The Honourable Woman, New Tricks, Shetland, Z Cars, Inspector Nardone

Maggie Gyllenhaal has signed to appear in Hugo Blick’s new thriller, The Honourable Woman, for BBC2. Blick was behind the quirky, compelling The Shadow Line, so all-in-all this looks a bit special. Gyllenhaal will play Nessa, whose father was a Zionist arms procurer, and, as a child, she and her brother witnessed his assassination. As an adult, she inherits his business and tries to switch its purpose from arms to laying data cable between the Israel and the West Bank. The Shadow Line was convoluted but full of brilliant verbal sparring, so this new seven-parter with its spies and international setting should be thick with intrigue.

• The tenth series of New Tricks returns on Tuesday, 30 July, at 9pm. This time in the drama following the retired cold-case cops, Brian Lane (Alun Armstrong) is suspended after assaulting an officer he suspects of covering up a death in custody that led to his early retirement. Stalwarts Amanda Redman and Alun Armstrong will be leaving during this series, following the recent departure of James Bolam. However, Tamzin Outhwaite and Nicholas Lyndhurst will be joining Dennis Waterman and new boy Denis Lawson, so the hit drama will be facing a bit of crunch time to see if and how the fresh characters bed in. Meanwhile, the 9th and final series of CSI: NY also launches on Tuesday, 30 July, on C5. But New Tricks, wobbling from all the departures as it may be, should still see off CSI: NY in the ratings with ease.

• Must admit, I couldn’t really understand why the Beeb decided to do another series of Shetland, such was the quiet passing of the first, but they’re certainly throwing the stars at it for the next outing of the Douglas Henshall drama. Brian Cox ( The Bourne Identity) and Julie Graham (Survivors) will be on hand for the next batch of Ann Cleeve‘s stories – Raven Black, Blue Lightning and Dead Water. If the writers manage to breath some life into the characters this time round, I’ll raise a dram to them.

• If you’re an Everton supporter the Z Cars theme tune is never far away, but for the rest of us there will be a chance to renew acquaintances with the music and accompanying series that was so hugely popular and influential during the 60s and 70s. Z Cars Collection One will be released on a two-disc DVD on 2 September. Writer Troy Kennedy Martin believed that the genre needed ‘an injection of energy and bite’ and that’s what Z Cars had in abundance. Making its TV debut on the BBC in 1962, it went on to become one of the longest-running British TV shows, airing until 1978.

• Inspector Montalbano is currently on leave of absence from BBC4. But the Sicilian is not the only Italian crime-fighter on UK telly. Ever heard of Inspector Nardone? If not, that’s probably because he is tucked away on True Movies, one of the lesser known multi-channel networks. It’s a period drama set in post-war Milan and is based on a real person. Nardone (played by Sergio Assisi) is a crusading cop who roots out corruption at the Questura despite opposition from his spineless superiors. Like Montalbano, there a strain of light-heartedness and romance running through the series, and for crime fans who like the era, it’s a fresh take on the continental cop genre. Inspector Nardone returns to True Movies 1 at 1am from Saturday, 17 August, through to Friday, 23 August, and on True Drama at 1am from 12 August through to 17 August.

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Broadchurch fever, Shetland returns, E4’s new crime drama

 DAVID TENNANT as Alec Hardy and OLIVIA COLMAN as Ellie Miller in ITV's Broadchurch
Ellie (Olivia Colman) and Alec (David Tennant).  Pic: ITV

• An ugly mood is rampant among journalists just now – and it’s nothing to do with Leveson’s proposals for press regulation. There’s indignation and much riding of high horses over ITV’s refusal to allow journos to see the final two episodes of Broadchurch. ‘Can’t believe they’re not putting Broadchurch 7 & 8 on previews. I CAN’T WAIT THAT LONG’ – so wailed the editor-in-chief of TV Choice this week on Twitter. And the story is the same at the Mirror‘s We Love TV magazine, where I’ve been working this week. Mirror hacks have been stomping around over their inability to glimpse the final instalments of the David Tennant murder drama. When was the last time a UK cop show had the jaded media so much in its thrall? Anyway, this Monday we reach episode 6 when the seaside town comes together to mourn and a new suspect in the murder of Danny Latimer comes to light. After that, the journalists are going to have to wait…

• BBC1’s Shetland, in comparison, passed with barely a murmur, but channel honchos were happy enough with combined viewing figures over two nights of 12million to quickly commission a full series of six episodes. Douglas Henshall will return in the stories, based on author Ann Cleeves’ series of novels (all split into two parts) – Raven Black, Dead Water and Blue Lightning. I felt that Shetland‘s debut, shown in February, fell way short of the novels. Television chiefs seem obsessed with whodunit and the location of their dramas – and Shetland is a great location – but not with creating interesting characters. Perhaps detective Jimmy Perez will come to life in the new series.

Corleone, mafia drama machine gun scene, Sky Arts

• The cultured air at Sky Arts was shattered last week by the machine gun blasts and mayhem of Corleone, the channel’s new mafia drama about Sicilian mobster Toto Riina. Starring Claudio Gioe, the drama started last Friday (10pm), but you can catch up with it on Sky Go.

• E4 has commissioned an original, eight-part crime drama called Glue. It’s written by Bafta-winner Jack Thorne, and is described as ‘twisted, wayward… a thrilling murder mystery ride through the countryside’. Thorne says, ‘I grew up in Newbury and was fascinated by life around the stables. In an age where the British countryside feels like it’s rotting through disrepair, we want to tell a story about ambition, hope, darkness and anarchy.’

CrimeTimePreview has a new Forum. We’d love to hear what you think about the murder and coppers filling our screens. Drop by any time…

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Shetland, BBC1, starring Douglas Henshall PREVIEW

Shetland, BBC1, Douglas Henshall as Jimmy Perez
Douglas Henshall as Detective Perez. Pic: BBC

Rating: ★★★½

BBC1: starts Sunday, 10 March, 9pm

Story: Detective Jimmy Perez has returned to his native Shetland and is confronted by the shooting of an old lady and the discovery of human remains at an archaeological dig. 

The Shetland Islands are not quite far enough north to classify this new crime procedural as Scandi-noir, but they’re not far off. Gloomy and wind-blasted, they even have a Viking-themed fire festival and the locals have the same un-sunny complexion as the characters in The Killing or The Bridge.

Still, this remote outpost of the UK is an intriguing and magnificent setting – when there’s some daylight. It also has its challenges for our hero, Jimmy Perez, such as often having no phone signal or having to jump on a ferry to visit a murder scene.

Sandy, Jimmy and Tosh

Jimmy Perez investigates a granny’s murder
The detective is a native Shetlander who has returned home to bring up his stepdaughter, Cassie, following the death of his other half. The first killing he has to investigate is that of a grandmother, Mima, blasted with a shotgun at her isolated croft.

This two-part mystery is based on Ann Cleeves’ elegantly written novel, Red Bones (Ann is also the author of the Vera novels, soon to return to ITV). Sadly, this production falls into the trap of thrusting us straight in the police procedural element of the story without giving us much chance to learn about Jimmy, his return to the island with teenager Cassie, or his new colleagues – Sgt Billy McCabe, DC Alison ‘Tosh’ MacIntosh and PC Sandy Wilson.

Doulas Henshall heads a good cast in Shetland
So many British crime dramas are about detectives in a pretty setting asking people where they were on the night of the 15th. Sadly, Shetland slavishly follows the formula, leaving Jimmy and the other main characters flat.

Which is a shame, because the cast is good, the novel full of atmosphere and the islands are fascinating. But all we get here is the whodunit with tourist trappings – ceilidhs, seascapes and the rest, with little character interest.

Murdered for her land?
Anyway, back to the plot. Mima has been killed by the site of a dig where a human skull has just been found by Hattie, a young archaeologist. Perez realises that Mima may have been caught between the long-held animosities of two local families – the rich Haldanes and the struggling Wilsons.

Mima had been offered money for her land, which was targeted for holiday homes. Was she killed for her land? Or was it because she might close down the dig after the human remains were found, which for some reason upset her? Are the bones ancient or contemporary?

Up Helly Aa – the fire festival
The drama is ratcheted up nicely in part two as the annual fire festival, Up Helly Aa, is spectacularly recreated and Perez closes on the grievances that led to murder.

It’s a decent enough mystery, but a shame that Jimmy and co never burn as brightly as the festival.

Cast: Douglas Henshall Detective Jimmy Perez, Erin Armstrong Cassie, Gemma Chan Hattie James, Sandra Voe Mima Wilson, Alison O’Donnell Alison ‘Tosh’ MacIntosh, Lewis Howden Sgt Billy McCabe, Steven Robertson PC Sandy Wilson, Jim Sturgeon Ronald, Alexander Morton Joseph

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Ripper Street, Shetland on BBC1

Jerome Flynn, Matthew Macfadyen, Adam Rothenberg. Pic: BBC

• After ITV1’s take on Jack the Ripper in Whitechapel comes the BBC’s – Ripper Street. This eight-parter is set in Victorian London just after Jack the Ripper’s killings. The action focuses on notorious H Division, the precinct from Hell, dealing with crime-ridden streets of Whitechapel and the legacy of the serial killer. It stars Matthew Macfadyen, Jerome Flynn, Adam Rothenberg and MyAnna Buring, who recently appeared in ITV1’s The Poison Tree.

Dougie Hensall in Shetland. Pic: BBC

• Ripper Street will probably air in the first week of the New Year, along with Shetland (above), also on BBC1, a two-parter based on the novels of Ann Cleeves, who created ITV’s Vera Stanhope. Dougie Henshall stars as Detective Jimmy Perez, a native Shetlander who returns home after a spell away. And guess what? A body turns up… Fans of of Ann Cleeves should note that she has a new Shetland novel out next month, Dead Water.

• For some reason, Death in Paradise is returning for another eight episodes on BBC1. This was a very bland detective show with Ben Miller as the cop out of his normal habitat on a paradise island, but perhaps it shows that any middle-of-the-road crime show in a pretty location is a shoo-in for recommission. That the excellent Zen was quickly axed while Death in Paradise is brought back is a bit mind-boggling. Anyway, the Beeb is throwing the stars at the new series – Mathew Horne, Hannah Spearritt, Ralf Little, Cherie Lunghi, Dexter Fletcher, Stephanie Beacham and more.

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