The Secret, ITV, James Nesbitt

Gripping account of the murders committed by Northern Irish couple Colin Howell and Hazel Buchanan

★★★ ITV, Friday, 29 April, 9pm

SOMETIMES the true story on which a drama is based is so riveting it almost can’t fail to keep you rooted to the sofa. This ITV series is one of those.

It recounts the crime committed by a couple in Northern Ireland, Colin Howell and Hazel Buchanan. They met at their local Baptist church and started an affair that had appalling consequences. Greed, lust, hypocrisy and evangelism make it a distressing but compelling story [as this is a true story, there are some spoilers in this preview].

From Hat Trick Productions The Secret: Ep1 on ITV Pictured: Hazel Buchanan [Genevieve O'Reilly] and Colin Howell [James Nesbitt]. This photograph is (C) Hat Trick Productions and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the programme or event mentioned above or ITV plc. Once made available by ITV plc Picture Desk, this photograph can be reproduced once only up until the transmission [TX] date and no reproduction fee will be charged. Any subsequent usage may incur a fee. This photograph must not be manipulated [excluding basic cropping] in a manner which alters the visual appearance of the person photographed deemed detrimental or inappropriate by ITV plc Picture Desk. This photograph must not be syndicated to any other company, publication or website, or permanently archived, without the express written permission of ITV Plc Picture Desk. Full Terms and conditions are available on the website www.itvpictures.com For further information please contact: james.hilder@itv.com

Secret liaison: Hazel Buchanan (Genevieve O’Reilly) and Colin Howell (James Nesbitt)

It is accompanied by fine performances by James Nesbitt as the dentist Howell and Genevieve O’Reilly as Buchanan, along with an unflashy but convincing script from Stuart Urban. Nesbitt, in particular, is so believable as the grossly self-serving “Christian” that before the first episode is even finished you want to punch the screen every time he appears.

A faked suicide pact

In the first of four episodes, we watch the genesis of the affair. While Howell’s wife, Lesley, is expecting their fourth child, he begins to pursue married schoolteacher Buchanan. [Read more…]

Stan Lee’s Lucky Man hits audience jackpot

James Nesbitt as DI Harry Clayton and Sienna Guillory as Eve in Stan Lee's Lucky Man (an original British drama for SKY 1) Episode One Photographer: Steffan Hill / © 2015 Carnival Films

Twist of fate: James Nesbitt and Sienna Guillory in Stan Lee’s Lucky Man

SKY1 HONCHOS certainly feel like winners right now as their gambling-themed thriller Stan Lee’s Lucky Man has been getting hefty backing from viewers.

Sienna Guillory as Eve in Stan Lee's Lucky Man (an original British drama for SKY 1) Episode One Photographer: Steffan Hill / © 2015 Carnival Films

Sienna Guillory as Eve

Starring James Nesbitt, the 10-parter (Fridays, 9pm on Sky1) saw its viewing figures jump after the first episode from 1.14m to a consolidated audience  of 1.74m. This is the biggest increase in viewing figures that the first episode of any Sky original drama series has ever achieved in the week after transmission. It also makes it the best performing original drama series launch on Sky1 for nearly four years (see our preview of the show here).

Adam MacDonald, Director of Sky 1, said: ‘I’m thrilled that our customers are enjoying the show as much as we are.

‘This record increase in viewing figures shows that they continue to value the flexibility that we offer them, to watch their favourite shows wherever and whenever they want.’

The series is the idea of comic legend Stan Lee and plays with themes of gambling and fate.

It sees DI Harry Clayton (Nesbitt), a cop from Central London’s Murder Squad, being given a mysterious bracelet that is said to endow the wearer with immense luck.

Roulette wheel at the Green Dragon Casino in Stan Lee's Lucky Man (an original British drama for SKY 1) Episode One - behind-the-scenes Photographer: Steffan Hill / © 2015 Carnival Films

The Green Dragon Casino in Stan Lee’s Lucky Man

The story exudes a glamorous side of London, the characters are familiar with the kind of high-adrenaline leisure found on sites such as Casino UK, and the show has panache, mixing an off-beat crime tale with spectacular depictions of the night-time capital with terrific action scenes.

However, Harry’s luck comes with a price and soon he finds himself at the heart of a sinister crime wave hitting town. The series also stars Amara Karan (The Darjeeling Limited), Sienna Guillory (Fortitude), Eve Best (Nurse Jackie), Steven Mackintosh (Inside Men), Darren Boyd (Spy) and Omid Djalili (Moonfleet).

This Friday the intrigue continues as Harry makes a wrong move that lands him in a life or death situation…

James Nesbitt as DI Harry Clayton in Stan Lee's Lucky Man (an original British drama for SKY 1) Episode Three Photographer: Steffan Hill / © 2015 Carnival Films

Life or death: DI Harry Clayton

 

5 hopes for Stan Lee’s Lucky Man

Stan Lee’s Lucky Man started this weekend on Sky1, and anticipation has been building nicely. It’s certainly an intriguing side project from the man behind the bulk of Marvel’s creative genius, and early looks at the show have been promising. You can read CrimeTimePreview’s own review of the action here, but in the meantime here are some general hopes for what we’ll see in the show.

1. London as it is

There’s a tendency in Marvel films and shows to depict fictionalised versions of major urban areas (usually New York). The cities might appear to be relatively normal, but there’s always a sort of pageantry to how civilians roam the background while heroes take center stage. For lack of a better term, the resulting atmosphere can feel cheesy. For this reason it would be nice to see Lucky Man show off modern London in a realistic manner. This trailer certainly seems to do as much. It even closes with a stark but very real vision of the skyline, so there are positive indications in this regard.

2. A starring turn for James Nesbitt

James Nesbitt is a familiar actor to a lot of people, having done fine work on The Missing and Babylon, among other television projects, along with the role of Bofur in the Hobbit film series. But Lucky Man certainly looks as if it could be his most significant role to date, so here’s hoping for a starring turn that shows his full range of talents.

3. Clear manipulation of luck

Going by the early description of the show, Nesbitt’s character (a detective named Harry) will gain the ability to control his own luck by way of using a mystical, ancient bracelet. That’s an interesting premise to be sure, but if there’s one recurring flaw in Marvel’s cinematic projects, it may just be that powers are too often defined loosely and conveniently. Strength and powers tend to meet or exceed their limits only as dictated by the needs of the story.

For instance, Iron Man’s suit can withstand incredible force, but it proves to be no match for the Hulk; Captain America’s shield is indestructible but suddenly gets scratched and scuffed up when the character needs to appear battle-worn; the abilities of Thor’s hammer seem to change each time he throws it. This time around, it would be nice to see a source of power—evidently, an ancient bracelet—used within clear limitations. We should know how, when, and to what extent Harry can use it.

4. Appropriate hobbies

Nesbitt’s character is meant to be a gambler, though presumably once he learns to control his own luck he’ll make what money he needs and focus on his detective/hero work. But the foundation of a superhero character as a fortune-seeking gambler is an interesting one, so it would be nice to see this aspect of the character continue to exist throughout the show. Furthermore, this is an increasingly easy hobby to work into a show.

Even if an ordinary casino might not be a fitting environment for a detective, the popular online casino market is an option, and has yet to be covered in satisfying detail in fiction. At this site, a player (Nesbitt, perhaps?) can jump into pretty much any game that exists at a real casino, playing with real money against actual opponents. There are even live dealers who work through the site to control games. Seeing Nesbitt’s character spending his free time holed up in an apartment with a hobby like this would be an interesting twist away from the standard bottle of scotch or home workout routine.

5. A lone-wolf hero

Finally, let’s hope this is a one-off, lone-wolf hero rather than yet another addition to the massive universe of Marvel film and television content. It’s widely expected that even the characters from the recent Netflix shows added to Marvel’s empire will ultimately be brought into the films. Lucky Man certainly seems different, largely because it’s not being produced by Marvel. However, it’s not a huge reach to imagine that it could be welcomed into the fold if it’s successful. Instead, it might be nice to see this one run its own course.

Any way you cut it, Lucky Man is certainly intriguing. Let’s hope it winds up being just the latest work of genius from the now 93-year-old Stan Lee.

Lucky Man is on Sky1 on Fridays at 9pm

Stan Lee’s Lucky Man, Sky1, James Nesbitt

James Nesbitt as DI Harry Clayton and Sienna Guillory as Eve in Stan Lee's Lucky Man (an original British drama for SKY 1) Episode One Photographer: Steffan Hill / © 2015 Carnival Films

The chips are down, bit not for long: James Nesbitt as DI Harry Clayton and Sienna Guillory as Eve

Cop show with a supernatural twist from the creator of Spider-Man

★★★½ Sky1, Fridays 9pm (starts 22 January)

COMIC-BOOK genius Stan Lee – Hulk, Spider-Man, Thor and other Marvels – has teamed up with Sky1 for his first TV drama. It’s a detective story and the result is typically far-fetched and fast-paced.

Troubled London detective Harry Clayton is addicted to gambling, but his life takes a wild turn when he is given a bracelet that endows him with luck. What at first appears to be a brilliant change of fortune is soon revealed to be a double-edged blessing.

Stan Lee's Lucky Man, with James Nesbitt, Sky1

Run of luck: James Nesbitt as Harry

Lee, the 93-year-old writer-editor-pubisher, says of the show: ‘People always ask me what superpower I would have, or what power there is that I haven’t already given to a hero. I have always thought that luck would probably be the greatest power of all. We decided that a man, our modern-day hero, receiving a certain type of luck would make an interesting show.’

Eve Best and Sienna Guillory

So, has Sky1 hit the jackpot with this high-concept 10-parter?

It’s good fun, with plenty of action and intrigue. The channel has also provided a pretty decent cast, with James Nesbitt as Clayton, Eve Best as his barrister wife and Sienna Guillory as the mysterious Eve, who locks the charmed bracelet to Harry’s wrist during a one-night stand.

Eve Best as Anna Clayton in Stan Lee's Lucky Man (an original British drama for SKY 1) Episode One Photographer: Liam Daniel / © 2015 Carnival Films

Harry’s loss: Eve Best as Anna Clayton

Steven Mackintosh plays Harry’s fierce new boss, with Darren Boyd as his troublesome colleague and Omid Djalili turning up as a strip-club owner. There’s even a cameo from Stan the Man.

While the plot ticks over with an investigation into the murder of a casino owner and a stripper, the meat of it is Harry and his messed up life. He’s separated from his wife because of his gambling, but he still loves her and his daughter. Meanwhile, he discovers that some fairly ruthless people want his bracelet.

[Read more…]

2016’s New TV crime series

HERE’S our annual selection of the best new crime series and thrillers heading to a screen near you in 2016…

ITV's Marcella, with Anna Friel

Anna Friel at a read-through for Marcella

Marcella

ITV, 2016
Anna Friel, Laura Carmichael, Nicola Pinnock, Ian Puleston-Davies, Nina Sosanya, Ray Panthaki, Jamie Bamber, Patrick Baladi, Harry Lloyd
THIS ORIGINAL, multi-stranded eight-parter is, intriguingly, written by the man who created BBC4’s The Bridge, Hans Rosenfeldt, his first series exclusively created for the UK. ITV rather unoriginally describe it as ‘Scandinavian noir on the streets of Britain’, but given Rosenfeldt’s ability to conjure up distinctive, fresh characters and off-kilter mysteries, this could be a bit special. The story is about a detective returning to the Met’s Murder Squad after a 12-year career break. Marcella is in her late 30s and had previously given up her fast-tracked role to marry and devote her life to starting a family.  With the abrupt end to her marriage to Jason, and isolated from her daughter at boarding school, Marcella returns to work. By coincidence a spate of recent killings have occurred that bear the hallmarks of unsolved murders committed over a decade ago. Marcella is immediately assigned to the case she first worked on in 2003…
Anticipation factor: ★★★★★

 

Sherlock, BBC1, Dr John Watson (MARTIN FREEMAN), Sherlock Holmes (BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH) - (C) Hartswood Films - Photographer: Robert Viglasky

Stepping back in time: Watson (Martin Freeman) and Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch)

Sherlock – The Abominable Bride

BBC1, 1 January 2016
Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Natasha O’Keeffe

Sherlock: The Abominable Bride (No. 1) - Picture Shows: The Bride (NATASHA OKEEFFE) - (C) Hartswood Films - Photographer: Robert Viglasky

Bridezilla? Natasha O’Keeffe as the Bride

IT WOULD appear that Steven Moffat, boss of Doctor Who and Sherlock, has got his shows mixed up because his modern take on Sherlock Holmes has done a bit of time travelling himself and slipped – via the TARDIS? – back into the Victorian period. This is after he and co-writer Mark Gatiss have gone to all the trouble of updating everyone’s favourite consulting sleuth. That’s right, it’s all steam trains, hansom cabs, top hats and frock coats. There even seems to be a ghostly Christmas Carol flavour to the tale. Inspired by the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Moffat and Gatiss have conjured a mystery about a character called Thomas Ricoletti. This chap is a little surprised to see his wife dressed in her old wedding gown. Why? Because, just a few hours before, she took her own life… Mrs Ricoletti’s ghost now appears to be prowling the streets with an unslakeable thirst for revenge. It all sounds a little madcap, but if past form is anything to go by, this New Year’s Day special should be popping with wit and intrigue.
Anticipation factor: ★★★★★

 

The Five

Sky 1, 2016
Tom Cullen, O-T Fagbenle, Lee Ingleby, Sarah Solemani
THIS HAS to be near the top of our list on the basis that it is written by one of the world’s best thriller authors, Harlan Coben. It’s a 10-part thriller about the consequences of a terrible childhood incident for a group of friends. The series is Harlan Coben’s first original series for television. BAFTA-winner Danny Brocklehurst (Shameless, Clocking Off) has been working alongside Harlan as lead writer on the drama.
Anticipation factor: ★★★★★

 

Dark Angel

ITV, 2016
Joanne Froggatt, Alun Armstrong, Jonas Armstrong, Laura Morgan, Sam Hoare, Emma Fielding, Penny Layden
DARK ANGEL also looks intriguing. It is based on the true story of Victorian poisoner Mary Ann Cotton, played by Downton Abbey’s Joanne Froggatt. We meet Mary Ann as a loving wife and mother, newly returned to her native North East of England. But faced with poverty and an ailing husband, we see how ruthlessly determined she is to pursue a better life… Mary Ann is a serial killer, a poisoner whose methods leave no visible scars, allowing her tally of victims to mount unsuspected by a Victorian society unable to conceive a woman capable of such terrible crimes. She insinuates herself into unsuspecting families, marrying and creating new families of her own – before killing them, taking their money and moving on. Through adultery, bigamy, fraud and murder, Mary Ann betters herself socially and financially. But the more she kills, the greater the risk that her crimes will finally be exposed.
Anticipation factor: ★★★★★

 

Maigret, ITV

ITV, 2016
Rowan Atkinson

ITV has commenced filming Maigret Sets A Trap one of two stand-alone dramatic films featuring the legendary French fictional detective Jules Maigret, played by Rowan Atkinson. This image is the copyright of ITV and must be used in relation to Maigret. Photographer John Rogers.

Pipe dream? Rowan Atkinson takes on Jules Maigret

THE LEGENDARY French fictional detective Jules Maigret, is to be played by Rowan Atkinson in two standalone films. Set in the 1950s Paris, the first of the two x 120min films, Maigret Sets a Trap and Maigret’s Dead Man, went into production in September 2015. It has been written by Stewart Harcourt (Love & Marriage, Treasure Island, Marple). The big question is, will Rowan Atkinson pull off a decent portrayal of the detective, whose devotees have as strong opinions over the character as do those of Sherlock Holmes or Poirot. With his laconic manner, heavy coat and trademark pipe, the formidable Jules Maigret first appeared in print in 1931. Georges Simenon, who wrote 75 Maigret novels, is considered one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, selling around a billion books worldwide to date. So, there will be plenty of mileage in a series if ITV and Atkinson get this right. Maigret Sets a Trap is adapted from the Simenon novel Maigret tend un piège. The second film, Maigret’s Dead Man, is based on Maigret et son mort. Renowned actor and comedian Rowan Atkinson, who is best known for portraying iconic characters such as Johnny English, Blackadder and Mr Bean, said: ‘I have been a devourer of the Maigret novels for many years and I’m very much looking forward to playing such an intriguing character, at work in Paris during a fascinating period in its history.’
Anticipation factor: ★★★★★

 

McMafia

BBC1, 2016
Cast to be announced
BBC1 IS TURNING non-fiction author Misha Glenny’s 2008 bestseller McMafia into an epic drama series set in the international world of organised crime. Reports say it is a tale set within a Russian family living in exile in London that throws open the doors of the complex world of organised crime, created and written by award-winning screenwriter and film director Hossein Amini (Drive, The Wings of the Dove, Snow White and the Huntsman,) and James Watkins (The Woman in Black, Eden Lake, Bastille Day). Author Misha Glenny says: ‘I am a huge fan of The Godfather, The Sopranos and, more recently Narcos. Hoss and James’s brilliant reworking of McMafia takes this tradition onto a global canvas by revealing the immense possibilities open to an ambitious Russian crime family in an interconnected world.’ This seems to be part of a trend for the telling of epic, broad-ranging and intelligent crime stories following on from Netflix’s Narcos and Sky Atlantic’s The Last Panthers, both of which set the bar high for such series.
Anticipation factor: ★★★★

 

Scott & Bailey

ITV, 2016
Suranne Jones, Lesley Sharp, Sally Lindsay
THIS TERRIFIC drama has won a loyal following and will be keenly anticipated. ITV has commissioned a three-part special series this time featuring a single crime story. The format will allow the story to unfold with scale and ambition as Scott & Bailey tackle one of the darkest cases they have ever had to face – and that’s saying something as some of their previous investigations have been particularly chilling. Both Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharp return to the roles of super cool Scott and her hotheaded partner DS Bailey, the crime-fighting partnership forged over four previous series following the drama’s successful critical and ratings launch in 2011. Rachel (Suranne Jones) returns from her Vice secondment fired up and full of new ideas. She’s gained valuable experience and wants to make her mark as she returns to Syndicate 9’s Murder Squad. She is exactly who Janet (Lesley Sharp) and the team need to move forward with a terrifying and sinister Internet crime investigation of epic scale and unrelenting horror…
Anticipation factor: ★★★★

 

Tennison

ITV, 2016
Cast to be announced
SHE’S BACK! Tennison, the prequel to Prime Suspect, has been commissioned by ITV, who describe it as ‘much anticipated’. It’s probably less a case of ‘much anticipated’ and more like fingers crossed, because these prequels/sequels/reboots can be terrible. Much will depend on the casting (Helen Mirren, of course, will not be playing her younger self) and how inspired acclaimed writer Lynda La Plante is in reimagining her superb creation. Despite her terrific track record (Widows, Trial and Retribution etc), she’s not infallible. The recent Above Suspicion was implausible and fell flat with audiences. The new 6 x 60-minute series will portray the young Jane Tennison at the beginning her career, revealing why she became such a complex and formidable character in the Metropolitan Police. It’s Hackney in the 1970s, and women police constables are being uneasily ‘integrated’ into the force. We’re introduced to 22-year-old Jane, a probationary officer in a world where high-ranking police officers were notoriously chauvinistic, and the rules and regulations often bent. The drama will broadcast in 2016 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the first Prime Suspect series screening in 1991. Seven series followed and the character of Tennison became well known and loved around the world.
Anticipation factor: ★★★

Endeavour 3, ITV, Roger Allam and Shaun Evans

Ready for the Summer of Love? Thursday (Roger Allam) and Endeavour (Shaun Evans)

Endeavour III

ITV, Sunday, 3 January, 8pm
Shaun Evans, Roger Allam, Jack Laskey, Sean Rigby, Anton Lesser, James Bradshaw, Abigail Thaw
THE Inspector Morse prequel will comprise 4 x 120-minute films and will once again be written by Lewis and Endeavour creator and Inspector Morse writer Russell Lewis. Author Colin Dexter, whose first Morse story was published in 1975, continues his association with the drama, acting as a consultant. Falsely accused Endeavour Morse (Shaun Evans) was last seen isolated and alone languishing in prison, framed for the murder of Chief Constable Rupert Standish. Endeavour is one of the more intelligent crime dramas around, taking a considered look at its 1960s setting, rather than just using it for nostalgia. Set in 1967, three months after Donald Campbell’s ill-fated attempt to break the 300-mile speed barrier on water, the first of the new stories follows the murder of bus conductress Jeannie Hearne on the night she visited the local fairground. It’s the Summer of Love, but for Endeavour it will be a life-changing period, ‘perhaps the end of the beginning.’
Anticipation factor: ★★★

[Read more…]

Crime series rule at 2015’s Baftas

Happy Valley series 1 BBC1

Siobhan Finneran and Sarah Lancashire in Happy Valley

CRIME certainly pays on TV. Mysteries and thrillers dominate this year’s Bafta nominations, with Happy Valley, Line of Duty, The Missing, Peaky Blinders, Sherlock and The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies all featuring.

These were all engrossing, first-class dramas, with some of the actors involved giving the performances of their lives. Keeley Hawes and Sarah Lancashire were simply superb in Line of Duty – which was better in its second series – and Happy Valley, and both are nominated. Georgina Campbell also put in a stand-out performance in BBC3’s Murdered by My Boyfriend.

Benedict Cumberbatch will hope it is fifth-time lucky at Bafta as he steps onto the red carpet again for his performance as Sherlock. The BBC1 modern reboot of the consulting detective is a dazzlingly good drama, though not nominated this time. Cumberbatch is in the running, however, but he faces formidable competition from nominees James Nesbitt – another lifetime-best performance for The Missing – Toby Jones (Marvellous) and Jason Watkins (The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies).

The Missing series 1 BBC1

James Nesbitt in The Missing

Choosing the ‘best’ is a thankless task, but my personal faves this year are Sarah Lancashire (by a whisker over Keeley Hawes), James Nesbitt – an actor I don’t usually warm to, but this was a brave performance. Then there’s Ken Stott for the same reason in The Missing, and perhaps Charlotte Spencer for Glue.

I also thoroughly enjoyed Peaky Blinders, and in the International category I would probably go for True Detective, though I am slightly addicted to The Good Wife.

Who do you think should win? Post your comments above…

DRAMA SERIES

HAPPY VALLEY Sally Wainwright, Karen Lewis, Euros Lyn, Nicola Shindler, Red Production Company/BBC One; LINE OF DUTY Jed Mercurio, Simon Heath, Peter Norris, Douglas Mackinnon, World Productions/BBC Two; THE MISSING Charlie Pattinson, Willow Grylls, Jack Williams, Harry Williams, New Pictures/BBC One; PEAKY BLINDERS Production Team – Caryn Mandabach Productions/Tiger Aspect Productions/BBC Two

LEADING ACTOR

BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH Sherlock, BBC One; TOBY JONES Marvellous, BBC Two; JAMES NESBITT The Missing, BBC One JASON WATKINS The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies ITV

LEADING ACTRESS

Keeley Hawes in Line of Duty 2

Keeley Hawes in Line of Duty 2

GEORGINA CAMPBELL Murdered by My Boyfriend, BBC Three; KEELEY HAWES Line of Duty, BBC Two; SARAH LANCASHIRE Happy Valley, BBC One; SHERIDAN SMITH Cilla, ITV

SUPPORTING ACTOR

ADEEL AKHTAR Utopia – Channel 4 JAMES NORTON Happy Valley, BBC One; STEPHEN REA The Honourable Woman, BBC Two; KEN STOTT The Missing – BBC One

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

GEMMA JONES Marvellous, BBC Two; VICKY MCCLURE Line of Duty, BBC Two; AMANDA REDMAN Tommy Cooper: Not like That, Like This, ITV; CHARLOTTE SPENCER Glue, E4

SINGLE DRAMA

A POET IN NEW YORK Aisling Walsh, Ruth Caleb, Andrew Davies, Griff Rhys Jones, Modern Television/BBC Two; COMMON Jimmy McGovern, David Blair, Colin McKeown, Donna Molloy, LA Productions/BBC One; MARVELLOUS Peter Bowker, Julian Farino, Katie Swinden, Patrick Spence, Fifty Fathoms/BBC Two; MURDERED BY MY BOYFRIEND Pier Wilkie, Regina Moriarty, Paul Andrew Williams, Darren Kemp – BBC/BBC Three

MINI-SERIES

Jason Watkins in The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies

Jason Watkins in The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies

CILLA Jeff Pope, Paul Whittington, Kwadjo Dajan, Robert Willis, ITV Studios/GroupM Entertainment/ITV; THE LOST HONOUR OF CHRISTOPHER JEFFERIES Gareth Neame, Peter Morgan, Roger Michell, Kevin Loader, Carnival Film & Television/ITV; OUR WORLD WAR Production Team – BBC Factual/BBC Three PREY Chris Lunt, Nicola Shindler, Tom Sherry, Nick Murphy, Red Production Company/ITV

INTERNATIONAL

THE GOOD WIFE CBS Television Studios in assoc. with Scott Free/King Size Prods/More4; HOUSE OF CARDS Beau Willimon, David Fincher, Joshua Donen, Kevin Spacey – Donen/Fincher/Roth and Trigger Street Productions, Inc. in assoc. with Media Rights Capital/Netflix; ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK Jenji Kohan, Lisa I.Vinnecour, Sara Hess, Sian Heder – Lionsgate Television/Netflix; TRUE DETECTIVE Nic Pizzolatto, Cary Joji Fukunaga, Scott Stephens, Steve Golin – HBO Entertainment in assoc. with Neon Black, Anonymous Content, Parliament of Owls and Passenger/ Sky Atlantic

Babylon, C4, James Nesbitt, Brit Marling PREVIEW


Rating: ★★★½

Channel 4: starts Thursday, 13 November, 10pm

Story: Director of Communications Liz Garvey begins in earnest the job of trying to drag the police into the new media age. Meanwhile, it’s the job of Commissioner Richard Miller, Deputy Commissioner Charles Inglis and Assistant Commissioner Sharon Franklin to keep the force ticking over. 

FOLLOWING its well-received pilot episode back in February, Babylon is back on the beat for a six-part run of law and disorder.

It’s firmly in the realm of the Beeb’s nice little dig at the London Olympics in Twenty Twelve, poking fun at modern marketing speak and corporate arse-covering, rather than being a biting satire about the Metropolitan Police.

Let’s face it, the Met, with its rap sheet of controversies over Stephen Lawrence, the undercover surveillance, Hackgate and the rest, is hardly a laughing matter.

Brit Marling as Liz

So, Babylon – exec-produced by Danny Boyle – has fun with the media and management side of the

force, starting with American media guru Liz Garvey (Brit Marling) and the floundering honchos Commissioner Miller (James Nesbitt, a long way from Missing here), his deputy, Inglis (Paterson Joseph), and assistant Franklin (Nicola Walker).

And here is one of the strengths of the show – the cast are fun to watch, particularly Nicola Walker as the eye-rolling assistant commissioner, dealing with incompetence from above, below and from the private sector.

The opening episode sees her officers called in to help the private security firm running a young offenders institution when violence breaks out. Meanwhile, Paterson Joseph’s deputy commissioner is busy trying to work out whether to tell the world the incident is a disturbance, a severe disturbance or a riot.

Video of Warwick shooting an unarmed assailant 

Writers Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong delight in showing us this world in which police high-flyers

are more concerned with appearances than getting things done.

Brit Marling is also a great spanner in the works as Liz, trying to get her boss Commissioner Miller to be a little less passive-aggressive in his dealings with the media, while also boring her female colleagues stupid in the wine bar after work by banging on about the Met’s ‘brand’.

The lower ranks also have to deal with her new ideas. Armed response office Warwick’s nerves are shredded when she releases footage of him shooting an unarmed assailant in a show of openness from the Met – the public think we’re all ‘trigger-happy meatheads’.

Er, no comment.

Follow @crimetimeprev

The Missing, BBC1, with James Nesbitt, Frances O’Connor, Tcheky Karyo PREVIEW

Tony (JAMES NESBITT) in The Missing
Stranded – Tony’s life is shattered by his son’s disappearance. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★★

BBC1: starts Tuesday, 28 October, 9pm

Story: Tony and Emily Hughes’ life changes forever when their five year-old son Oliver goes missing on a family holiday to France.

IT’S SAID THAT CRIME DRAMAS are a way for viewers to confront the nasty, violent side of life from the safety of their sofas. Well, The Missing is different. It confronts you with something more haunting – a living nightmare.

Because this tale of child abduction is so truthfully and simply told, it is much more affecting than run-of-the-mill murder and mayhem tales can ever be.

James Nesbitt ditches the smarmy and cheeky side of his repertoire to offer a powerful portrayal of a man none of us wants to be – the parent who loses his five-year-old son.

A normal holiday turned nightmare

He plays Tony, a normal, hard-working guy on his hols in France with wife Emily and little Oliver.

Tony (James Nesbitt) and Oliver (Oliver Hunt)
When everything was normal – Tony with Oliver

When his car breaks down they stop in Chalons du Bois and put up in a little hotel while the vehicle is repaired.

France is gripped by a big soccer tournament featuring their team. After taking Oliver for a swim, Tony and the boy go to a resort bar that is packed with football-enthralled locals. When he turns round, Oliver is gone. While everyone is celebrating the big match, Tony charges around in a mounting panic.

This eight-parter swings the narrative between this traumatic moment and events eight years later, when Tony and Emily have split. Continued…

Heartbreaking drama

Tony has gone off the rails, obsessed that Oliver is still alive, stalking the streets of Chalon du Bois

Emily (Frances O'Connor) in The Missing
Emily has tried to rebuild her life

grabbing people in the street for news of his boy. Emily, now settled with the UK police liaison officer assigned to their case, appears to have adjusted, but she is merely covering up how damaging the memories of her son still are to her.

It’s a heartbreaking drama, built on small details that make the story grounded in real life and painful. The parents are not perfect. Tony is hitting the booze and has become an outcast in this forlorn quest.

If this all seems to echo real-life tragedies involving stolen children, such as Madeleine McCann, then that impression is reinforced when Tony is told in France that his presence is making people ‘uncomfortable’.

Retired French detective

Tony’s torment is heightened because he is given hope. He has found a recent photo of another boy,

Tcheky Karyo plays Julien in The Missing BBC
Retired detective Julien

a tourist’s son, in Chalon du Bois wearing Oliver’s initialled yellow scarf. Tony appeals to the retired detective who initially ran the investigation, Julien Baptiste, now retired, to help him.

Reluctantly, Baptiste quietly returns to the town and starts snooping. By the end of the opener, he and Tony are making disturbing progress.

Written by Harry and Jack Williams, The Missing is an engrossing story that definitely begs the awful question in the viewer of how they would behave in these circumstances. It is an honest attempt to look at a frightening crime against a family.

James Nesbitt is compelling as Tony

Interviewed in the weekend’s Observer, Nesbitt says this is the most challenging role he’s had since Bloody Sunday, and he rises to it well.

James Nesbitt as Tony in The Missing BBC
Tony looks for Oliver during the celebrations

He also says: ‘We are becoming inured to the horror of a lot of these [crime] shows, so whether it will be too much for viewers is an interesting question. I believe if these stories are told truthfully, then audiences will go there.’

Personally, I put off watching this for more than a week. There was always something less traumatic around to watch. But having seen it now, I would say it’s a wonderfully understated drama that is moving and gripping.

Cast: James Nesbitt Tony, Frances O’Connor Emily, Tcheky Karyo Julien, Oliver Hunt Oliver

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