True Detective 2, Sky Atlantic, Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams

They’re mean, have unhealthy addictions and they’re scary – and that’s just the cops in the all-new True Detective

True Detective, Series 2, Sky Atlantic Key Art

True Detective, Series 2, Sky Atlantic

★★Sky Atlantic, starts Monday, 22 June, 9pm

SO, AS EXPECTED, it’s all change in True Detective. No more Woody Harrelson, Matthew McConaughey or director Cary Joji Fukunaga framing his unsettling bayou backwaters.

Showrunner Nic Pizzolatto is back, however, and the big question for anyone who was transfixed and disturbed by series one is, how will the wholly made-over crime drama match-up?

The first episode is complex, introducing many new faces in a rush. We have Colin Farrell as cop-on-edge Ray Velcoro, who is in debt to criminal Frank Semyon, played by Vince Vaughn.

Rachel McAdams and Taylor Kitsch

Rachel McAdams is Ani Bezzerides, a dedicated detective with screwed-up personal life. And the cop triumvirate is completed by Taylor Kitsch as highway patrolman Paul Woodrugh, whose problems range from erectile dysfunction to a suicidal motorcycling habit.

Oh, and Brit actress Kelly Reilly turns up as Frank Semyon’s wife, Jordan, no doubt relieved to have escaped ITV’s rather dull Above Suspicion.

The clever shifting time frames of series one are also gone, no doubt because so many characters need an overall linear storyline. This time it hangs on the construction of a new rail line and the incumbent corruption that goes with it.

A town called Vinci

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Colin Farrell as Velcoro

The gothic mood of series one is replaced by Californian sprawl centred on an ugly place called Vinci, an industrial hell of cement mixers and factories, the biggest polluter in the state. As one character says, ‘What the fuck is Vinci?’ To which Ray Velcoro replies, ‘City, supposedly.’

You could probably devote the whole series to Velcoro, Bezzerides or Woodrugh, such is the airport-carousel of baggage each one is carrying. We first encounter Velcoro, who, naturally, is separated from his wife, as he tries to cheer his chubby son outside the school gates. When he later learns that the boy has been bullied, the fallout for the bully and his father at the hands of the flaky cop is chilling to behold.

As Velcoro sees it, ‘Sometimes a beating promotes personal growth.’

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CrimeZapper – True Detective 2, Lewis 9, Prey 2

• The4260176028_720a752904_o trailer for True Detective 2 – below – tells us one thing we already knew – it’s going to be very different from the superb first season with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. But Colin Farrell is certainly up to playing Ray Velcoro, its compromised detective in the industrial city of Vinci, LA County. You may also spot Kelly Reilly in there, having escaped for the moment from the uninspiring ITV-Lynda La Plante series Above Suspicion. She’s playing the morally compromised wife of Vince Vaughn‘s character Frank Semyon, a criminal – which should be interesting casting. The good news is that novelist Nic Pizzolatto, who created and wrote the dense, gripping first series, is back, with Justin Lin (Star Trek 3) directing eps 1 and 2. Goes out on HBO in the US in June.

• Also returning, for some reason, is Lewis. It’s hard to get excited about this. ITV’s drama honcho Steve November says, ‘We are delighted that Kevin Whately and Laurence Fox are returning for a ninth series of LEWIS_THE_SOUL_OF_GENIUS_12Lewis. Each story is complex and intriguing and Detectives Robbie Lewis and James Hathaway are a formidable partnership much loved by ITV viewers.’ It’s true that viewers do still tune in, but the format is flat as discarded beer these days in the face of far more interesting dramas, from Happy Valley and Line of Duty to Better Call Saul and The Killing. Even Kevin Whately seems over it, telling Radio Times last September: ‘I would probably do one more. But everything has a life span and I think it’s gone on long enough. There were 33 Inspector Morse stories and we’ve now done 30 Lewis. I suppose it’s a sentimental thing but I wouldn’t want to do more Lewis than we did Morse because I do still think of it as an offshoot.’

Kitty• Some interesting predictions on which US series could be getting renewed, including my fave Better Call Saul and Wayward Pines, starring Matt Dillon and coming soon to Fox UK (preview coming right up). Check out 2015 TV – Which Shows Will Be Renewed? for a lively list, including some crime series that should make their way to Europe in coming months. American Crime got an interesting review on Den of Geek over the racial issues it raises, while CSI: Cyber, pictured, has been stirring interesting coverage Stateside about its take on the psychology of online crime.

Prey went out on ITV last year, starring John Simm as a cop on the run. It past most viewers by unnoticed, but apparently did well enough for ITV to commission a second outing of the show. No Simm this time, but Philip Glenister and Rosie Cavaliero will be starring. Glenister is a prison officer whose turn it is to go on the run…

• It’s a cracking cast for Midwinter of the Spirit, ITV’s newly ordered crime drama with a supernatural twist. Anna Maxwell-Martin plays Merrily Watkins, a vicar and exorcist, with David Threlfall – terrific in last week’s Code of a Killer – as the Rev Huw  Owen, her mentor. Based on books by Phil Rickman, Midwinter of the Spirit sees Merrily encountering the case of a horrifically murdered man, one that convinces her that satanists are behind it…

• It’s crime with a fantasy twist for Sky 1, which has allied with legendary comic-book writer Stan Lee – co-creator of the likes of Spider-Man, Hulk and many more – to produce Lucky Man. Starring James Nesbitt, Eve Best, Sienna Guillory and Darren Boyd, this is the story of DI Harry Clayton (Nesbitt), a cop from Central London’s notorious Murder Squad, who is given a charm that seems to confer upon the wearer the ability to control luck. It should be on our screens next year.

Arthur-&-George-DVD-3D• Interesting DVD releases include ITV’s Arthur & George, the fascinating story of Arthur Conan Doyle’s involvement in the case of the wrongly accused solicitor, George Edalji, who was jailed for killing farm livestock. Martin Clunes plays the creator of Sherlock Holmes in a fine adaptation of real events that were worthy of his fictional sleuth.  Also coming soon from ITV Global Entertainment will be the second series of The Doctor Blake Mysteries, the Aussie drama starring Craig McLachlan as the eponymous 1950s doc who solves mysteries. Finally, there’s a chance to step into the TV time machine and experience Saturday nights long before The X Factor. The 22nd and final series of Dixon of Dock Green is being released on DVD on 11 May. When Dixon shuffled off the schedules for the final time in 1976 the series was already a bit of an anachronism, blown away by grittier, more realistic series such as The Sweeney, and not helped by the fact that lead star Jack Warner was aged 80 when it concluded. True, Dixon by this stage was retired and working as a ‘collator’ at the East End nick, but the series was badly out of sync with the realities of policing by that time. Still, as a glimpse of a bygone era of cosy British television drama, it is captivating. Let’s just hope Kevin Whately isn’t still playing Lewis when he’s 80.

Dixon of Doc Green :Domino

Evening, all. Jack Warner, centre, and the jolly rozzers of Dock Green

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Above Suspicion: Silent Scream with Kelly Reilly PREVIEW

Too close for comfort? Anna Travis and James Langton. Pics: ITV

Rating: ★★★

ITV1, from Wednesday, 11 January, 9pm

Story: British film star Amanda Delany is murdered at home after a night shoot on a movie. Investigating detective Anna Travis is shocked to discover that behind all of Amanda’s success was a lonely, damaged and frightened young woman.

‘Silent Scream’ is the fourth Anna Travis story since 2009, based on the novels by queen of TV crime Lynda La Plante. In just a couple of years Above Suspicion has become a strong brand for ITV while remaining a pretty standard police procedural.

A murdered movie star, Amanda Delany (played by Joanna Vanderham, recently seen in Martina Cole’s The Runaway), is the victim. The episode begins, disconcertingly, with a young woman being chased through foggy Victorian London by a caped figure, before we realise this is a movie scene and the woman is an actress (Delany, as it turns out).

The victim, Amanda Delany

Promiscuity, drugs and embezzlement
Travis and the team uncover a pile of unpleasantness around Delany that has suspects queuing up like the passengers on the Orient Express. Delany had double-crossed an actress flatmate to get her breakthrough part, slept with many of her leading men, and broke up at least one of their marriages. She also had a drug habit, issues with her creepy dad, and she suspected her agent of cheating her out of money. 

Meanwhile, detective chief superintendent Langton has been stitched up, apparently by someone on his own team, in his bid to win promotion. In between barking orders at Travis and making goo-goo eyes at her, Langton wants to find out who buggered his career prospects.

‘Silent Scream’ falls a little flat because much of it doesn’t convince. Would the film crew continuing its shoot the morning after their leading actress has been stabbed to death? Such details along with the contrived level of suspects in the case make the drama feel a little formulaic.

Anna Travis – Jane Tennison’s sassy sister in law enforcement
As is Anna Travis. Kelly Reilly is watchable and has screen presence, but as a hard-bitten high-flying detective, she needs a major suspension of disbelief. Where Lynda La Plante created a convincing female protagonist in Helen Mirren’s Jane Tennison for Prime Suspect, Travis misses the target completely.

The character was more plausible, and interesting, in the early stories as a rookie detective. The intention has clearly been to have Travis become Tennison’s sassier younger sister in law enforcement, but they’ve overdone the sass a bit.

With her high heels and heavy eye make-up, she looks too glam to go round questioning bereaved parents and possible suspects. When she turns up to interview a jilted wife and the wife saddles Travis with her shopping bags, that sums up the gravitas Travis brings to the job.

Ratings success
The detective has also been super fast-tracked from rookie to detective inspector, and La Plante says we will see ‘Travis progress even further up the career ladder’. At this rate, she’ll soon be Metropolitan Police Commissioner.

While it ain’t easy to see what makes her such a promotion shoo-in, Above Suspicion‘s ingredients for hitting its customary audience of around six million are clear. ‘Silent Scream’ is packed with enough dodgy characters, scandal, lingering romance (between you know who) and police rivalry to make it a juicy three hours.

Kelly Reilly Anna Travis, Ciarán Hinds James Langton, Shaun Dingwall Mike Lewis, Michelle Holmes Barbara Maddox, Celyn Jones Paul Barolli, Amanda Lawrence Joan Faukland, Philip Arditti George Peroz, Geoff Bell Harry James, Dara Devaney Sean O’Dell, Ray Fearon Sam Power, Jack Fortune Mr Delany, Bryony Hannah Felicity Turner, Joanna Vanderham Amanda Delany

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Above Suspicion – Deadly Intent PREVIEW

Ciarán Hinds, Kelly Reilly, Shaun Dingwall and Celyn Jones (pics: (C) ITV Plc/LA PLANTE)

Rating ★★★

ITV1, Mon 3 Jan, Tues 4 Jan, Wed 5 Jan, 9pm

This is a third outing for Lynda La Plante’s Above Suspicion featuring detective Anna Travis, the modern-day heir apparent to Prime Suspect‘s Jane Tennison.

But while she may be Tennison’s heir, Travis is not her equal. Above Suspicion has performed very decently for ITV in the ratings – first series notching up 8m viewers – and Kelly Reilly, who plays Travis, may be an attractive lead, but this new La Plante production is not as sure-footed or powerful as Helen Mirren’s predecessor.

Reilly is too girlish (despite being 33) and glam to convince as a high-flying detective in what is still shown here to be a male-chauvinist enclave. And she is flying – having started out as a teetering rookie in series one, she is now a detective inspector.

Jane Tennison would never have cut it if she’d worn short black skirts and low-cut singlets around the office, and though we may have moved on since 1991, we haven’t moved on so far that Travis would be taken seriously looking so exposed today.

Despite such quibbles, this third series is possibly the best yet. Not as gruesome as the others, particularly last time’s The Red Dahlia instalment, but still a compelling story.

Plastic surgery in Mexico
In a prelude, we see a mystery man in Mexico getting plastic surgery, before the action switches to London, where there’s been a shooting on a council estate drug squat. The victim turns out to be Frank Brandon, a bent cop and former chum of Travis’s gruff guvnor, DCS James Langton (Ciarán Hinds).

His team quickly discovers that Brandon recently married Julia Larson (Stine Stengade), a glamorous, wealthy woman who was employing him as her driver. All of which seems a bit unusual.

Known to have been on the estate are fierce drug dealer Silas Roach (Robbie Gee, left) and small-time user Eddie Court (Ashley Court). Meanwhile, Travis questions a resident on the estate who insists he heard three shots, when only two bullets hit Brandon.

Travis’s style to follow her hunches on her own, because her male superiors don’t listen to her. She finds the third bullet – and gets a rollicking – questions Julia Larson, who reluctantly reveals she had a previous husband, and researches Fentanyl, a pure drug with the street name Drop Dead, traces of which were found at the squat.

What’s going on between Travis and Langton?
Brandon’s strange marriage, the man who changed his identity and the drug that seems to have prompted several assassinations make this a heady story. Mixed in are Travis’s clashes with DCI Mike Lewis (Shaun Dingwall), who’s also been promoted and is heading the investigation, and the intensifying emotional spark she has with their boss, Langton.

La Plante gives an insight into this strange attraction. She says, ‘It’s really down to the will-they-won’t-they, question?

‘A lot of women absolutely love Langton, and some find him really awful to Travis. In that respect it’s a bit like Gone with the Wind. He’s so nasty to her at times, but in this one we do have the emotional impact when he tells her the truth about his life. We see that this vulnerability allows Travis to reveal her feelings for him, if only to herself. It continues to build the tension between them. I think this is what makes their interaction compelling.

‘Langton is a dedicated police officer and an exceedingly good one who has very strong gut instincts, but he is not an intellectual man. He’s hardly ever read a book, if it wasn’t connected to a crime.

‘However, Travis is university educated and different… she also stands up to him, which none of the other women or men do. But like Langton, Travis is intuitively intelligent and in many ways has a similar trait to Langton in that, she won’t let something go. This makes her a very good detective, she could very easily dismiss the fact that one of the witnesses said she heard three bullets. Her persistence in uncovering the detail proves to be the key in this case. A fact that Langton admires.’

Travis stirs the case further when she discovers a link between Julia’s ex and a drug distributor on the FBI most wanted listed, who could now be in the UK. The team don’t really know what they are investigating or how the case will escalate, and neither will viewers.

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