Good Cop, BBC1, starring Warren Brown PREVIEW

Warren Brown as PC Rocksavage. Pic: BBC

Rating: ★★★★½

BBC1: starts Thursday, 30 August, 9pm

Story: PC Rocksavage sees his patrol partner suffering a sadistic attack, which sends his already complicated life into turmoil when he takes matters into his own hands.

Warren Brown steps up from being Idris Elba’s sidekick in Luther to leading player in this complex, powerful new cop drama.

This is one of the best opening episodes to a crime show I’ve seen this year, Line of Duty included. It’s morally fraught, violent and has a captivating hero on the edge.

Brown is a Liverpool response cop, the ones who race around in cars. PC John Paul Rocksavage (Sav) is a decent guy who looks after his ailing father (Michael Angelis) and is obviously crushed by his estrangement from Cassandra and their daughter, Libby, whom we see bumping into Sav on Crosby beach as the story begins.

Stephen Graham is the nasty, brutal Finch
Later, he is having lunch with his mate and colleague Andy Stockwell (Tom Hopper), when he sees a man called Finch, who’s there with a gang of men, terrorising a waitress. Sav orders him out of the restaurant, but Finch promises that the next lone copper he sees will get a beating.

Finch is played by Stephen Graham, who when he’s not portraying sociopaths such as Al Capone in Boardwalk Empire is giving us a convincing skinhead in This Is England 86, and he is a scarily confrontational psycho.

The next isolated copper he meets is Sav’s partner Andy, and Sav sees his horrendous beating when he is locked out of party in what looks like a squat that they have been called to subdue that night.

Warren Brown is excellent as the cop on the edge
Shattered by that moment, Sav is soon engaged in a face-off in which he makes a snap decision that twists his life and career into dangerous, illegal territory.

It’s a blinding opener and Warren Brown is totally believable as a decent bloke who does a brave job in confronting criminals, but ends up on the wrong side of the law.

The mood is noirish, with dark rainy nights and a flawed hero struggling against trouble. Mark Womack plays the formidable investigating DCI, who is clearly going to give Sav a hard time.

Writer Stephen Butchard
Good Cop is written by Stephen Butchard, whose credits include Stolen, House of Saddam and 2010’s superb and moving Five Daughters, a sympathetic protrayal of the young women murdered in Ipswich in 2006.

He explains the drama’s genesis: ‘I started with the premise of thinking about a police show, and then I thought of a beat cop. Looking at the existing police shows, they seemed to be dominated by procedural or science elements, and I was interested in a more human aspect to policing, the very sharp end and the first man on the scene.

‘From a dramatic element I wanted to go back to the simplest thing and that was the man, the human being in the uniform, knocking on the door and not knowing what was behind that door or what was coming.’

It’s a realistic, truthful four-parter that’s free of tedious forensics and lurid plot twists. It’s also more than a match for Luther.

Cast: Warren Brown PC John Paul Rocksavage, Michael Angelis Robert Rocksavage, Aisling Loftus Cassandra, Tom Hopper Andy Stockwell, Stephen Graham Noel Finch, Stephen Walters Callum Rose, Joe Macaulay Jonjo Heinz, Jodie Comer Amy, Johann Myers Gary Walton, Carl Rice Philip Davenport, Kerrie Hayes WPC Amanda Morgan, Kevin Harvey Sergeant Middleton, Robbie Jarvis DCI Stoddart, Christine Tremarco Nurse Justine, Mark Womack DCI Costello, Philip Hill Pearson DC Liam Frainey, Shaun Mason Kyle Smart 

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Hit & Miss gets better and better; crime events in Edinburgh and Harrogate

Hit & Miss: Ben, John, Eddie, Mia, Levi, Ryan, Riley and Leonie. Pics: Sky Atlantic
Ben (Jonas Armstrong) intervenes when the kids attack the hermit

• The fourth episode of Hit & Miss this Tuesday (12 June, Sky Atlantic, 10pm) continues to startle with its twists, brutality and tenderness. The hermit who’s been spying on the smallholding finally comes out of hiding when little Leonie is home alone, Mia’s penchant for violence and vengeance along with her novice parenting skills are exposed, and vile John is going off the rails in his craving to get Mia. The drama is bolder and brassier than anything else on TV right now. The northern setting is wild and stunning, instead of cloyingly twee as in so many mainstream UK crime shows, and the transsexual contract killer Mia (Chloe Sevigny) is a surreal combo of male/female, killer/parent, mum/dad. For all its chilling violence and nastiness (Vincent Regan as John can rarely have played such a brutal character), Hit & Miss has a big heart, with family and love as its core themes. And the performances have been excellent, particularly from the young actors – Jorden Bennie, Karla Crome, Reece Noi and Roma Christensen. Brilliant soundtrack too – a toe-tapping version of Beautiful Tomorrow by Beth Rowley kicks this episode off. Hats off to creator Paul Abbott, writer Sean Conway and to Sky Atlantic for making a series that’s so distinctive and fresh.

• Nordic and Scottish crime fiction are being celebrated at the Edinburgh Festival this month. The event has been developed by Edinburgh University students, and is called Midnight Sun at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. It sounds like a convivial get-together, which will culminate in a screening of Erik Skjoldbjærg’s 1997 film Insomnia. On Thursday, 21st June, Midnight Sun will take  advantage of the summer solstice to delve into our fascination with Nordic noir within a Scottish context. Proceedings begin with a drinks reception at the Point Hotel’s Sky Bar at 8pm, where guests will be able to enjoy complimentary Scandinavian canapés surrounded by panoramic views of Edinburgh’s skyline. Then Scottish crime writer Lin Anderson will whet the audience’s appetite for the screening of the moody Norwegian noir Insomnia by drawing comparisons between Scottish and Scandinavian traditions. What’s not to like?

Luther comes under the spotlight at the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival on Saturday, 21 July. Neil Cross, who wrote the BBC1 crime series starring Idris Elba, will be discussing the drama alongside cast members Michael Smiley (Benny) and Warren Brown (Ripley), as well producer Claire Bennett and police adviser Simon Morgan.

• Euro 2012 is currently filling the TV schedules and sucking in audiences. While the channels are definitely not risking new dramas against all the sport this summer, they are wheeling out some old lags. Next week you can see repeats of Agatha Christie’s Poirot (Cat Among the Pigeons, ITV1, Saturday, 16 June, 8pm); Inspector Lynley Mysteries (BBC1, Sunday, 17 June, 8.30pm); Inspector George Gently (BBC1, Tuesday 12 June, 8.30pm); and Midsomer Murders (ITV1, Wednesday 14 June, 8pm).

Pic right: ITV

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Sherlock 2013, more Luther and what about Endeavour?

• It’s no surprise that Sherlock will be back, probably in 2013 owing to the movie commitments of the leads, Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek) and Martin Freeman (The Hobbit). The Beeb would surely come under siege if creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss hadn’t promised (via Twitter) to reveal how on earth Sherlock defied death after jumping off that building in ‘The Reichenbach Fall’ last night (provoking furious arguments in my house, at least). The three 90-minute stories have fizzed with humour and ingenuity in updating Holmes, clocking up 8-9million viewers a time, and it would be a crime of Moriarty proportions if the series had been cancelled now.

CrimeTimePreview has been bombarded with thousands of hits since Endeavour went out on ITV1, with all but one of the comments saying it was terrific. Inevitably, viewers have been saying ITV1 must turn it into a series. I’ve asked the channel what’s happening and they say ‘discussions on an editorial and practical level’ have to be thrashed out before a decision is announced. But if Scott & Bailey can be recommissioned, surely the Morse prequel is a shoo-in.
• Meanwhile, ITV1 have announced a five-parter called Mrs Biggs, about the wife of train robber Ronnie Biggs. Ironically, Charmian fell for Ronnie as a teenager travelling on a train. Money worries eventually forced Biggs to ask for a loan from an old friend, who turned out to Bruce Reynolds, at that moment planning one of the most famous crimes in British history – the Great Train Robbery of 1963.
• The BBC has decided to do another series of the rather so-so Death in Paradise and rather edgier Luther. With Idris Elba picking up a Golden Globe last night for his screen-filling performance as the  crazed detective, Luther‘s return was only to be expected.
• But no news on Garrow’s Law! Come on, BBC. The show doesn’t deserve m’lud’s noose just yet.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Sherlock, Luther and Top Boy

• American readers of this site may be cheered by the news that Luther series 2 has just been released on DVD in the US. It’s already out in the UK, but here’s a gratuitous reminder of the rather chilling series, for which Idris Elba was nominated for an Emmy and Golden Globe, but did win the CWA Crime Thriller TV Dagger in October.

• I have to admit my prejudice got the better of me. These days a new cracking drama on C4 is about as likely as George Papandreou being on Nicolas Sarkozy’s Christmas card list. So the channel’s Top Boy four-parter completely slipped by me. That’ll teach me to assume C4 was all documentaries with titles such as My Daughter’s Got an Anus on Her Head. It concludes tomorrow (Thursday) at 10pm, but if you’ve missed the first three you can catch them online on 4 on demand. Top Boy is a gem of a drama, delving into the gang culture on an East London estate. Thirteen-year-old Ra’Nell is plunged into the adult world, particularly that of the gangs, when his mother has a breakdown and is hospitalised. Heather, his mother’s friend, then involves him in her plan to give her unborn baby the chances she missed, which, needless to say, is a bit on the risky side. At times tender, at other times brutal, Top Boy is written by Ronan Bennet, whose Hidden concluded so disappointingly on BBC1 last week after a promising build-up. Here’s hoping that Top Boy follows through on the huge promise of its opening episodes. C4 have even put together an interesting website for the drama.

• The BFI has a fantastic treat next month – previews, with the casts, of the Beeb’s new series of Sherlock and The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Sherlock – A Scandal in Belgravia with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman is on Tuesday 6th, 6.15pm, and Drood, with Matthew Rhys, is on Wednesday 7th at 6.20pm.

CWA Crime Thriller Award winners 2011

Sofie Gråbøl collects her best actress award for The Killing. Pics: ITV

And the winners were…

Idris Elba

(also nominated: Luther, The Shadow Line, Vera, Zen)

Film Dagger TRUE GRIT
(also nominated: Brighton Rock, Source Code, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest)

Best supporting actress ANN ELEONORA JORGENSEN The Killing
(also nominated: Amanda Abbington, Case Histories; Tara Fitzgerald, Waking the Dead; Kelly Macdonald, Boardwalk Empire; Ruth Wilson, Luther)

Best supporting actor RAFE SPALL The Shadow Line
(also nominated: Aiden Gillen, Thorne; Bjarne Henriksen, The Killing; John Lithgow, Dexter; Soren Malling, The Killing)

International TV THE KILLING
(also nominated: Boardwalk Empire, Castle, Dexter, Spiral)

Best actor IDRIS ELBA Luther
(also nominated: Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire; Jason Isaacs, Case Histories; Lars Mikkelsen, The KIlling; Rufus Sewell, Zen)

Best actress SOFIE GRABOL The Killing
(also nominated: Brenda Blethyn, Vera; Sue Johnston, Waking the Dead; Maxine Peake, Silk; Kelly Reilly, Above Suspicion; Olivia Williams, Case Sensitive)

CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger SJ WATSON Before I Go to Sleep
(also nominated: Sam Hawken, The Dead Women of Juarez; Danny Miller, Kiss Me Quick; Conor Fitzgerald, The Dogs of Rome)

CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger STEVE HAMILTON The Lock Artist
(also nominated: Craig Smith, Cold Rain; SJ Watson, Before I Go to Sleep; Michael Gruber, The Good Son)

CWA Gold Dagger TOM FRANKLIN Crooked Letter
(also nominated: AD Miller, Snow Drops; Denise Mina, The End of the Wasp Season; Steve Hamilton, The Lock Artist)

ITV3 People’s Bestseller Dagger PETER JAMES
Peter James was also inducted in the Hall of Fame along with David Baldacci, Mark Billingham, Lee Child and Peter Robinson

Law & Order: UK’s Bradley Walsh and host Marcus Brigstocke

The Killing (Forbrydelsen) triumphed at the CWA Crime Thriller Awards at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London last night, picking up the awards for best international crime drama, best actress and best supporting actress.

The Danish cast were there in force and were popular winners. Sofie Gråbøl – looking very elegant without her Shetland jumper – even received a standing ovation in parts of the room.

As a member of the Academy of British Crime Writing, I voted for that magnificent 20-part drama, which stunned viewers and was a runaway surprise hit for the Beeb when it went out on BBC4 at the start of this year. It was up against terrific nominees in the international category such as Boardwalk Empire, Dexter and Spiral, but fully deserved to win.

Idris Elba was another popular winner for Luther, picking up what he said was his first award in the UK. A nod went to the year’s best conspiracy thriller, The Shadow Line, as Rafe Spall collected the best supporting actor Dagger for his role as the disturbing killer.

Sofie Gråbøl and CrimeTimePreview’s dumbstruck correspondent. Pic courtesy of Ali Karim

Sofie Gråbøl made a huge impression on one member of the audience – me. Sadly, I was too starstruck to congratulate her (apologies, Sofie).

I did manage to get some words out when I met author Peter James, and he got round to talking about his love of racing motor cars. He was beaming after beating Lee Child, David Baldacci and the other bestselling Hall of Famers to to ITV3 People’s Dagger.

ITV3 is showing the whole event on Tuesday at 9pm.

Luther series 2 with Idris Elba and Ruth Wilson

Idris Elba returns as DCI John Luther. Pics: BBC

Rating ★★★½

BBC1, from Tuesday, 14 June, 9pm

Luther seems to have morphed from a crime series into a horror show as series two returns.

Dark rooms, creaking staircases, sudden jolts – the show is loaded with the kind of frights that are sprung in a Michael Myers or Freddy Krueger shocker.

Idris Elba is back at his volcanic best as the detective wrestling with his personal demons – including the murder of his wife, Zoe, at the end of the last series – as well as a demon on London’s streets. A man wearing a grotesque Punch mask is stalking the capital randomly murdering lone women (the usual stock victims in slasher films).

Ruth Wilson returns as Alice Morgan
Thomas Harris’s Hannibal Lecter has a lot to answer for – namely, the ongoing vogue for fiendish serial killers with elaborate murder rituals. Lecter has become the template for the modern bogeyman. Where serial murderers are rare, opportunistic and ordinary, in crime series and novels they are now everywhere, with high IQs and a flair for theatrical murders.

Writer Neil Cross (Spooks, The Fixer) gave Luther a brilliant mind too and so perhaps felt his hero has to battle high-achievers on the murder front. In the first series it was Alice Morgan – a convincingly oddball Ruth Wilson – and she returns here. The new killer that Luther is up against this time is another serial bogeyman, who flaunts his crimes and has a near-supernatural ability to vanish when police helicopters, dogs and officers are all around him.

So Luther is really less a police procedural than a cop chiller. It’s a polished, slick production, heavy on atmosphere but light on reality.

John Luther returns to work in the newly created Serious and Serial Unit, which is headed by his former adversary, the complaints officer Martin Schenk (Dermot Crowley).

Luther’s soft spot for Alice the killer is a mystery
Paul McGann also returns as Mark, who had taken Luther’s place in Zoe’s life, before her murder. Despite their former antagonism, they have now bonded over their mutual loss.

Partners again – Luther and Ripley

Luther recruits DS Justin Ripley (Warren Brown) to his team, after the rising star’s career was damaged in the last series when he helped Luther.

Luther also goes to visit Alice in her high-security psychiatric unit (which brings to mind Clarice Starling visiting Lecter). The detective’s desire to help her is one of the more mind-boggling threads of the story.

Kierston Wareing’s new character – Caroline
A new face is that of Kierston Wareing – a very hot actor in crime series right now, having appeared in Martina Cole’s The Runaway and The Shadow Line recently. She plays Caroline, whose husband Luther once had imprisoned for murder. She asks for his help to rescue her daughter from a life in porn.

In another credibility-stretching storyline, she blames Luther for the destruction of her family when her husband was put away. This would be the husband who murdered and chopped up a woman.

This two-parter is the first of two new Luther specials. Idris Elba remains a huge screen presence as he moves on from his terrific performance in The Wire, and as a moody fright fest this new series delivers, but not even Luther’s super-intuition could make the characters believable.

Luther series 2 coming to BBC1

Remember Luther, the super brainy detective who showed a minor lack of judgement in becoming mates with a serial killer? Well, he’s returning to BBC1 in the first week of June. Here’s a taster, and our preview will follow soon…

Sherlock and Luther return, plus new ITV commissions

Holmes re-boot (© BBC)

Sherlock, the most assured and enjoyable new UK crime series of the year, has been re-commissioned for autumn 2011, the Beeb has confirmed.

The inspired update of the Baker Street sleuth, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, was pacy, had great music and humour, and, most importantly, won 7.5 million viewers on its launch in July.

Perhaps more surprisingly, Luther is also returning with two two-hour specials. The drama starring The Wire‘s Idris Elba promised a lot, with a good cast and intriguing premise (about a genius detective), but eventually fizzled out with stories that were as convincing as spray-on hair. Still, it clearly did well enough for a recall.

Talking of the Sherlock recommission, which is coming back in three new 90-minute episodes, co-creators, Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, say, “We’ve been overwhelmed by the warmth of response to our new Sherlock Holmes and John Watson and can’t wait to take them on three new adventures next year. There’ll be baffling new puzzles, old friends and new enemies – whether on two, or four legs. And we might well be seeing the cold master of logic and reason unexpectedly falling. But in love? Or over a precipice? Who can tell?”

The BBC also announced Undisclosed (working title), written by Ronan Bennett (Public Enemies, The Hamburg Cell). It is described as “a taut and compelling mystery thriller revolving around Harry Venn, a small-time solicitor. Forced to delve into his murky past when asked to find a missing alibi witness, Venn soon finds himself caught up in a bigger and more complex conspiracy.”

Meanwhile, ITV has announced three crime dramas for 2011. There’s an Anthony Horowitz story – Injustice. It stars Jame Purefoy as William Travers, a criminal barrister recovering from traumatic events that have blasted his belief in the legal system. It follows Horowitz’s success with Collision on the channel.

Scott and Bailey will star Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharp in the title roles of two homicide detectives from Greater Manchester Police’s prestigious Major Incident Team.  The series is scripted by Sally Wainwright, whose drama Unforgiven won the  RTS Award for Best Drama earlier this year.

Finally, The Jury is a series about ordinary people finding themselves at the centre of a major controversial criminal re-trial. It’s written by Bafta-winner and Oscar nominee Peter Morgan.

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