The Killing — Killer TV No 7

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DR1 (Danish TV), 2007 series one, 2009 series two, 2012 series three

‘Why do you insist on going to work, now you can have a proper life?’ – Sarah Lund’s mother

Sofie Gråbøl, Lars Mikkelsen, Bjarne Henriksen, Ann Eleonora Jørgensen, Søren Malling, Nicolas Bro, Charlotte Guldberg

Identikit: In Copenhagen, Detective Inspector Sarah Lund is about to begin her last shift before moving to Sweden with her fiancé when she becomes entangled in the disappearance of 19-year-old Nanna Birk Larsen.


logosFour years after it was shown in its homeland of Denmark, The Killing turned up complete with unknown cast and subtitles on minority channel BBC4 in the UK – and sent a thunderbolt through television drama. Not since Prime Suspect had anyone realised just how engrossing and emotionally deep a crime series could be. The advantages it had were that 20 hour-long episodes were devoted to the story of Sarah Lund and her team investigating the rape and murder of Nanna Birk Larsen; the cast was superb, fronted by an enigmatic performance from Sofie Gråbøl, who single-handedly blew away the cliché of the Nordic blonde dollybird; and the writing (by Søren Sveistrup) focused on character and the impact of a violent crime on the victim’s family, rather than just the whodunit. Moving and engrossing, set in an alien Nordic world, this was a mature, fascinating drama. Series two and three were also a cut above your average TV crime fare, but the first instalment was a true classic. TV execs at the Beeb and ITV hate to hear it, but The Killing was far superior to just about every drama made in the UK in recent years.

Spin-off: The 2011 US copy fiddled with the story and failed to convince viewers, but somehow kept going for another couple of series.

Classic episode: number 18, in which Jan Meyer is murdered at the warehouse. Having spent the entire series trying to get Sarah to clear off and being rude to her, Jan had – without any verbal acknowledgement between them – become a partner with Sarah, a team that had begun to value each other, with Meyer expressing concern for Lund and addressing her ‘as a friend’. His death was a shocking, emotionally affecting twist. Lund almost cracks when she’s told the news.

Music: Soundtrack composed by Frans Bak.

Watercooler fact: Sofie Gråbøl had no formal training as an actor. Encouraged by her mother and having responded to a newspaper ad, she got the role of a young girl in a film about Paul Gauguin and that ‘summer job’ led to others and suddenly she was an actor. She’s done Shakespeare and appeared in a Danish romantic drama, Nikolaj go Julie, before achieving international stardom as Lund.

Crime series releases on DVD – autumn 2014

AUTUMN SEES a glut of popular TV series, old and new, making their way onto DVD and Blu-ray.

Vera: series 1-4

All four series of ITV’s Vera, starring Brenda Blethyn and David Leon, are released today, 29 September. Based on the novels of award-winning crime author Ann Cleeves and set in Northumberland, the police procedurals have became a mainstay of the ITV schedules (a fifth series is going into production this autumn for broadcast in 2015). The box set of eight disks is comprehensive, including all 16 episodes so far, but there are no extra features. It’s available on Amazon for £36.

Chasing Shadows: series 1

Chasing Shadows, the recent four-parter starring Reece Shearsmith as a socially inept detective chasing serial killers with the help of Alex Kingston and Noel Clarke, is also out today. Must admit, while Chasing Shadows had an interesting premise and a good cast, it didn’t click with me. This one costs £10.25 from Amazon.

The Professionals series 2 on Blu-ray

Going further back through the TV vaults, Network is releasing a digitally restored second season of the The Professionals, with Bodie, Doyle, Ford Capri, tight jeans and all. It does look wonderfully fresh here, a fascinating glimpse of late 1970s London that is sharp and vibrant. There is also the fun aspect of seeing Martin Shaw in his youthful heyday, and young up-and-comers such as Pamela Stephenson, here playing a dolly bird. Lewis Collins, who sadly died of cancer aged 67 last November, certainly looked the real deal as the former SAS man Bodie. The Professionals, which ran on ITV from 1977-83, specialised in all-action stories that were flimsy on character and plausibility, but it is a pleasure to watch some of them again. There are also out-takes and behind-the-scenes footage among the special features.

The Hour of the Lynx on DVD

Fans of The Killing may interested in this slice of Nordic Noir. This feature-length thriller reunites Sofie Gråbøl and Soren Malling for the first time since The Killing series 1, and it’s a fairly dark affair. A 45-year-old priest, Helen, is approached by scientist Lisbeth in a plea for help. A young man, who has been sent to a high-security psychiatric ward after killing an elderly couple, has attempted suicide while rambling about God. The twist is that he has been the subject of an experiment to ‘humanise’ inmates… The DVD is released on 6 October.

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