What Remains, BBC1, with David Threlfall, Russell Tovey, David Bamber, Indira Varma PREVIEW

David Threlfall as detective Len Harper in BBC1's What Remains
David Threlfall as detective Len Harper. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★★

BBC1: transmission time to be announced

Story: When a new couple, Michael and his heavily pregnant partner Vidya, move into flat 4 of number 8 Coulthard Street, a leak in the loft causes them to discover the remains of Melissa Young hidden in the eaves. She has not been seen for over two years. No one has raised an alarm or even noticed that she was gone.

SHAMELESS WAS A blindingly good drama from C4, but the end of its decade-long run means we should start to see more of David Threlfall in new roles.

He’s a tad more coherent than Frank Gallagher in What Remains, as you would hope for a detective inspector investigating the mystery of a woman’s remains found in the loft of a house with several tenants/families living there.

Having said that, his character Len Harper is unshaven, grey-haired, shambling and scruffily dressed. On the other hand, he is about to retire so obviously doesn’t have to worry about making an impression.

David Threlfall’s detective is deeply affected by the lonely death

Not that he is demob happy. He is a widower, childless and clearly affected by the last call-out he has to attend.

Melissa Young’s mummified remains are found in the loft, two years after the other tenants thought she moved out. In fact, they’re all a bit unclear about what happened to Melissa, though Joe on the ground floor hasn’t missed her. ‘I didn’t like the girl,’ he tells Harper. ‘I think everyone would agree the house is greatly improved by her absence.’

Harper suggest Joe’s comments are harsh, but he is disturbed by this all too common modern occurrence – the person whose life has meant so little to those around them that no one notices their death or disappearance.

What Remains is much more than a whodunit

What Remains is a tender, compelling four-parter. At first sight it appears to be yet another formulaic police procedural – dead body, cops turn up, ask questions – but it is more three-dimensional than your average cop show. It’s about people living together, the dynamics of the neighbourly relationships, and Harper’s humanity in wanting to see that Melissa gets more consideration in death than she did when alive.

Threlfall is marvellous as the detective coming to the end of a decent, average career, having his low-key leaving booze-up, visiting a former colleague in hospital. He can’t let go of the Melissa Young case, however, perhaps dreading his own lonely years ahead, and he keeps returning to Coulthard Street.

‘Who was she?’ asks the colleague and lover of Keiron, Steven Mackintosh’s character.

‘No one,’ he replies.

Russell Tovey is Michael in BBC1's What Remains
Russell Tovey as Michael

Russell Tovey, David Bamber, Amber Rose Revah

And who are the tenants who lived in the same house with Melissa? Uptight Joe on the ground floor (a terrific David Bamber), an unhappy lesbian couple, Keiron and his teenage son, and the new faces who discovered the body – Michael (Russell Tovey) and Vidya (Amber Rose Revah).

Writer Tony Basgallop (who also wrote last year’s Inside Men) has created a thought-provoking whodunit, brought to life by a top-class ensemble cast.

Cast: David Threlfall Len Harper, Denise Gough Liz Fletcher, Lisa Millett DCI Alice Yapp, Alexander Arnold Adam, David Bamber Joe, Claudie Blakley Keiron’s colleague/lover, Jessica Gunning Melissa Young, Victoria Hamilton Peggy, Steven Mackintosh Kieron, Amber Rose Revah Vidya, Russell Tovey Michael, Indira Varma Elaine, Lee Nicholas Harris Station Desk Sergeant, Terence Beesley DCI Burrows

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Inside Men starring Steven Mackintosh PREVIEW

Blag of nerves – honest John (Steven Mackintosh) steps up. Pic: BBC

Rating: ★★★★

BBC1, starts Thursday, 2 February, 9pm

Story: John Coniston manages a highly secure cash counting house. One day he finds himself in the middle of a terrifying, bloody armed robbery. Flash back to nine months earlier and John is confronting two employees he suspects to siphoning off £50,000. They expect boring, playsafe John to call the cops, but John offers them a way out…

Television is so obsessed with whodunits and police procedurals that it usually leaves the heist escapades to the movies.

Inside Men breaks that pattern with a intriguing character study of three guys who, because of their individual problems and insecurities, decide to step out of their comfort zones and risk everything by attempting a £15million robbery.

Steven Mackintosh, Ashley Walters and Warren Brown perfectly manage the haunted looks of the men saying no more Mr Nice Guy. This is a caper without geezers, just three beta males who want to be alpha.

Warren Brown and Kierston Wareing
Mackintosh plays the mouse-like John Coniston, manager of a cash counting house who looks like he’s going to be sick every time a fiver goes missing. So desperate is he to maintain his generally unblemished monthly record at the staff bonus party that he replaces a missing £240 from his own wallet.

Also working at the depot is forklift driver Marcus (Warren Brown), an irresponsible dreamer with debts and a loving, lairy wife, Gina (Kierston Wareing). Chris (Ashley Walters) is the security guard with an alcoholic mother, who lands a new girlfriend and suddenly wants to get out of his miserable rut.

The opening episode of this four-parter kicks off with pounding tension as masked robbers hit the depot. Events then backtrack nine months and we get an insight into the lives of the three principals.

Going for broke
The narrative flashes back and forth, cleverly keeping the viewer on edge. Steven Mackintosh holds the whole thing together as the head-down drone with a plodding marriage who suddenly decides to go for broke.

Warren Brown breezes through as reckless Marcus, and only Ashley Walters is playing against type as timid and shy.

Written by Tony Basgallop (EastEnders, Being Human, Hotel Babylon), this is full of sharp character strokes – such as John’s awful mateyness with a boss who clearly thinks he’s a loser – that  keep you watching to how the desperadoes get through this.

It’s an involving, tense opener that’s right on the money.

Cast: Steven Mackintosh John, Ashley Walters Chris, Warren Brown Marcus, Kierston Wareing Gina, Leila Mimmack Dita, Nicola Walker Kirsty, Hannah Merry Olivia, Tom Mannion Gordon, Ruth Gemmell Rebecca, Paul Popplewell  Tom

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Inside Men and Mafia Month

Inside Men, the story of a multi-million pound robbery by four ordinary men, is being filmed in Bristol by the BBC. Steven Mackintosh (Camelot, Most Sincerely) is John, manager of the cash counting house. Joining him in the scam is depot security guard Chris (Ashley Walters – Outcasts, Five Days), and forklift driver Marcus (Warren Brown – Luther, Single Father).

Kierston Wareing – who is in every other crime drama these, recently notching up The Shadow Line, Luther and The Runaway – plays Marcus’s wife, Gina, who also is involved in the robbery.

Written by Tony Basgallop, whose credits include Worried about the Boy and Hughie Green, the twist here is what happens to these guys once they step out of their comfort zones. Each has a reason for joining the heist. Chris has an alcoholic mother, young girlfriend and hopes the money will make his life better. Marcus borrowed money to set up a hairdressing salon that crashed.

Tony Basgallop says, ‘Inside Men is the story of an old-school cash robbery but with the “geezer” element removed. It’s a study in what it takes for a modern man to step up, assert himself, and have the courage to take something by force. How do you go from being a beta male to an alpha male, and what are the implications on your everyday life?’

• In August Sky Atlantic has an offer you can’t refuse – Mafia Month. It’s a motley bunch of programmes, including TV mobster movies Lansky (1999) with Richard Dreyfuss and Falcone (1999, aka Excellent Cadavers), starring Chazz Palminteri and F Murray Abraham, the story of murdered Sicilian prosecutor Giovanni Falcone. There’s a documentary, Mob Stories, in which five high-ranking gangsters talk publicly for the first time. Season three of The Sopranos is also throwing its weight around in there. The FBI is doing its best to build a RICO case against Tony, who is bugged and under surveillance. This season  includes the classic – some say the finest – Sopranos episode, Pine Barrens. Written by Boardwalk Empire creator Terrence Winter and directed by Steve Buscemi, it’s the one with Paulie and Chris lost in the sub-zero New Jersey forests.

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