A Touch of Cloth 3, Sky1, John Hannah, Suranne Jones, Karen Gillan PREVIEW

Guilty party – Cloth and the gang. Pics: Sky1

Rating: ★★★½

Sky1: starts Saturday, 9 August, 9pm

Story: It took DCI Jack Cloth a while to come to terms with his wife’s murder – he barely remembers her name these days – and now he’s hit with the news that his brother, Terry, has been killed.

A TOUCH OF CLOTH has everything you could want from a gritty crime drama – tortured maverick cop, gruesome forensics, twisting plot. And a town called Funtcuck.

Charlie Brooker’s criminally stupid piss-take returns to truncheon the genre into submission again with ridiculous cases, silly gags and wickedly straight performances.

Subtle and suave it ain’t – more a shotgun blast of every cop procedural cliche and suspect gag the writers could round up.

Too Cloth for Comfort

Cloth finds his long lost brother

Many jokes escape without detection, but a lot are guilty of inducing a spluttered chortle – and then making you feel guilty that you could be so puerile.

Crime shows are this site’s bread and butter, of course, but even we think there are an awful lot of rubbish cop series around. You know the ones – grumpy detective with a sidekick, silly tracking shots, wild deductions that solve the crime, forensic nonsense, ham-fisted plot recaps.

All these get worked over in this two-parter, Too Cloth for Comfort, along with some other well-deserving targets (Piers Morgan in particular).

Karen Gillan as Kerry Newblood

John Hannah and Suranne Jones as DCI John Cloth and DI Anne Oldman (pronounced Old-Man, of course) both do a fine job of snitching on the conventions of the straight cop beats they’ve worked in recent years. Hannah was seen recently in ITV’s The Widower and Rebus before that, and Jones will soon be back in the excellent Scott & Bailey.

Doctor Who‘s ex Karen Gillan joins the carry-on as new recruit Kerry Newblood (see what I mean about unsubtle).

‘Welcome to the rest of your life, welcome to hell,’ the hardbitten Cloth tells her.

And Adrian Dunbar – a refugee from another cop series, Line of Duty – also turns up as a suspect.

Danes and pathology

Oldman (Suranne Jones) and Newblood (Karen Gillan)

The plot? Cloth’s brother is found murdered in a forest. But that’s just an excuse for lines such as, ‘He was the best lover I ever had – until it went pair-shaped.’ Or some very sharp scenes in a country pub in Funtcuck and the pathologist’s mortuary.

The crime genre badly needs cleaning up, and it’s good to Jack Cloth and his squad of cliche-busters are back on the scene.

Cast: John Hannah DCI Jack Cloth, Suranne Jones DI Anne Oldman, Julian Rhind-Tutt ACC Tom Boss, Navin Chowdhry DC Asap Qureshi, Adrian Bower DC Des Hairihan, Daisy Beaumont Dr Natasha Sachet, Karen Gillan Kerry Newblood, Adrian Dunbar Damien Vull

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A Touch of Cloth on Sky1

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A Touch of Cloth II, Sky1, with John Hannah, Suranne Jones, Anna Chancellor, Stephen Dillane PREVIEW

A Touch of Cloth Series 2.Episode Number and Name..NAvin Chowdhry, Adrian Bowher, John Hannah, Suranne Jones & Julian Rhind-Tutt...© Endemol UK LTD.
Cop this – Navin Chowdhry, Adrian Bowher, John Hannah, Suranne Jones and Julian Rhind-Tutt. Pic: BSkyB

Rating: ★★★★

Sky1: start Sunday, 25 August, 9pm

Story: Cloth is done. The brilliant but tortured detective has quit the force, never to return, completely out of the game. Well, until a bank robbery-gone-wrong brings him back into play.

IT WILL BE HARD for British TV to dream up another series about an embittered, hard-drinking maverick detective after Cloth. This goes into every crack of the hackneyed cop procedural genre and wipes the cliches off with aplomb.

Charlie Brooker and co-writers Jason Hazeley, Joel Morris and Ben Caudell have brought back their

A Touch of Cloth Series 2.Episode Number and Name..Macratty (Stephen Dillan) and Jill Titts (Susy Kane)..© Endemol UK LTD.
Jill Titts (Susy Kane) and Macratty (Stephen Dillan) 

wacky lone-wolf cop for a second series, and once again a terrific cast keeps a straight face while playing silly buggers with our most revered TV archetype.

Predatory lesbian and a whisky optic

How John Hannah as Cloth and Suranne Jones as his partner Oldman (pronounced Old-man) keep a straight face is a model of disciplined acting in the face of terrible provocation (though the out-takes must be interesting).

They’re joined by Julian Rhind-Tutt as senior cop Tom Boss (‘I want them caught and caught hard’), with Anna Chancellor in fruity form as predatory lesbian and mayoral candidate Hope Goodgirl, along with Game of Thrones‘ Stephen Dillane as gangster Macratty.

Cloth, of course, has left the force after his boss, Tom Boss, killed his wife, and he is now driving a taxi, which is fitted out with a whisky optic on the front dash board for the drowning of sorrows and bitterness. That is until a bank robbery results in the death of former EastEnder-turned-cop Todd Carty, and Cloth makes a comeback.

Policing on the edge

‘Jack, don’t forget which side you’re on,’ says Old-man.

A Touch of Cloth Series 2.Episode Number and Name..Todd Carty 2...© Endemol UK LTD.
Todd Carty to the rescue

‘I’m not on a side,’ Cloth replies. ‘I’m on the edge.’

Smutty, silly, and full of sight gags, A Touch of Cloth gives the cop-show cliches a good truncheon battering. And while not every joke hits home, the laughs out-weigh the duds.

‘You can tell your grandkids about this,’ a bank robber says to a bank customer whom he is holding hostage.

‘I’m gay,’ says the hostage.

‘Well… you can turn it into a musical.’

Cast: John Hannah DI Jack Cloth, Suranne Jones DI Anne Oldman, Navin Chowdhry DC Asap Qureshi, Adrian Bower DC Des Hairihan, Julian Rhind-Tutt ACC Tom Boss, Daisy Beaumont Dr Natasha Suchet, Anna Chancellor Hope Goodgirl, Stephen Dillane Macratty, Todd Carty Todd Carty

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The Lady Vanishes BBC1, with Tuppence Middleton, Tom Hughes PREVIEW

Iris Carr (TUPPENCE MIDDLETON), Max (TOM HUGHES) in The Lady Vanishes, BBC
Going loco? Iris (Tuppence Middleton) and Max (Tom Hughes). Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★½

BBC1: Sunday, 17 March, 8.30pm

Story: Wealthy young socialite Iris Carr breaks off from a holiday with friends in the Balkans and decides to return home on her own. Having collapsed with what appears to be sunstroke at a train station, she is then befriended and helped by kindly governess Miss Froy. However, when Miss Froy disappears from their carriage, all the other passengers insist there was no Miss Froy on the train and that Iris must have imagined her…

Does anyone read Ethel Lina White’s crime novels these days? She was popular during the 1930s, and three of her books were made into films, two largely forgotten (The Spiral Staircase, 1975, and The Unseen, 1945), while the third, The Wheel Spins, became Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes (1938).

The tale of jolly spiffing Brits abroad in a Croatia full of shifty foreigners where a young socialite gets caught up in a dastardly plot is terribly, terribly old-fashioned, but the project clearly has two big pluses for BBC bosses. It’s a period piece and TV adores period dramas (Father Brown, Marple, Downton Abbey etc). And it’s got shades of Hitchcock, with the Master of Suspense being everywhere just now, from tales of his lustful abuse (BBC2s The Girl) to the making of Psycho (Anthony Hopkins in Hitchcock).

Miss Froy (SELINA CADELL), Iris Carr (TUPPENCE MIDDLETON) in The Lady Vanishes, BBC
The mysterious Miss Froy and Iris

Tuppence Middleton as Iris
This new version is not a remake of the film, of course, which would be suicidal, particularly as the original – clunky as it may be – is still cited by authorities such as critic Philip French as a favourite comic thriller.

Newcomer Tuppence Middleton and Tom Hughes step into the shoes of Margaret Lockwood and a bow-tied Michael Redgrave in a return to original novel, which drops Hitchcock’s light-hearted comic touch and the espionage angle, for an attempt to recapture something of the book’s nightmarish premise of a young woman whose sanity is called into question.

Middleton shows some star quality as the spoilt, headstrong socialite Iris Carr, who decides to return home to Blighty after getting sick of her frivolous set of chums while on holiday. She has what seems to be an attack of sunstroke while waiting for the train to Trieste.

Laura Parmiter (KEELEY HAWES) in the BBC's The Lady Vanishes
Laid back, but does ‘Mrs Todhunter’ have something to hide?

Miss Froy – a figment of Iris’s imagination?
An English governess befriends and helps Iris on the train, but Iris is still too nauseous to pay much attention to Miss Froy (Selina Cadell). So when Miss Froy tells Iris that she thought she had seen the brother of her employer the baroness – a sighting that might puncture his alibi for murder – Iris hardly takes the news in.

On waking from a nap, however, Iris is alarmed to discover that Miss Froy has vanished from her carriage, and the train’s other occupants, including the baroness and a creepy doctor, all claim there was never a Miss Froy on the train. It was all in Iris’s imagination.

A professor from England and his student, a dashing Tom Hughes, assist Iris by using their knowledge of the local language to quiz the travellers, but they too find Iris’s story hard to credit.

Hitchcock cameo

The Doctor (JESPER CHRISTENSEN) in the BBC's The Lady Vanishes
What’s up, doc? He suggests Iris be put in a hospital

Director Diarmuid Lawrence films this story of paranoia with flair, his camera roving round the train, and he apparently makes a Hitchcockian cameo appearance as ‘disapproving man’. The cast is also pitch perfect, with Keeley Hawes and Julian Rhind-Tutt playing an adulterous couple, and Gemma Jones and Stephanie Cole a disapproving and prim pair of snooty sisters on holiday.

Alex Jennings good as the exasperated professor, and Benedikte Hansen (who fans of Borgen will know) is a fine villain as the sinister Baroness.

Remaking well-like classic films usually results in a train wreck of a drama, failing miserably to capture any of the original’s magic, but this new Lady Vanishes is atmospheric, pretty enjoyable and succeeds on its own merits.

Cast: Tuppence Middleton Iris Carr, Benedikte Hansen The Baroness, Selina Cadell Miss Froy, Tom Hughes Max Hare, Alex Jennings The Professor, Julian Rhind-Tutt Mr Todhunter/Sir Peveril, Keeley Hawes Mrs Todhunter/Laura Parmiter, Pip Torrens Reverend Kenneth Barnes, Sandy McDade Mrs Barnes, Gemma Jones Rose Flood-Porter, Stephanie Cole Evelyn Flood-Porter, Jesper Christensen The Doctor

Read on:

BBC clips and interviews from The Lady Vanishes

Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes on YouTube

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