Monday, June 24, 2013

They're up to their old tricks again.   The aging crime solvers and their glamorous boss (Amanda Redman) are still out there solving crimes and generally sticking their noses where they don't belong in New Tricks: Season Nine.  These 10 episodes mark a turning point in the series:  the departure of beloved Jack Halford (James Bolam) and the introduction of new team member Steven McAndrew (Denis Lawson).

These episodes are a welcome visit with old friends.  Brian Lane (Alun Armstrong) is as neurotic and worried as ever as his OCD comes into play during investigations.  Ladies' man Gerry Standing (Dennis Waterman) still has a go at chatting up attractive women.  DS Sandra Pullman (Amanda Redman) struggles with her attempts to find the solutions to old crimes, even when attempts are made to reign in the investigations.

In the first episode, "A Death in the Family" the UCOS (Unsolved Crime and Open Case Squad) team is called in to investigate a crime that happened over 150 years ago -- the unsolved murder of a young woman.  Since the investigation is being driven by the slimy Stephen Fisher, an intelligence officer, and not the police, the team members are reluctant to investigate, especially since if they solve the crime, there would be no way to prosecute the guilty party.  Still, they are "persuaded" to see what they can come up with.  At the same time, the team members are rocked by the news that their colleague Jack Halford is going to retire.  Actually, he's going to retire again, since UCOS is made up of retired detectives.  This time he's planning to leave the force and move to a house in France.  He confides some disturbing news to Brian, who then feels the weight of keeping a secret.

In episode 3,  new colleague, in the form of retired Scottish detective Steven McAndrew, joins the team to work on the cold case of a missing girl.  This girl disappeared without a trace 8 years ago, and the case was never solved.  McAndrew worked on the case, and now that new evidence has surfaced, he comes out of retirement to help UCOS get to the bottom of things.  The girl's DNA has turned up at the scene of a convenience store robbery, giving credence to McAndrew's belief that the girl is still alive.  McAndrew's personality and methods at first rub his new co-workers the wrong way.  He's rather chatty and his thick Scottish accent is sometimes difficult to decipher (at least according to Gerry).  He also provokes fights in order to steal cell phones, and isn't above exerting some "pressure" on unwilling suspects in order to get them to talk.  His unorthodox methods are undeniably effective, though, so he eventually earns the grudging respect of the team.  After the case of the missing girl is solved, McAndrew is persuaded to come out of retirement and join the team full-time -- although Jack's desk is still a no-go area!

The cases the team work on are all interesting and provide a variety of challenges for them.  One case even takes McAndrew and Gerry to Glasgow.  The shadowy world of intelligence officers and their shady pasts (including that of their boss, D.A.C. Strickland) also play a part in the crimes the team gets involved in.  Even though they are retired, the team members are more than willing to get involved in physical altercations with the bad guys when necessary!

I really enjoyed seeing the old gang again.  Even though the departure of Jack did lend a somewhat somber aspect to the earlier episodes, the jaunty new team member, Steve, does help to give some new blood to the team.  His unusual methods and adjustment to the group are enjoyable to watch.  I hope this new team will be together for new adventures for a while!  The DVD also included some video extras, including one on the "New Cop on the Block" and a look at preparing for an action-packed day of filming in "The Day of the Stunt." Some familiar faces also pop up here and there, including Sarah Smart (Wallander) and Sharon Small (Inspector Lynley).

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of New Tricks: Season Nine from Acorn Media in exchange for this review

Final Verdict for New Tricks: Season Nine:  Four Gherkins, for being a welcome visit with some old friends (who just happen to solve crimes in their spare time!)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Being a well-known ex-cop isn't all it's cracked up to be.  In this case, the former police officer is Jack Taylor and the setting is the Irish city of Galway.  Iain Glen plays the unconventional character in this new release of the first 3 films made based on the characters from the novels of Ken Bruen.

Episode 1, titled "The Guards" begins with Jack assaulting a high-ranking politician after a short car chase, leading to his dismissal from the Guards (in Ireland the police are referred to as the Guards or the Garda Síochána).  Jack, who also has a severe alcohol problem, is left with little option but to accept an offer of money in order to investigate the disappearance of a missing young woman. Even though he refers to private investigators as being awfully close to informers in public opinion, Jack starts a new career as a "finder."  In addition to the one missing girl he's attempting to find, Jack is soon also caught up in the investigation into the deaths of four other young women who have been found in the river in startlingly similar circumstances.  The Guards are quick to dismiss the deaths as suicides, but Jack isn't so sure.  His old colleagues on the force, including the gorgeous Kate Noonan and the generally sympathetic Superintendent Clancy, pop up from time to time with varying degrees of helpfulness.  Mostly, they just try to get Jack to return his "regulation Guard-issued all weather coat," to which he still has an inexplicable attachment.  Before the case is solved, Jack will gain a love interest and lose several good friends.

During the second episode, The Pikemen, Jack picks up a sidekick in the person of eager young wannabe PI Cody Farraher (Killian Scott).  A year has passed since the events of the previous episode, and Jack has returned to Galway after some time in London to investigate a suspicious death.  In this case, an old friend of his late father asks Jack to find out what happened to his son, who fell to his death from a building.  Once again, the Guards are only too eager to stamp the case closed after deciding the death was a suicide.  As Jack attempts to discover what really happened, he begins to hear stories about a vigilante group in Galway who are meting out their own forms of justice.  Apparently, this type of informal punishment seems to be having a positive effect, as a news report on TV states that Galway is now the "safest town in Ireland."  Jack is disturbed by the brutal punishments being handed out in the name of justice -- a burglar has his arm cut off, another criminal has his tongue cut out, and so on.  Jack begins looking into the vigilantes (who call themselves the Pikemen, after a group of Irish rebels from the 18th century), and is approached by a young man who wants to be his assistant.  At first, lone-wolf Jack is dismissive, but then he begins to see how a pleasant-looking young assistant could be useful in doing a lot of tedious tasks, such as research and the questioning of witnesses.  Soon the "Cody and Taylor" agency is hard at work on the case.

The final episode in this series, "Magdalene Martyrs," takes a look at an issue that has been in the news recently:  the brutal conditions that young, unmarried girls endured when sent to Irish Catholic-run institutions in the 1960s.  In this case, a woman approaches Jack to help her uncover the true identity of "Lucifer" a brutal nun mentioned in her recently-deceased mother's journal.  The mother has recently committed suicide, and after reading the diary, the woman is certain that the cruel treatment her mother received during her time as an inmate at "St. Monica's Laundry" is the reason behind her mother's death.  Jack has little to go on, and soon a known gangster is demanding that Jack turn over the diary to him -- and keep his nose out of the case.  At the same time, the sons of one of his former police colleagues are brutally ambushed and killed, and Jack is attempting to get to the bottom of their deaths as well.  Jack's cold and distant mother may also have some information about what happened in the laundry so many years ago.

I found this series to be quite entertaining.  Jack can be a bit hard to like sometimes, with his heavy drinking and his disregard for the rule of law (when it suits him).  His genuine concern for getting to the bottom of things, however, as well as his loyalty to those around him do help to make him more human and sympathetic.  I see that there are several other Jack Taylor episodes that were shown in 2012, so I'm looking forward to seeing more of Jack and Cody in the future!

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of Jack Taylor: Set 1 from Acorn Media in exchange for this review.

Final Verdict for Jack Taylor: Set 1 Four Gherkins, for being a gritty look at a flawed detective

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Changing careers can be a daunting prospect, but leaving the family business is even more challenging when you're a Carter and the family business is crime.  After the father of the family, Mack, is sent to prison, the remaining parent, Lindsay, played by Amanda Redman, decides that it's time for the family to go straight in the new dramedy Honest

Lindsay and Mack Carter have raised their children by running any scams they can.  They also aren't above the occasional burglary, if there's a rumor of rich pickings inside a house or business.  Mack learned the business from his father, Norman, who spent some years in prison due to his safe cracking.  Lindsey is shocked when Mack gets a four year prison sentence.  Everyone expected that Mack would only have to serve a few months (as usual), and this devastating news causes her to re-think her priorities. 

There are 4 Carter children, all of whom receive their mother's news about going straight with varying degrees of scorn.  Oldest daughter Kacie is determined to become famous -- she hopes to become a model, but anything that will get her face in the news is progress.  Twin sons Vin and Taylor have gone different ways in life.  Vin has followed the family business of hustling and burglary, usually accompanied by his lovable but dim friend Reza.  Taylor is a lawyer, but he has obtained his job by false pretenses -- claiming to be a Muslim at a time when the firm was only hiring "minority" candidates.  He also doesn't mind pretending to be his brother when it is to his advantage (which admittedly, isn't often).  Youngest daughter Lianna is an aspiring filmmaker.  She's technically still in school, but she's blackmailing the headmistress of the school so she doesn't actually have to attend classes.

The day Mack is sent to prison, another family member moves in:  Granddad "accidentally" sets fire to his house and needs a new place to stay.  At first he seems to have gone senile, but soon Lianna is able to work out that he was just lonely living by himself.  She becomes very close to her grandfather and extremely jealous when he starts dating a woman from his past, Margaret (they were cellmates in prison before Margaret's sex change op).

Lindsay starts her foray into an honest living by cutting her ties with the family's fence, Donnie, who is in love with her.  Now that Mack's out of the way, will he possibly have a chance with her?  She has a variety of jobs over the 6 episodes of the series.  She goes to work in the office of a friend's car business, but Mack's jealousy gets in the way.  She also works for an insurance agency and at a garden center, but her new honesty policy doesn't always fit in with her job duties.  Maybe when she goes to work making racy underwear for her friend's lingerie business, she's finally found her calling.

The Carter family has long been a thorn in the side of DS Ed Bain (a nod to Ed McBain, or just a coincidence?).  He pays frequent visits to the house to attempt to recover any stolen property that's been reported -- much to Lindsay's annoyance (although he's usually right).  He is accompanied by the young Constable Harrison, who develops an obsession with oldest daughter Kacie, who is thrilled to have her "first proper stalker." 

As well as Lindsay's employment woes, we get to follow the trials and tribulations of the children.  Kacie gets her 15 minutes of fame, but the way she does it doesn't make her parents proud.  Vin commits a burglary at the wrong house, and is forced to work off his debt.  Both Vin and Taylor get involved with dangerous women, and Granddad's "woman" friend turns out to be more than meets the eye!  Meanwhile, Lianna's blackmail plots don't always work out as well as she'd hoped.

I really enjoyed following the fortunes of the very unorthodox Carter family.  Lindsay is a strong, determined woman who has her hands full trying to keep her family together and out of jail (well, the ones who aren't already in jail).  I was a bit disappointed to learn there wasn't a second season of Honest, because this cast of characters had plenty of potential to get into more mischief!  This set includes 6 episodes and text interviews with the cast as well as a photo gallery

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of Honest from Acorn Media in exchange for this review
Final Verdict for Honest:   Four Gherkins, for being a humorous look at a felonious family

Friday, June 21, 2013

England has so much history and beauty to explore that sometimes it can be overwhelming.  That's why I was thrilled to watch the wonderful new DVD A Walk Around Warwick, released by UK video production company Leofric Films.  This walk around the lovely town is led by historian Dr. Sylvia Pinches.  As we get to see the beautiful highlights of this city, there are also local experts who also provide a great deal of information about the past and current aspects of some places of note. 

Warwick is the county town of Warwickshire, located beside the River Avon.  It has been settled since Anglo-Saxon times.  Unfortunately, in 1694 a devastating fire swept through the town and destroyed many (but not all) of the buildings.  After the fire, many changes were made, in terms of both the town layout and the regulations surrounding the construction of new buildings. 

One of the buildings which partially survived the fire was the lovely Collegiate Church of St. Mary.  The church was originally built nearly 900 years ago, and contains the tombs of many people of note.  Robert Dudley, favorite of Queen Elizabeth I, and his wife Lettice have a tombs in the church, as well as Richard Beauchamp (who presided over the trial of St. Joan of Arc), who gave his name to the chapel.  Another tomb contains the remains of Thomas Beauchamp and his wife Catherine.  This tomb is notable for the fact that the effigies of the couple are depicted as holding hands.
The town is also bordered on each end by East Gate and West Gate.  It was through these gates that people would enter and exit the city of Warwick.  The openings in the center of the towers show where travelers had to pass.  At the top of each tower was also a chapel, where people preparing to leave the safe confines of the city would stop to pray before embarking on their journeys.  There is also a fragment of the old city wall left, although no one is certain whether the wall encircled the entire town, or just portions of it.

Not so pleasant aspects of Warwick's history are also pointed out, including the building where the public scaffold used to be, the location of the public stocks, and a dungeon that used to hold "Quakers and non-conformists."  A fascinating old cell door from the prison is also on display, showing just how securely prisoners were kept away from the rest of society!

Robert Dudley's influence is still felt in Warwick in the Lord Leycester Hospital.  This lovely old building originally dates from the 1400s when it was built as a guild hall.  In 1571 Dudley took over the building and designated it as a "hospital" (in terms of hospitality, not medical, we're assured!) for old soldiers who retired from the service of Queen Elizabeth I.  The building is beautiful but also somewhat scary, as it does look as if it's getting ready to collapse into the street.  We are assured that it has always looked that way, however, due to being constructed with unseasoned oak (as most things were in those days, because it was easy to work with).

The town is dominated by the lovely Warwick Castle, which was originally started in the 11th century, and rebuilt in stone in the 12th century.  Throughout its history it passed through several hands, and even was used as a prison during the English Civil War.  King James I gave the castle to Sir Fulke Greville, who repaired it after many years of neglect and turned it into a country home in the early 1600s.    It is now operated as a tourist attraction.

The DVD is arranged so that the viewer has several ways of watching.  First, you can just play the DVD and join Dr. Pinches as she takes a walk through the city, pointing out highlights along the way.  There is also a map, with numbered points of interest.  If you choose this option, you can jump to any number on the map and go to that point in the walk.  The chapters are also displayed, so you can easily jump back to a favorite location and watch it again!  The DVD also includes extra interviews with some of the local experts from the film, as well as helpful Visitor Information. 

We also learn many other interesting facts from Dr. Pinches, including how the word "eavesdropping" came into being, and why graffiti can be so useful to historians (the carved in kind, not the modern spray-painted type!).

I'm ready to visit Warwick and see all the amazing sights!  I'm glad to have some guidance on what there is to see in this charming town.  It was really fascinating to have Dr. Pinches point out the many intricate and fascinating details on the buildings which might otherwise be overlooked by a casual visitor.  I especially liked the carving of "Old Tom" on the side of a timbered house that was originally built in 1634.

You can see a preview from the DVD at the Leofric Films website.

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of A Walk Around Warwick from Leofric Films in exchange for this review

Monday, June 10, 2013

One of the most colorful figures in English history has to be Charles II, and we get to meet him and many other historical figures of the 17th century in the new DVD release of the series The First Churchills.   Based on Sir Winston Churchill's account of his ancestors, the First Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, John Neville (as John Churchill) and Susan Hampshire (Sarah Jennings Churchill) make this exciting historical period come alive.

The 12 part series (filmed in 1969) begins with the voice of the Duchess of Marlborough narrating some of the events which led up to her meeting and marriage with the Duke.  John (also known as Jack) Churchill achieved great things on the battlefield and was made a colonel in France and a lieutenant colonel in England.  Because of his military glories, he is often at the court of King Charles II.  In fact, unbeknownst to the king, they even share a mistress, Barbara Villiers.  At the same time, the young Sarah Jennings comes to court as a lady in waiting to the second Duchess of York, and spends a lot of time entertaining the Duchess's two daughters, Mary and Anne.  Sarah's relationship with the children will play a major part in the rest of her life.

John and Sarah meet and fall in love, but there are obstacles in the way of their union.  John's father is deeply in debt and therefore wants Jack to marry Catherine Sedley, who would bring a large fortune into the marriage.  Sarah also has wealthy suitors, but she objects to marrying someone who came by money through family connections, rather than by hard work.  Eventually, all problems are overcome and the two are married.  Because John is still in the army, his frequent absences from home mean that Sarah is often alone at court and grows closer and closer to Princess Anne. 

Although the relationship of the Churchills is a major part of this series, the life at court and the political and historical events surrounding the couple are also highlighted.  King Charles II is a staunch Protestant and determined to defend the faith in England.  His brother, James, however, is a Catholic.  There is still much dislike and mistrust between the two faiths.  An added complication is that Charles and his wife have no children, but everyone accepts that the dashing young Duke of Monmouth is Charles's illegitimate son.  Charles, however, also believes fiercely in the law of succession.  He refuses to divorce his wife in order to marry again with the hope of having children with another wife.  He also refuses to name anyone as his successor, preferring for the natural order of succession to be allowed to occur.  This makes many people uneasy, because they fear that if the king's brother were to be crowned king, that he would attempt to bring back Catholicism as the state religion.

Upon Charles's death, James does become king, and his relationship with certain members of the church does begin to make people uneasy.  Soon enough his daughter Mary and her husband, the Dutch King William of Orange, arrive in England and take the crown as James flees to Ireland.  They become co-rulers.  Mary, however, is uneasy with the relationship her sister Anne has with Sarah Churchill, and demands that Sarah be dismissed.  Anne refuses, and this creates a permanent rift between the sisters.  Mary is also childless, and so upon her death, Anne becomes queen. 

There is still plenty of upheaval as rumors swirl that there are many powerful men who want to bring James back on the throne.  Suspicion is levied at all powerful people, and not even the Churchills can escape the accusations.  Also, new confidants of the queen begin to drive a wedge between her and her old friend Sarah.

This set also includes an interview with the actress Susan Hampshire, filmed 30 years after The First Churchills.  It was very interesting to learn that Judy Dench was originally cast as Sarah, but had to drop out and Susan Hampshire was a last-minute replacement.  She felt that some of her co-stars were a bit disappointed in her, as well as the fact that the complete script was not ready before they began filming.  Still, Susan Hampshire won an Emmy for her work in the series, so even Dame Judy couldn't have topped that!  I also enjoyed the informational booklet included in this set which had an overview of the Historical Figures in the series, a glossary of possibly unfamiliar terms, a genealogical chart for the House of Stuart, and a sampling from some of John and Sarah Churchill's love letters.   A photo gallery of still images from the series is also included.

I really enjoyed seeing all the historical figures brought to life.  It really helped to understand a bit more about the historical time frame in which they lived and what was causing the conflicts at that time.  John and Sarah's relationship was also interesting to observe.  He was extremely patient and tolerant of her somewhat stubborn and impulsive behavior.  Their true love and affection for each other and the way they weathered all the hardships throughout their marriage was really touching to watch!  I also enjoyed seeing all the beautiful and elaborate (if excruciatingly painful, according to Susan Hampshire) costumes, hats and hairstyles!

Disclaimer, I received a copy of The First Churchills from Acorn Media in exchange for this review.

Final Verdict for The First Churchills: Four Gherkins, for being a colorful look at a love story that survived turbulent times

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Getting a new partner is a stressful situation, no matter how long you've been on the job.  DI Jack Armstrong already has his new partner, George, pegged:  around 30, a know-it-all, and bearded.  He's somewhat taken aback when DI Georgina Dixon shows up (definitely not bearded!).  So begins season 2 of the series Vexed, a humorous cop drama set in modern England.

DI Armstrong, played by Toby Stephens (son of Dame Maggie Smith!) is the charming Jack, who seems to spend most of his time in the local café/pub.  Georgina (Miranda Raison) is, as Jack had feared, something of an overachiever:  she is 5 steps ahead of Jack in every investigation, and seems to have taken a course on nearly every subject you care to name.  At the same time, she does recognize that her Type A personality can rub some people the wrong way.

The two detectives set about investigating crimes from diverse locations such as new car lots,
universities and even a reality baking competition.  At every crime scene, they are joined by the forensic investigator Naz, who seems to be able to come up with the cause of death with miraculous ease.  All the while Jack continues his pursuit of beautiful women, even if he has to crash his car into theirs in order to get their attention.  He is not shy in sharing all the intimate details of his relationships with Georgina, who is constantly on the defensive about her lack of a social life.  She does have several relationships over the course of the series, and even joins an Internet dating site for a while, but, as with Jack's relationships, nothing ever sticks.  Georgina's father also makes an appearance in several episodes, using Georgina's knowledge of recent crimes to his advantage in selling security systems to worried victims (much to Georgina's chagrin).

The bickering of the two partners never disguises their attraction for each other, even though nothing is ever said between them. Their two very different personalities allow them to work well together in questioning witnesses and solving crimes.  Although they are partners, Jack seems to order Georgina around a lot, which doesn't seem to bother her.  Most of the tasks he asks her to do were already done by her long before it occurred to him to ask! 

I enjoyed the 6 episodes from Series 2.  The humorous aspects of the series made a nice change from all the gory crime shows on TV these days!  It was funny to see the two attempt to go "undercover" in a variety of situations in order to solve crimes.  The set also featured a "behind the scenes" photo gallery of images from the filming of the series.

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of Vexed Series 2 from Acorn Media in exchange for this review

Final Verdict for Vexed Series 2 Four Gherkins, for being an amusing look at a mis-matched crime solving duo

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Watching an arrogant person get their comeuppance is always enjoyable, and that is also the case in the drama The Politician's Wife, a three episode series set in the mid 1990s.  Although it's surely no surprise when a famous figure gets caught up in a scandal, we rarely get to witness how this public scrutiny impacts those nearest to the disgraced person.  This series is a delicious look at what goes on behind the scenes when a long-suffering wife decides she's had enough.

Conservative MP and Minister of the Family Duncan Matlock (Trevor Eve) seems destined to rise to the very top of the political scene in Great Britain.  Ambitious and well-connected, he is positioning himself to take the reigns at number 10 Downing Street in a few years.  As has happened to many people in positions of power before, however, he steps outside the bounds of propriety and conducts an affair with a young woman.  This affair is discovered by the press, who are eager to exploit it in all its tawdry glory, especially since Duncan is a Conservative who is constantly espousing his support for and practice of "family values."   The day before this scandal erupts on the front pages, Duncan has to come clean to his wife, the beautiful and supportive Flora, played by Juliet Stevenson.  Juliet helps out tirelessly with her husband's job, answering letters, keeping up with constituent affairs, and taking care of the house and children in the countryside while her husband works in London. 

Flora comes from a powerful political family in her own right.  In fact, it was her father's Conservative party connections that caused Duncan to "choose" her for a wife.  She is understandably hurt and outraged by her husband's conduct, and decides to take the children and leave.  However, both her husband (who swears it was a one-night stand) and her father persuade her to stay and stand by her man as the scandal unfolds around them.  Flora, stunned and somewhat shell-shocked, puts on a brave face as she and the children are hounded by photographers and reporters.

It isn't long before she has good reason to question Duncan, both as a husband and as a political leader.  An anonymous tape of her husband and "the floozie" having phone sex is left for her.  Soon she is given a stack of tapes and photographs that prove Duncan's affair lasted more than a year, and that his mistress was a former call girl.  As well as being disgusted by her husband's infidelity, she becomes alarmed by his driving ambition and lack of concern for anyone other than himself.  He is much more involved with political maneuvering and radical ideas than he is with helping his constituents.  She sees him make promises to them that are never fulfilled and reacts with alarm to his proposal to privatize child benefits.  This causes her to begin to work behind the scenes to orchestrate his downfall.  Duncan, however, has a history of landing on his feet, so will all her hard work be for nothing?

The background essay extra on the DVD by the author Paula Milne gives us a little insight into how she came to write the story.  She became rather disgusted at the almost daily scandals (nearly all of them involving infidelity) that politicians were involved in during the early 1990s.  She was most alarmed by the humiliated wives who were forced to pose for the press in supportive photos with their philandering husbands.  She wanted to write a story where the wife was able to have some power in such a situation.

Trevor Eve is great in his role as the ambitious Duncan, who doesn't have any regard for his wife and children beyond how they can be used as props in his latest "happy family" photo.  Juliet Stevenson is also wonderful as the outwardly placid but inwardly seething Flora.  Unfortunately, we don't see much of the wicked other woman, Minnie Driver, although she does make plenty of vocal appearances as Flora builds her rage against Duncan by listening to the phone sex tapes.

I really enjoyed this series and the building tension as you watch Flora's behind-the-scenes manipulations and see how Duncan is able to turn many of them to his advantage.  Will Flora finally be able to get her revenge, and what form will that take?  It comes down to the final moment to see which of the two Matlocks is the master manipulator!

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of The Politician's Wife from Acorn Media in exchange for this review

Final Verdict for The Politician's Wife: Four Gherkins, for being a delicious look at a scorned wife's revenge

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

There is something to be said for being an honest copper in a world of dangerous criminals.  Inspector George Gently, is just such an honest policeman.  The first 5 seasons of the series are now available on DVD. Inspector Gently is working as a policeman inside the corrupt London Met when his wife Isabella is killed by a hit and run driver.  Gently feels that his attempts to root out corruption and his refusal to be silenced are the reasons that his wife was killed.  Devastated, he decides to retire from the force.  Before he does, however, he decides to find out why the man he suspects of being behind his wife's murder, the criminal Joe Webster, attended the funeral of a young man in the northeastern area of Northumberland.

The local police, thrilled to have such a well-known and experienced policeman in their midst, immediately put Gently in charge of investigating how the young man died.  The cause of death was a motorcycle accident, but was it an accident, or murder?  Gently is paired up with a young policeman, DS John Bacchus (played by Lee Ingleby) who is to show him around and work with him.  Bacchus is an enthusiastic young sidekick, who wants nothing more than to escape the small police force and move on to bigger and better things in London at the Met.  He is the son-in-law of the local Chief Constable, which makes him somewhat reckless in his dealings with suspects.  While the events in this series begin in 1964 and times were surely different, the young Bacchus quickly decides who is guilty and then sets about proving it -- whether this involves planting evidence, entrapment, or the occasional man-handling of suspects makes no difference to him.  Will his black-and-white views of the law change once he's been exposed to the more experienced and methodical Inspector Gently? 

The scenery is gorgeous and plays a part in helping to create an atmosphere in the series, which is based on the novels of Alan Hunter.  I really enjoyed the setting of this series, both in terms of the natural beauty and the historical aspects of a changing Britain.  Martin Shaw is wonderful as the steady and incorruptible, if sometimes world-weary, Inspector Gently.  The series follows the social upheavals that took place during the 1960s, including such issues as immigration, child abuse, racism, illegitimacy, cold war tensions, etc. The series also includes several behind-the-scenes features (including a gorgeous one about filming in the beautiful Durham Cathedral), as well as interviews with the cast and producer and a booklet called "Britain in the 1960s" which helps to put the events from the series into perspective.

Season 5 ends on a cliffhanger for the major characters but since season 6 is currently under production, I assume everything turned out all right!

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the George Gently Collection and Season 5 from Acorn Media in exchange for this review

Final Verdict for George Gently:  Five Gherkins, for being a gritty look at a beleaguered detective dealing with crime in changing times

About Me

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I'm a librarian who is interested in all things British. I try to visit London as often as possible, and am always planning my next trip. I lived in Sweden for a few years with my Swedish husband, so the occasional Swedish reference may occur . . .

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