Scott & Bailey 5, ITV

RED PRODUCTION COMPANY PRESENTS SCOTT AND BAILEY FOR ITV Pictured: LESLEY SHARP as DC Janet Scott and SURANNE JOMNES as ADI Rachel Bailey. This image is the copyright of ITV and must only be used in relation to SCOTT AND BAILEY.

Close partners: Lesley Sharp as Janet Scott and Suranne Jones as Rachel Bailey

A three-part special that ups the ante for Rachel and Janet as they deal with a particularly chilling murder spree

★★★★ ITV, Wednesday, 13 April, 9pm

IT’S ALL CHANGE in this engrossing cop drama. DCI Gill Murray has retired and Acting Detective Inspector Rachel Bailey is back from a vice squad secondment in London. Detective Constable Janet Scott’s romance nearly ended in marriage, but has now simply ended.

There is also some awkwardness as they get reacquainted, because hotheaded Rachel (Suranne Jones) has not been great at returning texts and messages from Janet (Lesley Sharp).

In this three-part story, the pair must soon reunite to take on a sinister internet investigation. Using her newly acquired Vice authority, Rachel accesses the Dark Net and discovers that a murder is part of a disturbing scene in which people brag about committing murders and challenge each other to chalk up their own killings.

Janet’s daughter is in big trouble

RED PRODUCTION COMPANY PRESENTS SCOTT AND BAILEY FOR ITV Pictured: LESLEY SHARP as DC Janet Scott ,JUDITH BARKER as Dorothy and HARRIET WATERS as Tasie Scott. This image is the copyright of ITV and must only be used in relation to SCOTT AND BAILEY.

Home life: Janet and her mum Dorothy are worried about Tasie

Scott & Bailey has a rap sheet of gruesome crime portrayals – remember mass killer Joe Bevan from series 3? – and this is another powerful story. Having it play out over three episodes gives writer Lee Warburton (the Corrie actor-turned-writer, who penned episodes for S&B 4) the chance to develop fully the inter-office personal dramas, the frictions between chalk-and-cheese Scott and Bailey, and the intricacies of the murder hunt.

And there is plenty at stake for the characters. There is a death among the Syndicate 9 team, Janet’s confronted by her teenage daughter Taisie getting into serious trouble with the police, and Rachel must deal with the fallout from her reckless behaviour in London.

In addition, there’s a new team member to get up Rachel’s nose, DC Anna Ram (Jing Lusi). Meanwhile, Pippa Haywood becomes a regular cast member as Rachel’s boss, DSI Julie Dobson.

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Undeniable, ITV, with Claire Goose, Peter Firth PREVIEW

Emma (Christine Bottomley), Rawlins, her dad (Peter Firth), Jane (Claire Goose) and Alison (Pippa Haywood). Pics: ITV

Rating: ★★★½

ITV: starts Monday, 7 April, 9pm

Story: As a child Jane Philips witnessed a savage and brutal attack by a stranger that left her mother dead. Twenty-three years later she believes she sees her mum’s killer again…

ON THE face of it, this has a terrific premise. A seven-year-old girl is at a lonely lakeside with her mother one day, when a man appears and murders the mum.

Twenty-years later, the girl, Jane, now 30, sees a man she believes is the killer. Her life and state of mind are thrown into turmoil as she sets about trying to prove his guilt.

But hold on. Let’s rewind that. Just how likely is it that a person could remember a face she saw for a fleeting moment nearly a quarter of a century before as a child? Particularly as the man would have aged significantly.

Claire Goose as the victim pursuing her mum’s murderer

CLAIRE GOOSE as Jane and FELIX SCOTT as Rob. Undeniable ITV
Marriage under stress – Rob (Felix Scott) and Jane

Claire Goose plays Jane and puts herself convincingly through the emotional wringer as a young married mum, expecting again, whose life goes on tilt when she sees the man, respected cancer doctor Andrew Rawlins (Peter Firth), at a hospital. She tells her husband Rob (Felix Scott), with convincing logic, that she is 99 percent sure Rawlins is the one – but even if she was only 50 percent certain she would still want to go to the police.

The problem is that when strong evidence suggests Rawlins is not the killer, Jane ploughs on, relying on her one sighting, even to the point of violence.

I’m sure it is possible that on rare occasions someone could pinpoint a killer they saw briefly as a child, but it just seems very unlikely, and that hangs over this two-part drama. It’s other big drawback is that a fairly complex but fascinating tale is crammed into two episodes.

Undeniable would have benefitted from being longer

ITV haven’t done writer Chris Lang any favours by squeezing it all into less than two hours (with ads taking up the rest). Given more space and development, it would have been intriguing to know more about Rawlins and about victims in Jane’s situation.

PIPPA HAYWOOD as Alison Hall. Undeniable ITV
Investigator – DI Alison Hall

It is a beautifully filmed production, and the acting is really fine, with Pippa Haywood also appearing as the detective who helps Jane to piece together some of Rawlins’s past. But again, her character has an interesting backstory that is glossed over.

A decent enough thriller, but it could have been a lot better.

Cast: Claire Goose Jane Phillips, Peter Firth Andrew Rawlins, Felix Scott Rob Phillips, Pippa Haywood DI Alison Hall, Christine Bottomley Emma Rawlins, Robert Pugh Pete

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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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Sherlock vs Mrs Biggs at ITV1’s National Television Awards

Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Sherlock BBC

• Sherlock faces off with Mrs Biggs at the National Television Awards, to be shown on ITV1 later this month (Wednesday, 23 January, 7.30pm). Both crime dramas have two nominations each, with BBC1’s Sherlock down for best drama and male performance (Benedict Cumberbatch), while Sheridan Smith and Daniel Mays are both in the running for their roles in ITV1’s Great Train Robbery drama. Suranne Jones is also nominated for Scott & Bailey. Doctor Who, ironically a character inspired by Sherlock Holmes, tops the drama nominations with three nods. The NTA gongs are voted for by the great viewing public, so give your favourite a boost here. Surely, Sherlock was way more fun than Dullton Abbey?

Doctor Who, Downton Abbey, Merlin, Sherlock
Drama performance male:
Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock, Daniel Mays Mrs Biggs, Colin Morgan Merlin, Matt Smith Doctor Who
Drama performance female:
Karen Gillan Doctor Who, Miranda Hart Call the Midwife, Suranne Jones Scott & Bailey, Sheridan Smith Mrs Biggs

Polly Walker as Francesca, BBC• Prisoners’ Wives will be back on BBC1 later this year. It’s just finished filming in Sheffield and the makers are promising more jeopardy, joy, sex and secrets resulting from the imprisonment of the women’s other halves. Polly Walker (right) and Pippa Hayward return alongside new characters played by Sally Carman and Karla Crome. Writer Julie Gearey‘s series was something of a quiet success, relying on intriguing stories and strong characters. She says, ‘It’s been very exciting to return to the world of Prisoners’ Wives and have the opportunity to create fresh stories for Francesca and Harriet and introduce our brand new characters, Kim and Aisling. The second season will continue the mix of compelling character driven stories with some dark twists and more than a little romance.’

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