McMafia, with James Norton, BBC1

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 28/11/2017 - Programme Name: McMafia - TX: n/a - Episode: McMafia - Generics (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: From L-R: Dimitri (Aleksey Serebryakov), Alex (James Norton), Oksana (Maria Shukshina), Katya (Faye Marsay) and Rebecca (Juliet Rylance).   Please find attached a new image from BBC One’s eight-part global crime thriller, McMafia. The image shows Alex Godman (James Norton), the English-raised son of Russian exiles with a mafia history, and his family.   Faye Marsay (Love Nina, Game Of Thrones) portrays Katya, Alex’s sister, and Juliet Rylance (The Knick, Frances Ha) is Alex’s strong-willed and morally upright British girlfriend, Rebecca. Aleksey Serebryakov (The Method, Leviathan) is Dimitri, Alex’s father and the exiled head of the Russian mafia, and Maria Shukshina (Yolki 3, Terrorist Ivanona) is Oksana, Alex’s socialite mother. Rebecca (JULIET RYLANCE), Katya (FAYE MARSAY), Oksana (MARIA SHUKSHINA), Alex (JAMES NORTON), Dimitri (ALEKSEY SEREBRYAKOV) - (C) BBC WorldWide - Photographer: n/a

Left to right: Dimitri (Aleksey Serebryakov), Alex (James Norton), Oksana (Maria Shukshina), Katya (Faye Marsay) and Rebecca (Juliet Rylance)

Based on Misha Glenny’s non-fiction book, this superb drama is a journey into the complex web of modern international crime

★★★★★

BBC1, New Year’s Day, 1 January, 9pm

CHRISTMAS FESTIVITIES out of the way, the Beeb kicks off 2018 with this punchy, sophisticated drama.

It’s based on journalist Misha Glenny’s bestselling non-fiction exploration of modern-day, industrial levels of international crime. It’s been turned into a fictional drama here.

Programme Name: McMafia - TX: n/a - Episode: McMafia Episode One (No. 1) - Picture Shows:  Alex Godman (JAMES NORTON), Tanya (YUVAL SCHARF) - (C) Cuba Productions - Photographer: Nick Wall

Dangerous liaisons: Alex Godman (James Norton), Tanya (Yuval Scharf)

McMafia is the tale of Alex Godman – wonderfully played by James Norton – a hedge-fund boss whose Russian-family past sucks him into a dangerous world. Alex’s business is in trouble and he needs new investors.

From the Middle East to London and Moscow

He turns to his dodgy Russian uncle Boris (David Dencik) for help, but soon realises that the Israeli investor Boris suggests, Semiyon Kleiman (David Strathrain) is looking for someone to launder millions in dirty money.

Alex is not interested, but when events take a violent turn, he realises that to save his family he may have to join with Kleiman.

This is a big, richly observed and serious drama. The characters are fascinating and the criminal enterprises depicted are intimidating and frightening.

It’s also superbly made and written. Moving from the Middle East to Moscow, London, Tel Aviv and Versailles, it reveals an opulent world fuelled by cynicism and lethal ruthlessness.

This is far better than Grantchester

Programme Name: McMafia - TX: n/a - Episode: McMafia Episode One (No. 1) - Picture Shows:  Alex Godman (JAMES NORTON) - (C) Cuba Productions

Armed struggle: Alex Godman (James Norton)

When Alex tells his mother, ‘What he [Kleiman] wants is illegal,’ she just replies, ‘How illegal?’

When the violence intrudes on Alex’s life, it is sudden, realistic and horrifying. And if you want to see James Norton stretch himself in a series that’s far superior to the rather twee Grantchester, this is it.

The old mob outfits that inspired movies such as The Godfather and GoodFellas look like playground squabbles compared to the vast criminal organisations uncovered in Glenny’s book. McMafia a series that should not be missed.

If the BBC makes a more impressive drama in the months ahead, 2018 will be a very special TV year indeed.

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: ★★★

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