Endeavour series 2 DVD REVIEW

DVD: ★★★★

Extras: ★★★

THIS may be sacrilege, but I prefer Endeavour to Morse.

I suspect much of Morse’s renown and popularity are down to John Thaw’s unforgettable portrayal of the gloomy detective, but the character never developed during all the years he was on air. This was par for the course during the series’ run in the late 80s and early 90s. But modern series that have story arcs – anything from The Fall to Broadchurch to True Detective – have shown how much richer series are that don’t stay on a loop of same characters, same investigations every week.

Endeavour, the 1960s-set prequel, has the advantage of showing Morse as he develops and changes, and writer/executive producer Russell Lewis has demonstrated his skill and empathy in taking Colin Dexter’s creation and fleshing him out cleverly. Each series combines the whodunit format with a story arc about the outsider detective, this latest series following his return to duty following the death of his father and his own brush with death after being shot, along with his romance with his neighbour, nurse Monica (Shvorne Marks).

Shaun Evans has been excellent casing as the too bright copper, and Roger Allam – as Thursday, who has his journey in this series – is a terrific co-star. The films from ITV are lovingly shot and have a fine period feel.

This complete collection of series 2’s four films – Trove, Nocturne, Sway and Neverland – also comes with a modest couple of added extras that should still delight fans. There’s a 10-minute feature called Creating Endeavour – The Next Chapter of Colin Dexter’s Legacy, and Spires, Ashtrays, Quads and Pastels, a short feature about the filming of the drama in Oxford.

RRP: £19.99, Certificate:12, Discs: 2, Running time: 360mins. Available on Amazon

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Endeavour series 2, ITV, with Shaun Evans, Roger Allam PREVIEW

Pictured L-R: SEAN RIGBY as PC Strange, SHAUN EVANS as Endeavour, JACK LASKEY as DS Peter Jakes,ROGER ALLAM as DI Fred Thursday and ANTON LESSER as CH SUPT Reginald Bright.
Endeavour and the Oxford squad. Pics: ITV

Rating: ★★★★

ITV: returns Sunday, 30 March, 8pm

Story: May 1966. DC Endeavour Morse returns to Oxford City Police after a four-month absence from duty. Reunited with DI Fred Thursday, still reeling from being shot and the loss of his father, the detective’s involuntary furlough has left him mentally wounded.

ENDEAVOUR was only meant to be a one-off to celebrate the Inspector Morse‘s 25th anniversary in 2012. But here he is back for a second series, following a hugely popular one-off and first series.

It’s been a clever reboot. The production is as good-looking and stately as ever, which the traditional Morse fans clearly adore. For the younger audience it has the sex appeal of Shaun Evans, giving a fine performance as the tortured bright-spark of a detective.

The conceit of Morse/Endeavour is that he is man who would never be in the police. He is too

 JESSICA ELLERBY as Diana.Endeavour 2 ITV
Diana knew the missing girl

intellectual, too cultured and aloof to fit in. He has few friends in the force (or outside), and as we prescient viewers know he is destined to never rise to a level in the force that his abilities deserve.

Thursday is worried about Endeavour

As Trove, the season two opener, begins, we encounter Endeavour back where he was in the pilot – wondering if the police service is the right career for him. It is four months after the traumatic events of the previous series when his father died and he was shot.

Yet he is immediately pitched into a brain-tease of a case that only he is equipped to unravel. During a street parade, a man plummets to his death from a council building. The dead man has multiple identities, but Endeavour works out who he is – and that this suspected suicide is not all it seems.

JESSIE BUCKLEY as Kitty Batten. Endeavour 2 ITV
Hot-blooded Kitty causes an incident at the parade

His boss, DI Thursday, looks on with fatherly concern as the younger man concocts various theories connecting the death with the disappearance of a young woman. Meanwhile, the chief superintendent – played by Anton Lesser, who’s cornered the market in smarmy arrogance in every drama from Game of Thrones to Garrow’s Law – just wants Endeavour to be put on traffic duty till he turns 45.

Puzzles and beauty contests

Writer Russell Lewis throws in a puzzle for Endeavour – a jotting on a note by the dead man’s bed – and a glimpse at the burgeoning world of celebrity in Sixties Britain, with beauty pageants and dodgy agents looking to promote ingenues into stars worthy of a supermarket opening or photo shoot.

‘Simon Dee asked me if I liked his shirt,’ one character says. ‘You can’t put a price on that.’

What makes Endeavour such a success? Shaun Evans and Roger Allam are likeable performers playing an interesting duo of mentor and successor, but whose relationship is not always smooth-going. The stories are also full of evocative detail and look splendid.

Endeavour is interesting because the character evolves

SHAUN EVANS as Endeavour.
A battered Endeavour questions a witness

And there is the enjoyment in unravelling the overarching mystery – Endeavour’s character. Russell Lewis drops hints in every tale about how Morse got to be the man audiences loved when played by John Thaw. In the last season we witnessed his cold relationship with his dad.

Here, aficionados will spot a bumptious academic Thaw encountered in 1991, but who is seen in this opener as a younger man, who Endeavour puts firmly in his place in a nice scene.

And Endeavour evolves (unlike Lewis). During this series he starts off a bit of a mess, drinking too much, unsure if he is right for the police. That changes by the final film, Neverland – and there are revelations about Thursday to come. Endeavour is a young man with future.

Cast: Shaun Evans Endeavour, Roger Allam DI Fred Thursday, Anton Lesser Ch Supt Reginald Bright, Sean Rigby PC Strange, Jack Laskey DS Peter Jakes, James Bradshaw Dr Max Debryn, Abigail Thaw Dorothea Frazil, Caroline O’Neill Joan Thursday

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Endeavour series 2 – punch-ups and romance await

ITV had a press launch for series two of Endeavour yesterday, and if the opening film is anything to go by the drama gets better as it goes along and will pack a few fascinating new storylines.

There will be four two-hour films in the series, starting with Trove, which picks up four months after the traumatic events for Endeavour at the end of the last series.

The year is now 1966 and Endeavour is immediately, and perhaps too quickly, pitched into a major case, featuring a young woman’s disappearance and a murder. It’s a beautifully produced film, made all the more sombre by the use of Brahms’s Ein deutches Requiem, but this being the Sixties, My Boy Lollipop also pops up.

Shaun Evans – ‘Endeavour is evolving’

Shaun Evans was at the launch to talk about the new series and said, ‘At the beginning Endeavour is thinking, Is this the right place for me, am I in the right job? The great thing is that Endeavour is evolving.’

And Roger Allam, who plays Endeavour’s detective boss Thursday, added, ‘This series starts with Endevour coming back to Cowley station having been wounded and also having had the death of his father at the end of the last series. So I think there’s concern on Thursday’s part about whether he’s going to be as sharp and imaginative as he was. Here was someone who had a particular way of working that wasn’t usual in the police, but that was a very good ability to have in your police station, that imagination and intelligence. So his concern whether Endeavour will get back to that.’

Endeavour takes a lot of physical punishment in the opener, and Thursday is revealed to be handy with his fists. On the bright side for Endeavour, it appears love could be in the air.

World Cup and romance

England’s World Cup Final will form the backdrop to one story, and there are going to be major developments between Endeavour and Thursday.

The series writer, Russell Lewis, said, ‘What we didn’t want to do was let it fall into too comfortable a relationship that became predictable week in, week out. We didn’t want them rubbing along like an old married couple, so they’re constantly finding things out about each other.’

When questioned about Endeavour’s faltering romantic record, Russell suggested his bookishness may have given him too idealised an expectation of love. Roger Allam speculated on the Endeavour’s idea of the perfect dat – ‘It’s obvious. They stay in reading Henry James aloud, listening to Tannhäuser. It’s the perfect romantic evening.’

The making of Morse

It’s certainly been a near perfect re-imagining of author Colin Dexter’s Morse. What was intended to be a one-off to celebrate Inspector Morse‘s 25th anniversary in 2012, quickly became a runaway ratings success for ITV.

Russell Lewis told me, ‘The reaction from the audience just knocked us all sideways. Morse himself is such a well-loved character that they wanted to see more.

‘What we didn’t want to do was present him as a 45-year-old bloke in a 25-year-old skin and bones. He shouldn’t be as world-weary as he becomes. He’s taken one or two knocks already but the next 20 years would add to that. What our stories were about was the making of Morse.’

The launch date of the new series is yet to be announced.

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Endeavour ITV, with Shaun Evans, Roger Allam PREVIEW

Jakes (Jack Laskey), Morse (Shaun Evans), Bright (Anton Lesser), Thursday (Roger Allam) in ITV's Endeavour
Jakes, Morse, Bright and Thursday in Endeavour. Pic: ITV

Rating: ★★★★

ITV: Sunday, 14 April, 8pm

Story: Margaret Bell, a young woman with a heart condition, is found dead. DC Endeavour Morse suspects that the death may not be down to natural causes, suspicions that bring the novice detective into conflict with his superiors.

Colin Dexter and ITV created one of the UK’s most popular fictional detectives in Inspector Morse and you can almost hear the intake of breath among viewers as this first prequel series starring Shaun Evans approaches.

A good pilot for Endeavour went out in January last year, immediately won an audience of 6.5 million and the series of four films was quickly commissioned. So, how good is Girl, the opening story?

Well, it blows Lewis away. Kevin Whately’s sequel is still popular enough but has fallen into a rut as a rather uneventful procedural with flat characters.

‘Queer fish, stand-offish, rude’
Endeavour is energised with protagonists who don’t just go round saying, ‘Where were you on the night of the 14th?’ Writer Russell Lewis uses his two-hour slot to flesh out the characters, particularly Morse, creating a precocious detective not much liked by his colleagues but mentored by DI Fred Thursday, played again by the excellent Roger Allam.

As PC Strange tells Morse, the boys think he’s a ‘queer fish, stand-offish, rude’.

A fine new addition to the ensemble is Anton Lesser, giving us yet another snake-like character, this time Chief Superintendent Bright (ironically named, no doubt), who is a stickler for plodding procedure and who feels Thursday has promoted Morse above his station. Bright is the kind of boss we’ve all encountered – an unoriginal thinker, bit of poser with his foreign phrases (‘tabula rasa’ etc), and a snob who refuses to believe Morse’s theories, such as his suggestion that a vicar may have been at the scene of a murder.

A coded brainteaser for Morse
Bright feels Morse should be investigating a series of gas meter thefts, which is where we meet him as the episode opens. However, when a young woman, Margaret Bell, who has a heart condition, is found dead, Morse starts to have suspicions that it may not have been down to natural causes.

He is further perturbed when the partner of Margaret Bell’s GP is shot dead. A bike found at the scene is, according to the young detective’s Holmesian deductions, probably the property of a left-handed vicar. Pillar of society Chief Superintendent Bright orders Thursday to eliminate known criminals before bothering the clergy.

But Morse traces the vicar, who on learning that the detective was in the signal corp and is skilled at cryptic puzzles, gives him a coded brainteaser to mull over. Morse’s digging soon puts him on a crash course with Thursday and Bright.

Shaun Evans, Roger Allam and Anton Lesser
It’s a convoluted mystery, involving an eminent physicist, the dead doctor’s troubled sister-in-law, Pamela, and a local trade in amphetamines. The sentimental obsession of these period dramas – here we get all the vintage buses, 10 shilling postal orders, and ‘something for the weekend’ banter from a barber – gets cloying after a while.

But Endeavour works on the strength of the drama between the principle characters and the performances of Shaun Evans – excellent as the cussed, dogged detective – Roger Allam and Anton Lesser. Morse’s battle to prove himself against all his doubters, finally deciphering the vicar’s clue at the end, is full of intrigue and drama, and gets Endeavour off a great start.

Cast: Shaun Evans Endeavour Morse, Roger Allam DI Fred Thursday, Anton Lesser Chief Superintendent Bright, Jack Laskey DS Peter Jakes, Sean Rigby PC Jim Strange, James Bradshaw Dr Max DeBryn, Mark Bazeley Dr Bill Prentice, Luke Allen-Gale Derek Clark, Albert Welling Wallace Clark, Olivia Grant Helen Cartwright, Sophie Stuckey Pamela Walters, Jonathan Guy Lewis Rev Monkford, Jonathan Hyde Sir Edmund Sloan

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New TV Crime Dramas 2013

From period gangster stories, to serial killers, issue-driven dramas and the return of a few old favourites, 2013 has a rich selection of some terrific new crime series. Great writing from the likes of Jimmy McGovern, and compelling acting from Gillian Anderson, Gabriel Byrne, Benedict Cumberbatch, David Tennant and many others are coming our way in new dramas (Peaky Blinders, The Fall), adaptations (Quirke, Doors Open) and returning heroes – and anti-heroes (Sherlock, Luther). Watch out… Pics: BBC, ITV

Peaky Blinders
Cillian Murphy, Sam Neill, Helen McCrory, Charlie Creed-Miles
Gangster epic with a difference – it’s set in Birmingham, just after the First World War. This is based on the little known history/legend of the Peaky Blinders, so-called for their practice of keeping a razor in their cap peaks. They were a vicious bunch who ran protection, track betting and robbery. Cillian Murphy is Tommy Shelby, the most ruthless brother of the Shelby family, whose leadership is tested by a new police chief, CI Campbell, played by Sam Neill. ‘The story I want to tell is based on family legend and historical fact,’ says Steven Knight, whose previous films include Eastern Promises and Dirty Pretty Things. ‘It is a fiction woven into a factual landscape which is breathtakingly dramatic and cinematic, but which for very English reasons has been consigned to historical text books.’ Currently filming in Birmingham, Liverpool and Leeds. BBC2 2013
Anticipation factor: ★★★★

Quirke
Gabriel Byrne
This will be one of the most eagerly anticipated new crime dramas of the year. Based on the novels of Benjamin Black – aka award-winning Irish writer John Banville – and scripted by Andrew Davies and Conor McPherson, these three feature-length stories starring Gabriel Byrne are about the chief pathologist in the Dublin morgue during the 1950s. Smoky streets, damp allies, sexual tension, secrets and intrigue should make these dramas rich viewing. Each episode will see Quirke investigate the death of one of the unfortunate souls who end up on his mortuary slab. But as he turns accidental detective he discovers his investigations are often more closely linked to his own life than he could have imagined. Little by little he is forced to confront the sins of his past as he peels back the layers of his own tangled family history. The three feature-length episodes each take their stories from different books in the series – Christine Falls and The Silver Swan adapted by Andrew Davies, and Elegy for April by Conor McPherson. John Banville says: ‘I am very excited by the prospect of seeing my character Quirke incarnated by Gabriel Byrne, a perfect choice for the part. I know both Quirke and Benjamin Black will be wonderfully served by Andrew Davies and Conor McPherson, two masters of their craft.’ BBC1 2013
Anticipation factor: ★★★★

Sherlock 3
Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman
Come on, with that cliffhanger we all want to see how writers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss get out of Sherlock’s death-plunge at the end of series two. Online forums have been a-buzz with theories and analysis of Sherlock’s apparent death, but of course security around the next series is tighter than a gnat’s buttocks. Not content with tormenting fans with the cliffhanger, the dastardly writers recently suggested that the next three feature-length stories will revolve around the words rat, wedding and bow. Elementary? Hardly. But if the writing and chemistry between Holmes and Watson fizzes as it did in the previous two series, it should be terrific TV again. BBC1 2013
Anticipation factor: ★★★★

Endeavour
Shaun Evans, Roger Allam, Sean Rigby, Abigail Thaw
Four 120-minute episodes have just gone into production on the back of the hugely popular one-off prequel shown earlier this year (8.2m tuned in). Oxford is, of course, the backdrop and novelist Colin Dexter, whose first Morse novel was published in 1975, will be the series consultant. ITV1 2013
Anticipation factor: ★★★★½

Doors Open
Stephen Fry, Douglas Henshall

A self-made millionaire, an art professor and a banker come together to undertake an audacious art heist in this two-hour film based on Ian Rankin’s novel. Mike Mackenzie, played by Dougie Henshall (CollisionPrimeval), is a self-made businessman with too much time on his hands. Bored by the comfort of his millions and grieving for the woman who walked out on him five years previously, he’s got an adventurous side just waiting to get him into trouble. When he hears the love of his life, Laura Stanton, art consultant and auctioneer, has returned to Edinburgh, his whole world is turned upside down and he’d risk anything to get her back. After an evening’s drinking with close friends, art expert Professor Gissing, played by Stephen Fry (KingdomBonesSherlock Holmes), and banker Allan Cruickshank, Mike dreams up a plot to rip-off one of the most high-profile targets in the country – Edinburgh’s private art collection owned by a national bank. ITV1 2012/13
Anticipation factor: ★★★★½

Restless
Hayley Atwell, Rufus Sewell, Michelle Dockery, Michael Gambon, Charlotte Rampling
Based on William Boyd’s bestseller, this two-parter (2 x 90mins) is the intriguing story of a woman whose mother, one day in 1976, tells her she’s been leading a double life. She is not respectable Sally Gilmartin but in fact Eva Delectorskaya, a spy for the British Secret Service who has been on the run for 30 years. Eva’s story begins in Paris in 1939. Eva (Hayley Atwell), a beautiful Russian émigrée, is recruited for the British Secret Service by Lucas Romer (Rufus Sewell), a mysteriously alluring Englishman… Screenwriter and author, William Boyd, says, ‘To have the chance to film a novel like Restless over three hours is the sort of opportunity that only a television adaptation can provide. It represents the most enticing and alluring of possibilities – not only to tell an enthralling story of wartime espionage, love and betrayal, but also to lift the lid on one of the last secrets of the Second World War.’ BBC1 late 2012
Anticipation factor: ★★★★½

Luther 3
Idris Elba
This is probably maverick DCI John Luther’s last telly outing before he makes the leap to the big screen. Writer/creator Neil Cross has said, ‘The final scene of the final episode is great and we wouldn’t want to continue. I have a weakness for a powerful and moving ending. We’ll go out big and leave it at that.’ BBC1 2012/13
Anticipation factor: ★★★★½

Common
No casting announced yet
Jimmy McGovern (Hillsborough, Dockers) doesn’t write mealy-mouthed dramas, and this 90-minute film is sure to pack a wallop. It will probe the potential for injustice within the law’s Joint Enterprise or Common Purpose rule. It starts with three young men hurrying to a parked car that has 17-year-old JohnJo at the wheel. They drive off, leaving a scene in which a stabbing has occurred at a pizza parlour. Joint Enterprise or Common Purpose, is a 300-year-old legal doctrine that allows several people to be charged with a crime where they are not the primary offenders. McGovern explains, ‘Joint Enterprise was first used in Britain’s courts a few hundred years ago. It was designed to stop the aristocracy duelling. If one duellist killed another then all involved in that duel (the seconds and the surgeons) were charged with murder. It worked. Britain’s aristocrats stopped duelling. Now the law is being used against Britain’s youth. If someone dies in a fight and you’re involved in any way whatsoever, you could find yourself charged with murder. And, if you do, heaven help you because the burden of proof required in joint enterprise cases is frighteningly low.’ BBC1 2013
Anticipation factor: ★★★★½

The Honourable Woman
No casting announced yet
Following the superb The Shadow Line, writer Hugo Blick returns with this six-parter. The daughter of a UK Zionist gun-runner inherits her murdered father’s company and by dramatically inverting its purpose from supplying tanks to tractors starts a deadly political war. Blick says, ‘This is a suspenseful spy thriller about inheritance, political and personal, and the lengths some spies will go to not only to deceive their enemies – but also themselves.’ BBC2 2013
Anticipation factor: ★★★★

Life of Crime
Hayley Atwell
An urban crime drama in three parts that follows a policewoman’s career over three decades. Hayley Atwell (The Sweeney, Captain America) plays risk-taking rookie copper Denise Woods, who becomes obsessed with tracking down the killer of a 15-year-old girl called Anna. The drama explores Denise’s career as she progresses through the Metropolitan Police. Set against the backdrop of iconic moments in British history, such as the Brixton Riots, Life of Crime follows Denise as she rises through the ranks, initially struggling in a male-orientated profession where sexism is rife and female officers must fight to be accepted. Filming in Brixton and Dublin starts in November 2012. ITV1 2013
Anticipation factor: ★★★★

The Ice Cream Girls
Lorraine Burroughs, Jodhi May
Three-part drama based on Dorothy Koomson‘s bestseller. The story follows two vulnerable teenage girls, who in the summer of 1995 are accused of murdering their schoolteacher. For 17 years the two girls are forced to go their separate ways and lead different lives. But now in 2013, they are forced to confront each other and their dark, shared history. Set in a seaside town with brightly coloured beach huts, ‘hook a duck’ and candy floss, the title of the drama The Ice Cream Girls belies the dark and violent relationship that led to that fateful night, and the truth behind the event which has comes to haunt Poppy Carlisle and Serena Gorringe’s every waking moment. ITV1 2013
Anticipation factor: ★★★★

The Lady Vanishes
Keeley Hawes, Gemma Jones, Stephanie Cole, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Tuppence Middleton, Tom Hughes
A 90-minute thriller based on the novel The Wheel Spins by Ethel Lina White – and, of course, filmed by Alfred Hitchcock. Already in production, the story is set in 1931 – beautiful and wealthy young socialite Iris Carr (Middleton) is the heart of her social circle. While holidaying with her friends in the Balkans, Iris finds their raucous behaviour too much and resolves to find some tranquillity and travel home alone. Her expectations of peace are shortlived when she faints on the platform of the railway station in the scorching heat. She is rushed on to the train with a pounding head and a feeling of being almost in a dream. She is comforted by Miss Froy (Selina Cadell), whose tweed suit and bookish looks belie a jovial and adventurous spirit. Miss Froy talks at length about her desperation to return home to her family. Iris falls asleep and awakes to find Miss Froy has vanished and her fellow passengers denying she ever existed… BBC1 2013
Anticipation factor: ★★★★

Shetland
Douglas Henshall
Two-part drama based on the series of novels by Ann Cleeves (author of the Vera Stanhope books, too). It’s set against the stunning backdrop of the Shetland Isles and features detective Jimmy Perez, who has returned home after a long time away. When a young archaeologist discovers a set of human remains, the island community is intrigued to know if it’s an ancient find or a contemporary mystery. And when an elderly woman is shot on her land in a tragic accident, Perez and his team find themselves at the centre of two feuding families whose envy, greed and bitterness has divided the surrounding community. BBC1 late 2012
Anticipation factor: ★★★★

Murder on the Home Front
Patrick Kennedy, Tamzin Merchant, James Fleet, Emerald Fennell
Loosely based on the memoirs of Molly Lefebure, a secretary during the war to the Home Office pathologist and pioneer of modern forensics, Keith Simpson, this could be a really interesting drama. During the Blitz there were a lot of murky goings-on as the bombs fell, with some people literally getting away with murder. The story will follow Dr Lennox Collins (Patrick Kennedy) and his secretary Molly Cooper (Tamzin Merchant) as Collins challenges his superiors and tries to uncover the truth at crime scenes by treating every bit of physical evidence as key to a breakthrough and not relying on intuition. ITV1 2013
Anticipation factor: ★★★★

The Fall
Gillian Anderson, Jamie Dornan
Psychological thriller probing the lives of two hunters. Dornan (Once Upon a Time) plays serial killer Paul Sector, who stalks his victims in and around Belfast. Anderson (The X Files, Great Expectations) is talented Detective Superintendent Gibson on secondment from the Met, brought in to catch him. It’s written by Allan Cubitt (The RunawayMurphy’s Law) and is described by BBC drama boss Ben Stephenson talks it up like this, ‘Cubitt’s rich and complex psychological thriller combined with another compelling performance from Gillian Anderson will keep viewers on the edge of their seats.’ BBC1 late 2012
Anticipation factor: ★★★★

The Following
Kevin Bacon, James Purefoy, Natalie Zea
BSkyB are calling this US import ‘terrifying’. When notorious serial killer Joe Carroll (Purefoy) escapes from death row and embarks on a new killing spree, the FBI calls former agent Ryan Hardy (Bacon), a psychologically scarred veteran who captured Carroll nine years earlier, after Carroll murdered 14 female students on a college campus where he taught literature. Knowing Carroll better than anyone and close with Carroll’s ex-wife, Claire Hardy (Natalie Zea, Justified) works closely with an FBI team, and discovers that Carroll was not only communicating with a network of killers in the outside world, but has much more planned than just a prison escape. Sky Atlantic 2013
Anticipation factor: ★★★★

The Spies of Warsaw
David Tennant, Janet Montgomery
The former Doctor Who will play a French spy in this drama from writers Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, the men behind The Likely Lads, Porridge and Lovejoy, among others. Based on Alan Furst‘s bestselling novel, this is spy story set in Poland, Paris, London and Berlin in the years leading up to the Second World War. French and German intelligence operatives are locked in a life-and-death struggle on the espionage battlefield. At the French embassy, the new military attaché, Colonel Jean-Francois Mercier (Tennant), a decorated war hero of the 1914 war, is drawn into a world of abduction, betrayal and intrigue in the diplomatic salons and back alleys of Warsaw. At the same time, the handsome aristocrat finds himself in a passionate love affair with Anna (Montgomery), a Parisian lawyer for the League of Nations. Their complicated love affair intensifies as German tanks drive through the Black Forest. BBC4 late 2012/2013
Anticipation factor: ★★★★

The Fear

Peter Mullan, Paul Nicholls, Anastasia Hille, Richard E Grant
Peter Mullan (Tyrannosaur) is Brighton crime boss turned entrepreneur Richie Beckett. Harry Lloyd (Game of Thrones), Paul Nicholls (Law & Order: UK) Anastasia Hille (Snow White and the Huntsman) and Richard E Grant (The Crimson Petal & The White) also star in this four-part series written by Richard Cottan (Wallander) and directed by Michael Samuels (Any Human Heart). Pursuing his dream of rebuilding Brighton’s derelict West Pier, Richie Beckett’s hard-earned respectability is threatened by two new enemies: the encroaching Albanian mafia and an aggressive form of early onset dementia. Struggling to contain the invasion, sons Matty (Harry Lloyd) and Cal (Paul Nicholls) need a peacemaker, but Richie’s erratic and extreme behavior inflames the situation. Ch4 Dec 2012
Anticipation factor: ★★★★

Everyday
John Simm, Shirley Henderson
Award-winning director Michael Winterbottom returns to Channel 4 with this ambitious single feature-length drama (1 x 120mins). Starring John Simm (ExileMad Dogs) as a prisoner and Shirley Henderson (The Crimson Petal & The White) as his wife, the drama has been filmed over five years and is a tender portrayal of one family living through a prison sentence. Ch4 Nov 2012
Anticipation factor: ★★★★

Broadchurch
David Tennant, Olivia Colman, Jodie Whittaker, Andrew Buchan, Stephen Turner, Arthur Darvill
Eight-parter from ITV focusing on a town that becomes the focus of a crime investigation and media frenzy after the body of a man, Danny Price, is found on the beach. ‘Broadchurch focuses on a small British community which finds itself at the eye of a storm. In the wake of one boy’s death, the residents of Broadchurch come under scrutiny and suspicion,’ says writer/creator Chris Chibnall (Doctor WhoLaw & Order: UK). ‘It’s a story of scale and intimacy, as the lives of the characters are laid bare.’ David Tennant takes the role of DI Alec Hardy, an out-of-town, newly promoted police detective who takes the job that local girl DS Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) believes should have been hers. ITV1 2012/13
Anticipation factor: ★★★★

Case Histories 2
Jason Isaacs, Victoria Wood, Amanda Abbington, Millie Innes, Zawe Ashton
Three 90-minutes stories adapted from Kate Atkinson‘s novel Started Early, Took My Dog, to follow-up BBC1’s well-received first series. Victoria Wood said, ‘I am a huge fan of Kate Atkinson and couldn’t resist the chance to be involved in Case Histories.’ Jason Isaacs added, ‘I can’t wait to put on the crumpled, witty, self-destructive, noble and naughty skin of Jackson Brodie again and dive into the unique flavour of Kate Atkinson’s worlds. Nobody connects the past with the present and the absurd with the heart-wrenching like she does and we all feel excited and lucky to bring another bunch of stories of damage and delight to the screen.’ BBC1 2013
Anticipation factor: ★★★★

Secret State

Gabriel Byrne, Douglas Hodge, Gina McKee, Charles Dance, Rupert Graves
Four-part contemporary thriller. A massive industrial accident on Teesside leaves several people dead and raises awkward questions about the safety procedures of the US petrochemical company involved. As a man who has a profound belief in transparency and open government, Dawkins (Byrne) will have to tackle vested interests, financial, media, and military, both domestic and international, in his pursuit to uncover the truth and get justice for the families affected by the disaster. Dawkins becomes aware of establishment’s secret ties to the petrochemical company and comes to realise that there are bigger powers at play behind the scenes. Based on the novel A Very British Coup by Chris Mullins. Ch4 Nov 2012
Anticipation factor: ★★★★

Foyle’s War
Michael Kitchen, Honeysuckle Weeks

Three 120-minutes films by Anthony Horowitz that could have been re-titled Foyle Post-War, because the focus now shifts to a period of espionage and subterfuge in 1946-47. With many stories based on real life cases, Foyle will focus his attention on the world of espionage as he gathers secret intelligence in support of Britain’s security, defence and the Government’s foreign and economic policies. In his new role as a Senior Intelligence Officer, Foyle discovers that the British establishment is rife with communist sympathisers and traitors. In this delicately balanced period in history,  Foyle will use all his intelligence, guile and intuition to keep the country safe. ITV1 2013
Anticipation factor: ★★★★

Mayday
Sophie Okonedo, Peter Firth, Aidan Gillen, Lesley Manville
From the writers of Whitechapel comes this five-part thriller. A young girl goes missing on the way to a Mayday parade and the small community in which she lives comes under strain. However, behind the facade of this picture postcard idyll is a sinister other-world. Sophie Okonedo plays Fiona, a young mum determined to protect her family, who spies on a neighbour. Peter Firth plays Malcolm, a community leader married to Gail, played by Lesley Manville. Aidan Gillen plays Everett, a single father to the sensitive Linus (Max Fowler), who has fallen in love with Hattie’s twin sister Caitlin (Leila Mimmack) – who can feel it in her bones that her sister is dead. BBC1 2013
Anticipation factor: ★★★½

Line of Duty 2
Vicky McClure, Martin Compston
Casting is not confirmed for the return to Jed Mercurio’s cat-and-mouse thriller, but the series did so well in the ratings for BBC2, hitting 4.2m viewers for its finale, that it was quickly re-commissioned. In fact, the channel honchos were so chuffed with the show that they felt it signalled new confidence and the rebirth of drama at BBC2. Line of Duty followed anti-corruption officers trying to nail Lennie James’ slippery detective, who killed himself at the end of the drama. While the story was an interesting look at corruption and the massaging of police statistics, the drama was a little OTT at times. It will be interesting to see where series two goes. BBC2 2013
Anticipation factor: ★★★½

Utopia
Paul Higgins, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Alexandra Roach, James Fox, Geraldine James
Described as an enigmatic thriller, this six-parter features a mysterious graphic novel and a shadowy unit called The Network, who will do anything to keep the novel’s origin and meaning secret. Ch4 2013
Anticipation factor: ★★★½

Southcliffe
Rory Kinnear, Sean Harris, Shirley Henderson, Eddie Marsan
Southcliffe is a fictional English town that is devastated by a spate of shootings that occur in a single day. Writer Tony Grisoni describes it like this, ‘Southcliffe is a fictional market town inhabited by fictional characters, but with similarities to many actual people and places in Britain today. Invisible people, anonymous places. The inexplicable chain of events at the dark heart of this four-part drama shatters time and space for Southcliffe’s inhabitants. Violence and sudden bereavement confronts them with emotions they are unequipped to understand. Rather than analyse or moralise about our characters’ actions, we share in them. Southcliffe is an anthem to ordinary people’s ability to reinvent themselves in the face of ultimate darkness.’ Ch4 2013
Anticipation factor: ★★★½

Miss Marple (three films)
Julia McKenzie
A Caribbean Mystery was filmed during the summer, in which Miss Marple is staying in a luxury hotel in the tropics when fellow guest Major Palgrave dies in inevitably suspicious circumstances. Also in the line-up is Endless Night and The Seven Dials Mystery, which are being made during this autumn. Julia McKenzie lacks the eccentricity of Geraldine McEwan, perhaps, but she has settled nicely into the role of the apparently sweet-natured spinster with a genius for detection.  ITV1 2012/13
Anticipation factor: ★★★½

Agatha Christie’s Poirot (five films)
David Suchet
David Suchet’s herculean feat of playing Hercule Poirot for 22 years in 65 Poirot films is nearing completion as he works on the final five Agatha Christie stories from the canon that remain to be made. In production this year have been Labours of Hercules, Dead Man’s Folly, The Big Four, Elephants Can Remember and Curtain. Watch out for the actor’s written account of his affection for the character in his new book, Poirot and Me. Here’s a clue to what’s in store: ‘He was as real to me as he had been to her, a great detective, a remarkable man, if, perhaps, just now and then, a little irritating. He had inhabited my life every bit as much as he must have done hers as she wrote 33 novels, more than 50 short stories, and a play about him – making Poirot the most famous fictional detective in the world alongside Sherlock Holmes.’ ITV1 2012/13
Anticipation factor: ★★★½

Complicit
David Oyelowo
The war on terror and the use of torture are the themes of this hard-hitting 120-minute film from writer Guy Hibbert. The main character, Edward, an MI5 officer, wrestles with key moral questions, such as can we fight terror with torture? Or do we lose everything, and everything we stand for as a democratic nation, by allying ourselves with the torturers of a brutal foreign regime? Ch4 2013
Anticipation factor: ★★★½

Whitechapel 4
Rupert Penry-Jones, Phil Davies, Steve Pemberton
It’s hard to see where writers Caroline Ip and Ben Court can go with this, having dredged up most of the East End’s most infamous chamber-of-horrors killers, but ITV have ordered six new episodes anyway. Series one was about Jack the Ripper, which was followed by the ghosts of the Krays and then several lesser known cases in the last series. The ratings have grown with each series, reaching seven million last time out. Laura Mackie, Director of Drama, ITV says, ‘The first full series of Whitechapel was a huge hit with the ITV audience with its unique take on the crime genre and the brilliantly original combination of Chandler, Miles and Buchan. I’m so pleased that they’re coming back to solve more historically inspired crimes.’ 2013 ITV1
Anticipation factor: ★★★

Death in Paradise 2
Ben Miller, Sara Martins, Danny John-Jules, Jamelia
British singer-songwriter Jamelia will crop up this time round in the light-hearted mystery series set on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. Ben Miller is the fish-out-of-water British detective inspector Richard Poole, who doesn’t like the sun, sea and sand but has ended up solving murders in paradise anyway. The humour was so gentle it was almost imperceptible, but the Beeb thought it did well enough for a recall. Stephanie Beacham (Coronation Street), Michael Brandon (Dempsey & Makepeace), Kelly Adams (Hustle) and Dexter Fletcher (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) will join Jamelia among the guest stars. BBC1 2012
Anticipation factor: ★★½

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The Last Weekend ITV1 with Shaun Evans, Rupert Penry-Jones PREVIEW

Rupert Penry-Jones as Ollie and Shaun Evans as Ian
Rupert Penry-Jones and Shaun Evans as the best of frenemies

Rating: ★★★

ITV1: starts Sunday, 19 August, 9pm

Story: Successful barrister Ollie Moreton invites old college friend Ian Goade, a primary school teacher, to visit him for an August bank holiday at his country home in Suffolk. Ollie and Ian, along with their wives, Daisy and Em, have a shared past and during the course of the weekend, old seething rivalries and sexual tensions reach dangerous levels.

Amid the Olympic euphoria, normal TV drama has been the big, fat loser – hence ITV1 being annihilated in the ratings. Mind you, they have thrown in the towel with limping repeats – Midsomer Murders v Jessica Ennis is no contest.

But as London 2012 comes to an end, ITV1 is ready for a comeback with this gem of a psychological thriller about male jealousy. It’s got fine performances, particularly from Shaun Evans, and a totally engrossing story in which you have to be alert to keep up with the machinations of the characters.

Rupert Penry-Jones plays Ollie
Mind games – Ollie

It is based on Blake Morrison‘s novel. It is a tightly set story, based around a small group at a country house over a blisteringly hot bank holiday. It is blissfully free of stupid plot twists, focusing instead on characters and emotions we all recognise.

Rupert Penry-Jones as Ollie
Ian and Em are visiting Ian’s old college mate Ollie – Rupert Penry-Jones – and his wife, Daisy, whom Ian once dated. Ian is a primary school teacher and Ollie a wealthy barrister. Their ‘friendship’ is a powder keg of competitiveness and festering jealousy that has an almost sexual element.

No sooner are Ian and Em out of their crappy car, which has a coat hanger for an aerial, than Ollie is insisting he and Ian hit the golf course to compete for a crazy £1000 wager, the first event of their traditional ‘triathlon’. It’s an uncomfortable match of niggles and gamesmanship.

Ian is our subjective narrator
Shaun Evans as Ian is the central figure here, as character and to-camera narrator, with the story slipping into the future and Ian commenting on past events. He is a chippy, deceitful figure, still hugely turned on by Daisy, played with insouciant sexiness by Genevieve O’Reilly. Claire Keelan is the devoted, likeable Em, who slowly starts to pick up on some of Ian’s provocations.

Claire Keelan and Genevieve O'Reilly
Claire Keelan as Em and Genevieve O’Reilly as Daisy

Goodness, but Ian is covetous and dishonest, while Ollie similarly has nasty sides, with an unpleasant hostility to his son and a near psychotic need to engineer some pastime at which he can grind down his less successful friend. You just know that despite the middle-class respectability, things are going to end brutally.

Engrossing and beautifully shot
Penry-Jones and Evans – soon to reprise his role as ITV1’s Endeavour – have appeared together in Whitechapel and Silk, and here they are engrossing as the mates locked in a destructive tangle. The whole three-parter – scripted by Mick Ford, directed by Jon East – is beautifully paced and shot.

ITV may have taken a drubbing this summer, but here they’re finally playing a blinder. Don’t miss it.

Cast: Rupert Penry-Jones Ollie, Shaun Evans Ian, Genevieve O’Reilly Daisy, Claire Keelan Em, Alexander Karim Milo, Hugh Mitchell Archie, Elisha Johnson Natalie, Mya-Lecia Naylor Bethany, Dan Cohen Student Ian, Alexander Owen Student Ollie, Nicola Millbank Student Daisy, Anthony Green John, Taylor Nelson-Morrison Campbell, Helen Anderson Mrs Baynes  

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Endeavour with Shaun Evans PREVIEW

Shaun Evans as Endeavour Morse. Pics: ITV

Rating ★★★★½

ITV1, Monday, 2 January, 9pm

Story: 1965. A schoolgirl is missing in Oxford. A young detective constable is drafted in from the anonymous Midlands new town where he is stationed to help with the investigation because he knows the Oxford area. It is a case that will shape Endeavour Morse’s life and career.

He only ever used to be known as Morse, the detective finally revealing his christian name after Inspector Morse had been on air for 10 years in 1997. Now as everyone knows, Morse was named after Captain Cook’s ship HMS Endeavour and the moniker can be plastered all over this impressive two-hour prequel.

John Thaw

The much-loved original, which ran for 33 episodes from 1987-2000, starred John Thaw as Morse and Kevin Whately as his sidekick, Lewis, setting the standard for UK police procedurals. Thaw died relatively young at 60 in 2002, and while Lewis, of course, is still with us, the temptation to resurrect Morse somehow was too good to let slip away.

Shaun Evans and Roger Allam
This much anticipated new mystery is a scandal on a suitably large scale, involving bent cops, murder and a corrupt government minister. The cast – including Shaun Evans as Morse and Roger Allam as his boss/mentor DI Fred Thursday – are actors who bring depth to the lead roles, and the period setting is understated. And for Morse fans, the hero’s background is fleshed out well.

The young Endeavour is called on to assist in an investigation into the disappearance of 15-year-old schoolgirl because he is familiar with Oxford, where he did Greats but didn’t finish his degree. DS Arthur Lott makes it clear to Morse and his fellow draftees that they are there to ‘take up the slack’, do the grunt work, and leave the detecting to him and Thursday.

Morse and Thursday

But Morse immediately stands out as a serious-minded detective with a questioning nature – which sets him at odds with Lott. It is Morse who works out that the missing teenager had a lover who was communicating with her through crosswords in the local paper. ‘Codswallop,’ says Lott, but Morse is proved right.

Colin Dexter

Abigail Thaw

Fans will appreciated the crossword touch, which would also appeal to the creator of Morse and crossword lover Colin Dexter, now 81, who makes a Hitchcockian cameo in a pub garden. The drama is actually written by Russell Lewis, who has done a good job of embellishing the Morse story.

We learn how Morse got his taste for beer, classical music and the famous maroon Jag. Shaun Evans captures much of the character’s melancholia, particularly when the case blows up in his face and he develops an infatuation for the opera singer wife of a suspect.

John Thaw’s daughter Abigail
The production has so much of the original’s DNA in its make-up that several of the behind-camera crew had also worked on Inspector Morse, and there is even a role for John Thaw’s daughter, Abigail, who plays an employee of the local paper.

Scandalous parties and cover-ups

What begins as a missing person inquiry snowballs into a murder, a suicide and a scandal in which high-level politicians and policemen are attending sex parties with under-age girls. The story has a lot more grit to it than many of the originals or Lewis, and less of the chocolate-box obsession with Oxford spires and quadrangles.

Charlie Creed-Miles is the nasty spiv
Roger Allam is warmly authoritative as Thursday, the ex-soldier and solid copper who is willing to bend the rules to slap down spivs such as Teddy Samuels (Charlie Creed-Miles) and dodgy cops such as Arthur Lott.

It’s a sharp and inspiring tribute to Morse on the 25th anniversary of its very first episode. Surely, a series will follow.

Cast: Shaun Evans Endeavour, Roger Allam DI Fred Thursday, Flora Montgomery Rosalind Stromming, Harry Kershaw Miles Percival, Charlie Creed-Miles Teddy Samuels, Danny Webb DS Arthur Lott, Jack Ashton DC Ian McLeash, Richard Lintern Dr Rowan Stromming, Patrick Malahide Richard Lovell, John Light Dempsey, Abigail Thaw Dorothea Frazil, Michael Matus Brian St Clair, Emma Stansfield Sharon Vellie, James Bradshaw Dr Max De Bryn, Terence Harvey DCS Crisp

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