stalked by Maria Marchese, who was jailed for nine years in 2007 for what the Met called ‘one of the worst cases of stalking we have ever had to investigate’.

So often the manly hero, Morrissey (soon to be DI Thorne in Sky1’s new take on Mark Billingham’s detective) faced a delicate acting challenge as Dr Jan Falkowski, who goes from glamorous professional to stalker’s victim, to love rat and back to sympathetic victim.

‘Prepare for your funeral, not your wedding’ 
Fitzgerald, who is usually able to coast it in Waking the Dead, here reduces a courtroom – and surely a few front rooms when this goes out – to stunned, sympathetic silence as the fiancée forced to contemplate suicide by the vast and terrifying campaign of intimidation waged via mobile phone, email and written notes.

We first see Jan and Debbie Pemberton as a happy-go-lucky, dashing couple (he’s a power boat racer in his leisure hours). They are planning their wedding when the texts from hell arrive, and a two-year vendetta begins.

‘Prepare for your funeral, not your wedding’ is one to Debbie, and ‘U be dead’ another. Jan wants to be strong about it all and the police are informed. But the psychological horror of being targeted with death threats by someone who’s invisible starts to shred everyone’s nerves.

Sham wedding to flush out the stalker
It’s impossible to watch without thinking, Well, what would I do? Throwing away the mobile phones, the stalker’s main weapon of persecution, is no use because there are the emails, the written notes under the door, the twenty-odd calls to parents in one day, the stalker’s cancellation of the wedding reception, the bomb threat…

Their tormentor goes round with a bagful of change using dozens of public call boxes that can’t be traced. Friends, relatives and colleagues are obsessively badgered. This is stalking on a near industrial scale.

The couple and their families are under huge stress. Jan eventually starts a secret affair with a younger woman, Bethan Ancell (Lucy Griffiths, seen recently in Collision and Robin Hood).

Despite this, he goes through with a sham wedding to Debbie to flush out the stalker. In a bitingly tense scene, the police finally nab the woman, 45-year-old Argentinian-born Maria Marchese (played by Monica Dolan).

Accused of rape
But as the writer, Gwyneth Hughes, says, the twisting events are barely credible and could never be sold as fiction. So we are stunned but believe it when the Crown Prosecution Service decides there is not enough evidence to prosecute Marchese. She then accuses Jan of raping her.

Jan is a cold character, who has demanded Debbie should have been stronger. But it is to Morrissey’s acting credit that we come round to empathising with him again as the victim of a living torment.

Hughes, whose writing credits include Miss Austen Regrets and Five Days, had input from Jan, Debbie and Bethan and has created a powerhouse drama that will haunt you for days. Over two hours she builds a chilling portrait of two people stripped of their identities by years of lies and threats.

One question not resolved is what made Maria Marchese, who will be eligible for parole in 2012, the malevolent stalker she was.

Great scene: Tara Fitzgerald breaking down and reducing the courtroom to stunned silence

Agatha Christie Marple, ITV1 PREVIEW

Julia McKenzie
(© ITV)

Rating ★★½

ITV1, Bank Holiday Monday, 9-11pm

Someone said to me last week that in her younger days she had read all 80 detective novels by Agatha Christie.

Talk about misspent youth.

That the Queen of Crime is popular cannot be contested. Only outsold by the Bible, she makes even JK Rowling’s success look humdrum.

But are her cosy whodunits any good? Every now and again there’s a hoo-ha when some writer disses the old Dame for her flat characters and dull prose, but having a go at her worldwide popularity is like trying to force back the sea.

Millions adore her still, and that’s why ITV has long been pumping money into productions of Marple and Poirot.

Marple’s still got all her marbles
Watching the latest Marple starring Julia McKenzie – The Pale Horse – clues to the character’s appeal can be detected. The idea of a pensioner underestimated as a silly old lady by some but who outsmarts the poisoners and shooters makes her something of a champion.

I find Julia McKenzie too unassuming in the role, and would prefer a little eccentricity, but she seems to be building a following.

The post-war setting obviously seduces some viewers too, with its steam trains, country drawing rooms and domestic servants – all a long way from rowdy, multicultural, ill-mannered contemporary Britain.

Finally, there is the parade of familiar actors doing turns as various stuffed shirts, stock sinister types and pretty maidens. Here we have Neil Pearson (Lejeune), Pauline Collins (Thyrza), Holly Valance (Kanga), Nigel Planer (Venables), Bill Paterson (Bradley) and others.

‘Wickedness’ at the Pale Horse
All these ingredients are in place at The Pale Horse Inn, where Miss Marple has come to discover who is behind the murder of her old friend, Father Gorman (Nicholas Parsons).

It gets off to a nicely menacing start on a foggy night with Gorman attending a dying lady, to the soundtrack of a radio play of the witches’ scene from Macbeth, and talk of ‘wickedness’.

The witch theme is continued at the inn, whose village is celebrating the burning of a local witch in 1664, and whose inhabitants include some women claiming to be witches. Pauline Collins’ Thyrza even claims modern witches can control victims’ minds and force them to kill themselves.

So there are bonfires and weird locals, but the Agatha Christie template is so well worn these days that it is easy to tell the red herrings from the real clues (the author’s experience working in a hospital and pharmacy means anyone using ointments or exotic drugs in her stories is nearly always connected to her killer).

Which cardboard character will fold under questioning?
‘Good Lord, Mr X must be rolling in money.’

‘Yes, and no one knows where it came from. He’s quite the mystery man.’

So it definitely ain’t Mr X. A lot of characters come under suspicion, all with as much personality as Colonel Mustard in the library, but we know whoever looks most likely is never the guilty one.

The Pale Horse is no different, being the usual contrivance, and predictable in its far-fetched conclusion – but the evidence suggests millions will love it. Perhaps someone is controlling their minds.

Best scene: the creepy, fog-bound opening moments

Loss of Identity

Aidan Gillen, Keeley Hawes and the stylish Identity Unit (© ITV)

I think I’ll join the police.

Look at how buff the detectives are in Identity, and how cool the offices are that they swan about in. Nice views, sleek decor, no clutter.

And I’m sure I could handle being reprimanded by Keeley Hawes. Every day, if necessary.

It’s a long way from my days as a crime reporter on the Hackney Gazette. The local nick at Stoke Newington was a cramped Victorian building, tiny windows, smelly and full of beefy blokes whose bellies stretched their shirt buttons.

All right, I realise that these days reality is out (except on reality shows) and programme makers exaggerate the glamorous side of coppering. But I was pretty impressed with Identity when it started. A fresh crime show devoid of the usual serial killers and paedophile twists, it was inspired by real and dark incidents of identity fraud. The swanky office and beautiful police were minor distractions.

But Identity reaches the end of its first series this week and sadly it’s got a fair bit more daft. Loose cannon DI Bloom – played with verve by Aidan Gillen and easily the show’s star – was always pushing the envelope with his habit of stabbing suspects and breaking and entering as he felt like it.

But keeping a corpse in his fridge? Come on.

Writer Ed Whitmore created a series that looked very promising, having researched real-life identity crimes and created episodes in which people have stolen identities, reinvented themselves as someone they’ve murdered or exacted revenge through credit fraud and ingenious frame-ups. Very contemporary, very disturbing.

However, as regular viewers know, overshadowing all this has been Bloom’s slightly deranged attempt to work for DSI Martha Lawson (Keeley Hawes) on the Identity Unit while secretly freelancing in his old job as an undercover cop who has infiltrated a drugs gang. Hence, the stiff in the icebox.


In the finale, things really get untidy for Mr Dual Identity. His office enemy, Anthony (Shaun Parkes), knows what has displaced the milk and veg from Bloom’s fridge. 

It all gets a bit implausible. Will Bloom keep his job? Will he save his gangster moll lover? Will he forget whether he’s a crook or a cop (he has looked doubtful at times)?


I won’t spoil it, but I do hope that if the series returns it calms down a bit and gets over its identity crisis.


Monday 9 August, 9pm, ITV1

%d bloggers like this: