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

The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, ITV, Jason Watkins, Anna Maxwell Martin PREVIEW

Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
In the spotlight – when police suspicion falls on Jefferies, the media circus consumes him. Pics: ITV

Rating: ★★★½

ITV: Wednesday, 10 December, 9pm; Thursday, 11 December, 9pm

Story: When Joanna Yeates, the resident of a property he owns, is found murdered, the pedantic and eccentric retired teacher Christopher Jefferies finds himself under suspicion.

ITV HAVE become specialists in dramatising true crime stories that have grabbed national headlines in recent decades. These have sometimes been controversial but usually sensitively produced.

This Is Personal: The Hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper, See No Evil: The Moors Murders, The Widower and Appropriate Adult (about Fred West) are all recent examples.

This latest is another considered and absorbing production, following events in 2010 surrounding the murder of Joanna Yeates. It focuses on the media frenzy and vilification of the victim’s landlord, the eccentric – ‘Nutty’ as the headlines had it – Christopher Jefferies, who was wrongly arrested for the crime.

Jason Watkins is terrific in the lead

It’s an absorbing drama, with fine performances depicting how the tragic disappearance and murder

Shaun Parkes as Paul Okebu in The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies
Shaun Parkes as Jefferies’ solicitor

of Joanna Yeates ruptured the everyday normality in this little Bristol community. Jason Watkins is terrific as the pedantic, bookish and eccentrically coiffured Jefferies, hair-spraying his barnet or asking investigating plod if he should correct the spelling on the statement they are taking down from him.

Shaun Parkes is also very good as his solicitor, listening to the detectives going round in circles trying to corner Jefferies with their questions, while he seethes at the injustice visited on his client.

In one telling scene towards the end of the first of this week’s two 90-minutes instalments, Jefferies is finally released from the nick to be confronted by the media character assassination that accompanied his incarceration.

‘Based on true events’ genre

‘Weird’, ‘sinister’, ‘creepy’ scream the headlines, while even the school he work at for 34 years

Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies and Howard Coggins as Custody Officer in The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies
In custody – Jason Watkins as Jefferies

distances itself from him. In the aftermath of Hackgate, this story is another reminder of how ordinary people can get caught and minced in the grinder of media excess.

Peter Morgan, the writer behind true-life dramatisations such as Frost/Nixon, The Damned United and The Queen, among others, does a fine job of allowing the story to unfold in a sober but compelling way.

The ‘based on true events’ genre is a difficult one to do well and truthfully, but ITV have become masters of the form. I think the value of these stories is that they take us behind the wild headlines and the legal process, giving some small insight into how such dark events could ever have unfolded.

Cast: Jason Watkins Christopher Jefferies, Ben Caplan Charles Chapman, Shaun Parkes Paul Okebu, Nathalie Armin Melissa Chapman, James Lailey Dc Paul Connor, Joe Coen Dc Paul Batty, Ben Frimstone Postman, Anna Maxwell Martin Janine, Matthew Barker Greg Reardon, Carla Turner Joanna Yeates, Joe Sims Vincent Tabak, Jennifer Higham Tanja, Colin Mace Peter Stanley

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