Best new mini-series on TV

The FiveThe Five, written by international best-selling crime fiction author Harlan Coben and coming to Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD on July 4th, is just the latest in a crop of classy TV mysteries that have had viewers hooked in what has to be a golden age for crime TV. Here we take look at The Five and some of its similarly gripping mystery bedfellows to see what keeps audiences coming back…

The Five

Harlan Coben, the internationally best-selling author has sold millions of books around the world and has had a staggering eight consecutive number ones in the New York Times bestseller list, so you’d think he’d know all about putting together an enticing mystery. And you’d be right – The Five delivers one of the juiciest set-ups for a mystery in recent times (the DNA of a young boy who went missing 20-years earlier turns up at a murder scene being investigated by a friend of the missing boy’s brother), and turns it into the televisual equivalent of one of Coben’s un-put-downable page turners. Throw in a superb cast of British rising stars (including Tom Cullen from Downton Abbey, Sarah Solemani from Him & Her and OT Fagbenle from Looking) as well as respected stalwarts like Geraldine James (Utopia) and the overall effect is one of extreme class and quality that stands up alongside some of the big US guns for binge-ability. See our review

The Night Manager

Another author fairly familiar with the top of the bestseller list was behind what has arguably been the biggest UK TV production of recent years, with Tom Hiddleston perfectly capturing John Le Carre’s heroic, eponymous central character alongside a faultless-as-usual Olivia Colman and a never better Hugh Laurie. The twists and turns in the relationship between sort-of double agent Jonathan Pine and the moral black hole that is Laurie’s Richard Roper form the spine of the series, with the mystery element coming as much from the cat and mouse of that relationship as from the slight fear throughout that Pine might be playing everyone to advance his own interests. With stunning cinematography and a drum-taut script, it’s hardly a surprise that both Hiddleston and series director Susanne Bier are both apparently in the running for the next entry into the James Bond franchise. See our review [Read more…]

Sherlock — Killer TV No 12

BBC1 Sherlock

Foggiest idea – Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman

BBC1, 2009-present

‘Shut up.’ – Sherlock Holmes

‘I didn’t say anyth- ‘ — Detective Inspector Lestrade

‘You were thinking. It’s annoying.’ — Sherlock Holmes

Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Una Stubbs, Rupert Graves, Mark Gatiss, Amanda Abbington

Identikit: The consulting detective updated to contemporary London.


logosWriters Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss who, while working on Doctor Who, often talked about their love of Conan Doyle’s creation and of Basil Rathbone’s portrayal of him, finally decided they should do their own updated version. Seeing the 60-minute pilot, the Beeb liked it so much they ordered three 90-minute films, which meant the opener had to be re-shot. Despite BBC1 then scheduling the re-shot opener in July, the middle of TV’s dead season, Sherlock was a rip-roaring success. Moffat and Gatiss updated the world’s most famous sleuth with loving care, verve and great wit, evolving some of Arthur Conan Doyle’s best-loved tales in modern, thrilling adventures in contemporary London. It works so well because, by stripping away the Victorian fogs, frock coats and Hansom cabs, Holmes re-emerges as the exciting contemporary character he was when the stories first appeared. They were helped by the inspired pairing of Benedict Cumberbatch as a forbidding, high-functioning sociopathic Holmes, whom he plays as ‘dangerous and perverse’. Martin Freeman as the downbeat but caustic Dr Watson immediately clicked with Cumberbatch at the script read-throughs, creating a great blend of genius and exasperation. Una Stubbs is fun as Mrs Hudson, while Andrew Scott was weird and chilling as Moriarty. This arch villain featured in the terrific Reichenbach Fall cliffhanger that concluded the second series, prompting a viral swirl online as devotees tried to work out how Sherlock was going to survive. It was typical of the twists and jolts that Moffat and Gatiss enjoyed throwing at audiences throughout. Series three got off to a messy start, obsessed with

Time shift: Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson in 2016's New Year special

Time shift: Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson in 2016’s New Year special

taunting viewers with the resolution of the Reichenbach cliffhanger, before progressing magnificently in the second and third instalments. It raised the stakes for the characters with revelations such as Sherlock getting a girlfriend, Watson getting a wife, Watson’s wife Mary Morstan being an assassin, Sherlock being shot, and Sherlock killing the evil Magnusson at the end (Sherlockian intellect for once giving way to bullets). It’s a twisting, spirited and funny joyride. And through it all, there is David Arnold and Michael Price’s distinctive music soundtrack.

Classic episode: A Scandal in Belgravia. The Reichenbach Fall got chins wagging over how Sherlock faked his spectacular death fall, but A Scandal in Belgravia was much more fun, as Holmes and Watson encounter naked dominatrix Irene Adler (Lara Pulver) in a quest for photos that compromised national security on her mobile. While Moffat’s storytelling (he wrote this one) can tie the plot in knots, this was still a fantastic blend of comedy and suspense, with plenty of cheek thrown in.

Watercooler fact: Matt Smith auditioned for the role of Watson. He was rejected for being ‘too barmy’, according to show runner Steven Moffat, who also oversees Doctor Who for the BBC. Soon after, Moffat cast Smith as the eleventh Doctor Who.

Crime series rule at 2015’s Baftas

Happy Valley series 1 BBC1

Siobhan Finneran and Sarah Lancashire in Happy Valley

CRIME certainly pays on TV. Mysteries and thrillers dominate this year’s Bafta nominations, with Happy Valley, Line of Duty, The Missing, Peaky Blinders, Sherlock and The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies all featuring.

These were all engrossing, first-class dramas, with some of the actors involved giving the performances of their lives. Keeley Hawes and Sarah Lancashire were simply superb in Line of Duty – which was better in its second series – and Happy Valley, and both are nominated. Georgina Campbell also put in a stand-out performance in BBC3’s Murdered by My Boyfriend.

Benedict Cumberbatch will hope it is fifth-time lucky at Bafta as he steps onto the red carpet again for his performance as Sherlock. The BBC1 modern reboot of the consulting detective is a dazzlingly good drama, though not nominated this time. Cumberbatch is in the running, however, but he faces formidable competition from nominees James Nesbitt – another lifetime-best performance for The Missing – Toby Jones (Marvellous) and Jason Watkins (The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies).

The Missing series 1 BBC1

James Nesbitt in The Missing

Choosing the ‘best’ is a thankless task, but my personal faves this year are Sarah Lancashire (by a whisker over Keeley Hawes), James Nesbitt – an actor I don’t usually warm to, but this was a brave performance. Then there’s Ken Stott for the same reason in The Missing, and perhaps Charlotte Spencer for Glue.

I also thoroughly enjoyed Peaky Blinders, and in the International category I would probably go for True Detective, though I am slightly addicted to The Good Wife.

Who do you think should win? Post your comments above…

DRAMA SERIES

HAPPY VALLEY Sally Wainwright, Karen Lewis, Euros Lyn, Nicola Shindler, Red Production Company/BBC One; LINE OF DUTY Jed Mercurio, Simon Heath, Peter Norris, Douglas Mackinnon, World Productions/BBC Two; THE MISSING Charlie Pattinson, Willow Grylls, Jack Williams, Harry Williams, New Pictures/BBC One; PEAKY BLINDERS Production Team – Caryn Mandabach Productions/Tiger Aspect Productions/BBC Two

LEADING ACTOR

BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH Sherlock, BBC One; TOBY JONES Marvellous, BBC Two; JAMES NESBITT The Missing, BBC One JASON WATKINS The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies ITV

LEADING ACTRESS

Keeley Hawes in Line of Duty 2

Keeley Hawes in Line of Duty 2

GEORGINA CAMPBELL Murdered by My Boyfriend, BBC Three; KEELEY HAWES Line of Duty, BBC Two; SARAH LANCASHIRE Happy Valley, BBC One; SHERIDAN SMITH Cilla, ITV

SUPPORTING ACTOR

ADEEL AKHTAR Utopia – Channel 4 JAMES NORTON Happy Valley, BBC One; STEPHEN REA The Honourable Woman, BBC Two; KEN STOTT The Missing – BBC One

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

GEMMA JONES Marvellous, BBC Two; VICKY MCCLURE Line of Duty, BBC Two; AMANDA REDMAN Tommy Cooper: Not like That, Like This, ITV; CHARLOTTE SPENCER Glue, E4

SINGLE DRAMA

A POET IN NEW YORK Aisling Walsh, Ruth Caleb, Andrew Davies, Griff Rhys Jones, Modern Television/BBC Two; COMMON Jimmy McGovern, David Blair, Colin McKeown, Donna Molloy, LA Productions/BBC One; MARVELLOUS Peter Bowker, Julian Farino, Katie Swinden, Patrick Spence, Fifty Fathoms/BBC Two; MURDERED BY MY BOYFRIEND Pier Wilkie, Regina Moriarty, Paul Andrew Williams, Darren Kemp – BBC/BBC Three

MINI-SERIES

Jason Watkins in The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies

Jason Watkins in The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies

CILLA Jeff Pope, Paul Whittington, Kwadjo Dajan, Robert Willis, ITV Studios/GroupM Entertainment/ITV; THE LOST HONOUR OF CHRISTOPHER JEFFERIES Gareth Neame, Peter Morgan, Roger Michell, Kevin Loader, Carnival Film & Television/ITV; OUR WORLD WAR Production Team – BBC Factual/BBC Three PREY Chris Lunt, Nicola Shindler, Tom Sherry, Nick Murphy, Red Production Company/ITV

INTERNATIONAL

THE GOOD WIFE CBS Television Studios in assoc. with Scott Free/King Size Prods/More4; HOUSE OF CARDS Beau Willimon, David Fincher, Joshua Donen, Kevin Spacey – Donen/Fincher/Roth and Trigger Street Productions, Inc. in assoc. with Media Rights Capital/Netflix; ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK Jenji Kohan, Lisa I.Vinnecour, Sara Hess, Sian Heder – Lionsgate Television/Netflix; TRUE DETECTIVE Nic Pizzolatto, Cary Joji Fukunaga, Scott Stephens, Steve Golin – HBO Entertainment in assoc. with Neon Black, Anonymous Content, Parliament of Owls and Passenger/ Sky Atlantic

Britain’s Favourite Detectives on Channel 5

OK, pop pickers, it’s time for another countdown show and this time it’s to determine the nation’s favourite crime fighters. Channel 5 is devoting three hours to this trip down murder lane this Easter weekend (Saturday, 9.25pm).

The usual suspects will all feature, including Sherlock, Columbo, Morse, Poirot and Marple. There should be some fond memories and fun moments, such as Pierce Brosnan and Bruce Willis sleuthing debuts in Remington Steele and Moonlighting.

And of course the format demands plenty of talking heads chipping in – Lynda La Plante, Phil Davis, Una Stubbs, Felicity Kendall and Alan Davies included. So line up the Easter eggs on the sofa and get ready for the usual outrageous results.

My money’s on Rosemary & Thyme. Classic.

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Sherlock Complete Series 1 & 2 – Blu-ray Review

Sherlock Complete Series 1 & 2 Blu-ray
Episodes ★★★★★
Extras ★★★★★

Even on a second and third viewing, these episodes of 21st-century Holmes still fizz with wit and invention.

Seeing them again rams home how good the cast and the adaptations are. Benedict Cumberbatch as the ‘high-functioning sociopath’ is a superb bit of casting, while Martin Freeman’s wonderful comic asides and reactions sum up perfectly the audience’s response to the consulting detective’s outrageous behaviour and capabilities.

Meanwhile, Andrew Scott is creepily off-beat as Moriarty, and it’s good to see Rupert Graves (DI Greg Lestrade) playing something other than his usual cads. As for Una Stubbs, she’s charming as Mrs Hudson.

So how did Holmes fake his death?
Co-creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss (who’s also on-screen as Sherlock’s adversary-brother Mycroft) could so easily have got this modern reboot wrong – and it will be interesting to see how Elementary, CBS’s copycat idea in the States, fares in comparison. Instead, they have made the transition seem obvious and inspired at the same time.

My favourite episodes are the two series openers written by Moffat, ‘A Study in Pink’, which set up the whole edgy relationship between Holmes and Watson so cleverly, and ‘A Scandal in Bohemia’, with Lara Pulver as Irene Adler. But all six 90-minute stories are hugely enjoyable, and included in this boxset.

And, of course, it offers the chance to forensically scrutinise series two’s cliffhanger to try to work out how Sherlock faked his own death. Did Molly provide the corpse that plunged off the roof? We never get a good look at the body whose pulse is checked by Watson, so is it Holmes? Did Holmes leap and land on the lorry? Moffat says the clues are there, but they’re not conclusive – as far as I can see, anyway.

Sherlock – series 3
The extras included here are first class, including the original pilot episode of ‘A Study in Pink’, which was redone, prompting rumours at the time that the show was a turkey (how wrong were they?). There are also films called ‘Sherlock Uncovered’ and ‘Unlocking Sherlock – The Making of’.

That will have to keep us occupied until series 3 is shown, which is unlikely to be before 2013.

Tinker Taylor Solider Spy
Episodes ★★★★
Extras ★★★
 
Benedict Cumberbatch also appears in the stellar British cast for another modern reboot, this time updating John Le Carré’s spy thriller, which was originally filmed by the Beeb with Alec Guinness in 1979.

Gary Oldman, who recently missed out on the Best Actor Bafta to Jean Dujardin, is superb as George Smiley, the ex-MI6 agent recalled from retirement because his bosses are in a mess – namely, that they have a highly placed Soviet mole among them.

Mark Strong, Colin Firth and Tom Hardy are also among the rather sad bunch trying to believe in what they are doing for Queen and country, and playing some nasty games as they go. My slight preference is for the original two series, which obviously had more time to explore and depict Smiley’s sadness and disillusion. 

The extras include an interview with Le Carré and deleted scenes.

• Also out is the new Blu-ray boxset of series one of The Fades, BBC3’s gory horror about teenager Paul, who is haunted by apocalyptic dreams and the spirits of the dead. Includes some good extras, such as deleted scenes, out-takes and behind-the-scenes footage.

Boxsets and DVD supplied by BBCShop.com

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Sherlock 2013, more Luther and what about Endeavour?

• It’s no surprise that Sherlock will be back, probably in 2013 owing to the movie commitments of the leads, Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek) and Martin Freeman (The Hobbit). The Beeb would surely come under siege if creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss hadn’t promised (via Twitter) to reveal how on earth Sherlock defied death after jumping off that building in ‘The Reichenbach Fall’ last night (provoking furious arguments in my house, at least). The three 90-minute stories have fizzed with humour and ingenuity in updating Holmes, clocking up 8-9million viewers a time, and it would be a crime of Moriarty proportions if the series had been cancelled now.

CrimeTimePreview has been bombarded with thousands of hits since Endeavour went out on ITV1, with all but one of the comments saying it was terrific. Inevitably, viewers have been saying ITV1 must turn it into a series. I’ve asked the channel what’s happening and they say ‘discussions on an editorial and practical level’ have to be thrashed out before a decision is announced. But if Scott & Bailey can be recommissioned, surely the Morse prequel is a shoo-in.
• Meanwhile, ITV1 have announced a five-parter called Mrs Biggs, about the wife of train robber Ronnie Biggs. Ironically, Charmian fell for Ronnie as a teenager travelling on a train. Money worries eventually forced Biggs to ask for a loan from an old friend, who turned out to Bruce Reynolds, at that moment planning one of the most famous crimes in British history – the Great Train Robbery of 1963.
• The BBC has decided to do another series of the rather so-so Death in Paradise and rather edgier Luther. With Idris Elba picking up a Golden Globe last night for his screen-filling performance as the  crazed detective, Luther‘s return was only to be expected.
• But no news on Garrow’s Law! Come on, BBC. The show doesn’t deserve m’lud’s noose just yet.

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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New TV crime dramas 2012

Sherlock returns to BBC1 on Sunday, 1 January, 8.10pm

The New Year should be quite a crime spree, with the return of popular series and some great-looking new dramas and thrillers. Here’s a rundown of 40 new series coming to UK television in 2012…
Pics: BBC, ITV

1 Sherlock, BBC1, Sunday, 1 January, 8.10pm
Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Rupert Graves, Una Stubbs
Three new adventures from co-creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss of this Holmes contemporary reboot to kick off 2012. These are A Scandal in Belgravia, The Hounds of Baskerville and The Reichenbach Fall (note the slight alteration in the titles from the originals). The first series, oddly tucked away during the July silly season last year, was a tremendous hit, winning the prestigious American Peabody Award for Entertainment and a Bafta craft award, the CWA Crime Thriller awards for best actor and US Satellite Award for Best Miniseries, among others. It’s been a long wait for Sherlock‘s return. Anticipation factor: ★★★★★

2 Hit and Miss, Sky Atlantic
Chloe Sevigny, Peter Wight, Jonas Armstrong
This is one of the most interesting looking crime dramas for 2012. Chloe Sevigny plays Mia, a contract killer with a secret – she’s a transgender woman. Eddie, Mia’s handler and a well-known name in the criminal underworld, will be played by Peter Wight. Eddie took Mia under his wing and trained her into a first class assassin using his Chinese restaurant as a front for his illegal affairs. Mia’s life is sent into a tailspin when she receives a letter from her ex, Wendy, who reveals that she’s dying from cancer and that Mia has fathered a son, 11-year-old Ryan… Exploring themes of family, sexual identity and killing, Hit and Miss is created by Paul Abbott (Shameless, State of Play). Anticipation factor: ★★★★★

3 Nemesis, BBC1
Melissa George, Adam Rayner
In a joint production with HBO, Kudos – makers of the now decommissioned Spooks – are producing this international espionage series. Nemesis is an eight-parter starring Grey’s Anatomy and Alias actress Melissa George with Adam Rayner (Mistresses). It is written by The X Files and Strike Back writer /producer Frank Spotnitz. This will go out at the end of 2012. Anticipation factor: ★★★★½

4 Inside Men, BBC1
Steven Mackintosh, Ashley Walters, Warren Brown
Three employees of a security depot  plan and execute a multi-million pound cash heist. This new four-part drama serial is written by written by Tony Basgallop (Worried About the Boy, Hughie Green, Most Sincerely) and stars Steven Mackintosh (Camelot, Luther) as John, manager of the cash counting house and entrenched in a humdrum normality. Joining him in the robbery is depot security guard Chris, played by Ashley Walters (Outcasts, Five Days), and forklift driver Marcus, played by Warren Brown (Luther, Single Father). They are not seasoned criminals. Our protagonists are honest, hard-working men who see an opportunity, weigh up the risks, and take a leap. Inside Men is a study of how men behave when they step out of their comfort zones, and focuses on what it takes to cross that moral line, what it means for our characters to risk their freedom, and the resulting fallout on their individual consciences. Anticipation factor: ★★★★½

 5 Endeavour ITV1, Monday, 2 January, 9pm
Shaun Evans
Inspector Morse returns as a young man, with Shaun Evans (left) taking on the role made famous by John Thaw. In this one-off film, fans of Colin Dexter’s much-loved detective will get a glimpse into the origins of the man famed for his love of crosswords, classical music and real ale. Set in 1965, Morse is here involved in an investigation for a missing girl. Sidelined and discredited, he risks everything in launching his own search for justice. Evans commented, ‘Morse as a young man is a wonderful character that I’m very excited to be play. My hope is that we can compliment what’s come before, by telling a great story, and telling it well.’ Endeavour will mark the 25th anniversary of Inspector Morse‘s first broadcast, shown in 1987. Anticipation factor: ★★★★½

6 A Touch of Cloth, Sky1
John Hannah, Suranne Jones, Julian Rhind-Tutt
If the title hasn’t already given you a clue, this is a massive mickey-take of every police procedural ever written (what would you expect – it is adapted by Charlie Brooker from a story by Boris Starling). John Hannah, who once played Rebus for ITV, here takes on another heavy-drinking maverick, DCI Jack Cloth. His wife is mysteriously murdered and the damaged, haunted detective throws himself into his work, partnered with plucky no-nonsense DC Anne Oldman (Suranne Jones, having a light-hearted break from Scott & Bailey). Their boss, ACC Tom Boss, played by Julian Rhind-Tutt (Green Wing, The Hour) repeatedly demands results, fast. No, faster than that. Faster! Charlie Brooker says, ‘After you’ve seen A Touch of Cloth you’ll never be able to watch another detective show again. Not because it’s a devastating pisstake, but because you’ll have smashed your TV to pieces in a disappointed fury.’ Anticipation factor: ★★★★½

7 The Scapegoat, ITV1
Matthew Rhys, Eileen Atkins, Sheridan Smith, Jodhi May, Andrew Scott, Anton Lesser, Sylvie Testud
Daphne du Maurier’s dark story of switched identities could be a real treat. Set in 1952 as England prepares for the Coronation, John Standing and Johnny Spence (both played by Matthew Rhys, who stars in the US series Brothers and Sisters) meet in a station bar. Two very different men who share one thing – their appearance. Charismatic Johnny wines and dines his new acquaintance, but when John wakes the next morning with a hangover he is alone and a chauffeur is standing outside his room, waiting to take him ‘home’. Despite his protests he finds himself sucked irresistibly into another man’s life. Anticipation factor: ★★★★½

8 Line of Duty, BBC2
Vicky McClure, Martin Compston, Lennie James, Gina McKee, Neil Morrissey
In this cat-and-mouse thriller about modern policing, This Is England‘s Vicky McClure is a detective constable who, with detective sergeant Steve Arnott (Compston) are part of an anti-corruption unit investigating a popular and successful officer, detective chief inspector Tony Gates (James). While Gates cleverly manipulates his unit’s figures, DS Arnott questions whether Gates is being made a scapegoat for a culture of institutionalised spin, or is guilty of darker corruption? Writer Jed Mercurio says, ‘I’m hugely excited by the opportunity to set a drama in the controversial realities of 21st century policing. Line Of Duty is a commentary on the perverse bureaucracy that hamstrings frontline officers, but first and foremost it’s a thriller. Lennie James is electric as DCI Tony Gates, a complex and elusive anti-hero, and a formidable antagonist for two of the most exciting young talents in British TV – Martin Compston and Vicky McClure.’ Anticipation factor: ★★★★½


9 Public Enemies BBC1, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, 3-5 January, 9pm
Anna Friel, Daniel Mays
Three-part drama from the award-winning writer Tony Marchant (co-creator of Garrow’s Law) about 28-year-old Eddie, who is released from prison on licence after serving 10 years for murder, and his probation officer, Paula. Returning from recent suspension herself, Paula has to help Eddie, who claims he is innocent, to reintegrate into the community. When Eddie wants to fight what he says was a miscarriage of justice, will Paula risk everything to help him? Anticipation factor: ★★★★

10 The Spies of Warsaw, BBC4
Rainy, cobbled streets of Prague, Berlin and Warsaw, espionage and romance – all should feature in BBC4’s adaptation of Alan Furst’s acclaimed novels in two 90-minute films. The characters of his best-selling spy novels include faded nobility, b-movie filmmakers, newspapermen, ship’s captains and compromised businessmen as well as waiters, shopkeepers, jaded intellectuals, tarnished grand dames, and boozy British secret agents. Somehow, they are all connected to an underground army that seeks to fight against the Nazi occupiers. Anticipation factor: ★★★★


11 The Fuse, BBC1
Christopher Eccleston, Dervla Kirwan, Ewen Bremner, Andrew Scott, Lyndsey Marshal
Daniel Demoys (Eccleston) has gone from being an idealistic young man with a desire to make the world a better place, to a disillusioned and corrupt council official. His alcoholism has driven a wedge between him and wife, Alex (Kirwan), and their three children. When Daniel wakes up after another drunken night, he realises he might be responsible for a murder. A dramatic act of redemption buys him public adoration, so much so that he has become a candidate in the race for Mayor, persuaded by council official Jerry Durrans (Bremner), and lawyer sister Lucy (Marshal). Can he repair the damage he’s done to his private life, or will events – and detective Dalien Bevan (Scott) – bring his life crashing down? Christopher Eccleston says, ‘Bill Gallagher has written a fantastic four-episode drama about obsession, addiction and redemption. I’m very excited about the role of Daniel Demoys.’ Anticipation factor: ★★★★

12 Ripper Street BBC1
An intriguing premise – a drama set in London’s East End in 1889, the year after Jack the Ripper stalked its streets. The focus of the drama is the notorious police division H – the precinct from hell – which tries to maintain order in the chaotic streets of Whitechapel. The eight-part series is created by writer Richard Walow (Mistresses, Waking the Dead). Anticipation factor: ★★★★

13 Savage, BBC1
Warren Brown, Stephen Graham, Michael Angelis, Aisling Loftus, Mark Womack, Christine Tremarco
A young, honest Liverpool beat cop, played by Warren Brown, witnesses the brutal murder of his closest friend and is torn between his desire to protect his family, his duty and an intoxicating instinct for revenge. Anticipation factor: ★★★★

14 May Day, BBC1
When a young girl goes missing, feared dead, the community in which she lives looks to one another for answers. Four of the girl’s neighbours fear someone within their family may be involved. A sophisticated thriller about suspecting those closest to you of committing an appalling crime. This five-parter is written by Ben Court and Caroline Ip, creators of ITV’s Whitechapel. Anticipation factor: ★★★★

15 The Mystery of Edwin Drood, BBC2
Matthew Rhys, Tamzin Merchant, Freddie Fox
The mystery is solved at last. The Beeb has taken the liberty of finishing Charles Dickens’ mystery as part of the bicentenary of his birth, handing the assignment to writer Gwyneth Hughes. This is Dickens’ psychological thriller about a provincial choirmaster’s obsession with 17-year-old Rosa Bud (Tamzin Merchant) and the lengths he will go to to attain her. Anticipation factor: ★★★★

16 The Bridge, BBC4 
One of two new Scandinavian crime series that BBC4 snaffled up after unexpectedly striking gold with The Killing in 2011 (the other is Sebastian Bergman, below). The Bridge, a 10-part investigative crime drama, begins when the body of a woman is found in the middle of the Oresund Bridge between Sweden and Denmark. A bi-national team is put together to solve the crime and the killer, always one step ahead of the police, becomes the object of a dramatic manhunt. A Danish/Swedish co-production. Anticipation factor: ★★★★

17 Sebastian Bergman BBC4
Rolf Lassgård
This police thriller stars Rolf Lassgård, one of Scandinavia’s most popular actors (Wallander, Beck), in a powerful new role as profiler Sebastian Bergman. Strong-headed, politically incorrect, abrasive and grief-stricken, Bergman has still not come to terms with the loss of both his wife and daughter in the 2004 Thailand tsunami. In the first of two 90-minute thrillers, he helps police in his hometown solve the murder of a 15-year-old boy. In the second, he attempts to catch a serial killer who seems to be modelling his attacks on those of a jailed killer whom Bergman put behind bars himself. Anticipation factor: ★★★★

18 Accused, BBC1
Anne-Marie Duff, Olivia Colman, Robert Sheehan, Sheridan Smith, Thomas Brodie-Sangster
The second series of Jimmy McGovern’s drama returns with four more episodes about people dealing with crises in their lives – gun crime on an estate in the opening story. Anticipation factor: ★★★★

19 Law & Order: UK series six, ITV1, Friday, 6 January, 9pm
Paul Nicholls, Bradley Walsh, Freema Agyeman, Harriet Walter, Peter Davison, Dominic Rowan
Nicholls, playing DS Sam Casey, joins the investigation into the previous season’s cliffhanger – the shooting of Matt Devlin (Jamie Bamber). Guest stars joining the cast for series six include Tamzin Outhwaite, Toby Stephens, Eva Pope, Luke Roberts and Tim McInnerny. Anticipation factor: ★★★★

20 Homeland, Channel 4
Claire Danes, Damian Lewis, Mandy Patinkin, David Harewood
Contemporary US thriller series. An American soldier (Lewis) is left for dead during the Iraq invasion of 2003. However, after years in captivity, the solider returns home a hero. CIA officer Carrie Anderson (Danes) smells a rat and thinks that the national hero may be a double agent working for Al Qaeda. Anticipation factor: ★★★★

21 Top Boy, C4
Writer Ronan Bennett’s acclaimed four-parter about gang life on a Hackney estate has been recommissioned. C4’s chief creative office Jay Hunt says, ‘For me, Top Boy encapsulates everything that our drama is about – hugely original, passionate, with a brilliant roster of new talent. I’m thrilled that we’ll be seeing more.’ Anticipation factor: ★★★★

22 Mad Dogs series 2, Sky1
John Simm, Marc Warren, Max Beesley, Philip Glenister
The amateur criminals caught up in dirty shenanigans out in Majorca return. The story picks up where series one ended with Woody, Baxter and Rick driving away from the villa as Quinn has chosen to stay and make a new life in Majorca. In the opening scenes viewers will see Woody, Baxter and Rick have a change of heart and turn back – and from there it just gets crazier. Terrific cast, and series one had menace and bags of humour. Anticipation factor: ★★★★

23 Falcón, Sky Atlantic
A four-episode drama, based on Robert Wilson’s bestselling Javier Falcón novels. The series centres on Falcón, a Chief Inspector in the Seville police, a complex and layered character, with a psychological depth that mirrors the darkness around him in Seville. An innately sexual and charismatic character, Falcón is forceful and focused, happy to ignore the distinction between the law and criminals… Anticipation factor: ★★★★

24 Dirk Gently series two, BBC4
Douglas Adams’ holistic detective, played by Stephen Mangan in series one, returns in three more stories. The chaotic and infuriating sleuth, who solves crimes according to the interconnectedness of all things, was funny and proved a quiet success for BBC4. Anticipation factor: ★★★★

25 Restless, BBC1
Adaptation of William Boyd’s award-winning book about a young woman who discovers her mother was a British spy in the Second World War, specialising in espionage in America. Anticipation factor: ★★★½

26 Kidnap and Ransom series 2, ITV1
Trevor Eve, Helen Baxendale, Sharon Small, Madhur Mittal, Sean Gilder, Chris Fairbank
Eve (right) returns as hostage negotiator Dominic King, who is in Kashmir in this three-parter, trying to secure the release of the Mehtas, a British Asian family taken while on holiday visiting their son. As the handover is completed, the police arrive and a shootout ensues… Anticipation factor: ★★★

27 Scott & Bailey series 2, ITV1
Suranne Jones, Lesley Sharp
The first series got mixed reviews, but Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharp are liked by many viewers and the drama obviously clicked with enoughof them  for ITV to commission eight new episodes. The show will once again explore the personal and professional lives of DC Janet Scott (Sharp) and DC Rachel Bailey (Jones), both members of Syndicate 9, a Major Incident Team within the Manchester Met Police, who are tasked with tracking down killers. Anticipation factor: ★★★

28 Case Sensitive series 2, ITV1
Olivia Williams, Darren Boyd
A two-part story based on author Sophie Hannah’s novel The Other Half. The first series averaged 6million viewers. Anticipation factor: ★★★

29 Vera series 2, ITV1
Brenda Blethyn
Author Ann Cleeves’ unlikely copper, detective chief inspector Vera Stanhope, is back for another four 120-minute investigations, the first being The Ghost Position. The second will be Sandancers, and the third Silent Voices, adapted from Cleeves’ latest novel. The fourth was untitled at the time of the ITV announcement for series two. Anticipation factor: ★★★

30 New Tricks, BBC1
Alun Armstrong, James Bolam, Dennis Waterman and Amanda Redman
Neither the retired detectives or the actors are past it, if the UK audiences of nearly 10million during the last series tell the truth. So the Beeb has ordered another two lots for 2012 and 2013 of what could become the crime genre’s Last of the Summer Wine. The eccentric, rule-bending cold case cops, however, are played by a much-loved cast who have notched up several great performances in terrific series down the years. It may not do anything exciting with the crime format, but it is adored by a mainstream audience and sells by the truckload to international audiences. Anticipation factor: ★★★

31 Hustle BBC1, Friday, 6 January, 9pm
Adrian Lester, Robert Vaughn, Robert Glenister, Matt Di Angelo, Kelly Adams
What looks like being the last series – certainly with this cast and for the foreseeable future – of the con-team series returns in the first week of the New Year. In the opener,  Mickey Bricks (Lester) and the gang take on a gold dealer, Dexter Gold (Paterson Joseph). Anticipation factor: ★★★

32 Whitechapel series 3, ITV1
Rupert Penry-Jones, Phil Davis, Steve Pemberton
Having dealt with the legends of Jack the Ripper and the Krays, detective inspector Chandler (Penry-Jones) returns to be haunted by more ghosts of East End crimes – murder, body-snatching, poisoning and grisly discoveries await. Anticipation factor: ★★★

33 Above Suspicion: Silent Scream ITV1
Kelly Reilly, Ciaran Hinds, Shaun Dingwall, Michelle Holmes, Celyn Jones, Ray Fearon, Joanna Vanderham
The fourth and latest Above Suspicion three-parter with Kelly Reilly as DI Anna Travis arrives in January with this mystery about a murdered British film star. Travis is shocked to discover that behind all the fame and glamour, the victim was lonely, damaged and afraid. Anticipation factor: ★★★½

34-36 Miss Marple ITV1
Julia McKenzie
Caribbean Mystery, Endless Night and The Seven Dials Mystery are three Marple stories slated for filming in 2012. Caribbean Mystery finds Miss Marple far from St Mary Mead, staying in a luxurious hotel in the tropics.  Fellow guest Major Palgrave dies shortly in suspicious circumstances and Miss Marple must find his killer… ‘It’s a huge privilege for me to play Miss Marple,’ says the actress.  ‘After such a successful career, I was content to play guest roles, but then Marple came along.  How could I not play her? I love her shrewd intelligence, and yet she has a warmth and a sweetness that is so disarming. I find it stimulating watching how her insights into human nature can unlock big complex mysteries.’ Anticipation factor: ★★★

37-40 Poirot, ITV1
David Suchet
David Suchet is returning in 2012 to complete the cycle of Poirot stories written by Agatha Christie, filming the remaining mysteries not yet made by ITV – Labours of Hercules, Dead Man’s Folly, The Big Four, Elephants Can Remember and Curtain. The actor has often said he would like to finish the Poirot canon, having now worn the spats and mustache for 22 years during 65 films. Curtain is the Belgian sleuth’s last case, in which the arthritic Poirot calls on his friend Captain Hastings for assistance as they return to the scene of the first case, Styles Court, to prevent another killing. Anticipation factor: ★★★

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