Best TV crime dramas of 2014

THIS ROUND-UP of the year’s best TV crime dramas has for the past four years comfortably listed 10 outstanding series.2014, on the other hand, is a tougher proposition. There were so many terrific stories and performances that I found it impossible to restrict it to 10. So, to celebrate the New Year, here is my top 14 for 2014…

True Detective, Sky Atlantic

A simply indelible series that was unlike anything else out there in 2014. Haunting, a little mad and with a dream-like – or perhaps that should be nightmarish – atmosphere. Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson put in a shift, too. Our review

Happy Valley, BBC1

Sally Wainwright’s gritty drama was engrossing and powerful, and also had one of the performances of the year from Sarah Lancashire. The second series will have a tough act to follow. Our review

Peaky Blinders, BBC2

Really hit its stride in this second series. Great to see a revival of the British gangster drama that dared to be brash and different. Our review

Sherlock 3, BBC1

Some people did not like this flamboyant third series, but we did and so did most reviewers. Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat were really on their game, producing a drama that fizzed with jaw-dropping surprises and delights. Our review

The Bridge 2, BBC4

Superb follow-up to the first series, which pushed our heroes Saga and Martin into new intrigue and emotional turmoil. Kim Bodnia won’t return to series 3 because his character, of course, ended up in jail, but Sofia Helin will (see Digital Spy’s interview with them)
Our review

Line of Duty 2, BBC2

Another feather in BBC2’s cap this year, this drama about police corruption was superb and completely outshone the first series. Keeley Hawes dominated proceedings with a compelling performance as the inspector under suspicion. Our review

The Widower, ITV

Once again ITV came up with a fascinating exploration of a real crime. Reece Shearsmith as the slippery killer Malcolm Webster was haunting, in a drama that was way better than his other series this year, the unconvincing Chasing ShadowsOur review

Fargo, C4

It never came close to catching the bleak logic and black humour of the Coen brothers’ cult film, but this series starring Martin Freeman and Billy Bob Thornton was quirky enough to keep everyone frozen to the screen. Our review

The Missing, BBC1

Sober, intelligent and always engrossing eight-part tragedy. The disappearance of a five-year-old British boy on holiday in France was a difficult subject, but this was a truthful and heartfelt series that was totally involving. Our review

Gomorrah, Sky Atlantic

Powerful Italian series, based on Roberto Saviano’s frightening book about the Neapolitan Camorra, which revealed how insidious and slightly unhinged Southern Italian crime organisations are. Our review

The Honourable Woman, BBC2

Twisting, full of intrigue and beautifully made and acted, this follow-up to The Shadow Line from writer/producer/director Hugo Blick was one of the most captivating dramas of 2014. Maggie Gyllenhaal stepped out of her Hollywood comfort zone and gave a blockbuster performance. Our review

Scott & Bailey, ITV

Once again this ITV staple with Lesley Sharp and Suranne Jones got all the basics of good drama right, while coming up with some really intriguing crime stories. Our review

Boardwalk Empire, Sky Atlantic

A series that has never really grabbed audiences in the UK, but as it approached its finale it was always beautifully written, acted and produced. Our review

The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies

ITV specialises in dramas inspired by real events and again came up with a sober, fascinating series about the wrongful arrest of the eccentric ex-school teacher. Jason Watkins was terrific in the lead. Our review

Honourable mentions to… 
The Fall 2 – even if the finale made a hash of Stella’s character and was ultimately disappointing (see our mini-poll, above right), this had some great moments along the way; Brooklyn Nine-Nine; Suspects; Endeavour 2; Mammon; 24: Live Another Day; Amber; Utopia; Crimes of Passion; The Driver; Legends; Glue; Grantchester; and Common.
Fond farewells…
to Ronnie Brooks (and Law & Order: UK as well?), and Southland.
Disappointments…
Hostages; Salamander; the pilot for Bosch; Babylon did not quite cut it; Turks & Caicos – all prestige production and cast that failed to grip; Prey; Hinterland; Chasing Shadows; and Stalker, which was pretty dire.

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

LESLEY SHARP as DC Janet Scott and AMELIA BULLMORE as DCI Gill Murray and SURANNE JONES as DS Rachel Bailey
Back in action – Lesley Sharp, Amelia Bullmore and Suranne Jones. Pics: ITV

Rating: ★★★

ITV: starts Wednesday, 10 September, 9pm

Story: After falling out with each other so badly in the last series, Rachel and Janet resolve to move forward and to try to make something of their careers. While they are both preoccupied with aiming for promotion to sergeant, however, a vulnerable young adult goes missing…

SCOTT & BAILEY returns with another captivating episode – is a good sign for series four. Rachel and Janet have decided to set their recent bust-up aside – along with their less than dazzling personal

AMELIA BULLMORE as DCI Gill Murray
DCI Murray at the quarry 

lives – to focus on making something of their careers.

While they are on speaking terms again, both are also focused on promotions to the rank of sergeant. As they face their promotion interviews, the story of the week is about the kidnap of a vulnerable young adult called Robin McKendrick.

The series’ popularity is probably down to a combination of good writing and acting from well-liked stars Suranne Jones, Lesley Sharp and Amelia Bullmore (who also writes this episode), and the skill with which it interweaves the police procedural stuff with their personal stories.

Bittersweet twist for Rachel and Janet

It is not as distinctive or powerful as Happy Valley, The Fall or Broadchurch, but it is looking down on Death in Paradise and Lewis from a great height.

Part of its winning formula is also having characters who feel familiar. Most viewers know a steady

SURANNE JONES as DS Rachel Bailey, DELROY BROWN as DC Lee Broadhurst, LESLEY SHARP as DC Janet Scott, DAVID PROSHO as DC Ian Mitchell, AMELIA BULLMORE as DCI Gill Murray, TONY MOONEY as DC Pete Readyough. L-R Front Row: DANNY MILLER as DS Rob Waddington and DANNY WEBB as DC Chris Crowley.
Debriefing for Syndicate 9

Janet (Lesley Sharp) – here coping with warring daughters and her ‘hindrance’ of a mother following the collapse of her marriage – as well as a reckless Rachel (Suranne Jones), who is trying to move on from her impetuous marriage and become the responsible, instinctive and successful detective she could be.

There is a bittersweet twist in the opening episode about their bids to become sergeant, and again the characters respond to the outcome in a way that is understandable while tinged with sadness for one of them.

Woman missing for 23 years

The other stand-out aspect to the shows is that the cases are not run-of-the-mill whodunits. There is usually some level of insight into the victims’/families’ stories and social context to the drama. And in

 LESLEY SHARP as DC Janet Scott and DELROY BROWN as DC Lee Broadhurst
Jane and Lee Broadhurst looking for the missing man

the last series there was the recurring and chilling story of the apparently bed-ridden man whose elderly wife suffered a gruesome death.

This week’s story of the missing young man is all the sadder when Rachel visits his horrible parents and finds their poor son was neglected and effectively alone in the world. While searching a quarry for the guy’s body, however, the team discovers another corpse first – one that guvnor Gill Murray (Bullmore) suspects may be that of a missing woman called Mandy Sweeting, who’s been missing for 23 years.

Which sets things up nicely for next week.

Check out these links…
Series four of Scott & Bailey announced
Scott & Bailey Facebook page
Series three preview on CrimeTimePreview

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ITV’s best new crime shows autumn 2014

IT’S BEEN a sunny summer for once, but as usual there’s nowt on the box (apart from the Commonwealth Games), so this is a good moment to look in the crystal ball and see what treats ITV has in store for the autumn and beyond.

There are some well-known faces coming back – a few of which are to be welcomed, others a little past their sell-by date – with a couple of intriguing newcomers in production.

Broadchurch 2 One of the hottest shows of last year, it’s even been creating a stir in the US, where

Broadchurch 2 ITV cast rehearsal

David Tennant has reprised his role as detective Alec Hardy in an American version of the series. He will be back with Olivia Colman as Ellie Miller in the ITV follow-up. Charlotte Rampling joins the cast (pictured right). It’s been filming in Dorset and acclaimed screenwriter Chris Chibnall is back masterminding the production. Anticipation factor: ★★★★

Chasing Shadows is one of the interesting new shows. Starring Reece Shearsmith and Alex Kingston, it’s about a missing persons unit. Anticipation factor: ★★★★

Arthur & George is a three-part adaptation of Julian Barnes’s novel, based on true events. Martin Clunes stars as Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle, who challenges a miscarriage of justice. Anticipation factor: ★★★★

Scott and Bailey's Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharp

Scott & Bailey 4 Returns for a fourth series. The drama’s original tendency to portray all men as thick, immature, unfaithful or criminal has faded, while the stories have got more powerful and the cast – Lesley Sharp, Suranne Jones, Amelia Bullmore – have won a big following and the writing – Lee Warburton, Emily Ballou and Amelia Bullmore again! – has been gripping. Janet and Rachel’s relationship is tested to the limit this time round. Anticipation factor: ★★★★½

Grantchester Following in the footsteps of the Beeb’s gentle daytime mystery Father Brown is Sidney Chambers, a charismatic clergyman played by James Norton (the vile villain in Happy Valley). This is also a period piece – set in 1953 – and has a nice cast, including Robson Green, Morven Christie and Tessa Peak-Jones. A six-parter, it was filming in London, Cambridge and Grantchester earlier this year. Anticipation factor: ★★★½

Arthur & George Three-part adaptation of Julian Barnes’s novel, based on true events. Martin Clunes stars as Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle, who challenges a miscarriage of justice. Filming autumn 2014. Anticipation factor: ★★★★

Safe House An atmospheric thriller set in the Lake District. Cast yet to be announced. It’s a four-parter inspired by a true story of a couple who turn their guest house into a safe house. Filming autumn 2014. Anticipation factor: ★★★★

Code of a Killer Two-parter based on the extraordinary true story of Alec Jeffreys’ discovery of DNA fingerprinting and its first use by detective David Baker in snaring a double murderer. With the terrific David Threlfall in the cast, filming starts in September. Anticipation factor: ★★★★½

The Suspicions of Mr Whicher Terrific book by Kate Summerscale, fab first series. But then came the fictionalised re-imaging of the Victorian detective’s career after the infamous country house child murder of the original. I so wanted to like this, and there is probably a great story about Whicher’s later life, but this reboot reduces his tale to a straight cop procedural. Still, fingers crossed, it’s got Paddy Considine returning as the man himself. Anticipation factor: ★★★

Lewis It feels like a tired old regular screen fixture, but there will be attempts to shake-up the formula with a slight reversal of roles for Kevin Whately and Laurence Fox’s detectives, the now retired Lewis and newly promoted Hathaway. Anticipation factor: ★★★
Brenda Blethyn as Vera, ITV
Foyle’s War Three 120-minute stories are in the pipeline, as Michael Kitchen returns as Christopher Foyle, now a senior intelligence office for MI5 in the aftermath of the Second World War. The guest stars include John Mahoney (Frasier), Richard Lintern (Silent Witness), Nigel Lindsay (Four Lions), Jaime Winstone (Mad Dogs) and William Postlethwaite (Midsomer Murders). Anthony Horowitz is back on story duty. Anticipation factor: ★★★½

Vera 5 Filming is under way, with Kenny Doughty joining as DS Aiden Healy after David Leon’s departure as Joe Ashworth (shame, as his storylines were often quite good). Brenda Blethyn (right) still heads proceedings as DCI Vera Stanhope. 2015. Anticipation factor: ★★★½

Let us know which shows you can’t wait to see… comment below or email us

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