New Tricks series 8 PREVIEW

Dennis Waterman, Amanda Redman, Alun Armstrong and James Bolam. Pic: BBC

Rating ★★★½

BBC1 from Monday, 4 July, 9pm

The New Tricks detectives are up to their old tricks as they return for summer. There’s nothing fresh and no new faces to shake up their familiar routine – and that is surely just how the fans prefer it.

Like those trousers with elasticated waists, New Tricks is a sensible, comfy series. Apart from a little swearing, there’s nothing to have the purple-ink brigade spluttering into their Horlicks.

So familiar is the series that these days it comes around with a minimum of fuss and fanfare. Even the Beeb’s New Tricks web page hasn’t been touched since 2008. With its unchanging format and cast, you know what you’re getting.

Old Fossils
It’s not as gloatingly grisly as Silent Witness or CSI, or as edgily violent as Dexter, The Shadow Line or Boardwalk Empire. Instead, New Tricks is a pleasant, gently humorous crime series with a likeable, distinguished cast.

While it occupies that area of safe, middle-of-the-road crime shows along with Lewis and Midsomer Murders, at least the characters in New Tricks have a bit of hinterland, with the boyishly obsessive recovering alcoholic Brian, cockney lothario Gerry, the widower Jack, and career-damaged Sandra. And those ITV series have nothing like the backlog of popular TV baggage that Alun Armstrong, Dennis Waterman, James Bolam and Amanda Redman bring with them.

Old Fossils opens this 10-part series, and detective superintendent Sandra Pullman has to convince her old dog retirees on the Unsolved Crime and Open Case squad that the death of a palaeontologiest at the Natural History Museum is worth investigating.

Pathologist got it wrong
The autopsy stated Dr Bernard Fletcher died of a fall, but with pathologist Bob Ruston now suspended for negligence, it looks as though his report was wrong – Fletcher may have been whacked on the head.

Sandra and the boys discover that Fletcher was a legover mechant, that he opposed museum sponsorship from Mondial Fuel owing to the oil industry’s record of environmental damage, and that there is a black market in fossils sold as artworks to the rich and famous. So, motives abound.

It’s a good opener for the new series, with wry moments – Brian explaining the wonders of China as a fossil resource to colleagues frozen in boredom – and a mystery with an intriguing theme.

The episode also makes great use of its extensive access to the Natural History Museum, with the team hunting for clues in the labyrinthine corridors of fossils. Cop dinosaurs walking with dinosaurs, in a way.

• Amanda Redman Detective Superintendent Sandra Pullman, Dennis Waterman Gerry Standing, Alun Armstrong Brian Lane, James Bolam Jack Halford, Trevor Bannister Bob Ruxton, Vicky Pepperdine Madeleine Simmonds, Natasha Little Sarah Winslow, Lucy Brown Marie Braden

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Third Degree: Pauline Rowson

Crime novelist Pauline Rowson, author of the Marine series of mysteries, is pulled into crimetimepreview headquarters for questioning. 
Your favourite British crime series or thriller on TV?
I have quite a few favourites so selecting one is rather difficult, but here is my shortlist:  Morse because the production, music and acting are superb; Frost, because I like the shambolic air that pervades Frost’s investigations along with the humour; Poirot because I enjoy the classic murder mystery and historical aspect, the latter of which also applies to Foyle’s War, which I enjoy because of the gorgeous Michael Kitchen. Then there is New Tricks because of the great actors and that tongue-in-cheek humour, and how can I possibly leave out DCI Gene Hunt. He’s a maverick, a cowboy who rides out into the big bad world seeking justice.
Top TV cop?
And the award goes to … whoever said I was indecisive?
Which unfilmed book/character should be made into a TV drama?
My Inspector Andy Horton of course, but then I would say that, wouldn’t I?  I’ve been re-reading the classic novels of Josephine Tey and think her Inspector Grant novels would make a good TV drama or a series.  They’re set in the mid 1940s to 1950s. Also many of Robert Goddard’s novels would make excellent TV dramas.
If one of your novels were filmed, who would you cast to be the hero?
That’s such a tough question because how I see Andy Horton, my detective in my marine mystery police procedural novels, is not how others see him. So, I offer up suggestions made by some of my readers: Jason Statham, Daniel Craig, Dominic West, Toby Stephens, Damien Lewis, Robert Glenister. Getting the right actor plays a critical part in the success or otherwise of a television detective series adapted from the novels.
What do you watch with a guilty conscience (or what’s your guilty pleasure)?
I don’t have a guilty conscience when I watch them but I do enjoy old black and white thriller and detective movies, both British and American.
Least favourite cop show/thriller?
Anything that is too gruesome, graphic and contains rape, brutality, kids and torture. I like my crime to entertain, thrill and captivate me, not to give me nightmares.
Your favourite crime/thriller writers?
Reginald Hill, Robert Barnard, R D Wingfield, Robert Goddard and many from the classic Golden Age of Crime.
Favourite non-crime/thriller author
J B Priestley
Favourite crime movie or thriller?
The Long Arm starring Jack Hawkins – superb example of the forerunner of all the classic crime programmes ranging from Softly, Softly, Z Cars to The Bill, Frost, Morse and so on.  Plus The Fugitive starring Harrison Ford, and literally anything directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
You’ve been framed for murder. Which fictional detective would you want to call up?
Depends on who I am alleged to have murdered and how, but I reckon either Sherlock Holmes or DCI Gene Hunt would get me out of a jam.
Blood on the Sand, by Pauline Rowson (9780727868824).
In the fifth Marine Mystery, Detective Inspector Andy Horton’s Isle of Wight vacation is cut short when he encounters what appears to be the scene of a murder – and a woman who seems to be the killer, still holding the murder weapon. But there’s far more to it than that, and soon Andy is deep into an investigation that reaches far into the past.

 

New Tricks, old farts

New Tricks returns this week. For the Beeb, the seventh series of New Tricks is old tricks – safe, cosy, no swearing and often a bit silly. But while the nation may not be dancing in the streets at its reappearance, that is probably because many are indoors watching it.

Eight or nine million tune in to hear Dennis Waterman warbling It’s Alright, to say nothing of its audiences in France, Argentina, the US, Iran and 16 other countries.

Sandra and the boys – overjoyed to be back (BBC)

All right, I watch it too – occasionally. But that’s not because of the stories about magic tricks ending in murder, or dead circus ringmasters. Friday’s opener, Dead Man Talking, is typical, featuring a clairvoyant who spooks Sandra Pullman (Amanda Redman).

Nor is it all the moaning from the old farts – sorry, retired detectives – about how everything was better in the old days. Or the excruciating attempts at humour (Bolam and Waterman organising their own piss-up in a brewery was flatter than day-old lager).

I dip in because of the cast. They’ve all had great moments in their screen pasts – particularly James Bolam (who plays Jack Halford) with The Likely Lads and The Beiderbecke Tapes, and Dennis Waterman (Gerry Standing) in The Sweeney and Minder.

Amanda Redman, the youngest of the principals in her early fifties, has been a prime-time regular with At Home with the Braithwaites, Dangerfield and others, while Alun Armstrong (Brian Lane) has a long list of superb performances behind him, from Get Carter to This Is Personal – The Hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper, Little Dorrit and Garrow’s Law.

So, on a slow night, it’s good to see the old stagers firing off each other. But the danger is that now Last of the Summer Wine has happily been shot, the BBC will keep flogging New Tricks for decades to come (series eight has already been commissioned, apparently).

That really would be something to moan about.

In the meantime, welcome back, New Tricks. But it would be nice if someone at the Beeb, ITV or C4 would commission a fresh crime series that wasn’t as cosy as Horlicks and slippers. Something that didn’t involve vintage cops (Heatbeat, George Gently), Agatha Christie, or cops with stupid names (Rosemary and Thyme).

Something with a bit of grit about it, such as Prime Suspect. Or The Take, which Sky1 did a good job of last year.

Fingers crossed for Sky1’s six instalments of DI Thorne next month with David Morrissey (see the trailer).

New Tricks starts on BBC1, Friday 10 Sept, 9pm

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