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…]

Harlan Coben’s The Five, Sky1

The Five Episode 01 Danny (O-T Fagbenle). Ben Blackall 2015 for © RED PRODUCTION COMPANY LIMITED

One of The Five – Danny (O-T Fagbenle)

Twists galore await in this original Harlan Coben thriller from Sky1

★★★½ Sky1, Friday, 15 April, 9pm

HARLAN COBEN is highly rated as one of the best thriller novelists around today. A lot of my colleagues at crime-fiction site Shotsmag can’t wait for his latest book.

His award-winning mysteries often involve secrets from the past resurfacing and multiple twists. Perhaps best known of his books is Tell No One, which was turned into the 2006 French film Ne le dis à personne.

The Five Episode 01 Mark (Tom Cullen) hugs Pru (Sarah Solemani), Slade (Lee Ingleby) and Danny (O-T Fagbenle) look on. Ben Blackall 2015 for © RED PRODUCTION COMPANY LIMITED

Reunited – Mark hugs Pru as Slade and Danny look on

The surprising thing is that more of his multi-million-selling books have not had screen makeovers. There have been occasional reports that books such as Gone for Good were being worked on by the likes of NBC, but little has surfaced to date.

An original thriller from Harlan Coben

Which makes Sky1’s new series all the more exciting for Coben fans and thriller devotees. The Five is based on an idea Coben had planned to turn into a novel, but instead the author worked with top scriptwriter Danny Brocklehurst (The Driver, Accused, Shameless) to give Sky1 an exclusive and fresh 10-part thriller.

The premise is based on a tragedy from the childhoods of four friends. When they were 12 years old, Mark, Pru, Danny and Slade abandoned Mark’s five-year-old brother, Jesse, in the woods. The lad was never seen again.

In adulthood, Danny, now a detective, gets involved in a murder case. At the scene of the crime, Jesse’s DNA is found. So, is he still alive? If so, is he a murderer? [Read more…]

2016’s New TV crime series

HERE’S our annual selection of the best new crime series and thrillers heading to a screen near you in 2016…

ITV's Marcella, with Anna Friel

Anna Friel at a read-through for Marcella

Marcella

ITV, 2016
Anna Friel, Laura Carmichael, Nicola Pinnock, Ian Puleston-Davies, Nina Sosanya, Ray Panthaki, Jamie Bamber, Patrick Baladi, Harry Lloyd
THIS ORIGINAL, multi-stranded eight-parter is, intriguingly, written by the man who created BBC4’s The Bridge, Hans Rosenfeldt, his first series exclusively created for the UK. ITV rather unoriginally describe it as ‘Scandinavian noir on the streets of Britain’, but given Rosenfeldt’s ability to conjure up distinctive, fresh characters and off-kilter mysteries, this could be a bit special. The story is about a detective returning to the Met’s Murder Squad after a 12-year career break. Marcella is in her late 30s and had previously given up her fast-tracked role to marry and devote her life to starting a family.  With the abrupt end to her marriage to Jason, and isolated from her daughter at boarding school, Marcella returns to work. By coincidence a spate of recent killings have occurred that bear the hallmarks of unsolved murders committed over a decade ago. Marcella is immediately assigned to the case she first worked on in 2003…
Anticipation factor: ★★★★★

 

Sherlock, BBC1, Dr John Watson (MARTIN FREEMAN), Sherlock Holmes (BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH) - (C) Hartswood Films - Photographer: Robert Viglasky

Stepping back in time: Watson (Martin Freeman) and Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch)

Sherlock – The Abominable Bride

BBC1, 1 January 2016
Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Natasha O’Keeffe

Sherlock: The Abominable Bride (No. 1) - Picture Shows: The Bride (NATASHA OKEEFFE) - (C) Hartswood Films - Photographer: Robert Viglasky

Bridezilla? Natasha O’Keeffe as the Bride

IT WOULD appear that Steven Moffat, boss of Doctor Who and Sherlock, has got his shows mixed up because his modern take on Sherlock Holmes has done a bit of time travelling himself and slipped – via the TARDIS? – back into the Victorian period. This is after he and co-writer Mark Gatiss have gone to all the trouble of updating everyone’s favourite consulting sleuth. That’s right, it’s all steam trains, hansom cabs, top hats and frock coats. There even seems to be a ghostly Christmas Carol flavour to the tale. Inspired by the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Moffat and Gatiss have conjured a mystery about a character called Thomas Ricoletti. This chap is a little surprised to see his wife dressed in her old wedding gown. Why? Because, just a few hours before, she took her own life… Mrs Ricoletti’s ghost now appears to be prowling the streets with an unslakeable thirst for revenge. It all sounds a little madcap, but if past form is anything to go by, this New Year’s Day special should be popping with wit and intrigue.
Anticipation factor: ★★★★★

 

The Five

Sky 1, 2016
Tom Cullen, O-T Fagbenle, Lee Ingleby, Sarah Solemani
THIS HAS to be near the top of our list on the basis that it is written by one of the world’s best thriller authors, Harlan Coben. It’s a 10-part thriller about the consequences of a terrible childhood incident for a group of friends. The series is Harlan Coben’s first original series for television. BAFTA-winner Danny Brocklehurst (Shameless, Clocking Off) has been working alongside Harlan as lead writer on the drama.
Anticipation factor: ★★★★★

 

Dark Angel

ITV, 2016
Joanne Froggatt, Alun Armstrong, Jonas Armstrong, Laura Morgan, Sam Hoare, Emma Fielding, Penny Layden
DARK ANGEL also looks intriguing. It is based on the true story of Victorian poisoner Mary Ann Cotton, played by Downton Abbey’s Joanne Froggatt. We meet Mary Ann as a loving wife and mother, newly returned to her native North East of England. But faced with poverty and an ailing husband, we see how ruthlessly determined she is to pursue a better life… Mary Ann is a serial killer, a poisoner whose methods leave no visible scars, allowing her tally of victims to mount unsuspected by a Victorian society unable to conceive a woman capable of such terrible crimes. She insinuates herself into unsuspecting families, marrying and creating new families of her own – before killing them, taking their money and moving on. Through adultery, bigamy, fraud and murder, Mary Ann betters herself socially and financially. But the more she kills, the greater the risk that her crimes will finally be exposed.
Anticipation factor: ★★★★★

 

Maigret, ITV

ITV, 2016
Rowan Atkinson

ITV has commenced filming Maigret Sets A Trap one of two stand-alone dramatic films featuring the legendary French fictional detective Jules Maigret, played by Rowan Atkinson. This image is the copyright of ITV and must be used in relation to Maigret. Photographer John Rogers.

Pipe dream? Rowan Atkinson takes on Jules Maigret

THE LEGENDARY French fictional detective Jules Maigret, is to be played by Rowan Atkinson in two standalone films. Set in the 1950s Paris, the first of the two x 120min films, Maigret Sets a Trap and Maigret’s Dead Man, went into production in September 2015. It has been written by Stewart Harcourt (Love & Marriage, Treasure Island, Marple). The big question is, will Rowan Atkinson pull off a decent portrayal of the detective, whose devotees have as strong opinions over the character as do those of Sherlock Holmes or Poirot. With his laconic manner, heavy coat and trademark pipe, the formidable Jules Maigret first appeared in print in 1931. Georges Simenon, who wrote 75 Maigret novels, is considered one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, selling around a billion books worldwide to date. So, there will be plenty of mileage in a series if ITV and Atkinson get this right. Maigret Sets a Trap is adapted from the Simenon novel Maigret tend un piège. The second film, Maigret’s Dead Man, is based on Maigret et son mort. Renowned actor and comedian Rowan Atkinson, who is best known for portraying iconic characters such as Johnny English, Blackadder and Mr Bean, said: ‘I have been a devourer of the Maigret novels for many years and I’m very much looking forward to playing such an intriguing character, at work in Paris during a fascinating period in its history.’
Anticipation factor: ★★★★★

 

McMafia

BBC1, 2016
Cast to be announced
BBC1 IS TURNING non-fiction author Misha Glenny’s 2008 bestseller McMafia into an epic drama series set in the international world of organised crime. Reports say it is a tale set within a Russian family living in exile in London that throws open the doors of the complex world of organised crime, created and written by award-winning screenwriter and film director Hossein Amini (Drive, The Wings of the Dove, Snow White and the Huntsman,) and James Watkins (The Woman in Black, Eden Lake, Bastille Day). Author Misha Glenny says: ‘I am a huge fan of The Godfather, The Sopranos and, more recently Narcos. Hoss and James’s brilliant reworking of McMafia takes this tradition onto a global canvas by revealing the immense possibilities open to an ambitious Russian crime family in an interconnected world.’ This seems to be part of a trend for the telling of epic, broad-ranging and intelligent crime stories following on from Netflix’s Narcos and Sky Atlantic’s The Last Panthers, both of which set the bar high for such series.
Anticipation factor: ★★★★

 

Scott & Bailey

ITV, 2016
Suranne Jones, Lesley Sharp, Sally Lindsay
THIS TERRIFIC drama has won a loyal following and will be keenly anticipated. ITV has commissioned a three-part special series this time featuring a single crime story. The format will allow the story to unfold with scale and ambition as Scott & Bailey tackle one of the darkest cases they have ever had to face – and that’s saying something as some of their previous investigations have been particularly chilling. Both Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharp return to the roles of super cool Scott and her hotheaded partner DS Bailey, the crime-fighting partnership forged over four previous series following the drama’s successful critical and ratings launch in 2011. Rachel (Suranne Jones) returns from her Vice secondment fired up and full of new ideas. She’s gained valuable experience and wants to make her mark as she returns to Syndicate 9’s Murder Squad. She is exactly who Janet (Lesley Sharp) and the team need to move forward with a terrifying and sinister Internet crime investigation of epic scale and unrelenting horror…
Anticipation factor: ★★★★

 

Tennison

ITV, 2016
Cast to be announced
SHE’S BACK! Tennison, the prequel to Prime Suspect, has been commissioned by ITV, who describe it as ‘much anticipated’. It’s probably less a case of ‘much anticipated’ and more like fingers crossed, because these prequels/sequels/reboots can be terrible. Much will depend on the casting (Helen Mirren, of course, will not be playing her younger self) and how inspired acclaimed writer Lynda La Plante is in reimagining her superb creation. Despite her terrific track record (Widows, Trial and Retribution etc), she’s not infallible. The recent Above Suspicion was implausible and fell flat with audiences. The new 6 x 60-minute series will portray the young Jane Tennison at the beginning her career, revealing why she became such a complex and formidable character in the Metropolitan Police. It’s Hackney in the 1970s, and women police constables are being uneasily ‘integrated’ into the force. We’re introduced to 22-year-old Jane, a probationary officer in a world where high-ranking police officers were notoriously chauvinistic, and the rules and regulations often bent. The drama will broadcast in 2016 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the first Prime Suspect series screening in 1991. Seven series followed and the character of Tennison became well known and loved around the world.
Anticipation factor: ★★★

Endeavour 3, ITV, Roger Allam and Shaun Evans

Ready for the Summer of Love? Thursday (Roger Allam) and Endeavour (Shaun Evans)

Endeavour III

ITV, Sunday, 3 January, 8pm
Shaun Evans, Roger Allam, Jack Laskey, Sean Rigby, Anton Lesser, James Bradshaw, Abigail Thaw
THE Inspector Morse prequel will comprise 4 x 120-minute films and will once again be written by Lewis and Endeavour creator and Inspector Morse writer Russell Lewis. Author Colin Dexter, whose first Morse story was published in 1975, continues his association with the drama, acting as a consultant. Falsely accused Endeavour Morse (Shaun Evans) was last seen isolated and alone languishing in prison, framed for the murder of Chief Constable Rupert Standish. Endeavour is one of the more intelligent crime dramas around, taking a considered look at its 1960s setting, rather than just using it for nostalgia. Set in 1967, three months after Donald Campbell’s ill-fated attempt to break the 300-mile speed barrier on water, the first of the new stories follows the murder of bus conductress Jeannie Hearne on the night she visited the local fairground. It’s the Summer of Love, but for Endeavour it will be a life-changing period, ‘perhaps the end of the beginning.’
Anticipation factor: ★★★

[Read more…]

Major new crime dramas for autumn

The Last Panthers, Hand of God, Narcos, Lucky Man, The Five

THE SETTING at the exclusive top-floor club of London’s Gherkin was swanky enough to impress to the shady ‘banksters’ featured in Sky Atlantic‘s ambitious new Euro-thriller The Last Panthers.IMG_0844

The channel had taken over the glass eyrie with its mesmerising views of the capital, pictured right, to treat journalists from Britain and France to a glimpse of the work in progress. TV critics from The Times, The Guardian and Heat, along with CrimeTimePreview, mingled with Sky’s MD of Content Gary Davey before viewing selected scenes from the multi-lingual crime drama, starring Samantha Morton, Tahar Rahim and John Hurt.

The dinner event and wonderful location were a sign that Sky Atlantic has high hopes for this sophisticated series. It’s a partnership production between Sky Atlantic, Canal + and Sky Deutschland and is filmed in London, Marseille, Belgrade and Montenegro.

The story is based on an idea by French journalist Jerome Pierrat, an expert on Europe-wide crime. It is inspired by the Pink Panthers, Interpol’s name for a real gang of Serbs and Montenegrins, several of them former soldiers, who performed audacious jewel heists, targeting several countries.IMG_0841

The drama begins with a tense jewel robbery, but the story also shifts the narrative back to 1995 and traces the roots of the gang. It looks like a big, sweeping thriller. Samantha Morton glams down for the role of the loss adjustor sent to Balkans, while John Hurt is the seasoned honcho who’s her boss. In English, French and Serbian, The Last Panthers looks to have a lot more going on in it than your average episode of Lewis.

It’s scheduled for November…

Moving on, just take a look at this new series coming from Amazon Prime on 4 September. Hand of God! starring Golden Globe winner Ron Perlman, fresh from Sons of Anarchy, looks just a little unhinged. He’s playing a bent judge in a bind who seems to think he’s  been chosen by God himself to seek vengeance. It’s certainly off-kilter enough to be worth a gander.

Netflix also has a major new crime drama streaming soon. Narcos is a big show telling the story of US and Colombian efforts during the 1980s to take on the mega-powerful Medellin drug cartel. The trailer makes what is a complex and bloody story look like a rollicking good action series, but trailers can be misleading. It will be interesting to see if Netflix can do this huge story justice.

Finally, Sky1 also has two intriguing series looming. Lucky Man stars James Nesbitt in a high-concept series created by comic-book legend Stan Lee (co-creator of Spider-Man, the Hulk etc). Nesbitt plays a cop from London’s Murder Squad who is given an ancient bracelet that gives him the ability to control luck. This has an attractive cast, including Eve Best, Sienna Guillory and Darren Boyd, and what could be a fascinating premise.

Co-creator Neil Biswas says: ‘Is the bracelet really bringing him luck, or is it just another manifestation of the gambling addiction that has always plagued him?’

There is also a lot of buzz around The Five, bestselling thriller author Harlan Coben‘s first original story for TV. Created by Coben, writer of novels such as Tell No One and Gone for Good, and scripted by Bafta-winner Danny Brocklehurst, this 10-parter follows a group of friends haunted by a terrible incident in their childhood. It stars Tom Cullen, O-T Fagbenle, Lee Ingleby and Geraldine James.

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