Friday, 31 January 2014

Sherlock Holmes – Past, Present, Future

Guest writer Rebecca Gray looks at the personal file of Sherlock Holmes, the greatest detective the world has seen, and who, following the extraordinary success of the third series of the BBC's Sherlock, is set to conquer the world in new guises…

Mystery buffs are captivated by charismatic crime fighters, and perhaps none has been embraced more enthusiastically than Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock, a modern-day Holmes vehicle starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the eccentric detective, and Martin Freeman as his partner, Dr John Watson, currently provides some of the most popular programming on television. Past, present and future, Sherlock Holmes rules the roost, so we'll continue to see his legacy in pop culture, including various media interpretations of his idiosyncratic adventures. But what's behind the rise of this popular character, and where can fans fill their need for more Sherlock Holmes?

1. History

Sherlock Holmes is a character created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a Scottish doctor and author.  The original character appeared in more than 50 short stories and four novels, beginning with the first novel, A Study in Scarlet, which was published in 1887. Readership grew leaps and bounds, as the public embraced the first series of short stories published in The Strand Magazine, in 1891.

2. Inspiration and Character Development

Holmes' character is thought to be derived from a pair of doctors author Doyle worked with in Scotland, including one tied to Edinburgh police work. But Doyle himself has also been cited as an inspiration for some of the character's signature traits, including his heightened capacity for deductive reasoning. According to Doyle's tales, Holmes developed these powers at university, before deciding to take detective work as a career.

3. Holmes Societies

Two primary societies dedicated to Sherlock Holmes were formed in the 1930s, still operating today. The American, Baker Street Irregulars were organised in 1937, devoted to literary studies of Holmes and Doyle; while the Sherlock Holmes Society in London originally came together in 1934.

4. Copyright and Public Domain

Copyrights expired in UK in 1980, placing Sherlock Holmes material in the public domain. In the United States, however, some pieces published after 1923 remain protected by copyrights. In 2013, a court ruled the characters of Holmes and Watson are themselves included in public domain, perhaps opening the door for further interpretation of these Doyle characters.

5. Film and Other Portrayals
Basil Rathbone

Holmes is consistently identified as one of the most prolific characters portrayed on stage and in films. As many as 200 movies contain Holmes-derived characters, portrayed by dozens of actors, dating to the turn of the century. Basil Rathbone, for example, played Holmes in more than a dozen early-1940s films, as well as radio spots running concurrently. Jeremy Brett was another outstanding Holmes in ITV's long-running series, while Billy Wilder made a terrific film version starring Robert Stephens, called The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. Peter O'Toole, Michael Caine, Roy Hudd, Christopher Lee, Charlton Heston, Peter Cushing, John Cleese, Roger Moore, John Gielgud and many more have donned the deer stalker.

6. Robert Downey and Jude Law

In 2009, Robert Downey Jr reprised the Holmes character for a Hollywood blockbuster film, tapping Jude Law as his sidekick Watson. The sensational portrayal ignited a whole new following for the character, which was crafted in Holmes essence, but emphasised eccentric tendencies not always played-up in earlier portrayals. The well-received film was expanded with a 2011 sequel called Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Downey has been recognised with awards for his interpretation, including a Golden Globe for the first film.

7. Elementary

American television viewers continue to embrace a contemporary interpretation of Doyle's Holmes character, which first aired in 2012, on the television series Elementary. The vehicle, set in the United States, stars Jonny Lee Miller as a modern-day Holmes, paired with a female version of the Watson character, played by Lucy Liu.

8. What's in the Cards for Sherlock Holmes?

With copyright issues settled, and public interest clamouring for more Sherlock Holmes, there are no limits to what we might see from Doyle's enduring character. While a comedy version starring Will Ferrell as Sherlock Holmes seems to be off the cards for now, a third instalment in the popular Robert Downey Jr Sherlock franchise is set for future release. Additional rumblings of a Chinese production and even a Punjabi Sherlock may bring even greater diversity to Sherlock Holmes' ever-evolving legacy.

Author Byline: This guest post is contributed by Rebecca Gray, who writes for She welcomes your comments at her email id:

Line of Duty 2, BBC2, with Martin Compston, Vicky McClure, Adrian Dunbar, Keeley Hawes PREVIEW

Detective Sergeant Steve Arnott (MARTIN COMPSTON), Detective Inspector Lindsay Denton (KEELEY HAWES), Detective Constable Kate Fleming (VICKY McCLURE) in Line of Duty, BBC
In the spotlight – Denton (Keeley Hawes) is monitored by Arnott (Martin Compston) and Fleming (Vicky McClure). Pics: BBC
Rating: ★★★★

BBC2: starts Wednesday, 12 February, 9pm

Story: A police convoy is ambushed and three officers are killed and a witness seriously injured. When evidence suggests that a police source may have leaked the convoy’s whereabouts, suspicion arises that the sole surviving police officer, Detective Inspector Lindsay Denton, could be the prime suspect. 

LENNIE JAMES put in a blistering performance in series one as the detective chief inspector under scrutiny for corruption. The success of this follow-up series will also depend on the new cop under the spotlight being as slippery and intriguing an adversary for the anti-corruption unit AC-12.

On hearing that the role is being played by Keeley Hawes, you might think she's too glam, too
Detective Inspector Lindsay Denton (KEELEY HAWES) in Line  of Duty, BBC
Victim or perpetrator? DI Lindsay Denton
lightweight to cut it as a hardened cop scrapping for survival in the shark-infested police hierarchy.

But, actually, she's a revelation here. Forget all her larking about in Ashes to Ashes and dressing up in Upstairs Downstairs. She's discarded some of the make-up, dresses down a bit and really keeps the viewer on their toes in a terrific opening episode.

Suspicion falls on Keeley Hawes's detective inspector

It bursts into life with a tense sequence in which her character, Detective Inspector Lindsay Denton, is improvising a highly dangerous and hastily thrown together transfer of a witness from one compromised hide-out to another location.

When the police convoy is ambushed on a quiet back road, with three officers being brutally killed and the witness badly injured, it seems a fair guess that someone leaked the convoy's route. Suspicion falls on the lone police survivor of the disaster – DI Denton.

A car in a police convoy is set alight by a masked person in Line of Duty, BBC2
The brutal ambush by masked gunmen
The injured inspector is initially vulnerable, ostracised by colleagues and superiors on her return to duty. There is a shocking scene on her first day back when the officers inflict a brutal welcome on her in the Ladies.

Martin Compston, Vicky McClure and Adrian Dunbar return

And then AC-12 use an interview with her to make veiled accusations that she may have been behind the leak. Martin Compston, Vicky McClure and Adrian Dunbar revisit their roles as Arnott, Fleming and Hastings, with Hastings as the smiling inquisitor – to the discomfort of Arnott and his new colleague DC Trotman (Jessica Raine). He tells Denton she was a 'desk destective', implying she was out of her depth on this frontline operation.

But the series writer and creator, Jed Mercurio, gives us glimpses of another side to Denton that keep us wondering about her role in the ambush. He also develops the characters of the AC-10 officers further while creating a web of ambitions and dodgy goings-on that make it difficult for viewers to know who to side with.
Superintendent Ted Hastings (ADRIAN DUNBAR), Detective Sergeant Steve Arnott (MARTIN COMPSTON), Detective Constable Kate Fleming (VICKY McCLURE) in Line of Duty, BBC2
Watching the detectives – Hastings, Arnott and Fleming

The opening episode combines pacey storytelling with interesting, believable characters in addition to an explosive end. I felt series one started well and became a bit lurid as it went on.

But if series two keeps up the terrific quality of episode one, it will put even Lennie James and his series in the shade.

Cast: Keeley Hawes Detective Inspector Lindsay Denton, Martin Compston Detective Sergeant Steve Arnott, Vicky McClure Detective Constable Kate Fleming, Adrian Dunbar Superintendent Ted Hastings, Mark Bonnar Deputy Chief Constable Mike Dryden, Jessica Raine Detective Constable Georgia Trotman

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Moonlighting — Killer TV no.48

ABC, 1985-89
Cybill Shepherd, Bruce Willis, Allyce Beasley, Curtis Armstrong

'David, we're standing on the deck of the Titanic and you're suggesting songs to the band.' — Maddie

Identikit: Model Maddie Hayes has gone broke, finds she owns a detective agency and teams up with its operative, David Addison and his eccentric receptionist, Agnes.

logosBig hair, big shoulders, cutesy moments, silliness — Moonlighting had all of these, but when it was in the zone, it was a dramedy that messed gloriously with TV conventions and could be a delight. It got off to a wobbly start, with creator Glenn Gordon Caron not wanting to make a boy-girl detective pilot at all, and when Cybill Shepherd pointed out to him that the script was like one of those 1940s screwball comedies, he didn't know what she was talking about. In addition, hour-long comedies were rare for a good reason — keeping the laughs going for more than half an hour on TV was not easy. And then the ABC head honcho was not mad about unknown Bruce Willis as Shepherd's leading man, either. But once on screen together (despite Willis's initial nerves), the chemistry between them sparkled and the repartee fizzed. Moonlighting loved having fun by breaking TV's rules — the stars addressed the camera, bloopers filled the end credits, stars from other shows ventured over (including Pierce Brosnan as Remington Steele), there were Shakespearean pastiches and musical interludes. In fact, to fully enjoy the layers of fun required a little more cultural literacy than most primetime shows needed. But its core charm was Maddie and David, their will-they-won't-they relationship, with their machine-gun dialogue offering a wonderful tribute to Howard Hawks's classic Hollywood comedies, such as His Girl Friday. Maddie and David consummating their relationship, Willis's success in Die Hard and Shepherd's having twins all contributed to the series running out of steam, but it was fun while it lasted.

Music: the theme by Al Jarreau was a chart hit.

Classic episode: It's got to be The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice, a noir pastiche filmed in black and white, with Cybill Shepherd given the chance to belt out some sultry numbers. Honourable mention must go to Atomic Shakespeare, a feminist twist on The Taming of the Shrew and performed, naturally in iambic pentameter.

Watercooler fact: Orson Welles made his last appearance (just days before his death) introducing the season 2 episode The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice. Other guests throughout the series' run included Eva Marie Saint, Tim Robbins, Don King, Demi Moore, The Temptations, Whoopi Goldberg, Peter Bogdanovich, Ray Charles and Pierce Brosnan (as Remington Steele).

Also see:

Moonlighting: The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice on YouTube

NEXT: 47 The Cops

PREVIOUS: 49 Brotherhood; 50 Copper

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

True Detective, Sky Atlantic, Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson PREVIEW

Woody Harrelson, Matthew McConaughey, True Detective, Sky Atlantic
Trailer parks and pop-up churches – detectives Hart and Cohle canvass for clues. Pics: Sky Atlantic
Rating: ★★★★½

Sky Atlantic: starts Saturday, 22 February, 9pm

Story: 1995 – Detectives Martin Hart and Rust Cohle, partners in Louisiana’s Criminal Investigation Division, are assigned to a macabre murder by a killer with disturbing occult leanings. In 2012, a similar case leads to the investigation being re-opened…

WOWSER –  a new series from HBO. In contemporary TV terms, the people that brought you The Sopranos, The Wire and Game of Thrones, are definitely the gold standard.

Not that HBO is perfect (don't mention John from Cincinnati, Tell Me You Love Me, 12 Miles of Bad Road) – but when it gets a drama right, it's appointment viewing.

Woody Harrelson as Detective Hart, True Detective, Sky Atlantic
Woody Harrelson as Hart in 1995
True Detective is a bullseye. It has two of Hollywood's most interesting actors, Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, in a rich and engrossing eight-parter.

While at it's core it is a whodunit, True Detective – like ITV's excellent Broadchurch last year – is far superior to those clapped-out series that start with a corpse and proceed with half-dead characters asking, Where were you on the night of the 14th?

It is the story of two men, detectives Martin Hart (Harrelson) and Rust Cohle (McConaughey), with a grisly crime as the backdrop.

Hart is an average guy, Cohle is deep and aloof
Matthew McConaughey as Cohle, True Detective, Sky Atlantic
Matthew McConaughey as Cohle in 2012

Hart and Cohle are not buddies. As Hart says, 'You don't pick your parents and you don't pick your partner.'

Hart is a normal guy, stressed by his job, with a wife and kids, average outlook on life. Cohle is deep, aloof, voicing opinions about people being wrong to think they are somebody, when in fact they are nothing and should stop reproducing.

Watching Hart and Cohle just driving in a car is one of the drama's lighter moments. 'I just wish you would stop saying shit like, "This is someone's memory of a town,"' moans Hart.

Investigating a grisly murder

Michelle Monaghan as Maggie Hart, True Detective, Sky Atlantic
Michelle Monaghan as Maggie Hart
The thing is, we know what Cohle means, and Hart can't help but admire the partner he can't get along with. The low-rent Louisana town where they are digging for clues really looks like a washed-out memory.

It is the murder of a prostitute, found posed in a field with occult props, that bonds and tests the partners. The narrative splits revealingly between 1995, the year of the murder, 2002, and 2012, when a similar crime occurs and the two investigators, who now haven't seen each other for 10 years, are interviewed about the original case.

By then, Cohle has long hair and a serious booze habit, and Hart is chubby and talks with a sneaking sense of loss about his former partner.

Written by Nic Pizzolatto

The setting is bleak and forbidding, the characters look like normal people (the cops mostly all overweight), and the story is fascinating and compelling.

Written by novelist Nic Pizzolatto, directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga (Jane Eyre), True Detective is also produced by its two leading stars and feels like a project they're really invested in.

When there is so much crime drama dross around, it's great that HBO can still pull-off a quality show that takes you on a journey with characters who grip you by the lapels.

Cast: Matthew McConaughey Rust Cohle, Woody Harrelson Martin Hart, Michelle Monaghan Maggie Hart,  Michael Potts Det. Maynard Gilbough, Tory Kittles Papania, Bruce Elliott Trustee-Levi, Madison Wolfe Audrey Hart, Randal Gonzalez Detective Gonzalez, David Stephen Mitchell Promise Keeper, Eric Price Detective Shinn

Friday, 17 January 2014

Brooklyn Nine-Nine, E4, with Andy Samberg, Andre Braugher, Stephanie Beatriz PREVIEW

Law unto themselves – the Brooklyn Nine-Nine squad. Pics: C4
Rating: ★★★½

Starts C4, Friday, 17 January, 11.5pm (E4: Thursdays, 9pm)

Story: Jake Peralta is a talented but carefree detective at Brooklyn's 99th Precinct. He and his eclectic group of colleagues. Their cushy time at work is about to end with the arrival of new hard-ass Captain Ray Holt, a man with a lot to prove.

THE ROLL-CALL of comedy cop shows is a long and honourable one. Stretching back to Car 54, Where Are You? in the 60s, Barney Miller in the 70s and onto The Thin Blue Line in the 90s and most recently A Touch of Cloth and Vexed, law and disorder has a long service record.

Now comes this sharp half hour in the company of Brooklyn's finest, made by Fox, with Andy
Jake proves that he's wearing a tie
Samberg as Detective Jake Peralta and his oddball colleagues adjusting to life with a new captain, Ray Holt, played in brilliant deadpan style by Andre Braugher.

It has taken the new captain a long time to get his own command because he is openly gay. Having got it, he doesn't want his team to goof things up. Everyone must now wear a tie and be super-efficient.

Fearsome Detective Diaz

The opening half hour pitches a nice selection of nutty individuals to the audience. There is Detective Sergeant Terry Jeffords, who used to be overweight and called Terry Titties. He calls his daughters Cagney and Lacey.

Childish Jake Peralta is in a childish competition with earnest Detective Amy Santiago to see who can clock up the most arrests. And Detective Boyle hopes to date the fearsome Detective Diaz.

But he's warned by the office admin gal Gina, 'She's got a type. It's pretty much anyone but you.'
Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher

To which Boyle replies, 'Yeah, that was my wife's type too.'

Andre Braugher is excellent as Capt Holt

There are a lot of gags flying by in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and most raise a smile. What makes it work is having Braugher – who was brilliant in the excellent and very serious Homicide: Life on the Street in the 90s – as the straight guy, so to speak, dishing out the baleful looks.

Cast: Andy Samberg Detective Jake Peralta, Andre Braugher Captain Ray Holt, Stephanie Beatriz Detective Rosa Diaz, Terry Crews Detective Sergeant Terence 'Terry' Jeffords, Melissa Fumero Detective Amy Santiago, Joe Lo Truglio Detective Charles Boyle, Chelsea Peretti Administrator Gina Linetti

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Mob City, Fox UK, with Jon Bernthal, Milo Ventimiglia, Edward Burns PREVIEW

Rating: ★★★ 

Fox UK: starts Friday, 17 January, 10pm

Story: The ongoing war between the LAPD, under the charge of Police Chief William Parker, and criminal gangs run by Bugsy Siegel and Mickey Cohen – a battle that lasted years.

GANG FOLKLORE has been resurrected in some hard-hitting series in recent years, particularly Boardwalk Empire (Prohibition Atlantic City) and Peaky Blinders (same era in Birmingham, England). But none is so immersed in the look and swagger of the mobster as this tough-talking 1940s noir .

The cool club jazz, the sharp suits, even the cliches ('See ya later, toots'), it's all here in a scenes that looked like they could have been shot by legendary New York news photographer Weegee.

However, the Mob City in question is Los Angeles, not New York. The tale is based on a book by John Buntin called LA Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America's Most Seductive City, recounting the battle between police chief William Parker and criminals led by the likes of Bugsy Siegel and Mickey Cohen, the king of the Los Angeles underworld at the time.

At the heart of the tale is Detective Joe Teague, played by Jon Bernthal of The Walking Dead, here a former marine now treading a fine line between his LAPD bosses and the gangs.

Is that Simon Pegg taking on the Mob?

He's hired to do some moonlighting work by sleazy stand-up comedian Hecky Nash (look closely, because it's Simon Pegg putting in an extraordinary performance). The job entails making sure Hecky doesn't get rubbed out by the mobsters he's blackmailing.

Teague tells his bosses about his dubious sideline because he senses there could be a major criminal at the end of Hecky's scam, and they send back-up. Somehow, you know the exchange out in the isolated oil fields near the city is just not going to go according to plan.

The series looks terrific and the actors fit the rough-hewn characters they're playing. The bluesy music, smoky nightclubs and tough-talking wiseguys make this a love letter to those old Cagney and Bogart movies, with a bit of Scorsese violence thrown in. It's pacy, shadowy and packed with tension.

Frank Darabont calling the shots

And there is plenty to look forward to in coming weeks. Teague's battle with slick mob lawyer Ned Stax (Milo Ventimiglia) should become the heart of the show, and though he doesn't feature in the pilot, Edward Burns as Siegel should set proceedings on fire.

Teague looks like he could become a really intriguing anti-hero if the writers stop making him answer every question with another question or a wisecrack.

Frank Darabont has created and directs many of the episodes, and brings his savvy from hit series such as The Walking Dead and movies like The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile to instil Mob City with mood and sharp storytelling. And the suits are to die for.

Cast: Jon Bernthal Detective Joe Teague, Milo Ventimiglia Ned Stax, Neal McDonough William H. Parker, Alexa Davalos Jasmine Fontaine, Jeffrey DeMunn Hal Morrison, Robert Knepper Sid Rothman, Jeremy Luke Mickey Cohen, Gregory Itzin Fletcher Bowron,
Edward Burns Bugsy Siegel

Monday, 13 January 2014

Sherlock series 3 – the verdict

THE REVIEWS are in and many concur with our review from yesterday, giving Sherlock five stars and high praise.

But not all. The Indie reckons it was 'disappointingly desperate'.

I must confess that I thought it was so good I watched it a second time last night.

It's been a tremendous series. The first episode was perhaps patchy, with a flimsy mystery, being so concerned with the coup de theatre of the death plunge that wasn't. But even the opener was full of wit and fun. 

Episode two was a joy, and riffed brilliantly on the ridiculousness of Holmes doing anything as normal as being best man. But last night was full of surprises, lovely performances, tension and humour.

And the series is over already!

I'm eager to see what other viewers thought. Comments below, please…

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Sherlock: His Last Vow, BBC1, with Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Amanda Abbington, Lars Mikkelsen PREVIEW

Sherlock didn't hate Moriarty, but he hates Magnussen in His Last Vow. Pics: BBC
Rating: ★★★★★

BBC1: Sunday, 12 January, 8.30pm 

Story: A case of stolen letters leads Sherlock Holmes into a long conflict with Charles Augustus Magnussen, the Napoleon of blackmail, and the one man he truly hates…

'THAT'S THE THING with Sherlock,' says Watson in tonight's finale. 'There's always the unexpected.'

It's an easy deduction that Watson's claim is an early entry for the understatement of 2014.

Because tonight's dazzling climax is chock-full of jaw-dropping surprises, twists and delights. Written by Steven Moffat – Doctor Who head honcho and prime moving force behind this Sherlock update along with Mark Gatiss – it's one of the absolute top episodes in what is already a tremendous series.
Lady Smallwood (LINDSAY DUNCAN), Magnussen ( LARS MIKKELSEN) Sherlock BBC
Lady Smallwood (LINDSAY DUNCAN) and Magnussen ( LARS MIKKELSEN)

Lars Mikkelsen as the loathsome Magnussen

Like a magician, Moffat diverts and stuns us with a series of revelations and intrigues that make the 90-
minute film fly by.

Lars Mikkelsen, of The Killing and Borgen fame, joins in the fun as one of the nastiest and most disconcerting villains Sherlock has encountered. He is media mogul Charles Augustus Magnussen, a world-class hoarder of personal secrets that he can use to blackmail whomever he chooses.

And Sherlock, not a chap normally ruled by his emotions, loathes Magnussen (he calls him 'the worst man in London' in the original story). When the slimeball turns up at Baker Street, he makes himself at home in a particularly offensive way.
Dr John Watson (MARTIN FREEMAN) Sherlock BBC
Watson again finds Sherlock anything but elementary

Tension, laughs and tears

Anyway, it is not possible to reveal more of what's in store. In the first place, it would be mean and sad to spoil things for anyone tuning in, and secondly, the security around the series is now so tight that you almost suspect Mycroft Holmes is organising it.

The Beeb sent me a email outlining what was verboten for this post. Here's a redacted version:
  •          Anything related to the revelation of XXXXXXX.
  •          The lengths Sherlock goes to to XXXXXXXX
  •          The truth about Magnussen’s XXXXXXXXX
  •          Sherlock's XXXXXX and the fact that XXXXXXX
  •          Sherlock’s XXXXXXX in the episode
  •          The fact that Sherlock XXXXXXX
  •          The appearance of XXXXXX
  •          The ending

Only someone with the evil impulses of a Moriarty would want to divulge all this anyway. But what can be revealed is that the production values are lavish, the soundtrack is again superb, there's a wonderful 'mind palace' sequence, plus tension, laughs and tears.

Amanda Abbington as Mary

Moffat and co-writer/star Mark Gatiss have pushed the characters hard in this latest series. Where so
Mary Morstan (AMANDA ABBINGTON) Sherlock BBC
Mary has been a brilliant addition to the series
many TV dramas are about preserving characters in aspic, Moffat and Gatiss are so in the groove with the Sherlockian world that they've shown new angles and depths to Holmes and Watson throughout the series.

Any caveats? Sherlock acts in what seems an out-of-character fashion at the final confrontation, though that could have ramifications in the next series.

But bringing Amanda Abbington in as Mary has been a masterstroke. Her performance is hugely enjoyable and the character has helped to bring out Holmes in all his ridiculousness and brilliance.

Now the poor chaps have set the bar extremely high for series four. Apparently, a fourth and fifth series are planned, and will follow 'quickly'.

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock Holmes, Martin Freeman John Watson, Mark Gatiss Mycroft, Rupert Graves Inspector Lestrade, Una Stubbs Mrs Hudson, Amanda Abbington Mary Morstan, Louise Brealey Molly Hooper, Lars Mikkelsen Charles Augustus Magnussen, Lindsay Duncan Lady Smallwood

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Hostages, C4, with Toni Collette, Dylan McDermott, Tate Donovan PREVIEW

Hostages: Toni Collette, Mateus Ward, Tate Donovan, Quinn Shephard. Channel 4
Under siege – Dr Ellen Sanders (Toni Collette) and her family are Hostages. Pic: C4
Rating: ★★★½

C4: starts Saturday, 11 January, 9pm

Story: Ellen Sanders is a top surgeon in Washington, DC, chosen by the President to treat him. But Ellen’s life takes a horrifying turn when masked men invade her home and take her husband and two children hostage, threatening to harm them unless she kills the President when she operates on him.

HOSTAGES HAS been tagged the new Homeland in some quarters. But it's really more like 24.
Hostages: Brian (Tate Donovan) is attacked. Channel 4
Husband Brian forgets to follow the rules

It has the same format, with each of its 15 episodes being devoted to one hour in one traumatic day for surgeon Ellen Sanders, whose family is take hostage to force her to surreptitiously assassinate the President, on whom she is about to operate in hospital.

Hostages also a thriller that, like 24, is less a mirror of contemporary qualms about the war on terror than with some rather far-fetched twists and cliffhangers. Homeland has better, more believable characters; Hostages is about action and pace.

Hostages: Dylan McDermott as Duncan Carlisle. Channel 4
FBI assassin plot (Dylan McDermott)
Hostages has menace and intrigue

But for a Saturday night thrill-fest, Hostages ticks all the boxes. There's a good element of surveillance menace in the story, with Ellen's family having clearly been minutely monitored before the hostages takers arrive. 'We have eyes and ears everywhere,' says FBI man turned plotter Duncan Carlisle. 'We have thought of everything.'

There is plenty of intrigue. Who are the hostage takers? Why is there an FBI agent among them? Why do they want to kill the President? Will Ellen give in to their demands? Will she find out her daughter is pregnant?

That's right – the international crisis is mixed with domestic drama. The nuclear family is something Hostages does have in common with Homeland. Ellen, played by the excellent Toni Collette, is married to Brian (Tate Donovan), and they have two teenage kids, Jake and Morgan, who, being teens, are of course trouble.

Toni Collette as Dr Sanders
Hostages: Toni Collette as Dr Ellen Sanders. Channel 4
Sanders (Toni Collette)

Dylan McDermott as baddie Duncan Carlisle is rugged and intimidating, while Toni Collette, who has put in many fine performances down the years, simply looks alarmed most of the time. Hopefully, ensuing episodes will stretch her a bit more.

It's a bit formulaic and has too many twists to be really captivating. But Hostages has high production quality and rips along so slickly it is hard not to hang on to see what's coming next.

Cast: Dylan McDermott Duncan Carlisle, Toni Collette Dr Ellen Sanders, Tate Donovan Brian Sanders, Rhys Coiro Kramer Daly, Sandrine Holt Sandrine Renault, Mateus Ward Jake Sanders, Quinn Shephard Morgan Sanders, Billy Brown Archer Petit, James Naughton President Paul Kincaid, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio Mary Kincaid

Friday, 10 January 2014

New TV Crime Dramas 2014

2014 has an amazing variety of new crime series coming, from the USA and the UK. Some are old faves, but others are new and look pretty amazing…

The Honourable Woman 
BBC2, Air date: 2014     
Maggie Gyllenhaal  
Oscar-nominee Maggie Gyllenhaal stars in Hugo Blick's first new project since the fantastic The Shadow Line. This is described as a fast-paced, international thriller. Nessa turns away from her father's trade as a Zionist arms procurer, when she inherits his company after his assassination. Instead, she supplies high-spec data cabling networks between Israel and the West Bank – a move that has unforeseen ramifications. This could be a real gripper if it's anything like as good as The Shadow Line.
Anticipation factor ★★★★½


Sky Atlantic, Air date: autumn 2014
Sofie Grabol, Michael Gambon, Stanley Tucci
The Killing's Sofie Grabol has signed to star in what Sky Atlantic's calling its 'biggest drama to date'. Fortitude is a 13-parter featuring Michael Gambon and Stanley Tucci. Created and written by Simon Donald, the man behind C4's Low Winter Sun, which was remade by AMC, it will start filming in London and Reykjavik later this year. Fortitude is set in the midst of a polar landscape, one of the safest towns on earth. There has never been a violent crime there. Until now. When a British research scientist is murdered, the crime touches everyone in the close-knit community. Sofie Grabol will play the town's mayor.
Anticipation factor: ★★★★½

True Detective
Sky Atlantic, Air date: Feb 2014
Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Monaghan
Two detectives' lives collide when a 17-year-old case is reopened into the gruesome murder of a prostitute. Their often strained relationship and backstories will be the thread through this anthology series from HBO, home of The Sopranos, The Wire, Game of Thrones etc. And with these Hollywood big-hitters, it's a must-see.
Anticipation factor ★★★★½

The Fall 2
BBC2, Air date: 2014
Gillian Anderson, Jamie Dornan, John Lynch
This was BBC2's biggest new drama launch for a decade – and rightly so. Writer Allan Cubitt created a three-dimensional and unforgettable villain in Paul Spector and a powerful investigator in detective superintendent Stella Gibson. Producer Gub Neal has already told CrimeTimePreview, 'It's going to be great.'
Anticipation factor ★★★★½

The Following
Sky Atlantic, Air date: February 2014
Kevin Bacon, James Purefoy, Shawn Ashmore
Season two of the serial killer thriller, with Ryan Hardy (Bacon) and Mike Weston (Ashmore) reunited in their bid to help the FBI to recapture evil genius Joe Carroll (Purefoy). Sam Underwood (Hmeland) joins the cast as a young guy who may just be one of Carroll's followers.
Anticipation factor ★★★½

Line of Duty 2
BBC2, Air date: 2014   
Keeley Hawes, Jessica Raine, Robert Lindsay, Martin Compston, Vicky McClure, Adrian Dunbar
Line Of Duty was BBC2’s biggest new drama series for 10 years, averaging 4.2 million viewers, and it returns for a second run. Written by Jed Mercurio,  series two features a new police corruption story told over six one-hour episodes. It opens with the ambush of a police convoy in which three police officers are killed and a protected witness seriously injured. The sole surviving police officer is Detective Inspector Lindsay Denton (Keeley Hawes). Deputy Chief Constable Mike Dryden (Robert Lindsay) takes personal charge, assigning AC-12 to the case. Detective Sergeant Steve Arnott (Martin Compston), Detective Constable Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) and Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) are joined by newly appointed Detective Constable Georgia Trotman (Jessica Raine) to investigate a complex case.
Anticipation factor ★★★½

Turks & Caicos
BBC2, Air date: 2014       
Bill Nighy, Christopher Walken, Winona Ryder, Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes, Ewen Bremner, James Naughton
Turks & Caicos is the second part of David Hare's Worricker Trilogy – Salting the Battlefield will conclude it, and both follow Page Eight, which aired on BBC2 in 2011. Johnny Worricker has walked out of his job at MI5, going to the airport apparently to choose his destination at random. But his presence on the obscure islands of Turks & Caicos brings him a new problem: he is being forced by the CIA to deal with a group of ambiguous Americans who are on the islands for a high-level conference on the world financial crisis. 
Anticipation factor ★★★★

BBC1, Air date: 2014
Daniel Mays, Nico Mirallegro, Jodhi May
The new 90-minute film by Jimmy McGover (The Lakes, Cracker and The Accused) is set in the north west of England and explores the UK’s controversial Joint Enterprise Law. A young man gives friends an impromptu lift to a pizza parlour and finds himself charged with murder. The film opens as three young men hurry to a parked car, with 17-year-old Johnjo at the wheel, as they pile in and speed off in sheer panic following a fatal stabbing in the local pizza parlour. The lives of the four young men, the lives of those they love and the lives of the victim’s family will never be the same again.
Anticipation factor ★★★★½

Southland 5
More4, Air date: early 2014 
Michael Cudlitz, Shawn Hatosy, Benjamin McKenzie, Regina King
The final series of what has been a wonderful, breathtaking ride with the cops patrolling the mean streets of LA. Southland has gathered has been tucked away on More4 and gathered few rave reviews, but it is a superb, gripping drama. Savour the final 10 instalments, as John Cooper takes a new rookie on patrol, and the brilliant detective Lydia Adams struggles to care for her newborn baby.
Anticipation factor ★★★★½

Braquo 3
Fox UK, Air date: Spring 2014
Jean-Hughes Anglade, Nicolas Duvauchelle, Karole Rocher
The ball-breaking cops from this French drama return in another eight episodes of mayhem, picking up after the explosion of Theo's car at the end of season two.
Anticipation factor ★★★½

ITV, Air date: late 2014?
Olivia Colman
Perhaps 2013's biggest and most talked-about crime series will return. Olivia Colman has confirmed that she will reprise her role as Detective Sergeant Ellie Miller, who discovered her husband had killed schoolboy Danny in series one. Rumour is that series two could be a prequel, perhaps recounting the old unfinished case of Detective Inspector Alec Hardy – played by David Tennant (who will be reprising the role in a US version of Broadchurch). So far, Tennant's participation in series two has not been confirmed.
Anticipation factor ★★★★½

E4, Air date: 2014

A new crime drama is to hit E4, the network for the youth audience, from Bafta-winning writer Jack Thorne. Needless to say, it will probably be a little edgy. Glue is a series about murder and secrets. When the body of Caleb, a teenage traveller, is found dead underneath the wheels of a tractor, the village’s inhabitants, his friends, are forced to open up their world and watch their secrets spill out… Anticipation factor ★★★½

The Game
BBC1, Air date: 2014      
Brian Cox, Tom Hughes, Shaun Dooley
When a defecting KGB officer reveals the existence of a devastating Soviet plot, codenamed Operation Glass, the charismatic but paranoid head of MI5, known simply as Daddy (Cox), assembles a secret committee to investigate. Written and created by Toby Whithouse (Being Human), this six-parter looks like appointment viewing.
Anticipation factor ★★★★½

Happy Valley
A 6x60 series written by Sally Wainwright (Last Tango In Halifax, Scott & Bailey) and made by Red Production Company.
Catherine Crowther is the sergeant on duty when flustered, nervous-looking accountant Colin Weatherill comes into her West Yorkshire police station to report a crime. He's reticent about the details and Colin loses his nerve. The crime he was trying to report was Colin's own brain-child, a plot to kidnap his boss's daughter and keep enough of the ransom to put his kids through private school. And now local drug king-pin David Cowgill has put the plan into action, and Colin's fantasy has become a grim and dangerous reality. The botched kidnapping of eccentric, angry Ann Gallagher and its fallout unfolds... Catherine is used to picking up the pieces of everyone else's lives but the hunt for Ann Gallagher will get right under her skin. Catherine becomes convinced that only by finding Ann alive and bringing her captors to justice can she avenge the death of her daughter.

BBC4, Air date: 2014
Richard Harrington
A new detective series based in the coastal Welsh town of Aberystwyth, set against the backdrop of mountainous hinterland, isolated farms and close-knit villages. DCI Tom Mathias (Richard Harrington, Lark Rise to Candleford) is a brilliant but troubled man on the run from his past. Having abandoned his life in London, he finds himself holed up in a trailer park on the outskirts of town. Together with hometime girl DI Mared Rhys, he forms an engaging partnership…
Anticipation factor ★★★½

Better Call Saul 
AMC/Netflix, Air date: 2015?
Bob Odenkirk
Breaking Bad spin-off, which could be fun – or rubbish. Saul Goodman, the shyster lawyer, is the star of the show, and creator Vince Gilligan is hoping to lure BB's Aaron Paul for a cameo.
Anticipation factor ★★★

BBC1, Air date: 2014
No cast announced yet
An eight-parter, written by Jack Williams and Harry Williams. When his son is snatched on holiday in France, Tony’s exhaustive search fractures his marriage and destroys his life. Exploring the emotional cost of hope and finding when to let go, this relationship thriller shows the impact of a child’s abduction.
Anticipation factor ★★★½

The Interceptor

BBC1, Air date: 2014
No cast announced yet
Eight-parter, written by Tony Saint (Margaret Thatcher: Long Walk To Finchley; Strike Back). A high-octane eight-part series about a top secret, state-of-the-art law enforcement team whose mission is to hunt down some of Britain’s most dangerous and ruthless criminals. 
Anticipation factor ★★★½

BBC4, Air date: 2014
Following the huge success of Nordic noir, Italian and French series on BBC4, the channel has signed this 12-part Belgian thriller. n a private Brussels bank, 66 safe-deposit boxes are raided. The owner of the bank wants to keep the thefts under wraps but police inspector Paul Gerardi catches wind of the affair. With his incorruptible, old-school morals and devil-may-care attitude, Gerardi throws himself into the investigation
Anticipation factor ★★★½

BBC1, Air date: 2014
Douglas Henshall
Shetland has been re-commissioned for a second series. Following its successful two-part debut last year, Shetland will return for a second run as a bigger six-part series with Douglas Henshall returning to the lead role as Detective Jimmy Perez. Brian Cox and Julie Graham will be joining the cast. Cox plays Magnus Bain, a solitary man and social outsider who finds himself the focus of a murder investigation.
Julie Graham plays procurator fiscal Rhona Kelly – a new returning character who will make her mark in the first and third stories of the series.
Anticipation factor ★★★½

C4, Air date: 2014
James Nesbitt, Paterson Joseph, Jill Halfpenny, Brit Marling
Danny Boyle's cop-based comedy. Nesbitt plays Richard Miller, chief constable of the London police who hires Marling's American PR boss to modernise the force. It's been written by Peep Show and Four Lions creators Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong.
Anticipation factor ★★★

DCI Banks 3
ITV, Air date: 2014
Stephen Tompkinson, Andrea Lowe, Caroline Catz
Six-parter with two episodes devoted to each story by author Peter Robinson – Wednesday’s Child, Piece of My Heart and Bad Boy.
Anticipation factor ★★★


Sky Atlantic, Air date: February 2014
Dominic Cooper, Lara Pulver, Anna Chancellor
Dominic Cooper plays the author who gave us James Bond, Ian Fleming, in this stylish drama. From naval officer to intelligence officer and playboy, this charts the British writer's fascinating, eventful life.
Anticipation factor ★★★

Law & Order: UK
ITV: Air date: 2014   
Bradley Walsh, Georgia Taylor, Paterson Joseph, Dominic Rowan   
Highlights of the new series include the death of a psychiatrist who specialises in violent juveniles and a hotel-room killing without a body. DS Ronnie Brooks, played by Bradley Walsh, will meet his match in a drug dealer who repeatedly beats the justice system and In I Predict a Riot, he’ll be investigating other senior police officers. 
Anticipation factor ★★★★

Vera 4
ITV, Air date: 2014
Brenda Blethyn, David Leon
In the opening episode Vera investigates the mysterious death of pensioner Margaret Krukowksi (Annabel Leventon) on a busy Newcastle Metro train at the height of rush hour.
Anticipation factor ★★★½

Endeavour 4
ITV, Air date: 2014
Shaun Evans, Roger Allam
Four more two-hour films.
Anticipation factor ★★★★

ITV, Air date: 2014
John Simm
John Simm will play Detective Constable Marcus Farrow, a well-liked copper, with a wife and two kids.  Although he and his wife Abi are going through a rough patch, they’re trying not to let it disrupt life for their sons, Max and Finn. But when Farrow is found at the scene of a brutal crime, with all the evidence pointing towards him, his world collapses. Arrested and charged, it seems Farrow’s fate is sealed. So when he gets the opportunity to escape, he seizes it with both hands. Now Farrow is on the run in Manchester. A criminal on the streets he used to police. A great premise for what sounds like a gripping drama.
Anticipation factor ★★★★½

No Offence
C4, Air date: 2014
The latest from Paul Abbott (Shameless, Hit & Miss, State of Play) is bound to be a cop show with a difference. Set in a crumbling Victorian cop shop on the wrong side of Manchester, No Offence follows a group of bobbies on the front line, wondering what they did to end up here, in this force, on this side of town. Keeping these streets clean is a Herculean task, enough to demoralise even the keenest rookie. Expect wit, grit and a walk on the wild side of policing.
Anticipation factor ★★★★½

Christopher Jefferies
ITV, Air date: 2014
Jason Watkins, Peter Polycarpou, Shaun Parkes
Based on the true story of Christopher Jefferies, a retired schoolmaster who was arrested when his tenant, 25-year-old landscape architect Joanna Yeates, was found murdered on Christmas Day in 2010. While in police custody, Jefferies became the most familiar face in Britain.
Anticipation factor ★★★½

Foyle's War
ITV, Air date: 2014
Michael Kitchen, Honeysuckle Weeks
Three two-hour mysteries. In his role as a Senior Intelligence Officer for the secret service-MI5, Foyle continues to be immersed in the dangerous post-war world of espionage at a time when political and foreign governmental relationships were delicately balanced.
Anticipation factor ★★★½

ITV, Air date: 2014
Claire Goose, Peter Firth, Felix Scott, Christina Bottomley, Pippa Haywood
Claire Goose will star as Jane Fielding, a woman who recognises her mother’s murderer, twenty-three years after the crime. Despite being just seven years old when she witnessed the killing, she’s determined to bring the man she believes is responsible to justice.
Anticipation factor ★★★★½

Chasing Shadows
ITV, Air date: 2014
Cast to be announced
Four-parter about the work of a missing persons unit tracking down serial killers who prey on impressionable and vulnerable people.
Anticipation factor ★★★½

Scott & Bailey 4
ITV, Air date: 2014
Lesley Sharp, Suranne Jones
The hugely popular series – the finale of the last season was watched by 7.1million viewers – returns.
Anticipation factor ★★★★

ITV, Air date: 2014
Cast to be announced
Set against the backdrop of the real hamlet of Grantchester, the drama focuses upon the life of Sidney Chambers, a charismatic, charming clergyman who turns investigative vicar when one of his parishioners dies in suspicious circumstances.  
Anticipation factor ★★★½