Unforgotten, ITV, Nicola Walker, Sanjeev Bhaskar

MAINSTREET PICTURES FOR ITV UNFORGOTTEN EPISODE 1 Pictured : NICOLA WALKER as DCI Cassie Stuart and SANJEEV BHASKAR as DS Sunil Khan. Photographer: JOHN ROGERS This image is the copyright of ITV and must be credited. The images are for one use only and to be used in relation to UNFORGOTTEN, any further usage could incur a fee.

Nicola Walker as DCI Cassie Stuart and Sanjeev Bhaskar as DS Sunil Khan

A terrific cast comes together for this intriguing cold-case drama

★★★½ ITV, starts Thursday, 8 October, 9pm

UNFORGOTTEN brings together an odd-couple lead pairing of Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar as coppers probing a 39-year-old cold case.

 UNFORGOTTEN EPISODE 1 Pictured : NICOLA WALKER as DCI Cassie Stuart and SANJEEV BHASKAR as DS Sunil Khan. Photographer: JOHN ROGERS This image is the copyright of ITV and must be credited. The images are for one use only and to be used in relation to UNFORGOTTEN, any further usage could incur a fee.

Digging for clues: DCI Cassie Stuart and DS Sunil Khan

Walker is currently on the crest of a career wave following a versatile run of successes in Last Tango in Halifax, Babylon and a menacing turn in Scott & Bailey. She is also excellent as a shadowy presence in the BBC’s forthcoming River, another crime series.

Meanwhile, Bhaskar has a track record as a terrific comedy presence in the likes of The Kumars and Goodness Gracious Me, and has been flexing his dramatic muscles in series such as The Indian Doctor.

With Bernard Hill, Tom Courtenay, Trevor Eve

Do they work as a dramatic pairing here? Walker is a dramatic actress who can pull off the light-hearted moments, whereas Bhaskar seems a light actor who remains light. So,on the basis on having seen only the opening episode, I would say the jury’s still out. [Read more…]

River, BBC1, Stellan Skarsgard, Nicola Walker


Captivating new crime drama in which the victims having starring roles

★★★★ BBC1, day, date to be announced

CASTING Stellan Skarsgärd as a British detective was a bold but canny move by the makers of this intriguing thriller. If you want a performer who can play a troubled soul, then who better than a man from the land of long winter days and Ingmar Bergman, a director whose fave themes were death, bleakness and insanity?

Death is also the theme of River and Skarsgard also a Swede, familiar from movie hits such as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Mamma Mia! He is terrific in this unusual series as Detective Inspector John River, a cranky cop traumatised by the shooting of his partner.

What starts off as a police procedural abruptly swerves into unusual territory when we realise River is no ordinary cop. The reason he is grumpy – and brilliant – is that he is haunted by the dead.

Eddie Marsan as a Victorian killer

If that sounds a bit Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), don’t be put off. This series, written by Emmy award-winner Abi Morgan (The Hour, The Iron Lady), is far more emotionally affecting.

The people who invade River’s mind are the murder victims of his cases, in addition – bizarrely – to a serial killer from annals of Victorian crime called the Lambeth Poisoner. Eddie Marsan is suitably disturbing in this role.

River is seen talking to himself – actually to the dead – and is viewed as a bit of a nut by most officers around the police station. He hangs onto his job because of his 80 percent clear-up rate.

Nicola Walker is River’s ex-partner

While the story is good at exploring grief and loss, it is buoyed up by some beautifully funny moments. Nicola Walker (Last Tango in Halifax) is wonderful as River’s ex-partner, Stevie, all fast food and disco songs. And Adeel Akhtar – unforgettable in C4’s Utopia – turns up as another put-upon character, Ira, who is assigned to be River’s new partner.

Chalk and cheese doesn’t begin to cover it, and their scenes together veer between very funny and quite moving.

With so many fine performers and such an emotionally nuanced story, River is a notch above so many mainstream crime series out there.

Babylon, C4, James Nesbitt, Brit Marling PREVIEW

Rating: ★★★½

Channel 4: starts Thursday, 13 November, 10pm

Story: Director of Communications Liz Garvey begins in earnest the job of trying to drag the police into the new media age. Meanwhile, it’s the job of Commissioner Richard Miller, Deputy Commissioner Charles Inglis and Assistant Commissioner Sharon Franklin to keep the force ticking over. 

FOLLOWING its well-received pilot episode back in February, Babylon is back on the beat for a six-part run of law and disorder.

It’s firmly in the realm of the Beeb’s nice little dig at the London Olympics in Twenty Twelve, poking fun at modern marketing speak and corporate arse-covering, rather than being a biting satire about the Metropolitan Police.

Let’s face it, the Met, with its rap sheet of controversies over Stephen Lawrence, the undercover surveillance, Hackgate and the rest, is hardly a laughing matter.

Brit Marling as Liz

So, Babylon – exec-produced by Danny Boyle – has fun with the media and management side of the

force, starting with American media guru Liz Garvey (Brit Marling) and the floundering honchos Commissioner Miller (James Nesbitt, a long way from Missing here), his deputy, Inglis (Paterson Joseph), and assistant Franklin (Nicola Walker).

And here is one of the strengths of the show – the cast are fun to watch, particularly Nicola Walker as the eye-rolling assistant commissioner, dealing with incompetence from above, below and from the private sector.

The opening episode sees her officers called in to help the private security firm running a young offenders institution when violence breaks out. Meanwhile, Paterson Joseph’s deputy commissioner is busy trying to work out whether to tell the world the incident is a disturbance, a severe disturbance or a riot.

Video of Warwick shooting an unarmed assailant 

Writers Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong delight in showing us this world in which police high-flyers

are more concerned with appearances than getting things done.

Brit Marling is also a great spanner in the works as Liz, trying to get her boss Commissioner Miller to be a little less passive-aggressive in his dealings with the media, while also boring her female colleagues stupid in the wine bar after work by banging on about the Met’s ‘brand’.

The lower ranks also have to deal with her new ideas. Armed response office Warwick’s nerves are shredded when she releases footage of him shooting an unarmed assailant in a show of openness from the Met – the public think we’re all ‘trigger-happy meatheads’.

Er, no comment.

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Scott & Bailey latest, new BBC series By Any Means, Mr Whicher

ITV's Scott & Bailey: Suranne Jones as Rachel Bailey and Nicola Walker as Helen
Suranne Jones as Rachel Bailey and Nicola Walker as Helen

Scott & Bailey returns to the house of horrors that featured in episode one during this Wednesday’s story (1 May, ITV, 9pm). We’ll see Nicola Walker coming back as Helen Bartlett, the woman traumatised by the abuse she suffered three decades ago at the hands of her creepy parents. However, it seems that life with her dad, the psychopath Joe (George Costigan, who was pretty disturbing in the role), were far more macabre than we realised. Joe appeared to be a bed-bound, frail old guy in the series opener, but then it turned out, of course, that he had murdered his wife and abused his children. Now it appears there are further horrific discoveries at the house – and Helen may know more about what occurred there. It’s one of the darkest stories ever featured on the hit series. Nicola Walker says of Helen, ‘She has created a character to be at work and that has been successful. But then when someone brings Peveril Street back into her consciousness again, it’s like she goes straight back there. I think she has some form of post-traumatic stress disorder. I’ve never played a character who is so full of shame. It’s an interesting thing to play because it’s an absolutely internal emotion. She’s full of apology. At times she barely raises her eyes to look someone in the eye.’ Watch the Scott & Bailey trailer

• The Beeb has started filming By Any Means in Birmingham, a new cop from a team of writers led by Tony Jordan, whose credits include Hustle and Life on Mars. This is about a clandestine police team who attempt to play the criminals at their own game, and tread a fine line with the law. It stars Warren Brown (Luther, Good Cop), Shelley Conn (Mistresses, Marchlands) and Andrew Lee Potts (Primeval, Ideal) and Gina McKee (The Borgias, In The Loop).

ITV drama: Paddy Considine and Olivia Colman in The Suspicion's of Mr Whicher II
Paddy Considine and Olivia Colman in The Suspicion’s of Mr Whicher II

 • Look out for ITV’s forthcoming The Suspicions of Mr Whicher II, again starring Paddy Considine as the pioneering Victorian detective. The sequel goes beyond Kate Summerscale’s engrossing non-fiction book this time, featuring Olivia Colman – fresh from the brilliant success of Broadchurch – as Susan Spencer, who employs Whicher as a private inquiry agent to investigate the murder of her neice, 16-year-old Mary. Paddy says, ‘When we left Whicher at the end of the first drama he’d failed to prove his case that the little boy had been murdered by his 16-year-old sister, Constance. She’d been acquitted and having failed to secure a conviction he was booted out of the force and basically had a nervous breakdown. Now, when we pick up his story again he’s supposedly putting the case and his life in the force behind him. He’s taken up walking and gardening instead. But the audience knows before he does that as much as he tries to give the life up, it won’t give him up because, basically he’s a detective to his bones. He has no chance when a woman in search of her lost niece appeals to him for help. He just can’t help but get involved.’

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Scott & Bailey 3, ITV, with Suranne Jones, Lesley Sharp PREVIEW

Rating: ★★★★½

ITV: starts Wednesday, 3 April, 9pm

Story: A worried neighbour knocks on Janet Scott’s door one night, concerned about the smell coming from a house down the road…

Manchester detectives Scott & Bailey quickly won a following among audiences and critics alike, clocking up between six and eight million viewers and winning the Royal Television Society’s script writing award for Sally Wainwright last November.

Good as the first two series were, however, series three gets off to a blistering start and could be the best yet. No sooner are the credits done than Janet is saying to Rachel in the Ladies, ‘This woman comes knocking on our door at half past eight last night. She lives down the road. I don’t know her particularly well…’

And we’re straight into an absorbing case that is horrific, sad and mystifying despite the apparent everyday nature of the tragedy.

Strange smell from a creepy houseThe neighbour says there’s a smell coming from a house that Janet has always found creepy. When the uniforms break the door down they find 75-year-old Eunice’s body at the top of the stairs – and her head at the bottom.

In the upstairs bedroom is close-to-death, bed-ridden husband Joe. He’s emaciated and barely able to speak.

It turns out Eunice was hit over the head. In a bid to discover who killed her, Rachel and Janet set out to trace the couple’s four children, who it seems haven’t visited their parents in a long time.

Nicola Walker as Helen
They finally locate daughter Helen, who is working on the makeup counter of a department store. Helen’s response to news of her mother’s death is distracted and muted. Upset she is not – ‘I don’t have anything to do with my parents,’ she says. ‘They’re of no interest to me.’  It’s a stunning and eerie performance by Nicola Walker as Helen.

What unfolds is a shocking story of evil, made totally gripping by sublime acting. George Costigan as Joe is a disturbing portrayal, and with Nicola Walker he makes this a powerful opening to the series. And watch out because the character of Helen turns up again later in the series in another tragic story.

Suranne Jones and her former Corrie colleague Sally Lindsay dreamed up this Cagney & Lacey-inspried series, in a bid to create prominent female characters, and a big element of its success is that the characters of Rachel Bailey and Janet Scott are as important as the cases featured each week.

Rachel’s bored with her marriage – after three months
So, Rachel is only three months into her marriage and finds herself bored with dishy but dull hubby Sean, while Janet, whose marriage is over though she still shares a roof with Ade, is upset that he is dating and she fancies no one.

Tracie Bennett joins the cast as Rachel’s drunken, boob-flashing mum, further adding to the detective’s headaches. Meanwhile, Janet is acting as sergeant but is in two minds about whether to take on the extra responsibilities permanently. Another new cast member in episode four (Danny Miller) four will settle this issue for her…

Amelia Bullmore is back in tough boss mode as DCI Gill Murray, and Pippa Haywood is again unrecognisable from her daffy role as Harriet in Prisoners’ Wives, here reappearing as the formidable and acerbic Detective Superintendent Julie Dodson.

It’s a great ensemble cast, and on the evidence of episode one, stands alongside Broadchurch as the best  UK crime drama currently on telly.

Cast: Suranne Jones DC Rachel Bailey, Lesley Sharp DC Janet Scott, Amelia Bullmore DCI Gill Murray, Danny Miller DS Rob Waddington (eps 4 – 8), Ben Batt DC Kevin Lumb, David Prosho DC Ian Mitchell, Tony Mooney DC Pete Readyough, Delroy Brown DC Lee Broadhurst, Nicola Walker Helen Bartlett, George Costigan Joe Bevan, Tracie Bennett Sharon Bailey, Sean Maguire PC Sean McCartney, Tony Pitts Adrian Scott, Judith Barker Dorothy Parsons, Judy Holt Scary Mary Jackson

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Prisoners’ Wives 2, BBC1, with Polly Walker, Pippa Haywood, Karla Crome, Iain Glen PREVIEW

Sally Carman, Polly Walker, Karla Crome and Pippa Haywood, Prisoners' Wives BBC
Frisky business for Kim, Francesca, Aisling and Harriet. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★★

BBC1: Thursday, 14 March, 9pm

Story: Francesca, her dad and her two children are nearly burned to death in an arson attack organised by a rival of her imprisoned husband’s. Harriet and her son embark on new spiritual paths, and two new women appear at visiting time – Kim, the respectable wife of a man accused of child abuse, and Aisling, the gutsy teenage daughter of a repeat offender.

The first series didn’t attract much of a fanfare when it went out around this time last year, but that compelling drama about four very different women coping with their men being behind bars attracted a solid audience of 5million and was quickly recommissioned by BBC1.

Season 2 has some new faces and says goodbye to a couple of former characters. Gemma’s story, featuring Emma Rigby, reached a natural conclusion when she walked away from Steve (Jonas Armstrong). And Lou (Natalie Gavin), who lost her boy and ended up in jail herself, was too difficult to integrate in to the new storylines as well.

Sally Carman and Pippa Haywood in Prisoners' Wives BBC1
Kim meets Harriet in the visitor centre

Sally Carman and Karla Crome
In comes Kim (Shameless star Sally Carman) as the wife of an apparently respectable man who ends up inside after being accused of abusing a neighbour’s son. And Karla Crome, the young star seen recently in series such as Hit & Miss, Misfits and Lightfields, plays Aisling, the feisty daughter of roguish repeat offender Brendan (Owen Roe).

The series kicks off explosively when Francesca’s home on the estate, where she lives with her dad (David Bradley), is set alight by arsonists one night. She and her dad and two children escape, but the house is burnt out.

Gangster hubby Paul (Downton‘s Iain Glen) tells her it’s a turf war and she must help him to resolve it. Reluctantly she agrees to hand over a ‘peace offering’ of a cache of weapons to Pearson, Paul’s rival.

Horrific ordeal for Francesca

Iain Glen and Polly Walker, Prisoners' Wives BBC1
Paul and Fran after the arson attack

However, when Pearson insists Franny accompany him during the handover, the transaction turns into a horrific ordeal for her.

It’s a powerful opening episode, and Polly Walker as Francesca and Iain Glen are brilliant as the couple trying to hold things together despite her growing disillusion with life as a prisoner/gangster’s wife. She’s come a long way from the lavish lifestyle we saw her enjoying in series one.

Sweet but daffy Harriet (Pippa Haywood) is involved in a tender, if strained, relationship with the prison chaplain, while her floundering son, Gavin, is desperate to find strength in numbers with the Muslim prisoners.

Nicola Walker in Prisoners' Wives, BBC1
Nicola Walker as DCI Fontaine

Has Kim’s husband been fitted up for a sex crime?
Kim’s storyline is another emotionally strong one, with Mick, her husband (and father of their three boys), accused of a sex crime and locked up pending trial. Has he been set up by the dysfunctional family that live next door?

The cast is further boosted by Nicola Walker as the detective circling Franny and Paul, and Anne Reid turns up as the seedy, fag-smoking accountant that Paul lines up to help his wife.

The stories are based on real-life accounts, and the charity Partners of Prisoners helps to keep the scripts realistic.

Prisoners’ Wives may be a low-key success, but its fine cast and terrific, human interest stories make it one of the most compelling dramas around.

Cast: Sally Carman Kim Haines, Polly Walker Fran Miller, Karla Crome Aisling O’Connor, Pippa Haywood Harriet Allison, Ben Batt Danny, Tony Bell DS Hagen, Jorden Bennie Jaiden, David Bradley Frank, Sally Carman Kim Hall, Enzo Cilenti Mick, Paul David-Gough Chris, Phoebe Dynevor Lauren, Laura Frances-Morgan DS Sankey, Adam Gillen Gavin, Iain Glen Paul, Munir Khairdin Imam, Callum Lambert Jack, Joshua Lambert Charlie, Emma Matthews Vicky, Harry McEntire Matt, Jack Mitchell Reece, Osi Okerafor Ben Ballo, Chris Overton Blake Fenner, Gary Overton Stan, Anne Reid Margaret, Owen Roe Brendan, Nicola Walker DCI Jo Fontaine, Stuart Wolfenden Liam

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Inside Men starring Steven Mackintosh PREVIEW

Blag of nerves – honest John (Steven Mackintosh) steps up. Pic: BBC

Rating: ★★★★

BBC1, starts Thursday, 2 February, 9pm

Story: John Coniston manages a highly secure cash counting house. One day he finds himself in the middle of a terrifying, bloody armed robbery. Flash back to nine months earlier and John is confronting two employees he suspects to siphoning off £50,000. They expect boring, playsafe John to call the cops, but John offers them a way out…

Television is so obsessed with whodunits and police procedurals that it usually leaves the heist escapades to the movies.

Inside Men breaks that pattern with a intriguing character study of three guys who, because of their individual problems and insecurities, decide to step out of their comfort zones and risk everything by attempting a £15million robbery.

Steven Mackintosh, Ashley Walters and Warren Brown perfectly manage the haunted looks of the men saying no more Mr Nice Guy. This is a caper without geezers, just three beta males who want to be alpha.

Warren Brown and Kierston Wareing
Mackintosh plays the mouse-like John Coniston, manager of a cash counting house who looks like he’s going to be sick every time a fiver goes missing. So desperate is he to maintain his generally unblemished monthly record at the staff bonus party that he replaces a missing £240 from his own wallet.

Also working at the depot is forklift driver Marcus (Warren Brown), an irresponsible dreamer with debts and a loving, lairy wife, Gina (Kierston Wareing). Chris (Ashley Walters) is the security guard with an alcoholic mother, who lands a new girlfriend and suddenly wants to get out of his miserable rut.

The opening episode of this four-parter kicks off with pounding tension as masked robbers hit the depot. Events then backtrack nine months and we get an insight into the lives of the three principals.

Going for broke
The narrative flashes back and forth, cleverly keeping the viewer on edge. Steven Mackintosh holds the whole thing together as the head-down drone with a plodding marriage who suddenly decides to go for broke.

Warren Brown breezes through as reckless Marcus, and only Ashley Walters is playing against type as timid and shy.

Written by Tony Basgallop (EastEnders, Being Human, Hotel Babylon), this is full of sharp character strokes – such as John’s awful mateyness with a boss who clearly thinks he’s a loser – that  keep you watching to how the desperadoes get through this.

It’s an involving, tense opener that’s right on the money.

Cast: Steven Mackintosh John, Ashley Walters Chris, Warren Brown Marcus, Kierston Wareing Gina, Leila Mimmack Dita, Nicola Walker Kirsty, Hannah Merry Olivia, Tom Mannion Gordon, Ruth Gemmell Rebecca, Paul Popplewell  Tom

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Spooks final series

Dimitri, Ruth, Harry, Calum and Erin. Pics: BBC/Kudos

Rating ★★★½

BBC1, Sundays, 9pm

Story: Harry’s dismissal is delayed and he is quickly sent back to the Grid by the Home Secretary. Old secrets have resurfaced after Max Witt, a retired spy and colleague from Harry’s days in Berlin during the Cold War, is murdered. As Russia and Britain move towards repairing their relations, with Ilya Gavrik, Harry’s former KGB counterpart, and his wife, Elena, flying to London, Harry faces renewed threats and the exposure of his own past.

MI5’s spooks met their match on Sunday night. The chambermaids and toffs of ITV1’s Downton Abbey succeeded where the spies of Russia and China failed in giving Sir Harry Pearce’s team a drubbing, hitting 9.3 million viewers to Spooks‘ 4.6 million.

So the Beeb’s intention of giving the 10th and final series of Spooks a rousing send-off fell flat. Going head-to-head with Julian Fellowe’s much adored period drama on a Sunday night when Downton also won four Emmys in the US was rash of the BBC.

Which is a shame because Spooks kicked off with a pretty decent episode. Sir Harry Pearce finished the last series with the words ‘start preparing for life after MI5’ ringing in his ears. But the inquisition into his conduct was abruptly stalled by the Home Secretary, who needed Harry back at the Grid. As Ruth says, ‘Someone jammed the guillotine.’

Lara Pulver as Erin Watts
Gorgeous Lucas North having pitched himself out of the show at the end of the last series, there are now new faces on the team. Lara Pulver plays Erin Watts, a laughably young and glam acting head of Section D in Harry’s absence (plausibility went of the series years ago, so this probably doesn’t matter). Further lowering the section’s aggregate age is new IT supremo Calum, who thinks Harry is well past his sell-by date.

There is the usual obsession with gadgetry, with iPads now de rigueur among the thrusting young agents, and reliance on new gizmos such as a scanner that identifies someone from the way he walks.

Love stalled – Elena and Harry

The backdrop to the episode was Russia and Britain attempting to repair their damaged relations, with Harry having to reluctantly chum up with former enemies. These come in the form of Ilya Gavrik, Harry’s former KGB counterpart, who is in London with his wife, Elena, and son Sasha.

Stalking assassin
Despite all the tech-jargon and serious faces, there are still nice flashes of humour. Erin is the latest to barge into Harry’s office without knocking (the series’ oldest running joke), and when someone asks Harry if he enjoyed his gardening leave, he replied, ‘For one particularly dark moment I considered gardening.’

But there was a generous helping of the Spooks speciality – suspense. The scenes when an unknown assassin was stalking a diplomatic reception were as expertly executed as loyal Spooks watchers would expect.

Happy ending for Harry and Ruth?
This final series is going to be all about Harry, his naughty past with Gavrik’s wife, Elena, and his relationship with Ruth. Theirs is a love that dare not speak its name, the stoical couple at times looking as though they’re in their own version of Brief Encounter.

Will it be a happy send-off for the long-suffering pair who are all too obsessed with public duty? That would surely cheer the show’s devoted fans and help them to forget that Spooks has been totally eclipsed in the ratings by Downton Abbey.

Cast: Lara Pulver Erin Watts, Geoffrey Streatfeild Calum Reed, Peter Firth Harry Pearce, Nicola Walker Ruth Evershed, Giles Havergal Max Witt, Jonathan Hyde Ilya Gavrik, Simon Russell Beale Home Secretary Towers, Alice Krige Elena Gavrik, Tom Weston-Jones Sasha Gavrik

10 reasons why we’ll miss Spooks

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