Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Legends, Sky1, with Sean Bean PREVIEW

Rating: ★★★½

Sky1: starts Wednesday, 17 September, 10pm

Story: Martin Odum is a troubled deep-cover operative working for the FBI. He has infiltrated the violent Citizens' Army of Virginia pretending to be a stuttering demolition man called Lincoln Dittmann when the operation takes a nasty turn…

GETTING BEHEADED in Game of Thrones seems to have added a few worry lines to Sean Bean's chiselled features. However, the on-edge, lived-in look suits the part he plays as a stressed FBI undercover man in this explosive new series.

He is Martin Odum, inevitably a maverick, definitely not a team player, who gets up the nose of his
fellow agents. And it's not just his Yorkshire accent that bugs them.

Who knew the FBI allowed Yorkshire men into their most secret ranks? But then again, when your CV includes Sharpe, Lord of the Rings, Troy and playing GoT's Ned Stark, you've clearly got enough grit and bottle for the Feds.

Sean Bean shows his versatility as Odum

So, Martin likes to do things his own way. We first meet him on a six-month undercover gig during which he has not bothered to contact his colleagues once to let them know what he's up to.

He's immersed himself in a group of dangerous nutjobs called the Citizens' Army of Virginia, having taken on the persona of stammering Lincoln Dittmann, a former construction worker who's been dumped by his wife and who now wants to join some domestic terrorists in making his mark.

This has been part of the attraction of the series for Bean, because to take on his 'legends' – spook Accused series, he's not scared to take a walk on the vulnerable side.
speak for fabricated identities – he gets to show another side to his tough-guy image. As he showed in his moving portrayal of the transvestite Tracey in the BBC's excellent

From the makers of 24 and Homeland

If there is one major reason for watching this action show, which is based on Robert Littell's bestseller, then it is Sean Bean's presence. He has taken the trouble to get under the skin of oddballs such as Dittmann, and his switch between the stammering wannabe to action man is electric.

The action is pounding and the storytelling done in broad strokes. We glimpse Odum's broken marriage to Sonya and his neglect of his son, Aiden. There is also the friction with colleagues such as Troy, and his corny on-off thing with Crystal (who at one point must pretend to perform a lap dance for Martin to pass a message to him).

The 10-parter is exec-produced by Howard Gordon, who was also behind 24 and Homeland, and Legends is pitched somewhere between that reactionary actioner and the more subtle psycho-drama.

Just who is Martin Odum?

It's certainly worth a viewing for Bean's presence and its intriguing theme of identity. In his danger-filled world, chameleon Martin Odum seems to be losing a grip on his own personality, even absent-
mindedly signing a cheque to his wife in the name of Dittmann.

And he is really unnerved when an apparently homeless man tells him, 'You don't know where your life begins and you legend ends.'

The opener finishes with a terrific twist as Odum tracks the mysterious vagrant…

Cast: Sean Bean Martin Odum, Ali Larter Crystal McGuire, Tina Majorino Maggie Harris, Steve Harris Director Nelson Gates, Amber Valletta Sonya Odum, Mason Cook Aiden Odum, Rob Mayes Troy Buchannan

Check out this link…
Legends on Sky1

Monday, 15 September 2014

The Crime Thriller Club, ITV3, with Bradley Walsh

Rating: ★★★★

ITV3: starts Monday, 15 September, 9pm

JUST WANTED TO GIVE  a shout for this returning crime magazine show, presented by Bradley Walsh. It's a fun and interesting hour going behind the scenes of new series – tonight they're taking a glimpse at The Interceptor, starring Trevor Eve and Jo Joyner – profiling top writers and talking to actors and crime authors.

It's all part of the build-up to the CWA Crime Thriller Awards in October, one of the biggest gong shows of the year for crime fiction and screen dramas.

I watched them filming an instalment last week because I'd been invited to go on the show and take part in its short quiz section. Stephen Tompkinson was also in the studio talking about DCI Banks, and author Mark Billingham was discussing new books.

I called on the services of Ali Karim, Literary Editor of Shots Magazine, to be my team mate because
Ali Karim and myself in the Green Room
he's so knowledgable about authors – he knows Lee Child, among many, many others, and has met Stephen King. He even got into the role by dressing as Heisenberg from Breaking Bad.

It was a laugh watching the show being made at Cactus Studios in Camberwell, London. Bradley Walsh is great fun as host, and is of course a good all-round choice for the show as he was the mainstay of ITV's Law & Order: UK until recently.

Anyway, despite Ali's expertise and my TV knowledge things didn't go according to plan for us during the quiz. Our moment in the limelight comes later in the series, so in the meantime enjoy tonight's review of Lucie Waterhouse's Before We Met and the Club's profile of the brilliant thriller writer Robert Harris.

Host Bradley Walsh with author Peter James and Peter Davison in an upcoming edition
Check out these links…

TV Daggers – who should win
Crime Thriller Awards 2014
Shots Magazine

Kathy Reichs – special broadcast from St Barts Pathology Museum

Kathy Reichs
Send your questions to bestselling author Kathy Reichs
KATHY REICHS'S devotees may know she is on tour in the UK this week, spreading the word about her new novel Bones Never Lie. But they may not know she is also doing a special broadcast from London's St Barts Pathology Museum and is inviting questions from her readers.

She will be giving an illustrated talk on forensic anthropology and how forensics has influenced her writing career. From teaching FBI agents how to detect and recover human remains, to separating and identifying commingled body parts in her Montreal lab, as a forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs has brought her own dramatic work experience to her thrillers.

Kathy Reichs Bones Never LieKathy Reichs's first novel Déjà Dead made her name when it became a New York Times bestseller, a Sunday Times bestseller and won the 1997 Ellis Award for Best First Novel. She has written 17 bestsellers featuring Dr Temperance Brennan, including the forthcoming new thriller Bones Never Lie, as well as a forensic series aimed at young adults. She is a producer on the hit TV series Bones.

Her broadcast from Barts is at 5pm on Wednesday. Check out this link to put your questions to her and to watch the live show too…

Kathy Reichs broadcast

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Boardwalk Empire 5, Sky Atlantic, with Steve Buscemi, Stephen Graham, Kelly Macdonald PREVIEW

Boardwalk Empire - Series 05 Steve Buscemi
Enoch 'Nucky' Thompson looks out for new opportunities in Cuba. Pics: Sky Atlantic
Rating: ★★★★

Sky Atlantic: starts Saturday, 13 September, 9pm

Story: The series jumps forward seven years to 1931 as the country struggles to cope with the Great Depression and the end of Prohibition looms. Nucky sets his sights on a post-Prohibition future…

THE FIFTH AND FINAL season is back with a bang.
Chalky (Michael Kenneth Williams)

Several bangs, in fact. And a stabbing, and a slicing, and… But Boardwalk Empire has always been about more than the bursts of violence, lurid though these can be. It has even been criticised for being too slow during past series.

Its speciality has been its portrayal of a slightly mad era in US history. Prohibition crept in and tipped the whole country into illegality and disregard for law and the Constitution. From the bold and lavish opening episode of series one, directed by Martin Scorsese (still an executive producer), it's been a hotsy-totsy ride, as they might have said back then.

Nucky Thompson, the corrupt treasurer of Atlantic City – played with relish again here by Golden Globe winner Steve Buscemi – was the emblem of bent politics where it met gangsterdom. The bootlegging empires, the rise of mobsters such as Al Capone and the civic venality has all been engrossingly captured in a drama for which history was not a twee backdrop but the whole point of the show.

Nucky goes to Cuba

Boardwalk Empire - Series 05 Gretchen Mol
Gillian (Gretchen Mol)
As this series begins, the action has sped forward seven years to 1931. Prohibition is on its last legs and Nucky is in Cuba with Sally Wheet, planning to cash on the possibility of shipping Bacardi to the States the second the 18th Amendment of the Constitution is consigned to the bin.

The country is also reeling from the Great Depression, starkly illustrated in a tragic scene where Nucky's estranged wife Margaret is shown at the Wall Street bank where she now works.

Actually, there's so much going on in this opener, you need to be more alert that Nucky is in Cuba as he tries to dodge a particularly vicious assassin.

Five storylines unfold in tandem. In addition to Nucky and Margaret, we glimpse Nucky's musings on his past in 1880s Atlantic City, when as a boy from an impoverished family he came into the orbit of the Commodore.

Chalky and Lucky Luciano

We catch up with Chalky, who's fallen a long way from his power base, now shuffling along in a chain gang. Then there is also Lucky Luciano, who sets a bloody plan into operation, with
Boardwalk Empire - Series 05 Stephen Graham
Al Capone (Stephen Graham)
Vincent Piazza again a chilling presence as the gangster.

Some people say Boardwalk Empire is more akin to The Wire in its exploration of a society than The Sopranos, but it does look as though this final chapter will be more focused on Nucky than ever. The flashbacks are vivid and finally offer a glimpse into the motivations of the man at the centre of events. As he looks forward, Nucky can't help looking back.

Boardwalk Empire has been overshadowed in the HBO stable by the likes of Game of Thrones, and has not often been the darling of the awards nights. But it has built into a fine series – season four was the best yet – and will be missed.

Oh, and when the violence comes, it gives you quite a jolt.

Cast: Steve Buscemi Nucky Thompson, Stephen Graham Al Capone, Kelly Macdonald Margaret Thompson, Gretchen Mol Gillian Darmody, Vincent Piazza 'Lucky' Luciano, Michael Shannon Nelson Van Alden, Paul Sparks Mickey Doyle, Shea Whigham Eli Thompson, Michael Kenneth Williams Chalky White, Jeffrey Wright Valentin Narcisse, Patricia Arquette Sally Wheet, Anatol Yusef Meyer Lansky, Ben Rosenfield Willie Thompson, Michael Zegen Benjamin 'Bugsy' Siegel

Also check out…
Boardwalk Empire on the HBO site
Sky Atlantic

Friday, 12 September 2014

Glue, E4, Yasmin Paige, Jordan Stephens, Kierston Wareing PREVIEW

Tina is an aspiring jockey with a wild side in Glue. Pics: E4
Rating: ★★★

E4: starts Monday, 15 September, 10pm

Story: When the body of a local teenage boy is found underneath the wheels of a tractor, the villagers in the remote community of Overton, including his gang of mates, have their lives thrown into disarray.

GLUE IS A crime drama for young adults, going out on Channel 4's trendy young sibling network E4. It is – as you'd expect – slick, full of cocky young characters, fast, but with some grit thrown in.

Written by Bafta-winner Jack Thorne (This Is England, Skins, The Fades), Glue is set in the remote rural spot of Overton. But this village, while placid and pleasant-looking, is not the pretty backdrop you get in Lewis or Doc Martin.

Rob is Tina's boyfriend
It is a green and not-so-pleasant land. The youngsters are bored thrill-seekers, and we meet them enjoying a wild night of naked dares and jumping into grain silos.

Twock 'n' roll

Twocking a car, crashing, drugs, sex, more sex and boozing are all crammed into the opening
episode, ramming home the point that these guys are seriously on the edge.

If anything, the waywardness is laid on a little thick. Tina, aged 19, loves horses and wants to be the first female jockey in the Derby, but will happily risk her prospects by breaking the law and thrashing a million-pound horse across the turf, to the fury of her boss.

Ruth is a rookie cop who wants to join the murder investigation
James, 18, works on the family farm, but is neglectful of his role there. Meanwhile, Rob, who's also 18, is so wild and self-seeking that he's hard to warm to.

Murder shatters the community

Then there's Ruth, a mix-raced provisional police constable. She and her Romany mum are estranged from the travelling community.

There's a harsh reality check for this band of mates when Cal Bray, the 14-year-old brother of one of them, Eli, is found dead under a tractor. So much is going on in this village – there's even a voyeuristic video of Rob having sex in a barn sent anonymously to him – that the murder mystery is intriguing and set to reverberate through the remaining seven episodes of this series.

Eli is grief-stricken and angry over his brother's murder
Certainly, it has a good-looking cast that should win over its hip target audience. Jordan Stephens (of Rizzle Kicks), Callum Turner, Charlotte Spencer, Yasmin Paige, Faye Marsay, Jessie Cave and Tommy McDonnell (excellent in the recent prison movie Starred Up) are among its actors, backed up by the likes of Kierston Wareing and Kerry Fox.

Once the characters and story settle down, Glue looks rich enough to become a pretty engrossing ride.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

The Suspicions of Mr Whicher 3, ITV, with Paddy Considine PREVIEW

PADDY CONSIDINE as Jack Whicher in The Suspicions of Mr Whicher
Paddy Considine as Jack Whicher
Rating: ★★★½

ITV: starts Sunday, 7 September, 9.5pm

Story: Whicher is drawn into a high‐stakes case when Sir Edward Shore, the former Home Secretary comes to him with a delicate problem.

KATE SUMMERSCALE'S engrossing non-fiction book from 2008 about detective Jack Whicher's investigation of the murder at Road Hill House confirmed the adage about truth being stranger than fiction. Her award-winning book was gripping and powerful.

ITV cast Paddy Considine as Whicher in its 2011 drama based on that book and, while it couldn't encapsulate all that was in the book, it was an intelligent and captivating adaptation.

Here we have a second short series of a couple of two-hour films offering further imaginings of what Whicher did after his perceived failure with the Road Hill House case, which damaged his reputation (even though he correctly suspected the correct culprit).

Whicher goes Beyond the Pale

The problem is that these fictional takes on the Whicher legend are always going to lack the impact
NANCY CARROLL as Mrs Piper in The Suspicions of Mr Whicher
Mrs Piper (Nancy Carroll)
of the real events surrounding the child murder that shook Victorian society in 1860. Having said that, ITV has tried hard to breath convincing life into the character and his world.

The films – Beyond the Pale and The Ties that Bind – are written by award-winning playwright Helen Edmundson, celebrated for her work at the National Theatre, RSC and Shared Experience, including Coram Boy and Mary Shelley.

In addition, the productions are handsomely filmed and have plenty of brooding atmosphere. In fact, many scenes are so dark and menacing you wish someone would turn up the gaslight so you could more clearly what's going on.

Dismissed from the police

Whicher, again played by the low-key Paddy Considine, now acts as a 'private inquiry agent' in London, having left the Metropolitan Police. In the first film, he is approached by the former Home Secretary Sir Edward Shore to help him with a delicate problem. Which is a cheek, as it was Shore who signed the letter dismissing Whicher from the police.

Anyway, Shore's son, Charles, has just returned from India with his young family after the Mutiny, having made his fortune. However, he has been followed home by an Indian man, Asim Jabour, who is threatening him.

Sir Edward and Charles are reluctant to give Whicher the full story behind Jabour's presence, but simply want him to find the Indian and tell them where he is.

Whicher must confront his social superiors

There are, of course, murky goings-on here, and the story touches on British behaviour in India and
JOHN HEFFERNAN as Captain Charles Shore in The Suspicions of Mr Whicher
Captain Charles Shore (John Heffernan)
sees Whicher having to confront his social superiors as the story develops.

It's an interesting insight into the era of Empire, and a juicy mystery. Helen Edmunson also opens up Whicher's own story, including the past loss of his son and growing closeness to the widow Mrs Piper.

While it is still in the shade of the true story, the series is bold enough to explore the Victorian setting with skill and intelligence.

Check out these links…
Review of the original The Suspicions of Mr Whicher
Kate Summerscale on The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, Guardian Book Club

Friday, 5 September 2014

TV Daggers 2014 – who should win

AS A VOTING member of the Academy of British Crime Writing, I've already selected my nominations in this year's Crime Thriller Awards for the best TV series.

What were your favourites? It's been a terrific year for powerful new dramas, with True Detective, Happy Valley and The Honourable Woman all in  contention.

The CWA/ITV3 Crime Thriller Awards have become the most exciting annual awards do for crime books, TV and film. This year's event is on Friday, 24 October, at the Grosvenor Hotel in London, and will be shown on ITV3 the following week.

ITV3 is also showing a series of one-hour shows from 15 September called the Crime Thriller Club in the run-up to the gong show. Each one will showcase a crime book or bestselling author.

Here are the TV nominees, and I've picked my faves.

But what do you think? Please comment below.

TV Dagger

Happy Valley

Line of Duty series 2

Sherlock series 3

The Bletchley Circle series 2

The Honourable Woman

And the winner should be… Happy Valley
Line of Duty was more compelling than the first series and Sherlock – a recurring winner in recent years – again dazzled, while The Honourable Woman was a sophisticated series that found a large and committed audience. But the BBC's Happy Valley was the most powerful drama by far, with moving performances and a nail-biting storyline.

International TV Dagger


Inspector Montalbano series 9

Orange Is the New Black

The Bridge series 2

True Detective

And the winner should be… True Detective
Again, there are blockbuster contenders here. The Bridge was once more distinctive and captivating, while Fargo captured some of the Coen brothers' movies' off-beam sinister mood, and Orange Is the New Black was fresh with a dark humour. But True Detective was something else… brooding and original, scary and oblique – it must have prompted the most online comment and theorising of any crime series this year. Totally breathtaking.

Best Actress Dagger

Brenda Blethyn Vera

Maggie Gyllenhaal The Honourable Woman

Anna Maxwell Martin Death Comes to Pemberley

Sarah Lancashire Happy Valley

Keeley Hawes Line of Duty

And the winner should be… Sarah Lancashire
A bugger to choose, with Keeley Hawes in one of her best ever roles as the detective under suspicion and Maggie Gyllenhaal sublime in Hugo Blick's political thriller. But Sarah Lancashire had to push herself furthest in Happy Valley, mixing grit and violence with vulnerability and glimpses of wit. Fabulous performance.

Best Actor Dagger

Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock

Shaun Evans Endeavour

Martin Freeman Sherlock and Fargo

Matthew McConaughey True Detective

Steve Pemberton Happy Valley

And the winner should be… Matthew McConaughey
This one's easier. Matthew McConaughey is by far the most mesmerising performance of the year as the almost unhinged detective Rust Cohle.

Supporting Actress Dagger

Amanda Abbington Sherlock 

Vicky McClure Line of Duty

Helen McCrory Peaky Blinders

Gina McKee By Any Means

Michelle Monaghan True Detective

And the winner should be… Amanda Abbington
It's not easy to stand out in this series with Sherlock and Watson hogging the limelight, but Amanda Abbington gave the drama an added dash of fun and mystery.

Supporting Actor Dagger

Mark Gatiss Sherlock 

David Leon Vera

James Norton Happy Valley

Mandy Patinkin Homeland

Billy Bob Thornton Fargo

And the winner should be… Billy Bob Thornton
James Norton made our flesh creep as the sadistic brute in Happy Valley (he's a vicar next in ITV's Grantchester – talk about versatile), but I think Billy Bob Thornton just pips him in Fargo – a brilliantly queasy blend of hilarious and menacing all in one.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Scott & Bailey, ITV, with Lesley Sharp, Suranne Jones PREVIEW

LESLEY SHARP as DC Janet Scott and AMELIA BULLMORE as DCI Gill Murray and SURANNE JONES as DS Rachel Bailey
Back in action – Lesley Sharp, Amelia Bullmore and Suranne Jones. Pics: ITV
Rating: ★★★

ITV: starts Wednesday, 10 September, 9pm

Story: After falling out with each other so badly in the last series, Rachel and Janet resolve to move forward and to try to make something of their careers. While they are both preoccupied with aiming for promotion to sergeant, however, a vulnerable young adult goes missing…

SCOTT & BAILEY returns with another captivating episode – is a good sign for series four. Rachel and Janet have decided to set their recent bust-up aside – along with their less than dazzling personal
DCI Murray at the quarry 
lives – to focus on making something of their careers.

While they are on speaking terms again, both are also focused on promotions to the rank of sergeant. As they face their promotion interviews, the story of the week is about the kidnap of a vulnerable young adult called Robin McKendrick.

The series' popularity is probably down to a combination of good writing and acting from well-liked stars Suranne Jones, Lesley Sharp and Amelia Bullmore (who also writes this episode), and the skill with which it interweaves the police procedural stuff with their personal stories.

Bittersweet twist for Rachel and Janet

It is not as distinctive or powerful as Happy Valley, The Fall or Broadchurch, but it is looking down on Death in Paradise and Lewis from a great height.

Part of its winning formula is also having characters who feel familiar. Most viewers know a steady
SURANNE JONES as DS Rachel Bailey, DELROY BROWN as DC Lee Broadhurst, LESLEY SHARP as DC Janet Scott, DAVID PROSHO as DC Ian Mitchell, AMELIA BULLMORE as DCI Gill Murray, TONY MOONEY as DC Pete Readyough. L-R Front Row: DANNY MILLER as DS Rob Waddington and DANNY WEBB as DC Chris Crowley.
Debriefing for Syndicate 9
Janet (Lesley Sharp) – here coping with warring daughters and her 'hindrance' of a mother following the collapse of her marriage – as well as a reckless Rachel (Suranne Jones), who is trying to move on from her impetuous marriage and become the responsible, instinctive and successful detective she could be.

There is a bittersweet twist in the opening episode about their bids to become sergeant, and again the characters respond to the outcome in a way that is understandable while tinged with sadness for one of them.

Woman missing for 23 years

The other stand-out aspect to the shows is that the cases are not run-of-the-mill whodunits. There is usually some level of insight into the victims'/families' stories and social context to the drama. And in
 LESLEY SHARP as DC Janet Scott and DELROY BROWN as DC Lee Broadhurst
Jane and Lee Broadhurst looking for the missing man
the last series there was the recurring and chilling story of the apparently bed-ridden man whose elderly wife suffered a gruesome death.

This week's story of the missing young man is all the sadder when Rachel visits his horrible parents and finds their poor son was neglected and effectively alone in the world. While searching a quarry for the guy's body, however, the team discovers another corpse first – one that guvnor Gill Murray (Bullmore) suspects may be that of a missing woman called Mandy Sweeting, who's been missing for 23 years.

Which sets things up nicely for next week.

Check out these links…
Series four of Scott & Bailey announced
Scott & Bailey Facebook page
Series three preview on CrimeTimePreview