Vera series 3, ITV, with Brenda Blethyn, David Leon PREVIEW

Vera (Brenda Blethyn) and DC Lockhart (Jon Morrison). Pics: ITV

Rating: ★★★

ITV: starts Sunday, 25 August, 9pm

Story: DCI Vera Stanhope investigates the brutal murder of young physiotherapist, Lizzie Faulkner, gunned down at a luxury country retreat. For DS Joe Ashworth, the case brings him face to face with a part of his past he’d rather forget.

BRENDA BLETHYN dons her Paddington Bear outfit to take us on another lovely tour of Northumberland. Of course, as she is playing Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope, the sights include an unfortunate young woman who’s been blasted with a shotgun.

Initially, it seems there won’t be much traipsing around with Detective Sergeant Joe Ashworth asking where everyone was on Saturday night because they have nabbed a scowling local who was in the field with a shotgun on that very night. Bingo!

Except that this is a 90-minute episode, so Robert Doran probably really was shooting badgers at the time, as he claims. Then, after a second murder is committed when Corinne Franks is run down by a fleeing car, it seems blindingly obvious that angry local Justin Bishop is their man. After all, Corinne

Vera at Robert Doran’s remote cottage

had killed his wife in a road accident.

Vera and Joe

But, alas… well, I won’t give more of the plot away. Let’s just say we all know how these procedurals work. Ever since Agatha Christie minted the formula back in the 1920s, it’s a given that whoever appears clearly guilty turns out to be resoundingly innocent, and whoever appears to be happily married is an adulterer etc etc.

Despite Vera following the whodunit conventions, it does have a bit more going for it. The writers (Paul Rutman, Gaby Chiappe) do flesh out Vera and Joe a little, so that we see a bit of occasional needle in their quasi mother-and-surrogate-son relationship.

We also see Joe’s marriage, and his wife’s near jealousy of Joe’s devotion to his job (in other words, Vera). There is also a subplot here about Joe having once mistakenly ensured that Doran was prosecuted and jailed for a crime in which he had actually acted in self-defence.

What have we here, then? Vera at Doran’s place

Another star performance from Brenda Blethyn 

And we get glimpses of Vera’s loneliness, and consequent fondness for a drink. All these moments breathe some life into the principals, though they still remain shadows of the characters depicted in author Ann Cleeves‘ series of popular novels.

But as David Leon, who plays Joe, says, ‘The plot is very important to the audience but I think the characters are what they remember.’

Spot on, and Vera’s distinctiveness is of course down to Brenda Blethyn’s fine performances, with her Vera veering between mumsy tenderness and steely determination.

Nicholas Gleaves and Shaun Dingwall

ITV also lines up a good cast for the stories, so we have Nicholas Gleaves as the smooth business partner of Corinne and her husband, while Shaun Dingwall is the rather chippy Justin Bishop.

Vera also has a new officer on her team – DC Barry Kelman, played by Gareth Farr. And later on,
Saskia Reeves, Dean Andrews, Liam Cunningham and Jill Halfpenny will turn up in the remaining

VERA STANHOPE (Brenda Blethyn) and DS Joe Ashworth (David Leon). VERA SERIES 3  EPISODE 1  CASTLES IN THE AIR
Vera, Joe and the breathtaking scenery

three dramas.

And, of course, the other selling point of the show is the stunning scenery, the North East having breathtaking star quality throughout.

So, the new series of Vera presses all the buttons that its devotees will be hoping for, and it reaches a pretty decent, though not wildly surprising, denouement too.

Cast: Brenda Blethyn DCI Vera Stanhope, David Leon D.S. Joe Ashworth, Jon Morrison DC Kenny Lockhart, Riley Jones DC Mark Edwards, Paul Ritter Pathologist Billy Cartwright, Richard Riddell Robert Doran, Cassie Atkinson Tina Robson, Eva Quinn Lizzie Faulkner, Leah Brotherhead Maisie Jones, Nicholas Gleaves Tim Hopkins, Alex Childs Kirsty Hopkins, Shaun Dingwall Justin Bishop, Sonya Cassidy Celine, Mia Wyles Jessie Ashworth, Vinette Robinson
Corinne Franks, Alexander Arnold Sam Bishop

You can rent episodes of Vera online at ITV Player

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ITV making new series of Vera, Law & Order: UK and Scott & Bailey

Scott & Bailey. Pic: ITV

• Three recent ITV1 hits are returning for new series – Vera, Law & Order: UK and Scott & Bailey. Series 3 of Vera goes into production with Brenda Blethyn in September for four new two-hour films. Law & Order: UK starts filming in November, but without Freema Agyeman and Harriet Walters, who have other theatre and filming commitments. Scriptwriter Emilia Di Girolamo returns to create a two-part story, with the second part exploring a day in the life of the characters. Suranne Jones, currently to be see in the cop comedy A Touch of Cloth, and Lesley Sharp also return as the hugely popular Scott & Bailey for a third series.

• Vote now for your favourite ITV1 detective duo in the 2012 Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards, to be announced on Thursday, 18 October, at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London. The event will again be shown on ITV3.

‘Best Detective Duo’ by Public Vote 
The British public will can vote for their favourite detective duo by phone vote. The phone lines open at noon on 7 September 2012. 

The shortlist is as follows: 
DCI Banks – DCI Alan Banks & DS Annie Cabbot  Call 090 16 16 14 01 
Above Suspicion – DC Anna Travis & DCS James Langton  Call 090 16 16 14 02 
Scott and Bailey- DC Jane Scott & DC Rachel Bailey  Call 090 16 16 14 03 
Lewis – DI Robbie Lewis & DS James Hathaway  Call 090 16 16 14 04 
Whitechapel – DI Joseph Chandler & DS Ray Miles  Call 090 16 16 14 05
Vera – DCI Vera Stanhope & DS Joe Ashworth  Call 090 16 16 14 06

The rest of the Specsavers TV and Film Daggers nominations are: 

      The Film Dagger

Drive (Icon)
The Dark Knight Rises (Warner Bros)
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Sony)
The Guard (Optimum)
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Studio Canal) 
The TV Dagger
Appropriate Adult (ITV Studios/ITV1)
Line of Duty (BBC/BBC2)
Sherlock: Series 2 (Hartswood Films/BBC1)
Wallander (Left Bank Pictures, Yellow Bird/BBC1)
Whitechapel: Series 3 (Carnival/ITV1)

The International TV Dagger
Boardwalk Empire: Season 2 (HBO/Sky Atlantic)
Dexter: Season 6 (Showtime Networks, John Goldwyn Productions, TheColleton Company, ClydePhillips Productions/FX)
Homeland (Teakwood Lane Productions, Showtime Productions, Cherry Pie Productions, Keshet Media Group, Fox 21/Channel 4)
The Bridge (Danmarks Radio, Sveriges Television/BBC4)
The Killing II: Forbrydelsen (Arrow Films/BBC4)

The Best Actress Dagger
Brenda Blethyn for Vera (ITV Studios/ITV1)
Claire Danes for Homeland (Teakwood Lane Productions, Showtime Productions, Cherry Pie Productions, Keshet Media Group, Fox 21/Channel 4)
Sofie Gråbøl for The Killing II (Arrow Films/BBC4)
Sofia Helin for The Bridge (Danmarks Radio, Sveriges Television/BBC4)
Maxine Peake for Silk (BBC/BBC1)

The Best Actor Dagger
Kenneth Branagh for Wallander (Left Bank Pictures,Yellow Bird/BBC1)
Steve Buscemi for Boardwalk Empire (HBO/Sky Atlantic)
Benedict Cumberbatch for Sherlock (Hartswood Films/BBC1)
Damien Lewis for Homeland (Teakwood Lane Productions, Showtime Productions, Cherry Pie Productions, Keshet Media Group, Fox 21/Channel 4)
Dominic West for Appropriate Adult (ITV Studios/ITV1
The Best Supporting Actress Dagger
Frances Barber for Silk (BBC/BBC1)
Kelly Macdonald for Boardwalk Empire (HBO/Sky Atlantic)
Archie Panjabi for The Good Wife (Scott Free Productions, King Size Productions, Small Wishes, CBS Productions/More 4)
Sarah Smart for Wallander (Left Bank Pictures, Yellow Bird/BBC1)
Una Stubbs for Sherlock (Hartswood Films/BBC1)
The Best Supporting Actor Dagger
Alun Armstrong for Garrow’s Law (Shed Media/BBC1)
Alan Cumming for The Good Wife (Scott Free Productions, King Size Productions, Small Wishes, CBS Productions/More 4)
Phil Davis for Silk & Whitechapel (Silk: BBC/BBC1)(Whitechapel: Carnival/ITV1)
Laurence Fox for Lewis (ITV Studios/ITV1)

      Martin Freeman for Sherlock (Hartswood Films/BBC1)

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