Monday, August 4, 2014

I'm gonna go if it starts getting passionate

Insurance investigator Jimmy Griffin is back in 6 all new cases in the second series of The Broker's Man.  US viewers will recognize Kevin Whatley (Griffin) from two long-running series: Morse & Lewis.  All of the gang are back this time around, even if office girl Harriet Potter is now being played by a different actress from the first series.  No matter, she's still sassy and ready to get stuck in during the investigations!

The series begins with "Pensioned Off."  A female police officer is suing after she was harassed and pushed down the stairs at the station, suffering a back injury.  Griffin is sent to watch her to determine if her injury is as severe as she claims.  The woman, Patsy Steele, walks with the aid of crutches, and Griffin is hoping to catch her out.  She's filed not only an injury claim, but also one for sexual harassment.  The male officers who witnessed the incident refuse to testify against their superior (who supposedly committed the harassment), and the female officers are afraid to get involved.  At the same time, Harriet is reviewing old case files and becomes convinced she's uncovered a case of fraud.  A man has been collecting £20 a week since the 1940s, and she finds it hard to believe that the now 108 year old man is genuine.  The insurance company isn't concerned about such small sums, but even so, they inform Harriet that the man is required to submit a thumbprint every year to verify his eligibility, so he must still be alive.  Leave it to Harriet to get to the bottom of the case!

"Horses for Courses" gets Jimmy personally involved in a case.  His daughter, Jodie, is at a nightclub when there's a fire.  Her date is killed, and Jimmy is determined to get to the bottom of the source of the fire, even if the insurance company has accepted that it was an accident.  The owner of the club, Charles Hooper, isn't too thrilled by Griffin's investigations, and makes some veiled threats.  Harriet and Vinnie (the other office investigator) are on the case of a jockey who can no longer work after losing his "competitive edge."  Vinnie attempts to goad the jockey into action, while Harriet takes a softer approach.

The third episode, "Playback," was the most intriguing, but also the most unusual.  Two kids, Chelsea and Mickey Smeeton, disappear while on a kayaking trip with a group of other students.  They seem to be especially mouthy and obnoxious kids, so you'd think everyone would be glad to see the back of them, but no.  Their parents are suing the local education authority (who apparently organized the trip).  They were offered £7000 as a settlement, but refused.  They take any opportunity to appear, teary-eyed and distraught, on TV highlighting their plight. When an anonymous call leads police to believe the parents are lying about the disappearance of their children, the formerly sympathetic neighbors turn hostile.  Harriet once again is investigating another claim, this time from an adult film worker who claims he's no longer able to perform.

The victim of a burglary in "Kith and Kin" turns out to be a particularly nasty man.  A collector of military history, Dr. Harman is a racist and Nazi sympathizer.  "Godzilla," the man who owns the insurance company that provides the bulk of Jimmy Griffin's work, asks him to investigate the case.  Dr. Harman mostly wants his three rare medals returned.  The thieves contact him and offer to return the medals in exchange for a ransom.  Jimmy is drafted to be the go-between, exchanging the cash for the medals.  When his phone goes off an an inopportune moment, the exchange is botched.  The thieves want to set up another meeting, but the insurance company balks at supplying more money.  Dr. Harman agrees to pay up himself, and so Griffin and Vinnie try again.  Meanwhile, Harriet's unemployed brother Lee pays a visit, and he seems to have acquired some unsavory friends.

A brothel is a bad place for a respected businessman to be found shot to death.  It's especially bad for Godzilla's insurance company when it turns out the man had a "keyman" policy that is going to pay his company £10 million in the event of his death in "Keyman."  Fraser Collins would seem to be the last man who would be interested in the dodgy girls of a rundown Soho brothel, but that's where he is when a masked intruder interrupts the proceedings and ends up shooting Collins to death.  The co-owner of his construction company, Lewis Hatton, is demanding the insurance payout.  "Godzilla" asks Griffin to investigate the circumstances and to try to find a loophole in the policy or circumstances of the death which will save him the multi-million pound payout.  The first thing that needs doing is to trace the girl who was with Collins when he was killed.  To do that, Harriet puts her undercover skills to work. She quickly attracts the attention of a man who insists she'll have to work for him if she wants to operate in this part of town as a hooker.  Griffin's daughter Jodie is doing some work experience in his office, and she puts her skills to work investigating why an all-female taxi company has had so many accidents over the past few years.

The final episode of the series, "Swansong," did turn out to be the last we got to see of Jimmy Griffin and his friends.  In this story, alcoholic musician Tom Gold drives his car into the back of a stopped truck.  His wife is devastated by his death, but she quickly regains her lust for life when she takes up with Danny D., the man who managed the couple's musical career.  Danny worked at a club with a variety of acts -- singers, strippers and hypnotists might all share the stage on any given night.  When Jimmy and Vinnie come to the club to question some of the regulars, Vinnie is unknowingly persuaded by the hypnotist to join the strippers on stage (thank goodness, it's only a rehearsal and not the actual show!).  Jimmy gets a taste of being on the other side of an insurance investigation when the family returns home after a night out to find their house has been completely emptied in their absence.

These episodes were originally broadcast in the summer of 1998.  Throughout this second series we get to see the progression of Jimmy's relationship with his family -- his estrangement from his wife and the ongoing drama provided by his somewhat stroppy teenage daughter.  I was sad to learn that the actor Al Ashton, who played Vinnie, passed away at age 49 in 2007.  I really enjoyed another visit with all the great characters from The Broker's Man.  It's too bad there were only two seasons, but Oxford was apparently missing a policeman . . .

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of The Broker's Man: Series 2 from Acorn Media in exchange for this review.

Final Verdict for The Broker's Man: Four Gherkins, for being an entertaining look at the unusual world of insurance investigations

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