Case Sensitive series 2, starring Olivia Williams PREVIEW

Darren Boyd and Olivia Williams as Waterhouse and Zailer. Pics: ITV

Rating: ★★★½ 

ITV1: Thursday, 12 July, 9pm

Story: Teacher Ruth Blacksmith has left her husband, Jason, for troubled musician Aidan. Jason has gone into an alcoholic decline, losing his job at the same school as his wife. Ruth wants a divorce and is looking forward to a new life with Aidan, until the love triangle results in murder.

The good news for anyone who enjoyed the first series of Case Sensitive is that Olivia Williams and Darren Boyd are back as Zailer and Waterhouse. The bad news is that there is just one two-part story to feast on.

The two detectives feature in the acclaimed psychological suspense novels of Sophie Hannah, and her story The Other Half Lives is the basis for this new mini – or should that be micro? – series.

Tormented love twisted into obsession is the theme here, as teacher Ruth is involved in a passionate affair with Aidan, a piano teacher who is a gifted pianist on the quiet. The trouble is that the husband Ruth is divorcing to be with Aidan – Jason – has just turned up stabbed to death.

Charlie lets off steam at a kick-boxing class

Love is in the air
Initially, Aidan and Ruth’s plight is a little hard to empathise with. He is a bit cold and creepy, and she seems impulsive and ditzy. However, the skill in the storytelling opens up new dimensions to the characters and their pasts that make this a tragic, sensitive mystery.

But the two-parter’s most intriguing storyline is actually what is going on between colleagues DS Charlie Zailer and DC Simon Waterhouse. Love, or lust, is in the air, as signified by the fact that the pair is constantly covering up the tension between them by talking testily at cross purposes, and that Zailer is primed to chew out any young female she spots talking to her deputy – watch out, DC Amber Williams.

Charlie’s lack of reason is a nice counterpoint to the jealousy or possessiveness that has led to Jason’s murder. By the end of the drama, viewers will certainly want to know what will happen next between the two detectives.

Olivia Williams and Darren Boyd

Suspect – did Aidan kill his lover’s husband

Olivia Williams looks and acts pretty much like you’d imagine a typical modern police detective to be – not overly glam, good at her job, but having made personal sacrifices that may be taking their toll on her happiness. And together with Darren Boyd, here stepping away from his normal comedy roles, they make a believable, contrasting couple. An audience of nearly 7million certainly warmed to them in series one.

However, the BBC and ITV have been coming under criticism for their lack of ambition in drama, as the huge success of Scandi-noirs such as The Killing and The Bridge, along with the big US successes from HBO, expose how small-scale most UK series are.

And it is a shame that Sophie Hannah’s novel has to be crunched into two hours, which creates some head-scratching moments (would Charlie visit the husband even though no crime’s been reported, on the basis that he might harm Ruth in the future?).

Tensions rise between Charlie and Simon

Make British crime dramas longer and more ambitious
Ian Rankin, one of the UK’s best crime authors (whose Rebus books were not brilliantly translated to TV), recently said he was jealous of the 20-hours the Scandinavians could devote to a series, leaving plot, characters and location ‘room to breathe’.

The Other Half Lives is a good mystery – and will be switched on to eagerly by sport-saturated viewers this summer – but how much better would the much-loved books of British crime authors be if they were given more room to breathe?

Cast: Olivia Williams DS Charlie Zailer, Darren Boyd DS Simon Waterhouse, Eva Birthistle Ruth Blacksmith, Peter Wight DI Proust, Theo James Aidan Harper, Emily Beecham Mary Trelease, Ralph Ineson DC Colin Sellers, Christina Chong DC Amber Williams

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Third degree: Sophie Hannah

Sophie Hannah, 39, whose novel The Point of Rescue was recently turned into the drama Case Sensitive by ITV1, is the author of internationally bestselling psychological thrillers – Little Face, Hurting Distance, The Other Half Lives and A Room Swept White. crimetimepreview recently brought her in to be questioned about her addiction to Class A plotting on television…

Your favourite British crime series or thriller on TV?
I thought Waking the Dead, Cracker and Inspector Morse were all brilliant. And in the nineties I was obsessed with the Inspector Wexford mysteries – partly because I love Ruth Rendell’s books, but

I thought the TV versions delivered a startlingly accurate Wexford and Burden, and I liked the atmosphere  of the programmes.

Favourite US crime series or thriller on TV?
Recent: The Shield. I started watching it as Methadone (The Wire was Heroin and I’d used up my supply, and no re-ups were forthcoming!), but ended up thinking it was even better than The Wire.  Season 7, with all the trouble between Vic and Shane and the amazing ending, was as brilliantly tragic as Hamlet or Macbeth. My favourite non-contemporary US crime series is Cagney & Lacey – sheer genius. I will never forget Harv arguing in his pyjamas. Also, although in a way it’s a medical drama, House is my favourite thing ever to have graced a TV screen – and in its own way it’s a detective series, though the mysteries are illness-related.

Did you get into The Killing on BBC4?
I found the first ten or eleven episodes dull and plodding, just people traipsing around trying to get hold of CCTV footage, and making a fuss about wanting to be Mayor – one of the most boring jobs in the world, so it was hard to identify.  I got into it at around episode 12, when Bengt suggested the killer might have killed before, and told Lund to look for other cases of missing girls. From then until the end I was gripped, but the ending was rushed, shoddy, inadequately explained, and revealed loads of serious plot holes. Ultimately, I didn’t think it was very good, and no one would have got excited about it if it hadn’t been Danish and full of nice scratchy-looking jumpers. Also, it’s annoying that when a crime drama has a crap plot but lots of Danish weather and atmosphere, all the highbrows rave about it, whereas something with a superb plot and no highbrow points (eg the recent episode of Waking the Dead, ‘Harbinger’) is completely undervalued. But crime drama is and should be all about plot, as a way of elucidating character. Vagn’s killer psychology was never made clear and was presented inconsistently, so that undermined the whole thing. 

Top TV cop?
I’d feel disloyal if I didn’t choose mine – Simon Waterhouse and Charlie Zailer from Case Sensitive.  I’m not boasting or saying they’re the best, but to choose anyone else would feel like saying I love other people’s children more than mine (not that I do – other people’s children are generally a nightmare!) After Simon and Charlie, my faves are Hathaway in Lewis, and Shane Vendrell from The Shield. I feel very defensive on behalf of Shane – Vic went into a massive huff with him for killing Lem, but he, Vic, instilled in Shane the belief that it’s okay to kill anyone who seriously threatens the Strike Team. Vic, of course, didn’t mean that it was all right to kill ‘one of them’, and especially not Lem, who Vic didn’t see as a threat – and maybe Shane was wrong to see Lem as a threat – but the point is that Shane, though maybe a bit dim, thought he was living up to Vic’s ideals and did something he massively didn’t want to do to help Vic, as he saw it, because he really loved him. And then Vic punished and banished him. At which point I decided I would love Shane for ever and be the only person who saw the good in him!

Which unfilmed book/character should be made into a TV drama?
Jill McGown’s Lloyd and Hill cop duo. There was once a pilot, starring Philip Glenister and Michelle Collins, but there should be a long-running series. They are superb characters and the books have stunning plots. And Jill McGown is not well known now, and she really should be. She’s the natural heir to Agatha Christie’s plotty throne!   

Following Case Sensitve, which of your books would make a good TV drama or film? Who would you cast to be the hero?
The ones that I think would make the best TV dramas are Little Face and Lasting Damage.

Will we see another Case Sensitive with Charlie Zailer on ITV?

Darren Boyd and Olivia Williams as Waterhouse and Zailer. Pic: ITV

I’m not allowed to say until ITV announces officially, but put it this way, it’s not bad news. Well, not for me, anyway. Perhaps for AA Gill…

What do you watch with a guilty conscience?
I feel a bit guilty about liking Lewis as much as I do. I like the Oxfordishness of it and the witty dialogue. I know it’s not groundbreaking, but isn’t there enough broken ground in the world?  I also like New Tricks, though I can see it isn’t great television – but it’s fun and somehow comforting. On a non-crime note, I love (and feel guilty for loving) Not Going Out, the sitcom starring Lee Mack, and Two and a Half Men

Least favourite cop show/thriller?
I wasn’t convinced by Luther.

Do you prefer The Wire or The Sopranos?
The Wire – by some distance

Marple/Poirot or Sherlock Holmes?
I love all three in book form. Televisually, Sherlock adaptations are usually better – House, for example, was inspired by Sherlock Holmes. Nuff said.

Wallander – BBC or the Swedish version?
Swedish version, but I didn’t really rate either. Plots are perfunctory and flimsy. 

US or British television crime dramas?
The Shield, The Wire, House, The Sopranos and Cagney & Lacey are better than most UK crime shows. The solution to this problem, from a British point of view, is simple: broadcasters need to take more risks and plan longer-lasting dramas. All the best US ones have 10 or more episodes in which to develop.

Your favourite crime/thriller writers?
Ruth Rendell, Nicci French, Tana French, Jill McGown, Agatha Christie, Val McDermid, Jesse Kellerman, Belinda Bauer, S J Watson, Karin Alvtegen, early Minette Walters.

Favourite non-crime/thriller author?
Iris Murdoch, Wendy Cope, Geoff Dyer, Tim Parks

Favourite crime movie or thriller?
Twelve Angry Men – my all-time favourite film.

You’ve been framed for murder. Which fictional detective/sleuth would you want to call up?
I’d have to call Simon Waterhouse – he’d be offended if I didn’t!

• Sophie’s latest thriller is Lasting Damage, once again featuring Simon Waterhouse and Charlie Zailer, is out in paperback in August. You can read the beginning of it here.


Case Sensitive with Olivia Williams PREVIEW

DC Waterhouse (Darren Boyd) and DS Zailer (Olivia Williams) Pics: (C) ITV Plc/HAT TRICK PRODUCTIONS

Rating ★★★★

ITV1 starts Monday, 2 May, 9pm; concludes Tuesday, 3 May, 9pm

ITV is on a roll at the moment, putting on some sharp crime dramas that rise above the level of, ‘Ooh, look at the lovely village scenery/costumes’ (don’t mention Midsomer Murders/Marple).

So, last week it was The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, while Vera with Brenda Blethyn is with us, and here we have ITV1’s pretty decent contemporary psychological thriller, Case Sensitive. None of these could go 10 rounds with the sensational The Killing, which recently wrapped on BBC4, but they’re far more characterful and engaging than the dull old whodunnits that bring in the foreign sales (don’t mention Lewis/Poirot).  

Mark (Rupert Graves)

Here, Olivia Williams’s DS Charlie Zailer has a problem. She is called in to investigate the apparent suicide of Geraldine Bretherick, found dead in the bath of her luxury home with her five-year-old daughter, Lucy.

One mystery is, did Charlie sleep with her deputy?
Zailer’s problem is that this is the first investigation she’s headed. She’s trying to prove herself to her impossible-to-please boss, and her deputy, Simon Waterhouse (Darren Boyd), is not good at following her instructions. He’s also insubordinate, heavyhanded and rubbish at paperwork. Her boss, Proust (Peter Wight), also likes him.

Oh, and Charlie spent a drunken evening with Simon the night before the deaths – but can’t remember if she slept with him. While Charlie believes Geraldine killed herself and her daughter, particularly after the discovery of a note, Waterhouse is suspicious of her husband, Mark, played by Rupert Graves, who seems to have cornered the market in roles for shifty, unpleasant men.

Tough but insecure – Charlie Zailer

Sophie Hannah‘s suspense novel The Point of Rescue is the source of Case Sensitive, which, as usually happens when novels are boiled down to two-part TV series, loses a lot of the subtlety of the original. So we miss some of Charlie’s background as a Met officer who has come to the provinces.

Chilling twist
But Hannah’s odd-couple detective pairing is portrayed well by the two stars, with each character evolving – Charlie tough and clever but a little insecure, Simon very sharp but whose social outcast nature has earned him the nickname ‘Rainman’.

Sally (Amy Beth Hayes)

The story takes a chilling twist when we meet Sally Thorne (Amy Beth Hayes), a pretty, married hotel receptionist who recognises Mark Bretherick’s name when she catches a news report of the deaths. She confides in her friend, Esther, that she had an affair with Mark and then ignores Esther’s advice not to contact Mark.

When Sally delivers her condolences to Mark, she has a shock and discovers a key to a crime that then escalates.

Olivia Williams and Darren Boyd
Case Sensitive has a great premise, and Olivia Williams and Darren Boyd are very engaging as the colleagues tiptoeing round each other. It suffers a bit from a rushed and convoluted ending, and would have benefited from having more than two hours devoted to it. The Killing was a 20-parter, which meant it really got into the characters.

Who knows – after the cult success of the Danish series, maybe BBC and ITV honchos are at this very moment plotting some bigger, bolder crime dramas for next year?

Cast: Olivia Williams DS Charlie Zailer, Darren Boyd DC Simon Waterhouse, Amy Beth Hayes Sally Thorne, Rupert Graves Mark Bretherick, Tom Goodman-Hill Steve Harbord, Geoffrey Streatfield Jonathan Hey, Peter Wight Proust, Claudia Harrison Cordy O’Hara, Emily Robbins Oonah O’Hara, Melissa Taylor Lucy, Elly Fairman Esther Taylor, Eloise Cartwright Amy, Ralph Ineson DC Sellers, Seeta Indrani Dr Chaudry, Huw Rhys Nick Thorne

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