Sunday 31 August 2014

Crimes of Passion

With the Brits busy imitating Skandi Noir (Hinterland, Broadchurch) here comes a Swedish crime drama owing far less to its countrymates like 'The Killing' and 'Wallender' than to quintessential Brit crime queen Agatha Christie.  There's even a sly reference by a character to 'Ten Little Indians' and the setting - an island where the guests at a Midsummer's Eve party in the 1950s are murdered one by one - is a definite homage.

'Crimes of Passion' is a new six-parter on BBC4's foreign crime slot on a Saturday evening, based on the 1940s/50s books by Maria Lang.  Our main character, Puck (Tuva Novotny) keeps a beady eye on the investigation like a young Miss Marple, attracting attention from the womanizing policeman Wijk (Ola Rapace) as well as her true love Einar (Linus Wahlgren).  All the usuals are here: an isolated, would-be idyllic setting and a cast of characters mired in various delusions and tortured relationships, plus the tongue-in-cheek knowingness that the most recent batch of Marples and Poirots all display.  The period setting adds glamour, of-course; no kitchen-sink grime to be seen, and what current drama is complete without a 21st Century preoccupation at the heart of the matter?

Nothing new, then, but good cosyish fun for a quiet evening in.

Friday 8 August 2014


Our eponymous hero is an amiable, bumbling cop with a sweet, posh daughter.  No prizes for guessing this isn't gritty drama along the lines of 'Line of Duty', which confusingly also featured Adrian Dunbar as a financially compromised detective.  That's the only similarity.  The opening scene may feature a worried-looking man going under a tube train, but this is a comedy-drama.  It's not a hybrid we've ever warmed to, because to carry it off requires first class writing which, in the days of marketing, ratings and pressured deadlines, is pretty rare.

Dunbar is a good enough actor to play hero, jester or villain and carry an audience with him all the way, and Alexandra Roach is likeable as his ditzy, sassy sidekick, but OMG they deserve a better script.  This involves a corrupt cop with a late-blooming conscience (like we said, not realism), and a murder which almost foxes the police, thanks to their undercover officer going awol.  It's sort of in the same spirit as 'New Tricks' - there are jokey scenes with the young, gay Chief Super, widower dad Walter and lovelorn Anne with her Welsh mother - but it needs a more even tone and tighter plotlines if it's going to spin out to a series.  There's potential for a nice light drama with a few laughs, maybe in a Sunday evening 8pm slot, but in the tough world of today's TV they may already have blown their one chance by an underwritten pilot, shown on a Friday evening in August.  

Wednesday 6 August 2014

In the Club

We have to hand it to Kay Mellor.  Who else could write a soapy drama about six pregnant women that is in any way watchable to anyone not obsessed with pregnancy?

Diane (Jill Halfpenny) has just found out she's expecting twins, only to discover that her husband Rick (Will Mellor) was made redundant months ago and has run up large debts; Roanna (Hermione Norris) is in the throes of a bitter divorce while expecting a baby with her younger lover Simon (Luke Thompson); Kim (Katherine Parkinson, fresh from a pregnancy in 'The Honourable Woman') is having a baby with her partner Susie (Tara Fitzgerald), whose ex-partner Neil (Jonathan Kerrigan) is the sperm donor; midwife Vicky (Christine Bottomley) is expecting her own first child while in an unstable relationship; Jasmin (Taj Atwal) is having doubts about her impending motherhood and is keeping something from husband Dev (Sacha Dhawan); and lonely  fifteen-year-old Rosie (Hannah Midgley) is largely ignorant of what's going to happen to her.

So, all the familiar Mellor ingredients are here for the first of six episodes that will no doubt see emergencies, births, revelations and seismic shifts of emotion.  The strengths of her writing are in the audience being able to identify with everyday people struggling with familiar frustrations.  It's good enough to rise above trite dialogue and resolution, while never challenging in the way that the current, aforementioned BBC2 drama, or C4's 'Utopia' are.  So, if you're a fan of the back catalogue ('Band of Gold', 'The Practice', 'Playing the Field', 'A Passionate Woman' etc.) then you won't be disappointed, but if not, then this probably won't convert you.  Will we keep watching?  Probably not, but then gossip about trapped wind and swollen ankles, while they may be facts of life, can get a bit wearing.