|Bailey (Suranne Jones) and Scott (Lesley Sharp). Pics: ITV|
ITV1, starts Monday, 12 March, 9pm
Story: The detective constables Scott and Bailey return to duty on Manchester's Major Incident Team. Rachel Bailey's estranged brother turns up on her doorstep. She takes him in with a warning that he must put his criminal past behind him. Janet Scott tells her husband, Adrian, to leave the house after he rows with her mother. Meanwhile, the badly burned body of a disabled man turns up.
Sisters are doing it for themselves in a range of new hit dramas on UK television just now. Scott & Bailey has women all along its production line and returns after a quiet launch last year that still managed to wow an audience of 9.4 million viewers. That's pretty huge in these multi-channel days.
It was created and written by Sally Wainwright (At Home with the Braithwaites) and has a good cast led by Suranne Jones (the former Corrie actress who came up the idea for S&B with Sally Lindsay, who also stars here) and Lesley Sharp.
|A witness objects to Rachel's line of questioning|
Their boss is Detective Chief Inspector Gill Murray (Amelia Bullmore, who has also written episode seven of this series), and we meet her colleague and best mate, the formidable DCI Julie Dodson (Pippa Haywood, playing a vastly different character from mousey Harriet in Prisoners' Wives).
Men pop up too. They tend to be the immature, dumb detectives, the nagging husband or inadequate brother. There must be quite a few of those around, judging by the loud chord S&B seems to have struck with female viewers.
So what are the unique selling points of S&B (apart from lacklustre men)? First, it's strongly character-focused. The opening episode is 10 minutes old before it gets into any serious detective work.
Rachel's estranged brother, 28-year-old Dominic, appears out of the rain one night. She reluctantly takes him in on the proviso that he stirs clear of armed robbery. He seems too reticent and inept for that line of criminality. This is a bloke who can't put a pan on the cooker without nearly burning down the flat.
Meanwhile, Janet's husband with the appalling haircut is kicking off about having the mother-in-law staying with them. When he flounces out during a row, Janet tells him not to come back.
'Men are just shit, aren't they,' Rachel says to Janet. And she should know, having been dumped in series one by that caddish Rupert Graves just when she was expecting an engagement ring.
|Marriage troubles await Scott|
The show's other strong point is that it avoids the forensic porn so many shows thrive on. The case being investigated here in a two-part story is about a disabled man's burned body being found, soon followed up by another burned corpse.
Both men were tortured. Now, if this were Silent Witness we'd be taken on a pointless fingertip journey through each victim's viscera. S&B doesn't confuse voyeuristic gore with dramatic storytelling and the visual horror is never exploited.
Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharp are appealing as Britain's very own Cagney and Lacey – they're fine performers and dissimilar enough to make believable friends. And the moments that stand out are the small, truthful scenes, such as Scott and Bailey paying a painful visit to the wife of the second victim.
It's a moment that says something about their tough job, and the women doing it.
If only the men would get their act together. In episode two Rachel finds herself waking up next to a sexy colleague and old flame. Now, what are the chances of Sean turning out to a faithful, witty and thoroughly decent chap?
Cast: Suranne Jones DC Rachel Bailey, Lesley Sharp DC Janet Scott, Amelia Bullmore DCI Gill Murray, Nicholas Gleaves DS Andy Roper, Ben Batt DC Kevin Lumb, David Prosho DC Ian Mitchell, Tony Mooney DC Pete Readyough, Delroy Brown DC Lee Broadhurst, Sally Lindsay Alison, Vincent Regan DCS Dave Murray, Tony Pitts Adrian, Pippa Haywood DCI Julie Dodson, Liam Boyle Dominic