Monday, 6 September 2010

New Tricks, old farts

New Tricks returns this week. For the Beeb, the seventh series of New Tricks is old tricks – safe, cosy, no swearing and often a bit silly. But while the nation may not be dancing in the streets at its reappearance, that is probably because many are indoors watching it.

Eight or nine million tune in to hear Dennis Waterman warbling It's Alright, to say nothing of its audiences in France, Argentina, the US, Iran and 16 other countries.

Sandra and the boys – overjoyed to be back (BBC)
All right, I watch it too – occasionally. But that's not because of the stories about magic tricks ending in murder, or dead circus ringmasters. Friday's opener, Dead Man Talking, is typical, featuring a clairvoyant who spooks Sandra Pullman (Amanda Redman).

Nor is it all the moaning from the old farts – sorry, retired detectives – about how everything was better in the old days. Or the excruciating attempts at humour (Bolam and Waterman organising their own piss-up in a brewery was flatter than day-old lager).

I dip in because of the cast. They've all had great moments in their screen pasts – particularly James Bolam (who plays Jack Halford) with The Likely Lads and The Beiderbecke Tapes, and Dennis Waterman (Gerry Standing) in The Sweeney and Minder.

Amanda Redman, the youngest of the principals in her early fifties, has been a prime-time regular with At Home with the Braithwaites, Dangerfield and others, while Alun Armstrong (Brian Lane) has a long list of superb performances behind him, from Get Carter to This Is Personal – The Hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper, Little Dorrit and Garrow's Law.

So, on a slow night, it's good to see the old stagers firing off each other. But the danger is that now Last of the Summer Wine has happily been shot, the BBC will keep flogging New Tricks for decades to come (series eight has already been commissioned, apparently).

That really would be something to moan about.

In the meantime, welcome back, New Tricks. But it would be nice if someone at the Beeb, ITV or C4 would commission a fresh crime series that wasn't as cosy as Horlicks and slippers. Something that didn't involve vintage cops (Heatbeat, George Gently), Agatha Christie, or cops with stupid names (Rosemary and Thyme).

Something with a bit of grit about it, such as Prime Suspect. Or The Take, which Sky1 did a good job of last year.

Fingers crossed for Sky1's six instalments of DI Thorne next month with David Morrissey (see the trailer).

New Tricks starts on BBC1, Friday 10 Sept, 9pm