Quincy, ME and the Jack Taylor Collection DVD REVIEW

Quincy, ME series 3 on DVD

Quincy, ME series 3
DVD: ★★★½ 

Jack Klugman, who passed away over last Christmas, was the popular star of 12 Angry Men, TV’s The Odd Couple and latterly Quincy, ME, the third series of which is released today on DVD and should help keep fond memories of the actor alive.

The series ran from 1976 to 1983, a good stretch in the ultra-competitive world of US network TV, with Klugman winning a new fanbase as the inquisitive LA pathologist who was constantly butting heads with the cops. The format was routine, with a death occurring each week, appearing to be down to natural causes. Then Quincy, usually assisted by his lab helper Sam (Robert Ito, pictured together, below), would notice a discrepancy, suspect foul play and turn detective himself.

Jack Klugman and Robert Ito in Quincy, ME

Quincy, ME preceded the contemporary obsession for dramas based on forensic pathology and is obviously far less explicit than today’s hit dramas such as CSI and Silent Witness. It was a family-friendly mystery that grew out of NBC’s Mystery Movie slot, which included 1970s hits such as Columbo, McCloud and McMillan.

And it was undoubtedly Klugman’s turn as the principled, irascible medical expert that won it a place in the viewing habits of audiences in the US and UK.

Quincy, ME series 3 (Acorn Media UK), RRP £25.99, release date 4 March 2013, running time 953 minutes on six discs, certificate 12

Iain Glen as Jack Taylor

The Jack Taylor Collection
DVD: ★★★★
Extras: ★★★ 

Channel 5 is currently riding high with these three excellent films about former Irish cop Jack Taylor, starring Iain Glen.

Based on the superb novels of Ken Bruen, these three films – The Guards, The Pikemen and The Magdalen Martyrs – do a fine job of capturing the Galway ‘finder’ with all his rough edges. Taylor rarely wins a fight, but he will never back down when taking on the cases the cops won’t touch.

Iain Glen, here a long from Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey, wanted to take on the role despite his heavy schedule, and he is very watchable as the down-at-heel, damaged former Guard. We first meet him chasing down the speeding saloon car of a government minister in the pilot, The Guards.

When the minister, whom Jack dislikes because he won’t support Ireland’s nurses, gets out of his car to give the detective a dressing down, Jack punches his lights out. Hence, the end of his career.

‘He’s self-destructive, he drinks, takes drugs, but he has a moral centre,’ director Stuart Orme says in the extra features. ‘He wants to do the right thing.’

The three 90-minute films see him risking everything to take on vigilantes and stick his nose into frightening conspiracies. They are full of atmosphere and strong characters, while delving into the dark side of Irish society on occasion. And they leave quite a few UK police procedurals in the shade.

The Jack Taylor Collection (Acorn Media UK), RRP £25.99, release date 11 March 2013, running time 281 minutes on three discs, certificate 15

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Jack Taylor: The Guards starring Iain Glen C5 PREVIEW

Jack Taylor looks for a missing daughter in Galway. Pics: Channel 5

Rating: ★★★★

Channel 5: starts Thursday, 21 February, 9pm

Story: Beautiful Anne Henderson comes into Jack´s local pub and asks him to find her missing daughter. Before long, former cop Jack is submerged in the grimy secret lives of Galway´s outwardly respectable middle class citizens. 

News that Irish author Ken Bruen’s terrific series of books about former Galway cop Jack Taylor were getting the telly treatment may have tempted a few to reach for a beer and chaser. Or several.

Would the drama capture the character’s battered personality, or would he be stripped of everything that makes him compelling – booze, bad attitude and beatings.

Well, Channel 5 is stepping outside of its comfort zone of interminable US buy-ins – The Mentalist, Castle, NCIS, etc – for this series of three Irish acquisitions. And, while not perfect, they take a decent stab at capturing the books’ specialness.

Jack (Iain Glen) and Anne (Tara Breathnach)

Jack Taylor – aka Iain Glen
The opener is based on the first novel, The Guards, introducing us to the bloodyminded, dishevelled, boozy, unshaven Taylor, recently turfed out of the Irish police because ‘I’m risk-taking and don’t kiss arse’.

He gets by as a ‘finder’, and is approached by the Anne Henderson at his local, who asks him to find her daughter.

Iain Glen certainly looks the part of the rundown cop, and while the Scottish actor’s Irish accent is elusive, his trademark low, smooth voice – familiar in everything from Game of Thrones, Prisoners Wives to Downton Abbey – works for the character. And he is versatile and charismatic enough as a performer to win us over as the man battling demons within and without.

With friends like these… Sutton

Taylor’s dangerous ‘friend’ Sutton
Anyway, the bodies of three young women are washed up in the river. The word is suicide, but Jack suspects something more sinister, and Anne Henderson fears her daughter may soon be among them.

Jack teams up with an old paratrooper mate, though, like many boozers, he does not always show good judgement of character. Sutton turns out to be a nasty piece of work who jeopardises Jack’s inquiries with his brutality.

The investigation leads to a factory that illegally employs plenty of young women. It turns into a very dirty business indeed, featuring well-connected people with criminal secrets.

Vivid and tragic anti-hero
TV likes to focus on the plots of crime novels, often discarding interesting characters for the mechanics of whodunit. Ken Bruen’s novels are plot-lite, with digressions and observations from Taylor that make them so vivid and tragic.

This trio of TV movies are each two hours long, however, and spend time to breathe life into our anti-hero. Taylor’s narration captures much of his caustic view of contemporary Ireland. Elsewhere, the drama passes on some of the books’ poetry, such as when he tells Anne of a Guard collegue he once loved – ‘She made me feel I was more than I was.’

Jack has a network of un-influential street contacts

Also included are Taylor’s awful mother – ‘You’ll come to nothing, like your father’ – his ‘father-confessor’ and favourite barman, Sean, his nemesis in the force, Clancy, and his bond with the street dwellers of Galway.

Watching these films, any fans of Ken Bruen’s award-winning books who do reach for the bottle will probably do so with a smile rather than a need to find a level of oblivion worthy of Jack Taylor himself.  This is a good series, which makes you want to go back to the novels.

Cast: Iain Glen Jack Taylor, Ralph Brown Sutton, Tara Breathnach Anne Henderson, Barry Cassin Sean, Paraic Breathnach Father Malachy, David Heap Lanpert

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David Morrissey’s heavy caseload

Morrissey as
Dr Falkowski ©ITV)

Speaking of David Morrissey (Watching the new detectives this autumn – below), Sky1’s Tom Thorne dramas are not his only new outing in coming weeks.

He also gives a stand-out performance in U Be Dead on ITV1 in September, the harrowing true story of the London psychiatrist and his fiancée who were viciously stalked by Maria Marchese.

Morrissey is very good as the not-always-sympathetic Dr Jan Falkowski, while Tara Fitzgerald is moving as the fiancée, Debbie Pemberton, whom he cheats on during the dark days of their persecution.

I can’t give too much away about the drama – it’s is embargoed for a few weeks yet – but I would say the jaw-dropping horror this couple endured, along with the fine acting and writing (by Gwyneth Hughes), make U Be Dead compulsive and unforgettable. Marchese was sentenced to nine years in 2007 and the Met called it ‘one of the worst cases of stalking we have had to investigate’.

In terms of crime output, this has been a stunning year for Morrissey. We’ve already seen him as a detective in the BBC’s Five Days (also penned by Gwyneth Hughes), he squeezed in a role in Agatha Christie: Poirot for ITV (Murder on the Orient Express), and then there are the Thorne films, Sleepyhead and Scaredy Cat, looming on Sky1.

Somehow, he also put a shift in on Blitz, a movie version of Ken Bruen’s novel, starring Jason Statham, Aidan Gillen and Paddy Considine, which apparently is coming out sometime soon.

No one could accuse this guy of not being much cop.

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