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