Wednesday, 8 September 2010

CRIMINAL ACTS September/Robin Jarossi

Law & Order: UK

Law & Order may have been gunned down in its home town of New York in May, but its London cousin is back for a third season, looking sharp and ready for action.

After 20 years and 451 shows, NBC pulled the trigger on the original for faltering ratings, but ITV is happy with 5.9 million viewers for its spin-off. Judging by the opening episode, Broken, a hard-hitting story of a child’s murder with echoes of the James Bulger case, Law & Order: UK will be one of the channel’s highlights this autumn.

The two detective sergeants, Brooks and Devlin (ex-Corrie man Bradley Walsh and Battlestar Galactica’s Jamie Bamber), are called to the grim scene of a derelict council flat containing the dead body of a six-year-old boy.

The murderer – a garage worker, or two young girls?
Child murder is obviously never a subject to be treated lightly, and the show emphasises how disturbing a moment this is for all the officers attending. ‘Just when you think you’ve seen it all,’ Brooks says.

The two investigators soon suspect that two older girls may be behind the boy’s killing, CCTV footage showing them leading him to the flat. Or could it be a guy who works in a garage, as the girls indicate?

Law & Order: UK works because it has all the major ingredients right. Bradley Walsh is not the greatest thesp in the world, but this part fits him beautifully. Ex-alky Brooks is the copper’s copper, the one who gives the show its moral ballast.

Ben Daniels, Harriet Walter and Jamie Bamber
Jamie Bamber is good as his foil. Harriet Walter (Broken Lines, Atonement) is totally believable as the guvnor not to be messed with, while on the prosecution side, Ben Daniels (The State Within, Cutting It) has a terrific scene here where he rips into the callous mother of one of the girls.

The format, with episodes split between the law and the order, worked well for all those years in the States, and ITV haven’t tried to fix it. And finally, the stories (borrowed from the originals too) can be compelling.

Broken is a powerful one that probes a divisive issue. If a child commits a serious crime, who is truly responsible – the child or those who have raised it? The tabloids bay for blood and the Director of Children on trial Public Prosecutions says, “The public don’t care about treating killers.” Meanwhile, the director of Crown Prosecutors, George Castle (actor Bill Paterson), demands to know why a child would kill another – not usually a priority for the courts.

With its careerist barristers, legal horse-trading and often ambiguous endings, Law & Order: UK is absorbing prime-time viewing.

Law & Order: UK, ITV1, Thursdays from 9 Sept, 9pm

Sherlock and Luther will return

As the Beeb announced the return of three new 90-minute adventures for Holmes and Watson, the creators of the hit revamp, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, were gently teasing fans: ‘We've been overwhelmed by the warmth of response to our new Sherlock Holmes and John Watson and can't wait to take them on three new adventures next year. There'll be baffling new puzzles, old friends and new enemies – whether on two or four legs. And we might well be seeing the cold master of logic and reason unexpectedly falling. But in love? Or over a precipice? Who can tell?’

Having launched its Holmes re-boot in the fairly odd month of July, when everyone’s on their hols, the BBC clearly is now sure it has a hit on its hands and will bring Sherlock back as part of its prized autumn line-up in 2011.

Luther creator and crime novelist Neil Cross promises the planned pair of two-hour specials about his troubled detective will ‘be even more intense’.

Which is hard to believe, seeing as the ‘near-genius’ copper played by Idris Elba found his estranged wife’s body, shot by his corrupt colleague, who in turn was shot by the ‘genius’ killer Alice, with whom Luther had somehow bonded…

And watch out for…

You wait years for a copy-cat serial killer in the East End, and two come along.

Having seen off a devotee of Jack the Ripper while watched by nine-million viewers in 2009, Rupert Penry-Jones, Phil Davis and Steve Pemberton will be returning to ITV this autumn in Whitechapel – this time pursuing a killer with a taste for the murders of the Krays.

DCI Banks: Aftermath, on the same channel, stars Stephen Tompkinson as DCI Alan Banks, in a two-part drama, adapted from the novel by award-winning crime writer Peter Robinson. It tells the story of an ordinary house in an ordinary street which is about to become infamous.

For 2011, ITV have three new crime sagas in production: an Anthony Horowitz story called Injustice, starring James Purefoy; Scott and Bailey with Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharp as homicide detectives with the Major Incident Team in Manchester (written by Sally Wainwright); and The Jury, written by Oscar-nominated Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon and The Damned United).

The Suspicions of Mr Whicher – the best-seller by Kate Summerscale – is also getting the ITV treatment. The two-hour drama about an infamous Victorian country house murder will star Paddy Considine (Red Riding Trilogy, The Bourne Ultimatum) in the lead role of Inspector Jonathan Whicher, and will be adapted by Neil McKay (Mo, See No Evil: The Moors Murders).

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