Thursday, 28 August 2014

Crimes of Passion, BBC4, PREVIEW

Island nightmare – Christer, Eje and Puck are confronted with a murderer. Pics: BBC
Rating: ★★★½

BBC4: starts Saturday, 30 August, 9pm

Story: In Bergslagen in the 1950s, amateur sleuth Puck Ekstedt, her student boyfriend Einar Bure and their police superintendent friend Christer Wijk set out to solve a series of murders.

NORDIC NOIR in the shape of The Killing and The Bridge has really refreshed UK television, influencing brilliant recent series such as Broadchurch. The chilly settings and brooding, brilliantly acted dramas were a thrilling departure from much of the crime fare previously being produced here.

Which makes the arrival of this new six-part Swedish series a tiny bit disappointing. It's a handsomely made drama. It's just that it feels so familiar.

'What the hell is this?' says one character when a body is discovered. 'It's like Ten Little Indians.'

Agatha Christie with a Swedish twist

Exactly. Crimes of Passion are 90-minute whodunits, strongly infused with Agatha Christie. A bunch
Crimes of Passion. Christer (OLA RAPACE), Puck (TUVA NOVOTNY), Eje (LINUS WAHLGREN)
There are tensions between the friends
of stock characters in a period setting – an isolated island for the opener – someone is bumping them off one by one, an inspector calls and in a drawing-room denouement all is revealed.

It's Marple, Father Brown and The Lady Vanishes, with Mad Men styling and subtitles.

Puck is writing a thesis on murder in modern novels, and she is invited by college academic Rutger to a midsummer party on his island, which has no phones and is only reachable by boat. The setting is the 1950s, and the fashions are lovingly recreated while the island is filmed beautifully.

Infidelity and betrayal

So, Crimes of Passion, which is based on the novels of Maria Lang from the late 1940s and 1950s,
Puck has been invited to a party, which turns into a murder spree
looks terrific. It's the story that feels light and formulaic. Puck discovers one of the guests, Marianne, has been murdered in the woods. Her boyfriend Eje calls in his detective friend Christer. After some shenanigans with the body going missing, it becomes clear the guests are a dissolute lot with a tendency towards infidelity and betrayal.

Misdirection is the cliche of whodunit and the characters who are absolute stinkers and look bang to rights are, inevitably, not the culprit. It's the same here, with a lot of dull questioning, much running about the island and furtive comings and goings, before a second guest is shot in the woods (strange that no one hears the gun being fired).

For non-fans of the whodunit, the genre is just a puzzle with stock characters. Is the killer flirty Lil, shifty Rutger or annoying Carl? The acting is OK, the victims are plot devices and the set-ups contrived.

Beautifully made whodunit

Christer (OLA RAPACE)
Looking for clues – Christer
But it would be a surprise if Crimes of Passion does not find an audience for its stunning setting,
lovely costumes and the traditional format.

Others will undoubtedly miss the emotional pull and the chilly strangeness of the worlds of Sarah Lund and Saga Noren.

Cast: Ola Repace Christer Wijk, Tuva Novotny Puck Ekstedt, Linus Wahlgren Einar `Eje' Bure, Suzanna Dilber Ann, Ida Engvoll Lil, Peter Viitanen Carl Herman

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Chasing Shadows, ITV, Reece Shearsmith, Alex Kingston PREVIEW

ITV Chasing Shadows REECE SHEARSMITH as DS Sean Stone, ALEX KINGSTON as Ruth Hattersley and NOEL CLARKE as DCI Carl Prior
Chasing Shadows with Noel Clarke, Reece Shearsmith and Alex Kingston. Pics: ITV
Rating: ★★★

ITV: starts Thursday, 4 September, 9pm

Story: Detective sergeant Sean Stone is sidelined into the Missing Persons Bureau, where he works alongside analyst Ruth Hattersley in trying to spot those missing people who may be prone to fall victim to serial killers.

THE INFLUENCE of the Nordic invasion continues. First there was Saga Noren in The Bridge, now we have DS Sean Stone in ITV's new crime series, Chasing Shadows. He's well-named because he has the charm and appeal of a pebble.

Like Saga, Sean – played by Reece Shearsmith – is socially awkward, unable to lie and a misfit. Cue raised eyebrows, outraged expressions from people he meets, and a furious boss.

It is Sean's inability to massage the facts at a press conference, during which he suggests a murder victim could have been saved, that prompts his guvnor to boot him out of his job and into Missing Persons.

Sean – quirky and annoying

Here almost the first thing he says to his new colleague, analyst Ruth Hattersley (Alex Kingston), is
Loner – DS Sean Stone (Reece Shearsmith)
'Are you married?' Ruth is flummoxed. Then he insists they drive to meetings in separate cars because he 'likes to think'.

You get the picture. Sean is quirky, wacky and pretty annoying.

Saga is not annoying. This is because she is a more rounded character, rather than a collection of traits.

Disobeying instructions

This four-parter is one of those shows where you kind of know what they were trying to do, but don't pull it off. Sean is constantly charging off on his own, disobeying instructions and rubbing everyone up the wrong way. He's a one-dimensional hero.

It is also unbelievable that someone this professionally and socially grating would be left to blunder around jeopardising investigations and offending everyone – 'I don't need your help,' he tells Ruth. His new boss DI Prior (Noel Clarke) is also on the warpath.

Saga Noren is abrupt and socially inept, particularly with grieving relatives, but she is adored by viewers because, though flawed, her personal struggle and shortcomings make her hugely appealing.

Serial killers or multiple murderers?

Protagonists who are brilliant oddballs do work when well created, such as the 'high-functioning
REECE SHEARSMITH as DS Sean Stone and ELLIOTT TITTENSOR as John Meadows. Chasing Shadows ITV
On the hunt – Sean is shown round an abandoned building
sociopath' Sherlock, or obsessive-compulsive Monk, or that blunt scalpel House.

In fairness, the opening 45 minutes of Chasing Shadows covers a lot of story – particularly, the hunt for a missing teenage girl, Taylor, who may have been targeted by a killer – so that Sean is barely developed and one dimensional.

He does seem to have a carer at home to help him, but no sooner have we met her than we're being taken through a disused buildings on the trail of killers and bodies.

The most intriguing part of the premise is Sean Stone's determination to look for patterns, with which he is obsessed, in the profiles of the mis-pers (missing persons to you) to see if they were vulnerable to serial killers. Or multiple killers, as Sean prefers to call them – they're 'not fascinating, evil geniuses', he says, they're the opportunistic killer next door.

This is a refreshing break from the tedious Hannibal Lecter fixation of many serial killer stories. It would be great if writer Rob Williams were able to develop this side of the drama, along with Sean's character. There are just three episodes to go.

Cast: Reece Shearsmith DS Sean Stone, Alex Kingston Ruth Hattersley, Noel Clarke DI Prior

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Suspects 2, Ch5, with Fay Ripley, Damien Molony, Clare-Hope Ashitey PREVIEW

DS Jack Weston (Damien Molony), DC Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Steele (Clare-Hope Ashitey) and DI Martha Bellamy (Fay Ripley)
DS Jack Weston (Damien Molony), DC Charlie Steele (Clare-Hope Ashitey) and DI Martha Bellamy (Fay Ripley)
Rating: ★★★½

Channel 5: starts wednesday, August 20, 10pm

Story: Martha’s neighbour, barrister Jonathan Moxton, is found at home with serious head injuries, his wrists bound with a belt and a pair of knickers stuffed in his mouth. Jack guesses that he was involved in a sex game that went badly wrong.

THERE WAS MILD incredulity when series one of this improvised police drama went out earlier this year.

It was pretty good. But the astonishment was prompted by the realisation that it was made by Channel 5, home of dire afternoon movies, Extreme Fishing with Robson Green and Big Brother. They hadn't made a drama in eight years.
Suspects: Saul (Dominic Power) waits to be interviewed by the police
Suspect Saul Hammond

The stories are standard police procedurals, but what made the series stand out was its energy and feel of spontaneity. The lack of a script means the actors were improvising and because it was filmed in verité style, it was snappy and very watchable.

Charlie Brooks, Dominic Power and Katie Jarvis

If the actors are in the zone, the drama flows. This new series has a pretty good mix of performers to bring it alive, with EastEnders' Charlie Brooks and Katie Jarvis, the raw young talent of the excellent movie Fish Tank, in the opener.

Suspects: Tanya Morton (Charlie Brooks) is interviewed by Martha (Fay Ripley)
Her EastEnders training comes in handy for Charlie Brooks
A barrister neighbour of Fay Ripley's character DI Bellamy is found bludgeoned but alive during what appears to have a bondage game.

Suspicion falls on another neighbour, Saul (played by Dominic Power of Emmerdale fame), who lives in a hostel and is a paranoid schizophrenic. He's volatile and his story keeps changing, but, as is the way of these things, the story is more complicated.

Friction between Jack and Charlie

Suspects: Martha (Fay Ripley) at the second crime scene
A second crime scene for Martha
Rarely for a crime drama, Suspects has a story here in which it is hard to fathom out who the killer is until late on (it is a two-parter).

Suspects does not have the depth of recent top series, such as Happy Valley or Broadchurch, but it is more interesting than plodding series like Lewis or Midsomer. The case is intriguing and the characters are also given a little hinterland, with the detectives Jack and Charlie sparking off each other because Jack is a little more personally invested in the investigation than he should be.

It's the jewel in Ch5's crown, anyway. Shame they didn't have the conviction to make more than four episodes.

Cast: Damien Molony DS JackWeston, Clare-Hope Ashitey DC Charlie Steele, Fay Ripley DI Martha Bellamy, Dominic Power Saul Hammond, Charlie Brooks Tanya Moxton, Katie Jarvis Sadie Burns, Luke Newberry Nate Turner, Claire Cooper Carol Collins, David de Keyser Derek Collins

Check out these links…
Suspects 2 on Channel 5
Suspects series 1

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Gomorrah episode 2 PREVIEW

Ciro and 'that idiot' Genny
Sky Atlantic: Monday, 11 August, 9pm  

AFTER LAST WEEK'S explosive opener, when Don Pietro ordered his clan, including Ciro, to take revenge against Conte – with general mayhem and slaughter the result – episode 2 finds the Neapolitan gang suspecting that there's a traitor in their ranks.

A huge consignment of cocaine is discovered by police at the gigantic container port in Naples, so unforgettably described by author Roberto Saviano in his passionate exposé of the Camorra, on which this 12-part series is based.

When Don Pietro learns that the police went straight to the container to find the drug, it's clear someone has tipped them off. After last week's carnage in Secondigliano, this disaster puts huge pressure on the boss. So he could do without his pampered son, 'that idiot' Genny, destroying cars and writing huge graffiti insults on another gang's turf.

What, the soldiers want to know, would happen if Pietro were arrested? They'd be under the command of the boss's stupid heir.

Gomorrah really hits it stride this week. The tension is palpable as all the characters are on edge. Attilio's widow has harsh words for Ciro, and we see the young pretender's ruthless side when he is ordered by Pietro to take Genny on a hit to blood him.

Saviano's book is a passionate and ferocious indictment of the Neapolitan gangs, and this series gives us a frightening insight into the twisted, grisly world he describes.

It all ends in devastating style at the end of the episode, as a huge crisis hits the clan when floundering Pietro's worst fears are realised.

Check out these links…
Gomorrah Sky Atlantic
Series preview on CrimeTimePreview
Roberto Saviano interviewed in the Telegraph

Saturday, 9 August 2014

New Tricks 11, BBC1, Dennis Waterman, Tamzin Outhwaite, Denis Lawson, Nicholas Lyndhurst

Not exactly the laughing policemen, but the New Tricks squad still raise a smile. Pics: BBC
Rating: ★★★½

BBC1: starts Monday, 18 August, 9pm

Story: Newly divorced Sasha Miller is forced to work with her ex-husband, DAC Ned Hancock and Gerry is visited by an old friend from the past, Ralph Paxton, who has just got out of prison. Paxton asks Gerry to help him solve the murder of his youngest grandson, architecture student Jake.

THE OLD DOGS are having to learn further new tricks now that there's a fresh guvnor in town – namely Tamzin Outhwaite's DCI Sasha Miller. In fact, most of the clue sniffers are new, following the recent exodus of old faves James Bolam, Amanda Redman and Alun Armstrong.

These were hugely popular performers with much audience goodwill built up down the years through hits such as The Likely Lads, At Home with the Braithwaites and Our Friends in the North. Can New Tricks survive their departure?

With the series still hitting audiences of around nine-million last year, the
Dennis Waterman, Amanda Redman, James Bolam, Alun Armstrong in New Tricks series 9
The way we were – Waterman, Redman, Bolam and Armstrong
BBC were always going to try to keep the magic alive.

And these ratings came despite reports in recent times of behind-the-scenes flouncing – with the stars criticising the writers for making the stories more bland. It seems it would take a lot to blow New Tricks off its perch.

How good is the new New Tricks?

Perhaps the whole shebang needed a fresh makeoever, and that's what we've got. So, how do the new lot – and Dennis Waterman – measure up?

We had a glimpse of former EastEnder Tamzin Outhwaite at the end of series 10. She slips into her role as the nanny for her 'boys' in the unsolved crimes unit with ease.

She is feisty while being authoritative and able to do the humorous bits too – such as the scene in the opener, Bermondsey Boy, when she orders Gerry to 'hug it out' with his prospective son-in-law.

Nicholas Lyndhurst and Dennis Waterman

Nicholas Lyndhurst's posh-up of detective Dan Griffin is bizarre. The whole schtick he has for modern coppering and 'speed-reading' the body-language of suspects would work a treat if he dropped the silly effete accent.

Dennis Waterman gets a lot of stick as Standing, but really playing a London copper is never going to stretch him that much, and he does enough to earn a reduced sentence for his crimes against TV theme music. Meanwhile, Denis Lawson, who doesn't have much to do in the opening episode, is now established as a distinctive and welcome addition to the team.

All in all, it's a good reboot for the show. The script is sharp and witty in places, and, while the stories remain wholesomely entertaining and corny, it's an easy-going and charming hour.

Edgy and groundbreaking New Tricks is not. But that's obviously not what nine-million loyal fans want. And apparently another two series have already got the green light.

Check out these links…
New Tricks BBC1
New Tricks in Radio Times

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

A Touch of Cloth 3, Sky1, John Hannah, Suranne Jones, Karen Gillan PREVIEW

Guilty party – Cloth and the gang. Pics: Sky1
Rating: ★★★½

Sky1: starts Saturday, 9 August, 9pm

Story: It took DCI Jack Cloth a while to come to terms with his wife's murder – he barely remembers her name these days – and now he's hit with the news that his brother, Terry, has been killed.

A TOUCH OF CLOTH has everything you could want from a gritty crime drama – tortured maverick cop, gruesome forensics, twisting plot. And a town called Funtcuck.

Charlie Brooker's criminally stupid piss-take returns to truncheon the genre into submission again with ridiculous cases, silly gags and wickedly straight performances.

Subtle and suave it ain't – more a shotgun blast of every cop procedural cliche and suspect gag the writers could round up.

Too Cloth for Comfort
Cloth finds his long lost brother

Many jokes escape without detection, but a lot are guilty of inducing a spluttered chortle – and then making you feel guilty that you could be so puerile.

Crime shows are this site's bread and butter, of course, but even we think there are an awful lot of rubbish cop series around. You know the ones – grumpy detective with a sidekick, silly tracking shots, wild deductions that solve the crime, forensic nonsense, ham-fisted plot recaps.

All these get worked over in this two-parter, Too Cloth for Comfort, along with some other well-deserving targets (Piers Morgan in particular).

Karen Gillan as Kerry Newblood

John Hannah and Suranne Jones as DCI John Cloth and DI Anne Oldman (pronounced Old-Man, of course) both do a fine job of snitching on the conventions of the straight cop beats they've worked in recent years. Hannah was seen recently in ITV's The Widower and Rebus before that, and Jones will soon be back in the excellent Scott & Bailey.

Doctor Who's ex Karen Gillan joins the carry-on as new recruit Kerry Newblood (see what I mean about unsubtle).

'Welcome to the rest of your life, welcome to hell,' the hardbitten Cloth tells her.

And Adrian Dunbar – a refugee from another cop series, Line of Duty – also turns up as a suspect.

Danes and pathology
Oldman (Suranne Jones) and Newblood (Karen Gillan)

The plot? Cloth's brother is found murdered in a forest. But that's just an excuse for lines such as, 'He was the best lover I ever had – until it went pair-shaped.' Or some very sharp scenes in a country pub in Funtcuck and the pathologist's mortuary.

The crime genre badly needs cleaning up, and it's good to Jack Cloth and his squad of cliche-busters are back on the scene.

Cast: John Hannah DCI Jack Cloth, Suranne Jones DI Anne Oldman, Julian Rhind-Tutt ACC Tom Boss, Navin Chowdhry DC Asap Qureshi, Adrian Bower DC Des Hairihan, Daisy Beaumont Dr Natasha Sachet, Karen Gillan Kerry Newblood, Adrian Dunbar Damien Vull

Check out this link…
A Touch of Cloth on Facebook
A Touch of Cloth on Sky1

Monday, 4 August 2014

Gomorrah, Sky Atlantic, PREVIEW

Brutal – the lives (and architecture) of Gomorrah. Pics: Sky Atlantic
Rating: ★★★★

Sky Atlantic: starts Monday, 4 August, 9pm

Story: Brutal Neapolitan crime organisation the Camorra wage a bitter war against a rival. 

THIS PROBING look at the Neapolitan crime mob, the Camorra, is based on a revelatory and bestselling exposé by 'vigilante journalist' Roberto Saviano and follows a 2008 film adaptation of his book.

Gritty is an overused adjective when it comes to crime dramas, but Gomorrah has the social and economic context to pack quite a punch. It's filmed in the grim suburb of Scampia, where mob drugs infect disintegrating 1960s housing estates and motorways cut off the area from the baroque splendour of Naples itself.

The largely unknown cast speak in a thick Neapolitan dialect and the series is a dark meditation on a dysfunctional world in which a man can have dinner and an espresso with his family, before going off to take part in a massed gun slaughter.

Marco D'Amore as Ciro

Pietro Savastano is a clan godfather who, as the action begins, sends his soldiers to teach Salvatore
Powers on the throne – Don Pietro and his wife, Imma
Conte a lesson after his drug dealing has infringed their turf. Ciro and his mentor Attilio set light to gasoline on the front door of Conte's mother's apartment while he's there eating.

As retaliation follows bloodbath and further retaliation, the tensions in Don Pietro's outfit are exposed. Ciro, played by Marco D'Amore, is unhappy at Pietro's rash and ill-planned attack on Conte, which results in Attilio's death.

Pietro is pleased to get the upper hand over Conte, but Ciro, an opinionated right-hand man, yearns for vengeance against their enemy.

The action scenes are shockingly convincing

Gomorrah is a 12-parter and has been a huge hit in Italy. Much of it is filmed verité-style on dark streets by Stefano Sollima, who also made the hit series Romanzo Criminale, and the action scenes –
such as the bomb thrown into a cafe – are shockingly convincing.
Ciro and Genny

The contrasts between the private family men and their brutality to outsiders, between the vast drug wealth and the squalor of Scampia, between the vulgar bad-taste mansion of Pietro and the desperation of his underlings are constantly absorbing.

This Sky Italia production is a cut above most crime dramas around at the moment, and will linger in your thoughts for some time.

Cast: Marco D'Amore Ciro Di Marzio, Fortunato Cerlino Pietro Savastano, Maria Pia Calzone Imma Savastano, Salvatore Esposito Genny Savastano, Marco Palvetti Salvatore Conte, Domenico Balsamo Massimo, Elena Starace Noemi, Antonio Milo Attilio O'Trovatello, Mimmo Esposito Renato Bolletta

Thursday, 31 July 2014

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