Midsomer Murders, The Cluedo edition

Midsomer Murders the Cluedo edition

Murder’s the name of the game – Midsomer Murders comes to Cluedo

Just when it seemed that Midsomer Murders, which is currently on ITV (Wednesdays, 8pm), couldn’t get much more exciting – it turns up as a board game. Fans now get to play DCI John Barnaby or Ashleigh the vicar or even Sykes the dog to test their sleuthing skills in this TV version of the classic game. Over the 110 episodes and 18 years that the series has been running, around 300 people have been bumped off in the scenic villages. If you’ve watched even half of them you should know this detective lark by heart and be a top investigator by now. It’s available from 5 February 2016 exclusively from Amazon and on general sale from the Spring.

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…]

Midsomer Murders series 17, ITV, Neil Dudgeon, Gwilym Lee PREVIEW

MIDSOMER_MURDERS_THE_DAGGER_CLUB_14

★★★ Killing in Midsomer may be more ingenious than a medieval torture chamber, but the drama is still as twee and genteel as a tea cosy 

ITV: starts Thursday, 28 January, 8pm

Having slain around 300 villagers since 1996 with candlesticks, arrows, toxic fungi, liquid nicotine, hemlock, Neptune’s trident, a poisonous frog and a slide projector, among other bizarre weapons, you’d think Midsomer Murders would have reached a dead end by now.

FIONA DOLMAN as Sarah in Midsomer Murders
Sarah and Barnaby’s new edition

But no, it is one of those series that staggers on long after its stars have given up the will to act in it, simply drafting in new faces to read out the lines, like Last of the Summer Wine or New Tricks or CSI.

However, when you realise that not only have UK audiences got an unquenchable liking for this mild-mannered hokum, but – holy moly! – it’s lapped up in just about every bloody country in the world, you can see why ITV keep churning out episodes. What they make of it in places such as Estonia, Iran and South Korea would be interesting to know.

The Dagger Club

And of course the Danes like it so much that the 100th episode was actually set in the country. Move over, Sarah Lund.

Anyway, DCI John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon) and DS Charlie Nelson (Gwilym Lee) return this week. As is the custom, the murders seem to have been inspired by Heath Robinson, so we kick off in The Dagger Club with electrocution by roulette wheel. Crushing and drowning are line up for future episodes. Midsomer devotees just adore these Larky murder routines.

This opener also cleverly uses the backdrop of a crime fiction festival in Luxton Deeping, which is clearly right in tune with the demographic of its core viewership. [Read more…]

ITV3 celebrates its 10th birthday

Happy birthday, ITV3. The channel is 10 years old and is celebrating with a weekend of 10 favourite dramas starting on Saturday 1 November.

They should really have called it ‘ITV Crime’ because it has become the home of ITV’s most popular police dramas. Consequently, the birthday weekend will feature Marple, Endeavour, Inspector Morse, Lewis, A Touch of Frost, Foyle’s War and Midsomer Murders.

The channel’s very first show on 1 November 2004 was also a crimer, Inspector Rebus, based on Ian Rankin’s novels and starring John Hannah.

Its most popular show to air during the first decade was an episode of Foyle’s WarThe Hide went out in March 2013 and was watched by 1.8m viewers.

Since 2008 ITV3 has also been the home of the Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards, celebrating the very best of British and international crime thriller fiction and drama.

This year’s event takes place this Friday – CrimeTimePreview will be there covering and Tweeting about it – and it will air on ITV3 on 27th October. Hosted by Bradley Walsh, the awards are the culmination of the six-week Crime Thriller Club series on ITV3, a studio-based show focused on crime fiction and television with high-profile guests, quizzes, bluffer’s guides and peeks behind the scenes of popular dramas.

So, congratulations ITV3. Watching you has been bloody murder.

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Midsomer Murders ITV1 – the case of the unlikely success

Neil Dudgeon as DCI John Barnaby and Jason Hughes as DS Ben Jones
Jason Hughes as DS Jones and Neil Dudgeon as DCI Barnaby. Pics: ITV

Death and the Divas is the first of a new series of Midsomer Murders, starting at 8pm on Wednesday, 2 January, on ITV1. Writer and blogger Pat Nurse investigates the success of a procedural that some may see as twee and silly, but which is still going strong after 15 years and is one of the most-sold British shows around the world…

The curtain comes up on the quintessentially English detective mystery series Midsomer Murders when a new three-episode series of the popular drama is launched in the New Year.

Caroline Munro as the Evil Priestess, a figure of glamorous evil in a Stella Harris movie, with Georgina Beedle as a young Stella Harris
Georgina Beedle as a young Stella Harris in Death and the Divas

It has the usual mix of theatrical intrigue and suspense, and a cast of characters who live in the green and pleasant county of Midsomer – a somewhat idealised version of a country that has changed dramatically in the 15 years since the first pilot was shown on TV and possibly the reason why it continues to enjoy such huge popularity. It shows the Empire culture attitude of a country struggling in modern times with its identity and gives viewers a taste of Olde Englande nostalgia.

Ethnically diverse it isn’t, but it is representative of British eccentricity. You can expect victims to be bumped off somewhere between afternoon tea and a cricket match on the village green. More victims will follow the Sunday Church service and the local fayre, and maybe the murderer will be discovered after watching a round of May Day dancing by Morris Dancers after foraging for the murder weapon in poisonous mushroom fields, or staving someone’s head in at the top of the bell tower.

Midsomer deaths based on Hammer Horrors

Harriet Walter as Diana Davenport, a Hollywood star and Stella's younger sister
Harriet Walter as Diana Davenport

The first episode of the new series of Midsomer Murders harks back to the days of the Hammer horror films of the 1960s, with murder following in the footsteps of roles previously played by fading star Stella Harris (Sinead Cusack).

During a screening of one of Stella’s old gothic cult films in a local Midsomer festival, journalist Eve Lomax (Sasha Waddell) is killed. She was writing a book on Stella and her more famous sister, Hollywood actress Diana Devenport (Harriet Walter), and may have uncovered a secret that someone obviously didn’t want to get out.

As this is Midsomer, the murder capital of TV land, the slayings don’t stop there. That’s just the beginning of many more to come in a convoluted plot based on secrets and lies and sibling rivalry, but DCI Barnaby (the second), played by Neil Dudgeon, will work it out. He always does and maybe his cute little sidekick Sykes will help him as much as his sergeant DS Ben Jones (Jason Hughes).

John Carson as Older Gentleman, a smooth, aristocratic predator and Caroline Munro as the Evil Priestess
John Carson as the Older Gentleman

Sinead Cusack
The TV appearance is a rare one for actress Sinead Cusack, who has been mostly involved in theatre work for the last six years.

She said, ‘I recently did Wrath of the Titans, which was a movie with all the paraphernalia that goes with it in terms of budgets, crew and sets. But it wasn’t nearly as appealing as Midsomer Murders.’

Charm and nostalgia may be Midsomer’s magic formula for success – or maybe it’s just damn good writing, damn good acting, original cluedo-type whodunnit plots, and a rare view of England in summer enjoying good weather for a change.

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• Crime Zapper – The Shadow Line, The Killing, Midsomer Murders, Raymond Chandler •

• The Beeb has announced a fine cast for its new conspiracy thriller, The Shadow Line. The seven-part drama will star Chiwetel Ejiofor (American Gangster, Endgame), Christopher Eccleston (Lennon Naked, Doctor Who), Sir Antony Sher (The Wolfman, Primo, God on Trial) and Stephen Rea (The Crying Game, Breakfast on Pluto).
It starts with discovery of a body, shot at close range, that turns out to be that of Harvey Wratten, a major UK crime boss. Harvey was just out of jail after serving two years of an 18-year sentence, having obtained a rare Royal pardon. Investigating the death is DI Gabriel (Ejiofor), who has just returned to duty after being shot in a bungled police operation. He now has a bullet lodged in his brain and suffers from amnesia. On the other side is Joseph Bede (Eccleston), a Wratten associate who turns his back on his legit business for one last massive drugs deal. As Gabriel investigates the intrigue gets more complex and all the players’ motivations blur.
The BBC2 series, scheduled for later this year, has been written by Hugo Blix, who says, ‘The Shadow Line is about a murder investigated by both sides of the line – cops and criminals – and the opposing methods they use to solve it. But the real line is the morality within each character and how far they will go before they cross it.’  
Also starring: Rafe Spall (Pete Versus Life, Desperate Romantics, He Kills Coppers), Kierston Wareing (Fish Tank, The Take, Five Daughters), Lesley Sharp (Afterlife, Clocking Off), Sean Gilder (Shameless), Freddie Fox (Worried About the Boy), Malcolm Storry (The Knock), Richard Lintern (The Bank Job), David Schofield (The Take, Pirates of the Caribbean), Stanley Townsend (Zen, Sherlock Holmes) and Eve Best (The King’s Speech, Nurse Jackie). 

• Tucked away on Saturday nights on BBC4 is The Killing, a first class crime series from Denmark. It follows the course of a 20-day murder investigation, and begins with Sarah Lund looking forward to her leaving-do at the Copenhagen police department. She is moving to Sweden with her son and fiancé. However, her plans are shattered when, on her last day, she checks out a missing teenage girl, Nanna Birk Larsen, who is found raped and murdered, and Sarah is forced to head the investigation. It’s a powerfully told story, atmospheric, with strong, believable characters. Sofie Gråbøl as Sarah is a down-to-earth, quietly impressive protagonist and far more realistic than, say, DI Anna Travis in ITV’s Above Suspicion. The whole, terrific series is currently available on BBC iPlayer.

DS Ben Jones (Jason Hughes), DCI Tom Barnaby (John Nettles) and DCI John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon). (Pic: (C) Bentley Productions)

• So farewell, Tom Barnaby. Having solved more than 200 murders in the crime-ravaged villages on his Midsomer beat, the detective – played, of course, by John Nettles – bowed out on 2 February watched by 7.1m viewers. The 67-year-old actor’s final line was, ‘What now? I’m going to have my cake and eat it.’ Midsomer Murders, a valuable brand overseas for ITV, won’t be laid to rest, though. Tom Barnaby is being replaced by his cousin, John (former Life of Riley actor Neil Dudgeon), who appeared in Nettles’ final two-hour episode. Meanwhile, are Taggart‘s days numbered? It got off to a shocking start on ITV last month, with just 2.6m viewers. Even allowing for the fact that the episode had already been shown in Scotland, that’s not healthy for the UK’s longest-running crime series.

• I enjoyed A Coat, a Hat and a Gun, BBC Radio 4’s documentary about Raymond Chandler, which is accompanying the Philip Marlowe dramatisations this month. One gem in it was a 1958 snippet of a recording of a tipsy Chandler talking to Ian Fleming, an admirer of his, for a BBC programme months before he died. It is apparently the only record of Chandler speaking. He mentions the possibility of Marlowe getting married and the ‘struggle’ he would have to wed a woman who found his profession seedy. Was Chandler being playful? Judge for yourself. The BBC has the whole discussion here.

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