Monday, 27 August 2012

New Tricks series 9 PREVIEW

Dennis Waterman, Amanda Redman, James Bolam, Alun Armstrong
Dennis Waterman, James Bolam, Amanda Redman and Alun Armstrong. Pics: BBC
Rating: ★★★½ 

BBC1: starts Monday, 27 August, 9pm

Story: Jack Halford’s behaviour – secret calls, personal appointments and an obsession over an outstanding case – is causing the team some concern. But nothing can prepare them for the bombshell he’s about to drop. Halford is quitting UCOS.

In critical terms, New Tricks is bomb-proof. This comfy old cardie of a show is about to begin its ninth series and it doesn't matter what the critics say about it, viewers like it a lot – the last series hit a new peak averaging nine-million – and a 2013 season has already been commissioned before series nine is even shown.

Having such a distinguished bunch of players is surely the major ingredient in the success of what is a rather low-key drama – the Beeb doesn't make that much of a fuss about its return these days. Even the cast feel it has become a little bland, with Amanda Redman, Alun Armstrong and Dennis Waterman all voicing criticisms in a recent Radio Times.

End of an era on New Tricks
Denis Lawson
Denis Lawson as Steve McAndrew
But for many viewers, fond memories of classic series no doubt return on watching the ensemble of Dennis Waterman (The Sweeney, Minder), James Bolam (Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads, The Biederbecke Trilogy), Alun Armstrong (Our Friends in the North and dozens of other films and dramas) and Amanda Redman (At Home with the Braithwaites). That's a lot of terrific television DNA for one series.

However, all this is about to change. As this opener, A Death in the Family, reveals, Jack Halford (played by 77-year-old James Bolam), is about to retire for good this time. Denis Lawson will be introduced during this series as his replacement. Amanda Redman and Alun Armstrong are also leaving after next year's series.



Tim McInnerny as the sneering secret agent
Why Jack is going is revealed at the end of this opener, which starts disconcertingly with a Victorian murder scene, a young woman being stalked through foggy London. Naturally, the curmudgeonly investigators think that the intelligence officer demanding they reopen the case should instead 'shove it', as Jack puts it.
Tim McInnerny
Tim McInnerny as Fisher

Tim McInnerny is the high-handed intelligence man, and he's great value when butting heads with the team, particularly Sandra.

Double mystery
'Grumpy lot, aren't they?' he says to DAC Strickland, a sentiment probably shared by the scriptwriter Julian Simpson, who has hit back strongly at the cast's criticisms of the show's writers.

Anway, the victim Abigail Padua was a maths whiz, a 'computer' in Victorian parlance. Her murder was made to look like robbery but it seems there may have been more of a conspiracy around her killing.

James Bolam
James Bolam as Jack
Perhaps the creative tensions between the actors and writer/directors bore fruit, because this is a cracking opening to the series. The two mysteries – Victorian conspiracy and Jack's departure – are filled with humour, intrigue and regret – and, at least this week, are not remotely bland.

Cast: James Bolam  Jack Halford, Amanda Redman Detective Superintendent Sandra Pullman, Alun Armstrong Brian Lane, Dennis Waterman Gerry Standing, Anthony Calf DAC Strickland, Tim McInnerny Stephen Fisher 

Upcoming episodes:
  • 3 Sept: Old School Ties – The team re-investigate a teacher's disappearance. Guest Susannah Harker
  • 10 Sept: Queen & Country – A cover-up and a suspected suicide