Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Scott & Bailey 3, ITV, with Suranne Jones, Lesley Sharp PREVIEW



Rating: ★★★★½

ITV: starts Wednesday, 3 April, 9pm

Story: A worried neighbour knocks on Janet Scott's door one night, concerned about the smell coming from a house down the road…

Manchester detectives Scott & Bailey quickly won a following among audiences and critics alike, clocking up between six and eight million viewers and winning the Royal Television Society's script writing award for Sally Wainwright last November.

Good as the first two series were, however, series three gets off to a blistering start and could be the best yet. No sooner are the credits done than Janet is saying to Rachel in the Ladies, 'This woman comes knocking on our door at half past eight last night. She lives down the road. I don't know her particularly well…'

And we're straight into an absorbing case that is horrific, sad and mystifying despite the apparent everyday nature of the tragedy.

Strange smell from a creepy house The neighbour says there's a smell coming from a house that Janet has always found creepy. When the uniforms break the door down they find 75-year-old Eunice's body at the top of the stairs – and her head at the bottom.

In the upstairs bedroom is close-to-death, bed-ridden husband Joe. He's emaciated and barely able to speak.

It turns out Eunice was hit over the head. In a bid to discover who killed her, Rachel and Janet set out to trace the couple's four children, who it seems haven't visited their parents in a long time.

Nicola Walker as Helen
They finally locate daughter Helen, who is working on the makeup counter of a department store. Helen's response to news of her mother's death is distracted and muted. Upset she is not – 'I don't have anything to do with my parents,' she says. 'They're of no interest to me.'  It's a stunning and eerie performance by Nicola Walker as Helen.

What unfolds is a shocking story of evil, made totally gripping by sublime acting. George Costigan as Joe is a disturbing portrayal, and with Nicola Walker he makes this a powerful opening to the series. And watch out because the character of Helen turns up again later in the series in another tragic story.

Suranne Jones and her former Corrie colleague Sally Lindsay dreamed up this Cagney & Lacey-inspried series, in a bid to create prominent female characters, and a big element of its success is that the characters of Rachel Bailey and Janet Scott are as important as the cases featured each week.

Rachel's bored with her marriage – after three months
So, Rachel is only three months into her marriage and finds herself bored with dishy but dull hubby Sean, while Janet, whose marriage is over though she still shares a roof with Ade, is upset that he is dating and she fancies no one.

Tracie Bennett joins the cast as Rachel's drunken, boob-flashing mum, further adding to the detective's headaches. Meanwhile, Janet is acting as sergeant but is in two minds about whether to take on the extra responsibilities permanently. Another new cast member in episode four (Danny Miller) four will settle this issue for her…

Amelia Bullmore is back in tough boss mode as DCI Gill Murray, and Pippa Haywood is again unrecognisable from her daffy role as Harriet in Prisoners' Wives, here reappearing as the formidable and acerbic Detective Superintendent Julie Dodson.

It's a great ensemble cast, and on the evidence of episode one, stands alongside Broadchurch as the best  UK crime drama currently on telly.

Cast: Suranne Jones DC Rachel Bailey, Lesley Sharp DC Janet Scott, Amelia Bullmore DCI Gill Murray, Danny Miller DS Rob Waddington (eps 4 – 8), Ben Batt DC Kevin Lumb, David Prosho DC Ian Mitchell, Tony Mooney DC Pete Readyough, Delroy Brown DC Lee Broadhurst, Nicola Walker Helen Bartlett, George Costigan Joe Bevan, Tracie Bennett Sharon Bailey, Sean Maguire PC Sean McCartney, Tony Pitts Adrian Scott, Judith Barker Dorothy Parsons, Judy Holt Scary Mary Jackson