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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Gillian Anderson in The Fall, Danny Miller joins Scott & Bailey, Win a Mayday DVD

• Here’s a glimpse of Gillian Anderson as DSI Stella Gibson, who will we see this year in BBC2’s The Fall. The series is set in Northern Ireland and will see Anderson’s character, who is on secondment from the London Met, called in to track down a serial killer who is terrorising Belfast. Jamie Dornan will play Paul Spector, the murderer.

• Former Emmerdale and Lightfields star Danny Miller will be joining Scott & Bailey on 24 April (pictured below). His character, DS Rob Waddington, is set to shake up things for Janet (Lesley Joseph) and Rachel (Suranne Jones), particularly Janet. She’s been filling in for months as acting detective sergeant, only to see Rob the young high-flyer nip in and take the job. ‘He’s learning on the job,’ Danny says. ‘Janet takes him under her wing and he appreciates her experience and intelligence. He doesn’t like confrontation and would rather sit down and work things out. Yet when he has to put his foot down, he will.’ Though S&B has been terrific, the male characters have all been either stupid, pathetic or lecherous. It will be interesting to see if Rob breaks the mould. And, when Janet and Rachel fall out later in the series, will Janet be able to turn to the younger man for advice?

It’s the Bafta TV Awards on 12 May at London’s Royal Festival Hall and there are some terrific crime dramas in the running. CrimeTimePreview will be cheering on Sean Bean and Stephen Graham, who were bold and brilliant in the first episode of the Accused series, Tracie’s Story, in which Bean played spectacularly against type as a transvestite in love. Sheridan Smith (Mrs Biggs) and Sienna Miller (The Girl) are among those scrapping for Leading Actress. Olivia Colman, who could probably be nominated for everything she’s in at the moment (particularly Broadchurch), is up for Supporting Actress in Accused. Scott & Bailey and Ripper Street are chasing Best Drama Series (surely Scott & Bailey is better). And a particular favourite at CrimeTimePreview HQ from 2012 was Murder, which is up for Best Single Drama. Directed by The Killing‘s Birger Larsen for BBC2, this was a gripping depiction of the messiness and ambiguities involved in a murder case. See Bafta’s full nomination list.

• It’s competition time! The first three crime TV fans who become a member of the CrimeTimePreview gang (see the column right), will receive copies of the sinister thriller series Mayday. The complete series of the BBC drama starring Peter Firth and Sophie Okonedo was released this week, costing £19.99. It was written by the team responsible for that other creepy detective series Whitechapel, Ben Court and Caroline Ip, and told the story of the residents of a small town coping with the disappearance of a teenager who was supposed to head the Mayday parade. The woods outside of the town are menacing, while several residents have secrets to hide. So what happened to the May Queen? The DVD’s special features include The Making of Mayday, Cast Filmographies and a Picture Gallery. 
This offer is open to UK residents only. The first three people who become Members of CrimeTimePreview (Join this site, column, right) will be posted free copies of Mayday. The selectees will need to provide their postal address. Deadline: Saturday, 20 April. No prize alternatives. If anyone registers but declines the Mayday DVD, an alternative winner will be selected.

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Third degree: Cath Staincliffe

Pic: © Paul Herrmann

Manchester-based crime writer Cath Staincliffe is interrogated below for evidence of her TV viewing and reading activities. She writes the novels based on the Scott & Bailey series, which stars Lesley Sharp and Suranne Jones and is soon to return to ITV – with her latest book about the female detectives being Bleed Like Me. Cath is also the author of the Sal Kilkenny private eye stories and creator and scriptwriter of Blue Murder, which was on ITV and starred Caroline Quentin. 

Your favourite British crime series or thriller on TV?
(I’ll tell you now I’m rubbish at choosing single answers). Scott & Bailey, Prime Suspect, Life on Mars, Morse, Cracker, Z Cars.  Can I have The Singing Detective too?

Favourite US crime series or thriller on TV?
Justified, Southland, Breaking Bad, Hill Street Blues, Boardwalk Empire, The Wire, The Sopranos. And can I chuck in Jack Irish (Australian), which I really like.

Top TV cop?
At the moment it’s Raylan Givens in Justified.

Which unfilmed book/character should be made into a TV drama?
Hard this because choosing something to be adapted means a new interpretation of well-loved characters (which might be awful). Maybe a series with a fresh location we’ve not seen before like the Leaphorn and Chee novels by Tony Hillerman or Steve Hamilton’s chilly Alex McKnight stories. Or Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins – they could be amazing.

If another of your novels were filmed, who would you cast to be the hero? 
No idea. When Caroline Quentin was cast as Janine Lewis in Blue Murder she wasn’t how I imagined the detective in the book but she was brilliant in the role and made it her own so that after that I could only see her as that character.

What do you watch with a guilty conscience (or what’s your guilty pleasure)? 
Can’t think of anything really – there’s not enough time to watch all the good stuff (I only see a couple of hours a day) let alone rubbish.

Least favourite cop show/thriller? 
Never really warmed to Silent Witness.

Do you prefer The Wire or The Sopranos
Neck and neck.

Marple/Poirot or Sherlock Holmes? 
Philip Marlowe.

Wallander – BBC or the Swedish version?
Enjoyed both.

US or British television crime dramas?
If I absolutely had to pick I’d choose US, but it’s a very close call.

Your favourite crime/thriller writers?
James Lee Burke, Tana French, Thomas H. Cook, Denise Mina, Walter Mosley, Steve Mosby, Belinda Bauer, Don Winslow, Kate Atkinson, Simon Lelic, Laura Wilson, Ken Bruen, Dennis Lehane, Claire Seeber, Sue Grafton … I could go on … and on.

Have you read a crime novel that’s really knocked you out lately?
Yes! Rubbernecker by Belinda Bauer, also Broken Harbour by Tana French. 

Favourite non-crime/thriller author?
Carol Birch, Toni Morrison, Sarah Waters, Kate Grenville.

Favourite crime movie or thriller?
Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. And if you won’t let me have that then Fargo, Con Air, LA Confidential, The Usual Suspects, Insomnia, In the Heat of the Night.

You’ve been framed for murder. Which fictional detective/sleuth would you want to call up?
I’d pick DCI Gill Murray and her Scott & Bailey team.  She’s bright, clever enough to see what’s really going on and she’d be totally committed to getting me off. Janet and Rachel would work their magic, Janet with her skill and sensitivity and Rachel with her reckless flair. Then we could all go to the pub for a good natter afterwards.
• In addition to Bleed Like Me, Cath Staincliffe has a new standalone novel out in April – Blink of an Eye.

CrimeTimePreview will be previewing Scott & Bailey 3 tomorrow…

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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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Scott and Bailey with Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharp PREVIEW

Janet Scott (Lesley Sharp) and Rachel Bailey (Suranne Jones). Pics: (C) ITV Plc

Rating ★★★

ITV1, from Sunday, 29 May, 9pm

BBC1 controller Danny Cohen says he axed the popular Zen series because there were too many male cop shows and he wanted to ‘broaden the palette’.

Perhaps he should watch ITV1 more often. Recently the channel’s launched Vera with Brenda Blethyn, gave us Olivia Williams in Case Sensitive, and now they’ve got a female double-header – Scott and Bailey with Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharp. And their boss is a woman too, DCI Gill Murray (Amelia Bullmore).

Lesley Sharp

Cagney and Lacey immediately springs to mind. Like that fondly remembered 80s series, this six-parter is more about the lead characters and their private lives than the cases on which each episode hangs. So we have a blonde one, Janet Scott (Sharp), and a brunette, Rachel Bailey (Jones). Scott is married, while Rachel has a messier personal life, as her duplicitous lawyer boyfriend, Nick (Rupert Graves in another sleazeball role) is shown in the opening scene dumping her after two years of lying to her.

Rachel’s judgement is distorted
Happily, this is not another police procedural in which our heroes turn up at a murder scene and realise a fiendish serial killer is on the loose. It’s all very grounded, with the drama being carried by the characters and not a mounting pile of murder victims.

So Scott and Bailey are ordinary detective constables working in your average-looking office (as opposed to the moody, minimalist nightclub decor favoured by Waking the Dead, CSI etc). It’s set in ordinary, rainy Manchester.

Suranne Jones and Rupert Graves

Rachel is distracted by the shock of being dumped over dinner, when she was expecting an engagement ring. So shocked, actually, that her judgement is distorted during their investigation of a reported suicide, which turns out to be murder.

Unsolved murder that traumatised Janet
She may be impulsive and vulnerable (she uses her police privileges to investigate Nick), but Rachel is shown to be shrewd when it comes to the crunch interview that provides a breakthrough in the case. Meanwhile, Janet is the more level-headed one, but with a few private peccadilloes.

Such as her fling with her boss, DS Andy Roper (Nicholas Gleaves), of which Rachel knows nothing. Domestically, Janet is a mother of two for whom marriage to Adrian (Tony Pitts) is a routine of dull convenience.

The opener does a good job of establishing the characters. How will Rachel’s stormy relationship with Nick develop? And will Janet be able to get to the bottom of the unsolved murder of her childhood friend that traumatised her as a teenager?

On the case… Scott and Bailey

Lesley Sharp and Suranne Jones
Scott and Bailey will not shake TV crime drama to its foundations – especially not in a year that’s seen The Killing and The Shadow Line – but it is a welcome attempt to offer a gimmick-free story (no vintage setting, serial killers, time travel). In its favour is having two good leading actors who should quickly have audiences rooting for them.

And if BBC1’s controller is bored by the Beeb’s Sherlock, Wallander, Inspector George Gently, Luther and the rest of the boys, he’ll know which channel to watch on Sunday nights. 

Amelia Bullmore, Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharp

Sherlock and Luther return, plus new ITV commissions

Holmes re-boot (© BBC)

Sherlock, the most assured and enjoyable new UK crime series of the year, has been re-commissioned for autumn 2011, the Beeb has confirmed.

The inspired update of the Baker Street sleuth, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, was pacy, had great music and humour, and, most importantly, won 7.5 million viewers on its launch in July.

Perhaps more surprisingly, Luther is also returning with two two-hour specials. The drama starring The Wire‘s Idris Elba promised a lot, with a good cast and intriguing premise (about a genius detective), but eventually fizzled out with stories that were as convincing as spray-on hair. Still, it clearly did well enough for a recall.

Talking of the Sherlock recommission, which is coming back in three new 90-minute episodes, co-creators, Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, say, “We’ve been overwhelmed by the warmth of response to our new Sherlock Holmes and John Watson and can’t wait to take them on three new adventures next year. There’ll be baffling new puzzles, old friends and new enemies – whether on two, or four legs. And we might well be seeing the cold master of logic and reason unexpectedly falling. But in love? Or over a precipice? Who can tell?”

The BBC also announced Undisclosed (working title), written by Ronan Bennett (Public Enemies, The Hamburg Cell). It is described as “a taut and compelling mystery thriller revolving around Harry Venn, a small-time solicitor. Forced to delve into his murky past when asked to find a missing alibi witness, Venn soon finds himself caught up in a bigger and more complex conspiracy.”

Meanwhile, ITV has announced three crime dramas for 2011. There’s an Anthony Horowitz story – Injustice. It stars Jame Purefoy as William Travers, a criminal barrister recovering from traumatic events that have blasted his belief in the legal system. It follows Horowitz’s success with Collision on the channel.

Scott and Bailey will star Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharp in the title roles of two homicide detectives from Greater Manchester Police’s prestigious Major Incident Team.  The series is scripted by Sally Wainwright, whose drama Unforgiven won the  RTS Award for Best Drama earlier this year.

Finally, The Jury is a series about ordinary people finding themselves at the centre of a major controversial criminal re-trial. It’s written by Bafta-winner and Oscar nominee Peter Morgan.

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