Vera, series 5, ITV, Brenda Blethyn

BRENDA BLETHYN as  DCI Vera Stanhope and KENNY DOUGHTY as DS Aiden Healy.

Vera (Brenda Blethyn) and new deputy DS Healy (Kenny Doughty)

 

Vera is back, with a new sergeant in tow, Aiden Healy, who has his work cut out earning his boss’s respect

★★★ ITV, starts Sunday, 5 April, 8pm

VERA HAS since 2011 become a solid performer for ITV. It does not earn the plaudits or fuss in the papers of series such as Broadchurch or The Fall, but its beautiful setting and popular lead star in Brenda Blethyn has made it a mainstream success.

Changing Tides is the first of four new two-hour mysteries in this fifth season (the sixth starts shooting in June).

DCI Stanhope is investigating a suspicious fire that has destroyed three caravans at a holiday park, killing a woman. The park owner, Jim Viner, suspects the dead woman is his sister, Deena, though he has no idea why she was at the park and not at home.

Ann Cleeves’ novels

Anyone who enjoyed the previous four series of Vera will go for this latest series. It’s pretty much more of the same, but with Kenny Doughty joining the cast as Vera’s new surrogate son, DS Aiden Healy, replacing David Leon’s Jose Ashworth.

This is a like-for-like cast change, maintaining Vera’s grumpy mentor dynamic with a young male deputy. Clearly, the show’s producers don’t want to mess with the series’ formula.

BRENDA BLETHYN as  DCI Vera Stanhope, KENNY DOUGHTY as DS Aiden Riley,WAYNE FOSKETT as Jim Viner and KATHERINE ROSE MORLEY as Claire Viner

Vera and Aiden begin their investigation

With Ann Cleeves’ popular series of novels, ITV have done what producers often do with successful crime heroes/heroines and ignored much of the interesting character material to focus on plot plot plot. The first half hour of Changing Tides is the traditional opening of detective and sidekick turning up at a crime scene and quizzing witnesses and the pathologist. Without a murder, these characters couldn’t function.

Vera v The Good Wife

In the novels Vera has more depth, a lonely woman haunted by her childhood who can empathise with victims and who is very good at the job she relies to give her life meaning. The TV series glosses over most of this to focus on whodunit, much as ITV’s lacklustre adaptations of the Rebus novels did as well – another compelling character on the page turned into a plot chaser.

Standard ITV dramas such as Vera, Midsomer Murders, Lewis and DCI Banks are stuck in that 1980s police procedural mould. In contrast, top US dramas such as The Good Wife have mastered the multi-stranded narrative with sharp characterisation. Every episode about Alicia Florrick combines a terrific weekly plot with interesting protagonists.

The writing, acting and production values on Vera are very good, but the stories never linger with you beyond the final credits.

ITV’s best new crime shows autumn 2014

IT’S BEEN a sunny summer for once, but as usual there’s nowt on the box (apart from the Commonwealth Games), so this is a good moment to look in the crystal ball and see what treats ITV has in store for the autumn and beyond.

There are some well-known faces coming back – a few of which are to be welcomed, others a little past their sell-by date – with a couple of intriguing newcomers in production.

Broadchurch 2 One of the hottest shows of last year, it’s even been creating a stir in the US, where

Broadchurch 2 ITV cast rehearsal

David Tennant has reprised his role as detective Alec Hardy in an American version of the series. He will be back with Olivia Colman as Ellie Miller in the ITV follow-up. Charlotte Rampling joins the cast (pictured right). It’s been filming in Dorset and acclaimed screenwriter Chris Chibnall is back masterminding the production. Anticipation factor: ★★★★

Chasing Shadows is one of the interesting new shows. Starring Reece Shearsmith and Alex Kingston, it’s about a missing persons unit. Anticipation factor: ★★★★

Arthur & George is a three-part adaptation of Julian Barnes’s novel, based on true events. Martin Clunes stars as Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle, who challenges a miscarriage of justice. Anticipation factor: ★★★★

Scott and Bailey's Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharp

Scott & Bailey 4 Returns for a fourth series. The drama’s original tendency to portray all men as thick, immature, unfaithful or criminal has faded, while the stories have got more powerful and the cast – Lesley Sharp, Suranne Jones, Amelia Bullmore – have won a big following and the writing – Lee Warburton, Emily Ballou and Amelia Bullmore again! – has been gripping. Janet and Rachel’s relationship is tested to the limit this time round. Anticipation factor: ★★★★½

Grantchester Following in the footsteps of the Beeb’s gentle daytime mystery Father Brown is Sidney Chambers, a charismatic clergyman played by James Norton (the vile villain in Happy Valley). This is also a period piece – set in 1953 – and has a nice cast, including Robson Green, Morven Christie and Tessa Peak-Jones. A six-parter, it was filming in London, Cambridge and Grantchester earlier this year. Anticipation factor: ★★★½

Arthur & George Three-part adaptation of Julian Barnes’s novel, based on true events. Martin Clunes stars as Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle, who challenges a miscarriage of justice. Filming autumn 2014. Anticipation factor: ★★★★

Safe House An atmospheric thriller set in the Lake District. Cast yet to be announced. It’s a four-parter inspired by a true story of a couple who turn their guest house into a safe house. Filming autumn 2014. Anticipation factor: ★★★★

Code of a Killer Two-parter based on the extraordinary true story of Alec Jeffreys’ discovery of DNA fingerprinting and its first use by detective David Baker in snaring a double murderer. With the terrific David Threlfall in the cast, filming starts in September. Anticipation factor: ★★★★½

The Suspicions of Mr Whicher Terrific book by Kate Summerscale, fab first series. But then came the fictionalised re-imaging of the Victorian detective’s career after the infamous country house child murder of the original. I so wanted to like this, and there is probably a great story about Whicher’s later life, but this reboot reduces his tale to a straight cop procedural. Still, fingers crossed, it’s got Paddy Considine returning as the man himself. Anticipation factor: ★★★

Lewis It feels like a tired old regular screen fixture, but there will be attempts to shake-up the formula with a slight reversal of roles for Kevin Whately and Laurence Fox’s detectives, the now retired Lewis and newly promoted Hathaway. Anticipation factor: ★★★
Brenda Blethyn as Vera, ITV
Foyle’s War Three 120-minute stories are in the pipeline, as Michael Kitchen returns as Christopher Foyle, now a senior intelligence office for MI5 in the aftermath of the Second World War. The guest stars include John Mahoney (Frasier), Richard Lintern (Silent Witness), Nigel Lindsay (Four Lions), Jaime Winstone (Mad Dogs) and William Postlethwaite (Midsomer Murders). Anthony Horowitz is back on story duty. Anticipation factor: ★★★½

Vera 5 Filming is under way, with Kenny Doughty joining as DS Aiden Healy after David Leon’s departure as Joe Ashworth (shame, as his storylines were often quite good). Brenda Blethyn (right) still heads proceedings as DCI Vera Stanhope. 2015. Anticipation factor: ★★★½

Let us know which shows you can’t wait to see… comment below or email us

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