Archive for the ‘Crime Drama’ Category

CrackerHe’s overweight, overbearing, smokes like a chimney, drinks like a fish. He’s arrogant, foul-mouthed and sarcastic, yet at the same time brilliant. And when it comes to making a suspect crack, you can’t do better than Fitz.

Dr. Edward “Fitz” Fitzgerald is a forensic psychologist who consults with the Manchester police department, though not always with open arms. Fitz does help close cases. He’s sometimes aggressive when he’s interrogating suspects, but he gets them to tell the truth, to Crackercrack. The problem with Fitz is, though he may be good at his job, he’s terrible at his personal life. His excessive drinking and addiction to gambling puts a strain on his marriage. He has a fling with a colleague and difficulties with his only brother.

Each case plays out over the course of two or three episodes. They involve cases of murder, rape and kidnapping. Fitz has the gift of being able to get into the head of the criminal psychopaths, find out their motives to crack the suspect and the case.

CrackerRobbie Coltrane, who is probably better known as a comedian, or as Hagrid in the Harry Potter films, is great as Fitz. Even though this is a drama, Coltrane brings his Scottish humor to his character. He also won three consecutive BAFTA awards for his role as Fitz.

Several actors of note appear as main characters in the series: Christopher Eccleston, many years before he ever thought he’d be cast as the 9th Dr. Who; and Ricky Tomlinson, who I’ve only seen in the comedy, The Royle Family. Guest stars include Jim Carter (Carson on Downton Abbey), James Fleet (Hugo on The Vicar of Dibley), Samantha Morton and the fabulous film actor Robert Carlyle.

MAIN CAST:
Robbie Coltrane – Dr. Edward “Fitz” Fitzgerald
Christopher Eccleston – David Bilborough
Ricky Tomlinson – Charlie Wise
Geraldine Somerville – Jane Penhaligon
Lorcan Cranitch – Jimmy Beck
Barbara Flynn – Judith Fitzgerald
Kieran O’Brien – Mark Fitzgerald
Tess Thomson – Katie Fitzgerald
Ian Mercer – George Giggs

Total Seasons: 3 seasons (23 episodes and two specials)
Seasons Available on US Formatted DVD: All
In Production: 1993 – 1996, 2006
Viewer Discretion: violence, language, adult situations, nudity

Thorne

Detective Inspector Tom Thorne investigates two murder cases, each unfolding in three episodes.

Sleepyhead:
Three young women are found dead. It looks like they died from strokes caused by pressure being placed on their heads and necks. The fourth victim survives, but is totally paralyzed and unable to communicate. Did the killer intend to let her live? Thorne believes this final victim, Alison, must have seen her assailant and he goes to extreme measures to try to get the Thorneinformation out of her.

Scaredy Cat:
Two women have been murdered near St. Pancras tube station, but in very different ways. Thorne discovers there are other murders from the past that are similar and determines there are two serial killers at work.

ThorneThis series doesn’t stand out as exceptional, but I did enjoy it. There are some surprises at the end of each episode that will keep you watching and enough misdirection to keep you guessing who the killer is. And something I’ve always thought interesting about British crime dramas is that they are able to successfully do their jobs without carrying firearms. How do they do that?

If you are fans of the US show, The Walking Dead, you’ll be familiar with David Morrissey who plays The Governor, but might be surprised to know that he’s originally from Liverpool. (Andrew Lincoln, who plays Rick on that show, is also a Brit!)

MAIN CAST:
David Morrissey – Tom Thorne
Eddie Marsan – Kevin Tughan
Aiden Gillen – Phil Hendricks
O.T. Fagbenle – David Holland
Lorraine Ashbourne – Brigstocke

Total Seasons: 1 (6 episodes)
Seasons Available on US Formatted DVD: 1
In Production: 2010
Viewer Discretion: Language, violence, adult situations

TitleIt’s 1965 and a teenage schoolgirl from Oxford has disappeared and is presumed dead. A very young Constable Endeavour Morse, who dropped out of Oxford, is temporarily assigned to the Oxford branch to support the investigation.

The story opens with Morse typing up is resignation letter, ready to leave law enforcement. But he soon discovers that police work is what he’s made for. Though he’s not readily accepted by the more experienced police officers on the case (he ends up working alone for the most part), they soon discover that he knows what he’s talking about. His superior, Detective Inspector Fred Thursday, recognizes Morse’s talents and takes Endeavour under his wing.Morse and Thursday

Unfortunately, I have yet to see any episodes of Inspector Morse, the series of feature-length TV shows produced from 1987 to 2000 starring John Thaw. Not that I don’t want to, it’s just that there are so many British TV shows to write about, I just haven’t gotten to it yet. But after watching this prequel, I’m certainly interested in checking them out.

This show apparently contains a lot of references to Endeavour’s future self, including his love of opera and passion for crossword puzzles, both of which help him solve this case.

Since I had no preconceived ideas about the character of Endeavour Morse, I was able to watch this without comparing Shaun Evans’ portrayal to John Thaw’s. Although, even if you are a fan, the early Morse would be and should be very different from his older self anyway.

MAIN CAST:
Shaun Evans – Endeavour Morse
Roger Allam – Fred Thursday
James Bradshaw – Max DeBryn
Abigail Thaw – Dorothea Frazil

Total Seasons: 1 episode (90 minutes)
Seasons Available on US Formatted DVD: 1
In Production: 2012
Viewer Discretion: Violence

Title

It’s 1889 and six months after Jack the Ripper’s crime spree in London’s East End Whitechapel district. H Division is the police precinct in charge of Whitechapel, one of the poorest sections of the city, home to factories, brothels and pubs. H Division failed to catch Jack the Ripper and when the series opens and more women are murdered in Whitechapel, it is thought that the Ripper has returned.

Edmund Reid - Matthew MacfaydenDetective Inspector Edmund Reid is in charge of H Division. He’s a man with a troubled marriage, due to the disappearance, and possible death, of his young daughter. He blames himself for this situation and it has taken a toll on his wife, Emily, and their relationship. Reid is joined by Detective Sergeant Bennet Drake and an American, Homer Jackson. Jackson is a former US Army surgeon, a man who seems to know his way around dead bodies. Together they police the Whitechapel district, trying to keep some semblance of Male Castlaw and order.

Ripper Street is dark, dirty, gritty and nasty, not unlike HBO’s Deadwood, of which I am a big fan. But I gather it’s an accurate representation of London’s East End at that time in history. It’s also a show that investigates the early days of forensic pathology. Many clues are gleaned through Jackson’s autopsies and experiments in his “lab.”

As I’ve said in previous posts, I adore Matthew Macfayden. And he’s the reason I tuned into the show. But I have to admit, though the production is excellent, writing and acting more so, it isn’t a “can’t wait until the next episode” kind of a show for me. I do look forward to the second series, which is scheduled to air in 2014, just to see how the show and the characters evolve.

MAIN CAST:
Matthew Macfayden – Edmund Reid
Jerome Flynn – Bennet Drake
Adam Rothenberg – Homer Jackson
MyAnna Buring – Long Susan
Charlene McKenna – Rose Erskine
Amanda Hale – Emily Reid

Total Seasons: 1 (8 episodes)
Seasons Available on US Formatted DVD: 1
In Production: 2012
Viewer Discretion: Violence, adult situations, language

Title

Dapper detective Joseph Chandler is a novice when it comes to murder, yet he’s been assigned to investigate one. A woman has been murdered in Whitechapel, her throat cut, the crime scene mimicking that of Jack the Ripper’s first kill.

CastBelieving East London to have a Jack the Ripper copycat on its hands, Chandler and his team of detectives, accompanied by Ripperologist, Edward Buchan, seek out the killer using the clues from the original 1888 case, along with modern technology and investigative techniques. If this killer is copying Jack the Ripper, they should be able to predict his every move and stop him before he kills again. At first, newbie Chandler receives little or no support Rupert Penry-Jonesfrom his squad of veteran coppers. But they soon learn that Chandler’s ideas seem to be spot on, leading them to the killer.

At first I thought this whole series was going to be about a modern day Jack the Ripper case, but that’s only the beginning. Whitechapel is more like several mini-series, each three episode series dealing with a different case. Series 2 and 3 cover other copycat cases: the Ratcliffe Highway Murders, the Thames Torso Murders, and the crimes of the Kray twins in the 1960s.

Like most British crime dramas, Whitechapel has well-developed characters, a suspenseful script and exceptional performances by the entire cast.

MAIN CAST:
Rupert Penry-Jones – Joseph Chandler
Phil Davis – Ray Miles
Steve Pemberton – Edward Buchan

Total Seasons: 3 (12 episodes)
Seasons Available on US Formatted DVD: 1
In Production: 2009 – 2012
Viewer Discretion: violence, adult situations

Blue Murder

TOP PICK

Janine Lewis has just been promoted to Detective Chief Inspector, but her excitement is quashed when she comes home to celebrate and finds her husband in bed with another woman. Janine now has to juggle her career and her three children – with a fourth on the way – all on her own.

DVD CoverJanine and her team of homicide detectives investigate the most gruesome crimes in Manchester. But even though the stories are dark and gritty, the show still has a touch of humor in it. The characters really click with each other and Janine’s team seems like a second family to her. She’s sometimes like a mother hen, keeping everyone in line and on task, while averting Janine and Richardconflicts between the detectives.

There are a lot of UK crime dramas with female leads and I like that. Shows like New Tricks, Vera and Prime Suspect have women in the role of commander. And in Blue Murder, the portrayal of a high ranking female police officer balancing her work life and full family life is nicely explored. What do you do when you’re trying to catch a killer, but your children need you at home?

I really like Caroline Quentin. This was the first show I saw her in. There are a couple of others she is equally great in that I have yet to write about: Jonathan Creek and Life Begins.

MAIN CAST:
Caroline Quentin – DCI Janine Lewis
Ian Kelsey – DI Richard Mayne
Nicholas Murchie – DS Tony Shap
Paul Loughran – DS Ian Butchers

Total Seasons: 5 (19 episodes)
Seasons Available on US Formatted DVD: 5
In Production: 2004 – 2009
Viewer Discretion: violence, language

Title

Jack Mowbray is a dedicated police officer in Bristol, England. He’s been able to balance his work life and home life easily, until he gets involved in the case of a sadistic serial killer who has taken the lives of several women in England and Wales. This case affects Jack deeply, but affects his wife even more, putting a strain on their relationship. The series contains some unexpected plot twists that will surprise you and keep you guessing about “Who done it.”

Ross Kemp-Jack Mowbray          Victim's family

This is the first UK crime drama that I’ve seen that deals with just one case over the course of the whole 12 episode series. The inquiry goes on for months and months before someone is finally caught and charged with the crime. Without Motive is also one of the few crime dramas to take an in-depth look at the personal as well as the professional lives of police officers and how the “job” can take a toll on their personal lives.

I also found it unusual that this was a show that featured many actors I had never seen before, and I like to think that I’ve seen quite a few British TV shows. Ross Kemp did appear in East Enders. And Karl Johnson, who was so brilliant as Twister in Lark Rise to Candleford, plays one of the suspects in Without Motive.

MAIN CAST:
Ross Kemp – Jack Mowbray
Jamie Foreman – Jim Boulter
Hazel Ellerby – Sally Mowbray
Kenneth Cranham – Derek Henderson
Karl Johnson – Robert Jackson
Ian Bartholomew – Ronnie Stocks
Jane Hazlegrove – Margaret Walkinshaw

Total Seasons: 2 (12 episodes)
Seasons Available on US Formatted DVD: 2
In Production: 2000-2002
Viewer Discretion: violence, language

I like to watch good crime dramas, not just British ones, American ones as well. And I tend to like to try and solve the crime along with the characters in the show. About a third of the time I’m spot on. But I tend to enjoy the shows more when I’m wrong, when the outcome is a complete surprise to me. That’s the case with several of the UK crime dramas I like, including Vera.

Vera is based on the novels of author Anne Cleeves. The title character, Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope, is an obsessed investigator working in Northumberland, in Northern England, bordering Scotland. Vera is a feisty little woman who, as she says, sometimes “gets lost in the chase.” She doesn’t tiptoe around situations. She asks the hard questions to get the answers she needs to solve these crimes.

Vera is probably not the most likeable character. Some viewers might be put off by her unorthodox methods, bluntness and disheveled, frumpy appearance. She’s been compared to Columbo. But she’s a woman doing what’s considered a man’s job and her methods get results. Vera has no family. Her father just died. And she tends to spend her off hours, of which there are very few, with a whiskey bottle.

Vera’s partner is Joe Ashworth, a young father of three children who has trouble making time for his home life while working with his boss. In front of his family, Vera is referred to as “Mussolini.” Joe may butt heads with Vera, but he respects and trusts her completely.

To me, what’s most unique about his British crime drama is that it takes place in the English countryside, not in one of the big cities. These are very rural crime scenes. And the Northern England landscape is just beautiful enough, yet eerie enough, to create an atmosphere perfect for a crime drama.

A third series is going to be airing in the UK in 2013.

MAIN CAST:
Brenda Blethyn – Vera Stanhope
David Leon – Joe Ashworth
Paul Ritter – Billy Cartwright
Jon Morrison – Kenny Lockhart
Wunmi Mosaku – Holly Lawson

Total Seasons: 2 (8 episodes)
Seasons Available on US Formatted DVD: 2
In Production: 2011 – present
Viewer Discretion: Some adult situations

TOP PICK

Detective Superintendent Sandra Pullman just botched a sensitive hostage situation and…she shot a dog. As punishment, she’s been reassigned to a brand new unit, UCOS, Unsolved Crimes and Open Case Squad, that re-investigates cold cases. She’s burdened with the duty of recruiting a team, all made up of former police officers. She has a hard time finding qualified candidates who aren’t either mad, ailing or dead.

We all know the saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Well, sometimes old dogs doing old tricks are just as good—if not better. The title of this show comes from that old adage. And certainly the old dogs have some surprising tricks they use to solve these cold cases, sometimes not always by the book (they usually throw the book away), but they soon become a top-notch squad when they consistently close cases of unsolved murder, missing persons, even art fraud.

I took an instant liking to this show mainly because of the three male members of the unit. They are all nicely complex characters with back stories that I’m sure are revealed in more detail as the series progresses.

There’s Jack Halford who you’d think was the most sane of the bunch, but he talks to his dead wife, consulting her on cases. Gerry Standing still thinks of himself as a ladies man.  He has three ex-wives and three daughters who he still hangs out with. He smokes like a chimney and loves to gamble. Brian “Memory” Lane is obsessed with facts and dates. He’s addicted to detail and knows everything about the cold cases even before the files are opened. Brian is the most sensitive of the team, yet often ignores his wife, Esther, and takes her for granted.

Sandra Pullman is the leader of the pack. Working so long in a man’s world has sharpened any soft feminine edges she may have had. She has a man-sized appetite and likes to take the lead, even while salsa dancing.

This may be a crime drama, but there’s quite a bit of humor mixed in, like when the guys compare their medications for various ailments. Sometimes you’d think theses guys were a bunch of school boys rather than senior citizens. They pull pranks, bicker over who has the bigger pay packet, kick a football around the carpark, giggle during a case review, and sneak a peek at gifts Sandra brought back from her holiday.

It’s very unusual for a British TV show to run so long, nine series and still in production. I’ve only watched the first three series (23 episodes), but I’m so looking forward to seeing all of them. It’s refreshing to watch a show with a cast of middle aged actors. It’s a realistic depiction of the old regime at The Met. It’s not about beautiful, young people flouncing around in skimpy clothing pretending to be police officers. This show focuses on characters and stories, something I really like in a show.

MAIN CAST:
Amanda Redman – Sandra Pullman
Alun Armstrong – Brian Lane
James Bolam – Jack Halford
Dennis Waterman – Gerry Standing

Total Seasons: 9 (71 episodes)
Seasons Available on US Formatted DVD:
In Production: 2003 – present
Viewer Discretion: Some adult language

His name is Zen, Aurelio Zen, a Venetian police detective working in Rome. He’s got a reputation as being an “honest detective,” but he can break the rules when he deems it necessary to solve his cases. Zen is almost 40, yet lives with his mamma. In between dealing with local politicians who have him under their thumbs and solving various crimes, he’s trying to have an affair with his boss’s secretary, Tania. As presenter Alan Cumming says in the show’s introduction, “Zen’s life is like a plate of pasta, tangled and full of loose ends.”

Rufus Sewell plays the dapper detective in this series, which was shown in the US as part of PBS’s Masterpiece Mystery. It’s based on three of the best-selling Zen detective novels written by Michael Dibdin, “Vendetta,” “Cabal,” and “Ratking.” After reading the novels, Sewell said, “I just think Zen has a comic outlook. I thought this is an opportunity to do something that is real and believable but comic.” So, he tried to bring out the humor and personality of the novel version of Zen and put it into his performance on TV.

What’s unusual about this UK show is that it takes place in Rome. All the characters are Italian, yet they are played by British actors with British accents. The locations are, naturally, quite beautiful. It’s Italy! No matter where you point the camera, you find a stunning picture.

It’s too bad only 3 episodes were produced. By the end of the third episode, it had started to gain some momentum and it would have been interesting to see how the characters would have developed, where it would all have headed. BBC One canceled the series stating that there were already too many male crime-fighters on TV. I would have thought that the exotic location and the subtle performance by Sewell would have differentiated it from the rest.

MAIN CAST:
Rufus Sewell – Aurelio Zen
Caterina Murino – Tania Moretti
Catherine Spaak – Mamma
Ben Miles – Amedeo Colonna
Stanley Townsend – Moscati
Ed Stoppard – Vincenzo Fabri

Total Seasons: 1 (3 episodes)
Seasons Available on US Formatted DVD: 1
In Production: 2011
Viewer Discretion: Adult situations, violence