Turks & Caicos, BBC2, Bill Nighy, Helena Bonham Carter, Christopher Walken, Winona Ryder PREVIEW

Winona Ryder and Bill Nighy in Turks & Caicos. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★½

BBC2: Thursday, 20 March, 9pm

Story: Johnny Worricker is hiding out from MI5 in the West Indies, but an encounter with a CIA agent forces him into the company of some dubious American businessmen, as well as high-powered financial PR Melane Fall.

THIS IS the second of David Hare’s three films about the ex-intelligence agent Johnny Worricker, and it’s got an even starrier cast than the first, 2011’s Page Eight.

Perhaps Christopher Walken, Winona Ryder and Helena Bonham Carter were attracted by a shooting schedule in the Turks & Caicos Islands, the lush Caribbean setting for all manner of corruption in this thriller.

Or as Winona Ryder’s drunken, damaged PR woman Melanie Fall calls it, ‘That shitty little tax dodge

Christopher Walken

island.’ It is, of course, known as a offshore financial centre, and serves as a backdrop to the moral duplicity of the bankers and corporations who run our affairs.

Billy Nighy and Christopher Walken

But no doubt the cast were also attracted by Hare’s rich dialogue. Bill Nighy returns as the suave Worricker, now on the run from MI5 having displeased Prime Minister Ralph Fiennes in Page Eight. Turks & Caicos is his secret hideaway – until he is approached by a mysterious American, Curtis Pelissier, and his cover is blown.

If you need a mysterious American, Christopher Walken is the go-to guy. He livens things up by ruffling Johnny’s calmness, and then inviting him to an evening drink, where Johnny meets some shady New Jersey types and their PR woman, Melanie.

One of the businessmen turns up dead the next day, and Johnny, Curtis and Melanie are pitched into a

Rupert Graves and Bill Nighy

very dangerous intrigue that could see high-level people exposed as criminals. This is all while a big international gathering is arriving on the island of businessmen and politicians – including Johnny’s ex Margot (Helena Bonham Carter) and her shady boss, played by Rupert Graves.

Suspense without shootouts and corpses

What I felt about Turks & Caicos is that while it takes a decent shot at the machinations of international power elites, it lacks real anger at the fall-out from how governments and corporations misbehave. This is the elite end of the corruption – all very luxurious and almost seductive.

While there is tension, the film also has little feeling of danger to it. Johnny is too laid back to even break a sweat as the peril increases.

However, the dialogue is wry and the production wonderful to ogle at, while these star actors make

Helena Bonham Carter

their characters interesting and intriguing. Sir David Hare recently criticised the high body counts in crime/thriller TV and films, including the Scandinavian shows, and has said he wanted to restore some suspense in this trilogy without all the guns. The result is wordy but still enjoyable to watch.

Final part of the Worricker trilogy

Salting the Battlefield is the third film and will follow in a couple of weeks. Having shown the first part in 2011 it seems a little odd that the next two have been rushed out together two years down the line.

Is it my imagination or has the BBC been a little lacklustre in its support for Hare’s trilogy? It seems as though there has been little hoopla about what are prestigious productions with knockout casts.

Even Death in Paradise gets more of a fanfare.

Cast: Bill Nighy Johnny Worricker, Helena Bonham Carter Margot Tyrell, Rupert Graves Stirling Rogers, Winona Ryder Melanie Fall, Christopher Walken Curtis Pelissier, Dylan Baker Gary Bethwaite, Meredith Eaton Clare Clovis, Zach Grenier Dido Parsons, Julie Hewlett Natalie Helier, James Naughton Frank Church, Ewen Bremner Rollo Maverley, Ralph Fiennes Alec Beasley

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Sherlock series 2 A Scandal in Belgravia PREVIEW

Meeting his match? Sherlock and Irene Adler. Pics: BBC

Rating ★★★★★

BBC1 from Sunday, 1 January, 8.10pm

Story: Compromising photographs and blackmail threaten the British establishment, while Sherlock begins a duel of wits with an antagonist who will always be THE Woman.

On the evidence of this first case, one can only deduce that if there is a crime drama in 2012 that fizzes with more wit and panache than Sherlock it’s going to be one stonking show.

Series two of the Holmes modern reboot was originally due for autumn 2011 but the lengthy filming schedule pushed it back to the first day of the New Year (going out in the US in May), and it is definitely worth the wait.

Lara Pulver as The Woman

Dominating Sherlock’s thoughts – Lara Pulver as The Woman

‘A Scandal in Belgravia’ again cleverly updates the great sleuth, toys with his legend and is brilliantly entertaining. It is sharp, mysterious and sexy. The latter ingredient arrives in the shape of a thoroughly modern Irene Adler – intellectual rival for Sherlock, erotic foil and dominatrix. Phew…

She is played by Lara Pulver, recently seen in True Blood and Spooks, who makes the acquaintance of Holmes in the most eyebrow-raising scene the great man has ever been in. For once, he doesn’t know where to look or what to say.

Her trysting with Holmes via text messages, codes, Twitter (pseudonym: The Whip Hand) and in person exposes a new side of the detective. Is he in love? Is he vulnerable to her? As Watson points out, his partner is composing sad music to scratch out on his violin when he is parted from The Woman, as she must be known.

S&M and Holmes’s intellectual fetishes
But this being Holmes, snogging and candle-lit dinners are not the norm. It’s a lot more high octane and dangerous than that. And it was a clever stroke, so to speak, to have an S&M specialist crossing paths with Sherlock, a man with intellectual fetishes of his own.

Odd couple, played by Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman

Once Sherlock has dealt (inconclusively) with Moriarty to resolve the poolside cliffhanger from series one, the opening episode’s McGuffin is introduced in the form of compromising photos that could bring down the government/monarchy. Rogue CIA agents and terrorists join in the fun, but it is Sherlock getting into some intellectual heavy-breathing with Irene that sweeps events along.

Is Irene, who has the photos, a damsel in distress, or is she playing a double game? You almost don’t care, so electric and fun are the scenes between Holmes, Watson and Irene.

Holmes’s cruel treatment of Molly
Robert Downey Jr’s action-Holmes is deservedly doing great box office right now, but Benedict Cumberbatch’s version is better – more arrogant, colder and intimidating.

‘Any ideas?’ Lestrade asks, confronted by a puzzling murder.

Sherlock replies, ‘Eight, so far.’

And as Martin Freeman’s Watson says to Irene, ‘He will outlive god trying to have the last word.’ Though we do see flickers of emotion for once, not just regarding Irene but also when Holmes regrets his cruel treatment of smitten Molly Hooper, who works in the laboratory.

There is so much to enjoy here – Holmes summoned to Buckingham Palace wearing only a blanket, his headbutting a CIA agent, the charged bickering with Mycroft – that huge praise must go to co-creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat (how does Moffat manage to fit in making/writing Doctor Who with making/writing Sherlock?).

The episode also re-uses the text graphics that we saw in the first series’ opener, to economically denote what clues Holmes picks up by looking at someone (‘no gun’, ‘office worker’, ‘three dogs’), mobile messages and blog updates.

‘The Hounds of Baskerville’ and ‘The Reichenbach Fall’
Moffat and Gatiss have chosen the three major Holmes adventures for this second series, with ‘The Hounds of Baskerville’ and ‘The Reichenbach Fall’ to come (the titles are all slight adjustments on the originals).

Moffat, a Sherlock Holmes fan since childhood, explains, ‘Last time nobody knew about us and there was some scepticism about “modernising” Sherlock Holmes. And now look at Benedict and Martin, they are so famous in those roles! So far the series has sold in over 180 countries worldwide, so it’s a very big change.

‘Well this year, knowing we were a huge hit, I suppose we felt let’s do the three big things, The Woman, the Hound and the Fall. Instead of making people wait years and years, we thought – to hell with deferred pleasure, let’s just do it now, more, sooner, faster!’
 
Deferred pleasure? Not with Irene Adler around.

Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock Holmes, Martin Freeman John Watson, Mark Gatiss Mycroft, Rupert Graves Inspector Lestrade, Una Stubbs Mrs Hudson, Andrew Scott Moriarty, Louise Brealey Molly Hooper, Lara Pulver Irene Adler.

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Case Sensitive with Olivia Williams PREVIEW

DC Waterhouse (Darren Boyd) and DS Zailer (Olivia Williams) Pics: (C) ITV Plc/HAT TRICK PRODUCTIONS

Rating ★★★★

ITV1 starts Monday, 2 May, 9pm; concludes Tuesday, 3 May, 9pm

ITV is on a roll at the moment, putting on some sharp crime dramas that rise above the level of, ‘Ooh, look at the lovely village scenery/costumes’ (don’t mention Midsomer Murders/Marple).

So, last week it was The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, while Vera with Brenda Blethyn is with us, and here we have ITV1’s pretty decent contemporary psychological thriller, Case Sensitive. None of these could go 10 rounds with the sensational The Killing, which recently wrapped on BBC4, but they’re far more characterful and engaging than the dull old whodunnits that bring in the foreign sales (don’t mention Lewis/Poirot).  

Mark (Rupert Graves)

Here, Olivia Williams’s DS Charlie Zailer has a problem. She is called in to investigate the apparent suicide of Geraldine Bretherick, found dead in the bath of her luxury home with her five-year-old daughter, Lucy.

One mystery is, did Charlie sleep with her deputy?
Zailer’s problem is that this is the first investigation she’s headed. She’s trying to prove herself to her impossible-to-please boss, and her deputy, Simon Waterhouse (Darren Boyd), is not good at following her instructions. He’s also insubordinate, heavyhanded and rubbish at paperwork. Her boss, Proust (Peter Wight), also likes him.

Oh, and Charlie spent a drunken evening with Simon the night before the deaths – but can’t remember if she slept with him. While Charlie believes Geraldine killed herself and her daughter, particularly after the discovery of a note, Waterhouse is suspicious of her husband, Mark, played by Rupert Graves, who seems to have cornered the market in roles for shifty, unpleasant men.

Tough but insecure – Charlie Zailer

Sophie Hannah‘s suspense novel The Point of Rescue is the source of Case Sensitive, which, as usually happens when novels are boiled down to two-part TV series, loses a lot of the subtlety of the original. So we miss some of Charlie’s background as a Met officer who has come to the provinces.

Chilling twist
But Hannah’s odd-couple detective pairing is portrayed well by the two stars, with each character evolving – Charlie tough and clever but a little insecure, Simon very sharp but whose social outcast nature has earned him the nickname ‘Rainman’.

Sally (Amy Beth Hayes)

The story takes a chilling twist when we meet Sally Thorne (Amy Beth Hayes), a pretty, married hotel receptionist who recognises Mark Bretherick’s name when she catches a news report of the deaths. She confides in her friend, Esther, that she had an affair with Mark and then ignores Esther’s advice not to contact Mark.

When Sally delivers her condolences to Mark, she has a shock and discovers a key to a crime that then escalates.

Olivia Williams and Darren Boyd
Case Sensitive has a great premise, and Olivia Williams and Darren Boyd are very engaging as the colleagues tiptoeing round each other. It suffers a bit from a rushed and convoluted ending, and would have benefited from having more than two hours devoted to it. The Killing was a 20-parter, which meant it really got into the characters.

Who knows – after the cult success of the Danish series, maybe BBC and ITV honchos are at this very moment plotting some bigger, bolder crime dramas for next year?

Cast: Olivia Williams DS Charlie Zailer, Darren Boyd DC Simon Waterhouse, Amy Beth Hayes Sally Thorne, Rupert Graves Mark Bretherick, Tom Goodman-Hill Steve Harbord, Geoffrey Streatfield Jonathan Hey, Peter Wight Proust, Claudia Harrison Cordy O’Hara, Emily Robbins Oonah O’Hara, Melissa Taylor Lucy, Elly Fairman Esther Taylor, Eloise Cartwright Amy, Ralph Ineson DC Sellers, Seeta Indrani Dr Chaudry, Huw Rhys Nick Thorne

Garrow’s Law PREVIEW

Garrow, Lady Sarah and Southouse
(Pics: Graeme Hunter/Twenty Twenty Television)

Sunday, November 14, 9pm, BBC1


Rating ★★★★

Traditionalists who long for simpler times when the authorities really had zero tolerance for criminals must absolutely love Garrow’s Law.

The 18th century was a time when sodomy was a hanging offence and a ship’s captain could legally throw slave men, women and children overboard at sea if there wasn’t enough drinking water to go round. And, of course, most of the ‘criminals’ were what we’d today simply call poor and disadvantaged.

Series one, which first got us interested in the pioneering exploits of barrister William Garrow, was almost funny in showing us how bloody awful and iniquitous the Old Bailey was at the time. You half expected Blackadder and Baldrick to pop up every week.

Royal Television Society award
After the success of that season, inspired by the contemporary records from the Old Bailey that are now available online, and with a Royal Television Society award on the mantelpiece, co-creator Tony Marchant’s series and his starry cast are back.

And it kicks off with an extraordinary story about 133 slaves being dispatched overboard from the cargo ship The Zong. Not that the charge is mass murder, of course, but rather a legal squabble between the insurance company and the ship’s captain, whom the insurer’s think is trying to fiddle them.

As the lawyer opposing Garrow remarks, it’s a ‘case of chattels and goods, the same as horses being thrown over’. Did Captain Collingwood act so inhumanely to save the rest of the crew (after his blundering gets them lost at sea), or is there some corrupt reason for his brutality?

Andrew Buchan and Rupert Graves 
As Garrow, played once again by Andrew Buchan, the closest thing Britain has to James Stewart, searches frantically for a moral dimension to the case, his private life is in turmoil.

Lady Sarah Hill, newly returned to London with her infant son, is turned on by her jealous husband, Sir Arthur (Rupert Graves), who suspects the child might be that of her one-time admirer, Garrow. Sir Arthur and his high-ranking friends, unable to defeat Garrow in court, are determined to ruin him and Lady Sarah.

It’s a compelling mix of plotting and emotion, but the series’ magic is in the window it offers into a time when the legal process was extremely primitive. Before Garrow was re-examined in the recently posted online archives, he was obscure (not even a mention in the Oxford Companion to the Law).

Inventing the art of cross-examination
Thanks to Garrow’s Law we can glimpse this extraordinary man, years ahead of his age, outspoken and boldly anti-establishment during this phase of his career (he went on to be Attorney General and an MP).

Garrow argued for the right to put the case for defendants and virtually invented the art of cross-examining prosecution witnesses. Until then the judge or even the jury chipped in with questions. As depicted on-screen, the courtroom was chaotic, resembling a public debating chamber rather than a legal forum.

High-class lawyers were disdainful of representing the rabble dragged to court by shifty thief-takers and bounty hunters, who often gave evidence against the poor slobs they were paid to haul in.

Alun Armstrong and Lyndsey Marshal
The cast are all good, some with faces so characterful they look as though they’ve stepped out of the late 1700s (no names mentioned). Alun Armstrong is fatherly as Garrow’s mentor, Southouse, while Lyndsey Marshal manages to be strong but vulnerable as Lady Sarah.

It’s good to see this series returning. Each week’s story is dramatic and fascinating, with intrigues about the implications of being gay, about women and property, and the mistreatment of disabled sailors all to come.

If Garrow at times seems too saintly here, you still wonder what this man, so out of synch with his contemporaries, must really have been like.

Someone so dogged that he would cause uproar by calling Gustavus Vassa (actor Danny Sapani), a freed black man, to give evidence to a disbelieving court. Garrow was a man who could  really make enemies, and it’s great to watch him doing it.
• Tony Marchant has done an interesting blog about dramatising Garrow’s Law on the BBC site.

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