Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Missing, BBC1, with James Nesbitt, Frances O'Connor, Tcheky Karyo PREVIEW

Tony (JAMES NESBITT) in The Missing
Stranded – Tony's life is shattered by his son's disappearance. Pics: BBC
Rating: ★★★★

BBC1: starts Tuesday, 28 October, 9pm

Story: Tony and Emily Hughes’ life changes forever when their five year-old son Oliver goes missing on a family holiday to France.

IT'S SAID THAT CRIME DRAMAS are a way for viewers to confront the nasty, violent side of life from the safety of their sofas. Well, The Missing is different. It confronts you with something more haunting – a living nightmare.

Because this tale of child abduction is so truthfully and simply told, it is much more affecting than run-of-the-mill murder and mayhem tales can ever be.

James Nesbitt ditches the smarmy and cheeky side of his repertoire to offer a powerful portrayal of a man none of us wants to be – the parent who loses his five-year-old son.

A normal holiday turned nightmare

He plays Tony, a normal, hard-working guy on his hols in France with wife Emily and little Oliver.
Tony (James Nesbitt) and Oliver (Oliver Hunt)
When everything was normal – Tony with Oliver
When his car breaks down they stop in Chalons du Bois and put up in a little hotel while the vehicle is repaired.

It's 1998 and France is gripped by the World Cup Final featuring their team. After taking Oliver for a swim, Tony and the boy go to a resort bar that is packed with soccer-enthralled locals. When he turns round, Oliver is gone. While everyone is celebrating the big match, Tony charges around in a mounting panic.

This eight-parter swings the narrative between this traumatic moment and events eight years later, when Tony and Emily have split. Continued…

ITV3 celebrates its 10th birthday



Happy birthday, ITV3. The channel is 10 years old and is celebrating with a weekend of 10 favourite dramas starting on Saturday 1 November.

They should really have called it 'ITV Crime' because it has become the home of ITV's most popular police dramas. Consequently, the birthday weekend will feature Marple, Endeavour, Inspector Morse, Lewis, A Touch of Frost, Foyle's War and Midsomer Murders.

The channel's very first show on 1 November 2004 was also a crimer, Inspector Rebus, based on Ian Rankin's novels and starring John Hannah.

Its most popular show to air during the first decade was an episode of Foyle's WarThe Hide went out in March 2013 and was watched by 1.8m viewers.

Since 2008 ITV3 has also been the home of the Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards, celebrating the very best of British and international crime thriller fiction and drama.

This year’s event takes place this Friday – CrimeTimePreview will be there covering and Tweeting about it – and it will air on ITV3 on 27th October. Hosted by Bradley Walsh, the awards are the culmination of the six-week Crime Thriller Club series on ITV3, a studio-based show focused on crime fiction and television with high-profile guests, quizzes, bluffer's guides and peeks behind the scenes of popular dramas.

So, congratulations ITV3. Watching you has been bloody murder.


Friday, 17 October 2014

How to Get Away with Murder, Universal, with Viola Davis PREVIEW

How to Get Away with Murder cast
Courting disaster – Annalise Keating and her students get caught in a murder conspiracy
Rating: ★★★

Universal: starts Wednesday, 22 October, 10pm

Story: At the start of a new academic year, criminal law professor and defence attorney Annalise Keating sets about choosing the most brilliant of her students to join her law practice.

AMERICAN NETWORK TV is such a brutal environment that in their scramble to hook viewers new series pilots tend to be overloaded with high-wire plotlines, juicy characters, cliffhangers and enough adrenalin to kill a buffalo.

ABC's new legal thriller, however, sets a new standard for putting all its eggs in one basket. It seems
Viola Davis in How to Get Away with Murder
Keating (Viola Davis)
to have crammed a whole season's storylines into one episode, moving at fast-forward speed. On steroids. With amphetamines thrown in.

It's from the team behind hits such as Scandal and Grey's Anatomy (Pete Nowalk, Shonda Rhimes, Betsy Beers and Bill D'Elia) and has been well-received in the States.

Viola Davis as Annalise Keating

The premise is certainly sharp. Viola Davis plays law professor and defence attorney Annalise Keating, who is encountering the new academic year's student intake.

The lecture hall is full of horribly competitive legal nerds all hoping to be among the four brilliant, fearless, attractive superstudents chosen to join Keating's law firm. These include wide-eyed Wes (Alfred Enoch), confident Michaela (Aja Naomi King), ruthless Connor (Jack Falahee), idealist Laurel (Karla Souza) and privileged Asher (Matt McGorry).

Keating picks their brains as she utilises every legal trick and scam possible to get a woman off a murder charge. Discredit witnesses, point the finger at a new suspect, and so on. Continued…

Thursday, 16 October 2014

This Is Personal: The Hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper — Killer 50 No.37

ITV, 2000

'You mean he's going for innocent women now' – Assistant Chief Constable George Oldfield

Alun Armstrong, Richard Ridings, James Laurenson, John Duttine

Identikit: Assistant Chief Constable George Oldfield takes over the police investigation into the hunt for the 1970s serial killer known as the Yorkshire Ripper, a campaign that becomes bogged down in errors and data overload.

logos
Dramatisation of the real-life investigation for the Yorkshire Ripper in the late 1970s, a meticulous and evocative exploration of the human miscalculations and technical shortcomings of the campaign to track down Peter Sutcliffe. Alun Armstrong puts in a powerful performance as Assistant Chief Constable George Oldfield, whose health and career come under strain as the investigation stagnates, drinking and smoking his way through most scenes and going from gruff and forceful to a twitching, gasping wreck by the end of this 120-minute drama. Initially, Oldfield's arrival seems to give the investigation renewed vigour, as he shifts it away from detectives relying on 'instinct' and introduces better record keeping and methodology. This approach is not popular at first, one senior officer asking sarcastically, 'Can you catch a murderer with paperwork?' However, the police effort is still blighted by blatant sexism ('innocent' women who'd been attacked and offered statements were often discounted because the Ripper was only thought to target prostitutes), along with inter-force rivalries and general confusion. As the years pass and the murder toll rises, Yorkshire police collect some 60 conflicting descriptions of the perpetrator. As one officer says, if it turns out to be Quasimodo they've probably got a photofit of him somewhere. And Oldfield himself says in exasperation that they've checked bearded men, unbearded, soldiers, sailors, engineers, agricultural workers, big men, little men… And then comes the infamous 'Wearside Jack' hoax tape, which throws the investigation off the scent of Sutcliffe's stamping grounds of Leeds/Bradford towards Sunderland. The drama's title, This Is Personal, refers to the way Oldfield took the hoaxer's taunts personally and effectively allowed the investigation to be sidetracked. But the drama also evokes the pain and tragedy that the murder spree inflicted on the victims' families, particularly when Oldfield promises the parents of 'innocent' Jayne MacDonald in 1977 to catch the teenager's killer, a promise that loads more stress and guilt onto the detective. Apart from the killer, though, there are few baddies in this drama, just flawed individuals struggling to do the right thing – which makes it all the sadder. But the investigation was badly bungled. Before he was convicted of killing and mutilating 13 women, Sutcliffe was interviewed by police nine times, and various statements and reports pointing to him as the culprit were buried in the deluge of data coming in (computers were only just being introduced). The force of ITV's drama was that it was sober, affecting, quite brilliantly acted (particularly by Armstong), and a world away from the clean, tidy world of most fictional cop shows.

Watercooler fact: After This Is Personal, scriptwriter Neil McKay followed up with stints on Heartbeat and Holby City, but also became something of a specialist in the far more difficult discipline of exploring real-life crimes through controversial – but award-winning – dramas such as See No Evil: The Moors Murders and Appropriate Adult (about Fred West).

More of the Killer 50


Friday, 10 October 2014

Lewis 8, ITV, with Kevin Whately, Laurence Fox PREVIEW

Lewis series 8 KEVIN WHATELY (DI Robert Lewis) LAURENCE FOX as Di James Hathaway and ANGELA GRIFFIN as SGT Lizzie Maddox
Robbie Lewis (Kevin Whately), Lizzie Maddox (Angela Griffin) and James Hathaway. Pics: ITV
Rating: ★★★ 

ITV: starts Friday, 10 October, 9pm

Story: Hathaway has been fast-tracked to inspector, though his man management skills are lacking, which leads to Lewis being called out of retirement to help with the case of a murdered neurosurgeon…

LEWIS IS STILL venerated and regarded as having a special place in viewers' hearts. The Mirror today describes it as 'much-loved', and Radio Times has given it the double-page spread treatment.

All of which is odd for such an average drama. Even ITV seem a little cooler about it. There's no hullabaloo, no press pack or special screenings for the media.

The answer is pretty obvious. The spin-off built on affection for Inspector Morse has plodded on well past its best days. Even in Radio Times its lead star Kevin Whately calls it a 'dinosaur of a show'. Meanwhile, his co-star Laurence Fox says he hasn't left because 'I'm not really very… well, what's the word… driven'.

Wow, let's cancel that evening out and settle down for two hours with the old dinosaur, shall we?

Lewis series 8 KARA TOINTON as Erica Stoke
What is widow Erica (Kara Tointon) hiding?

Lewis nears the end

The reason ITV still make it is that Lewis is a bit of an open goal for the channel – like England playing San Marino. It's got its diehard core audience, but there's little sense of joy and achievement when you stick five past them.

When the last series concluded, Lewis was about to retire. The perfect moment to bring the curtain down? No, best to carry on even though the actors barely seem to have the heart for it any more.

In Radio Times Whately indicates the next, ninth, series should be the last. 'I would probably do one more. But everything has a life span and I think it's gone on long enough. There were 33 Inspector Morse stories and we've now done 30 Lewis. I wouldn't want to do more than we did Morse because I do still think of it as an offshoot. There's the age thing as well – I'm older than John Thaw was when he died.'

So many better crime dramas around

Part of the problem for Lewis – and I suspect the actors and production team probably know it – is that there are so many better crime dramas around now, from homegrown acclaimed hits such as Broadchurch and Happy Valley to the Nordic excellence of The Killing and The Bridge. That's without mentioning the edgier brilliance of the US subscription channel shows Breaking Bad or True Detective… continued

The Code, BBC4, Dan Spielman, Ashley Zukerman, Lucy Lawless PREVIEW

Jesse Banks (ASHLEY ZUCKERMAN) The Code
Jesse's hacking skills open up a world of danger in The Code. Pics: BBC
Rating: ★★★½

BBC4: starts Saturday, 11 October, 9pm

Story: Australian political thriller set in the heart of government. Reporter Ned Banks is alerted to a strange accident involving a couple of Aboriginal teenagers. Unwittingly getting his computer genius brother involved, Ned stumbles on a national conspiracy.

SATURDAY NIGHTS on BBC4 have become a vicarious getaway for crime fans in the last few years. Sweden, Denmark, Italy and even Belgium have all been on the itinerary, but this weekend it's Australia's turn with a new six-part thriller.

Which is unusual. Oz has not offered a whole lot on the crime front. There's been Wentworth Prison, a descendant of the prison soap of Prisoner: Cell Block H. Guy Pearce turned up in 2012's pretty decent Jack Irish drama, which was based on the novels of Peter Temple. And then there was the very average Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries around the same time.
Sophie Walsh (CHELSIE PRESTON CRAYFORD), Randall Keats (ADEN YOUNG) The Code
Stirring trouble – Sophie and Randall

The Code is a change of gear from all of these, and from the Swedish period whodunit Crimes of Passion, which has just ended. It's a conspiracy thriller with techno and political themes.

Government leak gone wrong

It starts in a traditional way for the genre, with a journalist stumbling onto a huge story by accident. Ned Banks is leaked a dossier by government spin doctors that is designed to destroy a minister's career.

However, in the envelop containing photos showing him getting into a scuffle after groping a woman is also a reference to 'Lindara', where two Aboriginal teens on a joyride have run into serious trouble. Clarence is found by teacher Alex covered in blood, apparently unable to account for what happened to his girlfriend or the car he was driving.

With Alex's help, Ned – who is assisted by his brother Jesse, a hacker and Asberger's sufferer – soon uncovers a video that suggests the teenager's accident had more sinister causes. When his internet newspaper publishes the video, some outside agency causes the whole operation to crash and disappear off the web.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Twin Peaks to return in 2016



It is with this typically off-kilter video that Twin Peaks co-creators David Lynch and Mark Frost have spread the news that one of the great landmark TV series will be making a comeback in 2016. US subscription network Showtime is making Twin Peaks 3, with Lynch directing and Frost writing all nine episodes, thereby marking the cult drama's 25th anniversary.

Normally, resurrecting old faves is a failure of hope over experience. Hawaii Five-0, Dallas and 90210 were all little more than zombified rehashes, with Battlestar Galactica an exception proving the rule. But with Twin Peaks there is a sense of unfinished business.

The first season, which went out in 1990, was a triumph, with the superb pilot being ranked by American television bible TV Guide as number 25 out of its 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time. The drama's melding of US soap operas, surreal imagery and the perverse desires of small-town America was like a shotgun blast through the conservatism of staid primetime broadcasting.

Kyle MacLachlan, Lara Flynn Boyle and Sherilyn Fenn were among those who became indelibly associated with this cherished classic.

However, Lynch and Frost were not as involved in season two, when ABC network pressure to reveal the identity of Laura Palma's killer won the day half-way through the series – Lynch didn't want to solve the mystery at all – and its ratings went into freefall.

So, the news that maestros Lynch and Frost are back with the show make this a very interesting prospect. I recently re-watched some of the series for CrimeTimePreview's Killer 50 series (it's number 27) and found it as fresh and mesmerising as ever.

From the accomplished use of cinematography that got the action out of those fake studios to the interior character dramas that found their way into David Chase's dream sequences in The Sopranos, Twin Peaks had a huge impact on television drama.

Going out on Showtime also means Twin Peaks 3 can be as perverse and edgy as it likes. And becoming acquainted with middle-aged agent Cooper and Audrey Horne should certainly be fun, if disorientating in trademark Lynch style.

And, then, just what did Laura Palmer mean when she said to Cooper – in a dream, of course – that she would see him again in 25 years?



Check out…
Twin Peaks Facebook page
Showtime

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Grantchester, ITV, James Norton, Robson Green, Morven Christie PREVIEW

JAMES NORTON as Sidney Chambers and ROBSON GREEN as Geordie Keating in Grantchester
Odd couple – Geordie and Sidney (Robson Green and James Norton). Pics: ITV
Rating: ★★★★

ITV: starts Monday, 6 October, 9pm

Story: It’s 1953, and just outside the Cambridgeshire village of Grantchester, local vicar Sidney Chambers officiates at the funeral of a solicitor, who committed suicide. However, after the service, glamorous Pamela reveals to Sidney that she was having an affair with the solicitor – and his death wasn't suicide.

IS THERE ANYTHING less edgy and enticing than another dog-collar detective?

It was only last year since that the Beeb resurrected its bland, nostalgic take on GK Chesterton's Father Brown. And does anyone have fond memories of Father Dowling or Cadfael?

Reality has intruded on these confections, so that after all the scandals of recent years Catholic priests are now most likely to be portrayed on TV and in novels as sinister figures. It is only in comedies such as Rev and Father Ted that large TV audiences have wanted to embrace religion.

James Norton as the vicar detective

So, now we have ITV's major new drama with a vicar as its crime-solving hero. And it's based on a
JAMES NORTON as Sidney Chambers and MORVEN CHRISTIE as Amanda Kendall in Grantchester
In love but not together – Sidney and Amanda
series of books written by James Runcie, son of the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie.

My own expectations on heading to ITV headquarters in Gray's Inn Road to see a preview of the series along with the press contingent and the show's stars – James Norton, Robson Green and Morven Christie – were very low. I just knew it was going to be dull and twee, but with lovely Cambridgeshire scenery.

Here I must offer a contrite confession. I was wrong. Wrong and pleasantly intrigued by the mystery and characters.

Vicar and war-tested soldier

The show's secret is that Sidney Chambers is not some bland holy man doing God's work on behalf of the local incompetent police force. There's more to him.