Crime dramas 2018 preview

Here is our annual rundown of some of the top crime series coming up. It seems there are more quality series around than ever…

The Trial of Christine Keeler, BBC1

Christine Keeler, who died earlier this month aged 75, was a the centre of one of the 20th century’s greatest British scandals, the Profumo affair. Writer Amanda Coe gives a taste of the event by describing it as ‘the Salem Witch Trial meets OJ Simpson – a perfect storm of gender, class, race and power that resonates into the world we’re living in today’. Keeler was a young woman who had an affair with government minister John Profumo. He lied about it to the House of Commons and had to resign. The fallout rocked the 1960s establishment and had tragic consequences…

Anticipation factor ★★★★★

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 02/10/2017 - Programme Name: A Very English Scandal - TX: 01/10/2017 - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: First look picture of Hugh Grant playing Jeremy Thorpe in BBC One's A Very English Scandal Jeremy Thorpe (HUGH GRANT) - (C) Blueprint Television Ltd - Photographer: Kieron McCarron

Downfall: Hugh Grant as Jeremy Thorpe

A Very English Scandal, BBC1

Hugh Grant, Ben Wishaw

Another scandal that shook Britain, this time in the 1970s. Hugh Grant, returning to British television for the first time since the early 1990s, plays the disgraced MP Jeremy Thorpe. In 1979 he was tried but acquitted of conspiring to murder his ex-lover Norman Scott, played by Ben Whishaw. Terrific cast includes Patricia Hodge, Monica Dolan and Michelle Dotrice. This three-parter is written by Bafta-winner and former Doctor Who overlord Russell T Davies. It’s directed by Stephen Frears, whose credits include Philomena and The Queen.

Anticipation factor ★★★★★

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 02/10/2017 - Programme Name: A Very English Scandal - TX: 01/10/2017 - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: First look picture of Ben Whishaw playing Norman Scott in BBC One's A Very English Scandal Norman Scott (BEN WHISHAW) - (C) Blueprint Television Ltd - Photographer: Kieron McCarron

Ben Whishaw as Norman Scott in BBC1’s A Very English Scandal

Hatton Garden, ITV

Timothy Spall, Kenneth Cranham

We almost saw this before Christmas, but it was abruptly pulled from schedules and will now be shown in 2018. It is, of course, about the spectacular London burglary pulled off by a group of, as the press labelled them, ‘diamond geezers’. It has a terrific cast and is written by Jeff Pope and Terry Windsor. Should be a cut above.

Anticipation factor ★★★★★

Mindhunter 2, Netflix

Jonathan Groff, Holt McCallany, Anna Torv

For me, the best crime drama of 2017 has been Netflix’s Mindhunter. Set in 1979, it is a gripping look at the challenges of setting up the FBI’s criminal profiling unit. It was superior to most TV whodunits, being an intriguing take on why-do-they-do-it. Serial killers are the subject, and the most chilling performance was that of Cameron Britton. He played the real-life killer Ed Kemper. Check out this featurette… and don’t miss the show.

Anticipation factor ★★★★★

Narcos 4, Netflix

Michael Peña, Diego Luna

Michael Pena joins Narcos

Narcos newcomer: Michael Pena

Michael Peña (Crash, American Hustle) and Diego Luna (Rogue One, Y Tu Mamá También) star in the upcoming fourth season. This time the action shifts to Mexico. It is slated to premiere later in 2018. Preview here.

Anticipation factor ★★★★★

Trauma, ITV

Adrian Lester, John Simm

Set in the trauma department of a London hospital, this is a three-parter. Fifteen-year-old Alex Reynolds dies under the care of high-achieving consultant Jon Stephens. Heartbroken, Alex’s father, Dan, believes Jon is responsible for Alex’s death. As he strives for justice, he begins to unpick the fabric of Jon’s life. Written by Mike Bartlett (Doctor Foster), who says, ‘Trauma is a story about two fathers with very different lives, locked in conflict. I hope the series will be moving, terrifying and timely… If we increasingly mistrust institutions and experts, what happens when we desperately need them?’

Anticipation factor ★★★★

MAMMOTH SCREEN FOR ITV NEXT OF KIN on ITV1 Pictured: JACK DAVENPORT as Guy Harcourt and ARCHIE PANJABI as Mona Shirani Episode 1 - The contemporary drama follows whip-smart doctor Mona Shirani ( Archie Panjabi) who lives in London with political lobbyist husband Guy Harcourt (Jack Davenport). Family life is shattered when Mona’s brother is killed whilst working for a medical charity abroad. As the death brings buried secrets to light, Mona’s family finds itself under suspicion, each drawn deep into a tangle of betrayal and conspiracy as they try to protect their loved ones and careers. Mona finds herself facing the ultimate dilemma: how far would you go to keep your family safe? This photograph is (C) iTV and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the programme or event mentioned above. Once made available by ITV plc Picture Desk, this photograph can be reproduced once only up until the transmission [TX] date and no reproduction fee will be charged. Any subsequent usage may incur a fee. This photograph must not be manipulated [excluding basic cropping] in a manner which alters the visual appearance of the person photographed deemed detrimental or inappropriate by ITV plc Picture Desk. This photograph must not be syndicated to any other company, publication or website, or permanently archived, without the express written permission of ITV Plc Picture Desk. Full Terms and conditions are available on the website

Trouble ahead: Jack Davenport as Guy Harcourt and Archie Panjabi as Mona Shirani

Next of Kin, ITV

Archie Panjabi, Jack Davenport

Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife, The Fall), and Jack Davenport (Pirates of the Caribbean, Smash), star in this fast-paced family thriller, starting on Monday 8 January. The contemporary drama follows doctor Mona Harcourt (Panjabi). She lives in London with political lobbyist husband Guy (Davenport). When a bomb goes off in London on the same day her brother, Kareem, is abducted and murdered in Pakistan, Mona’s charmed life is shaken to its core.

Anticipation factor ★★★★

Dark Heart, ITV

Tom Riley

Series 2 of this six-part police drama is set for Spring 2018, with Tom Riley as DI Will Wagstaffe, a man haunted by the murder of his parents. ITV head of drama Polly Hill says: ‘We’re thrilled Tom Riley has agreed to return as Will Wagstaffe in Dark Heart. As the central character, he has immersed himself in police work to seek some form of closure for what has happened in his past. It’s a gritty, emotionally driven thriller from [screenwriter] Chris Lang.’

Anticipation factor ★★★★

Riviera 2, Sky Atlantic

Julia Stiles

Julia Stiles, Lena Olin, Roxane Duran and Dimitri Leonidas will be back for a new run of Sky’s glossy French-set crime drama. Based on an idea by former U2 manager Paul McGuinness, it was mostly style over substance. But it clearly did well enough for Sky to lavish another big budget on a second outing.

Anticipation factor ★★★

Clean Break, ITV

Sheridan Smith

Currently being filmed in and around London, this looks particularly interesting. Sheridan Smith plays Sam, a cleaner at financial stockbrokers in the City, one of an invisible army enduring the suffocating grind of a zero-hours contract. She’s also a mum with a gambling addiction. When she hears of a confidential financial deal, she has a chance to turn her life around – but also veer into a dark and illegal world.

Anticipation factor ★★★★

Liar 2, ITV

Joanne Froggatt, Ioan Gruffudd

2 BROTHERS PICTURES For Itv LIAR EPISODE 1 Pictured: JOANNE FROGGATT as Laura Nielson. Photographer JOSS BARRATT This photograph is (C) iTV and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the programme or event mentioned above. Once made available by ITV plc Picture Desk, this photograph can be reproduced once only up until the transmission [TX] date and no reproduction fee will be charged. Any subsequent usage may incur a fee. This photograph must not be manipulated [excluding basic cropping] in a manner which alters the visual appearance of the person photographed deemed detrimental or inappropriate by ITV plc Picture Desk. This photograph must not be syndicated to any other company, publication or website, or permanently archived, without the express written permission of ITV Plc Picture Desk. Full Terms and conditions are available on the website For further information please contact:

Piecing together what happened – Laura in Liar 1

I thought series one was weighed down by implausibilities, but ITV think it was the greatest thing going, so it’s set to return in 2019. The crazy end certainly annoyed a lot of viewers. Be interesting to see how Andrew Earlham (Gruffudd) is resurrected… or perhaps not.

Anticipation factor ★★★

Cheat, ITV

Starts production in 2018, it’s described as ‘an emotionally affecting four-part series’. It’s about a dangerous relationship between a professor, Leah, and her student, Rose. What begins as a seemingly open and shut case of academic deception, spirals out of control…

Anticipation factor ★★★★

Top Boy, Netflix

Ashley Walters, Kane Robinson

Migrating from C4 to Netflix, this gritty drama includes new storylines that see Dushane (Ashley Walters) returning from exile to his home in London to reclaim his throne in the lucrative drug market. He teams up with Sully (Kane Robinson), his partner, and sometime rival, who is also returning after his own form of exile – prison – comes to an end. Awaiting them both is Jamie, the young and ruthless gang leader whose ambitions leave no room for Dushane and Sully.

Anticipation factor ★★★★

Gangs of London (working title), Sky Atlantic

Set for 2019, this London-set drama will be about a capital ‘torn apart by the turbulent power struggles of the international gangs in control’. When the head of a criminal organisation is assassinated, the sudden power vacuum his death creates threatens the peace between the city’s web of gangs.

Anticipation factor ★★★★

Bulletproof, Sky 1

Noel Clarke, Ashley Walters

Clarke and Walters star as cops from differing backgrounds who are also best mates. Aiming for humour, action and emotion, the show centres on the relationships between fathers and sons and is about friendship, conspiracies and ghosts from the past.

Anticipation factor ★★★★

Lucky Man 3, ITV

James Nesbitt, Sienna Guillory

Based on an idea from world-renowned comic book writer Stan Lee, this had the good fortune to win over a million viewers. In this third chapter, DI Harry Clayton is in Hong Kong, looking for answers about his ‘lucky’ charm. He comes up against some nasty underworld characters who have their eyes on more than just his bracelet. Joining James Nesbitt are show favourites Amara Karan, returning as DS Suri Chohan, Sienna Guillory as Eve and Stephen Hagan as Rich Clayton.

Anticipation factor ★★★★

Manhunt, ITV

Martin Clunes

ITV has a strong record of creating sensitive dramas from true events. This one looks like it be engrossing, though the casting of Martin Clunes looks suspect. Written by Ed Whitmore (who wrote the chilling, intriguing Rillington Place), it’s based upon the memoirs of former London detective DCI Colin Sutton, who tracked down serial killer Levi Bellfield. Manhunt is the story of how the murder of French n ational Amelie Delagrange, on Twickenham Green in August 2004, was eventually linked to the murders of Marsha McDonnell in 2003 and the abduction and murder of Milly Dowler as she travelled home from school in 2002.

Anticipation factor ★★★★

Marcella 2, ITV

Anna Friel, Jamie Bamber

Series one divided viewers in 2016. Written once again by Hans Rosenfeldt, who did the brilliant The Bridge, it is unlikely to be cosy or run-of-the-mill. The story begins with the discovery of a body inside a wall. The corpse is surrounded by toys and soft animals and a school blazer. A devastated Marcella soon works out that the body is that of schoolboy Leo Priestley, who was abducted a few years beforehand and a friend of Marcella’s son, Edward. Anna Friel said, ‘I’m thrilled to be reprising the role of Marcella and want to thank ITV for recommissioning this powerful London based noir drama. The reaction from everyone has been amazing.’

Anticipation factor ★★★★

Endeavour 6, ITV

Shaun Evans, Roger Allam

Filming has begun on the fifth series of ITV’s hugely successful detective drama, Endeavour. Six feature-length films of the Inspector Morse prequel series are to be produced for transmission next year, starring Shaun Evans as the recently promoted Detective Sergeant Endeavour Morse.

Anticipation factor ★★★★


White Dragon, ITV

This eight-parter was filmed during the autumn on location in Asia. From writers and producers Harry and Jack Williams (The Missing), it follows Professor Jonah Mulray, whose life is turned upside-down when his wife, Megan, is killed in a car-crash in Hong Kong. Casting news to be announced.

Anticipation factor ★★★★

Unforgotten 3, ITV

Nicola Walker, Sanjeev Bhaskar

This has had some terrific press reviews and will be looked forward to by many viewers. Once again, DCI Cassie Stuart and DI Sunil ‘Sunny’ Khan will be unravelling the truth behind historic murders.

Anticipation factor ★★★★

Best Crime Dramas on British TV 2011

2011’s TV crimespree blew away the previous year’s good, but not overwhelming, caseload of crime dramas and thrillers. This selection is based on shows that had some heart and emotional depth, rather than the mainstream of whodunits and procedurals. But by all means, fire off your disagreements and preferences in the comments section at the end…
(Pics: BBC, ITV, C4, BSkyB, FX, 5USA)

Michael C Hall as Dexter

10 Dexter series 5 FX (UK)
This was probably Dexter’s best outing since series one. It began with our serial killer protagonist in crisis, with his wife, Rita, murdered and his baby son discovered in a pool of her blood, which eerily echoed Dexter’s own childhood trauma. The emotion-less Dexter is disconcerted, perhaps even moved a little, because by being with him, Rita – who thought she was ‘getting a real human being’ – has ended up butchered. The complications mounted for Dex, with his step-sister perplexed by his behaviour and his trying to deflect Lumen Pierce, whom he rescued from another serial killer, from seeking revenge. The conceit of novelist Jeff Lindsay’s creation – serial killer as hero – should not work, but the black humour, the pathos, the character’s deadpan voiceovers and Michael C Hall’s performance makes this an unmissable and original series.
Highlight: Dexter giving Rita’s family and kids the dreadful news that she’s been murdered – but being so disengaged that he forgets to take off his Mickey Mouse ears while doing so.

Jamie Bamber as DS Devlin

9 Law & Order: UK series 4 and 5 ITV1
L&O: UK is now such a staple for ITV1 that we’ve had two series of it this year. The spin-off from the original US series earns its place here for its consistently good and tightly packed one-hour dramas, which frequently end on an ambivalent note. The stories also cover tough subjects, crimes by children, a gun rampage or killings by negligent doctors, for instance. The fifth season saw Dominic Rowan and Peter Davison joined the legal side of the cast, while the compelling tales continued without let-up. Bradley Walsh and Jamie Bamber have been excellent as the chalk-and-cheese detective sergeants, though sadly it looks as though that partnership has come to an end. Lead writer Emilia di Girolamo injected plenty of emotional impact into the last series, and finished it with a stunning cliffhanger…
Highlight: has to be the finale of series five, when DS Matt Devlin was shot outside court.

Jason Isaacs as Jackson Brodie

8 Case Histories BBC1
Novelist Kate Atkinson is not solidly in the crime genre camp, and this hugely enjoyable series caught the narrative quirks, mystery and humour of her writing brilliantly. Jason Isaacs, in a sharp contrast to his American persona in the gangster series Brotherhood, was the engaging and vulnerable tough guy Jackson Brodie, who gets dragged into the world of the Land sisters by Sylvia Syms’s missing moggy. The sisters want Jackson to look into the fate of their missing sister, who vanished 30 years before. Edinburgh is the beautifully shot backdrop, and the cast, including Amanda Abbington as the tough cop with a soft spot for the wayward Jackson, was wonderful.
Highlight: any of Jackson’s scenes with his young daughter, Marlee (Millie Innes).

Janet Leach (Emily Watson) accompanies Fred West (Dominic West) to a murder site

7 Appropriate Adult ITV1
Dominic West showed what an accomplished star he is with this unexpected performance as the one-man horrorshow that was real-life serial killer Fred West. It was controversial, but still a haunting and unforgettable dramatisation from the award-winning team that revisited the Yorkshire Ripper and the Moors murders on the small screen. Confronting such revolting crimes in a drama is a way of attempting to gain modest perspective on them, but Appropriate Adult ultimately reinforced the feeling that such killers are beyond our understanding. Written by Neil McKay, the drama cleverly approached the horrendous story from an oblique angle, that of housewife Janet Leach, who was the required Appropriate Adult brought in to chaperone the apparently below-averagely intelligent West – a powerful performance by Emily Watson.
Unforgettable moment: Janet Leach’s uncomprehending expression as West tells detectives about his crimes.

Will Sully be a Top Boy?

6 Top Boy Channel 4
Channel 4 is not a top producer of crime dramas, but if it only makes one a year that is as potent as Top Boy then it will be worth waiting for. A four-parter that took a hard look at inner-city drug and gang culture, our escort into this world was 13-year-old Ra’Nell (Malcolm Kamulete), whose mother is hospitalised after a breakdown. The programme caught the pressure on young men such as Ra’Nell to ally themselves with gangs for status, but the price exacted by the likes of Dushane (Ashley Walters) and Sully (Kano) – both also desperate to be top boys, despite the huge risks – was unflinchingly shown.
Highlight: Raikes telling Dushane he has to give up Sully to the Feds. Reality bites…

5 The Field of Blood BBC1
Based on a Denise Mina novel, this was a gem of a drama that the Beeb seemed almost embarrassed to put out for some reason (10.15pm, Monday night?). But it got a lot of things right. The characters, particularly young Jayd Johnson as Glasgow newspaper ‘copyboy’ Paddy Meehan, were believable and sympathetic, and the 1980s were as sexist and rocking musically as many would have remembered them. David Morrissey played the bullying editor with a heart, and Peter Capaldi was excellent as the old hack. And the story of a young woman with ambitions beyond marriage and a crap job who sets out to discover the truth behind a child murder that has implicated her 10-year-old cousin was captivating. Someone should commission more dramas based on Mina’s novels.
Highlight: Paddy’s character-defining punch-up in the ladies with glamour-puss reporter Heather.

Steve Buscemi as Nucky

4 Boardwalk Empire series 1 & 2 Sky Atlantic
Few dramas have the scope and ambition of this HBO epic. From the mega-budget opening episode, it’s been an engrossing attempt to revisit an extraordinary period in American history. Steve Buscemi has been mesmerising as Enoch ‘Nucky’ Thompson, the brazenly corrupt treasurer of Atlantic City, whose policy is less Prohibition than anything goes. Melding real historical figures – politicians, government agents and gangsters such as Al Capone and Lucky Luciano – with the sweep of the jazz age backdrop has brought this age of political madness vividly to life. And it’s been extraordinary watching the performances of two Brits in the cast – Kelly Macdonald as Margaret, Nucky’s mistress, and Stephen Graham as Capone, who doesn’t look remotely Neapolitan but in every episode appears about to erupt like Vesuvius. It’s won a glut of awards, including eight Emmys, and will return for a third series.
Highlight: the whole of the opener directed by Martin Scorsese – a kaleidoscope of music, partying and corruption.

Timothy Olyphant as Raylan

3 Justified series 2 5USA
The second series may have had the edge over the terrific first series, with a strong story arc that saw gun-happy deputy US marshal Raylan Givens facing off with Dixie mafia boss Mags Bennett and her vile sons. The magic of the series, drawn from a character created by the crime writers’ crime writer, Elmore Leonard, is that the setting – a rural Kentucky mining town – is fresh and well depicted, with its clans and bonehead villains and good ol’ boys. However, while Mags (an Emmy-winning performance from Margo Martindale) may have been surrounded by boneheads in her clan, she was sadistic, menacing and well-mannered all at the same time. Timothy Olyphant was again laid-back and almost as cool as Paul Newman in the title role, while Natalie Zea as his on-off-on other half added glamour and attitude. Nick Searcy as Raylan’s put-upon boss, Art Mullen, gave the show heart and a lot of laughs. Series three will be racked and ready in 2012…
Highlight: the deadly confrontation between Raylan and Mags’s son, Coover.

Watch your back – The Shadow Line

2 The Shadow Line BBC1
In a strong year for conspiracy thrillers – Hidden, Exile, Page Eight – Hugo Blick’s The Shadow Line stands out. Great cast – Chiwetel Ejiofor, Christopher Eccleston, Stephen Rea, Rafe Spall, Kierston Wareing, Antony Sher – in a creepy and dark story featuring a trio of psychos to give you nightmares. Stephen Rea was unforgettable as the puppetmaster Gatehouse, Rafe Spall pulled off the best nut job since Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast, and Freddie Fox simpered as the morally blank Ratallack. Kierston Wareing, who seemed to appear in just about every good crime show this year from The Runaway to Top Boy, was terrific as the sexy, acid-tongued detective sergeant Honey. Blick’s wordy scenes and extraordinary characters created a drama that was not realistic, but felt like a nightmare of foreboding. Midsomer Murders this was not.
Highlight: the moment when Gatehouse finally catches up with the mysterious Glickman, played by Antony Sher. What an amazing showdown.

Bloody business for Sarah Lund (Sofie Gråbøl)

1 The Killing series 1 BBC4

It has to be. There had been subtitled crime series around – the Swedish Wallander, for instance – but The Killing, tucked away on BBC4, took everyone by surprise, including the Beeb. It notched up more viewers than Mad Men, set blog comment boxes buzzing (CrimeTimePreview was inundated with feedback from adoring viewers), and showed that mainstream US and UK formats – murder, neat resolution by detective – often lacked any emotional impact at all. This 20-parter did not use the disappearance and murder of teenager Nanna Birk Larsen as a plot device to kick off a voyeuristic mystery, but explored the horrendous emotional shock of the crime on her family and on detective Sarah Lund. The show wasn’t perfect, being over-stretched with red-herrings, but its dark intrigue and whole-hearted performances from the unknown cast (in Britain, at least) – Sofie Gråbøl, Søren Malling, Lars Mikkelsen, Bjarne Henriksen, Ann Eleonora Jørgensen – made viewers fascinated with all things Danish and guaranteed a bunch of awards, including a Bafta and several CWA Crime Thiller Daggers.
Highlight: the way Sarah Lund’s initially frosty relationship with her blunt instrument of a colleague, Jan Meyer, evolves silently and without histrionics, so that when Meyer is murdered the moment is  shocking and sad.

Near misses
Single-Handed, Braquo, Spiral, Romanzo Criminale, Garrow’s Law, Exile, Mad Dogs, Martina Cole’s The Runaway, Sons of Anarchy
Way off-target
Ringers – dafter than a very daft thing. Silent Witness – gratuitous and voyeuristic.
Damp-squib send-off
Spooks – wiped out by ill-judged decision to schedule it against Downton Abbey. Deserved better.
Letdown of the year
Hidden – started really well, but final episode was such a disappointment.

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The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Sherlock, Luther and Top Boy

• American readers of this site may be cheered by the news that Luther series 2 has just been released on DVD in the US. It’s already out in the UK, but here’s a gratuitous reminder of the rather chilling series, for which Idris Elba was nominated for an Emmy and Golden Globe, but did win the CWA Crime Thriller TV Dagger in October.

• I have to admit my prejudice got the better of me. These days a new cracking drama on C4 is about as likely as George Papandreou being on Nicolas Sarkozy’s Christmas card list. So the channel’s Top Boy four-parter completely slipped by me. That’ll teach me to assume C4 was all documentaries with titles such as My Daughter’s Got an Anus on Her Head. It concludes tomorrow (Thursday) at 10pm, but if you’ve missed the first three you can catch them online on 4 on demand. Top Boy is a gem of a drama, delving into the gang culture on an East London estate. Thirteen-year-old Ra’Nell is plunged into the adult world, particularly that of the gangs, when his mother has a breakdown and is hospitalised. Heather, his mother’s friend, then involves him in her plan to give her unborn baby the chances she missed, which, needless to say, is a bit on the risky side. At times tender, at other times brutal, Top Boy is written by Ronan Bennet, whose Hidden concluded so disappointingly on BBC1 last week after a promising build-up. Here’s hoping that Top Boy follows through on the huge promise of its opening episodes. C4 have even put together an interesting website for the drama.

• The BFI has a fantastic treat next month – previews, with the casts, of the Beeb’s new series of Sherlock and The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Sherlock – A Scandal in Belgravia with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman is on Tuesday 6th, 6.15pm, and Drood, with Matthew Rhys, is on Wednesday 7th at 6.20pm.

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