Wednesday, June 18, 2008

That man Lynley again

Having been disappointed by the final Inspector Lynley two weeks ago, I was confused by his return this Sunday. But it turned out to be a repeat.

I’ve no idea why the BBC choose to repeat this particularly episode on this day. It wasn’t a particularly good episode and it involved the death of a cricketer. Considering how exciting Kevin Pietersen was playing at the weekend, for once I think I’d have chosen cricket over detectives!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Song of the Week: Radiohead "Karma Police"

I'll confess here and now. I don't like Radiohead as much as everyone else does. For a while I was convinced they were the most over-rated band in the world.

But then I'll here certain songs, and realise that actually they are pretty good and I can see what all the fuss is about. "Fake Plastic Trees" is my favourite Radiohead song, but even I can't pretend that it is detective related, so instead, here is my second or third favourite, "Karma Police".

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Nothing but Ironside

Between going away for work, the Apprentice final and the football, I haven't had much time for detectives this week. That, and the fact that the schedules still seem pretty empty of crime shows.

Except for Ironside on ITV3 early in the morning.

Yesterday, I actually got up at 6.30 to join the Ironside-athon from the beginning. Five episodes (although I only ended up watching three as it turned out I'd already seen the last two). Then another three this morning, although I only got up in time for the latter two. There are another two episodes on in the small hours and if I didn't need sleep I'd be tempted.

Whilst I appreciate the extra Ironside, there doesn't seem to be any logic in the scheduling with episodes now skipping about between series without reason. I prefer the earlier series with Eve. I don't mind Fran so much, but I'm not keen on the later episodes device of showing you what is going to happen in the episode before it starts (it was a common device, but not one I like). Also everyone's hair is bigger in the later shows. Mark has a huge afro and mustache, Ironside looks like he's had a blow-dry and even Ed has more hair. Because the fashions are so obviously from the Seventies in these episodes, they look more dated than the Sixties' episodes where the main characters were more staid looking.

The topics covered in this weekend's episodes included; defection from the Soviet Union, vigilantes, witchcraft, and remorse over shooting a young armed robber, but the best episode was one where Ed had to bring a hitman back to San Francisco on a flight from Chicago. More screen time from the delectable Don Galloway is always welcome (he is surely the best-looking fictional policeman ever), but it was also another beautifully constructed episode. There was an urgency to get the hitman back to San Francisco as Ironside believed whoever hired him would now in turn want him killed. Sure enough this turns out to be true and Ed's task is complicated when the flight is re-directed to Reno and he is left to protect the prisoner, never really being sure who he can trust. Actually, the twist in the tale was pretty obvious but it was still well worked and there was more suspense than in your average show.

Unfortunately, this Ironside-fest won't last. It continues for the next few days, but will be over before next weekend, when there is no more Ironside at all. Next up it looks like a run on The Rockford files.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Cold Case, Cold Case, Cold Case

Today, I wasn't watching "Waking the Dead" nor "New Tricks", but that other show about cold cases, the imaginatively titled "Cold Case".

I've seen an episode or two of it before, but this afternoon I came across a new "on demand" channel that included Season 4 of Cold Case.

As I didn't have much else to do (I'd already been to the shops, repotted my tomatoes, read the newspaper and done lots of walking) I watched three episodes of it on the trot.

The first case involved high school kids in a mall massacre, the second a female Iraq war veteran and the third an urban miner. Each time the team interviewed several potential suspects, before eventually find their culprit, who each time was someone they'd already interviewed earlier.

I'm pleased I've found this series as there doesn't seem to be much else on at the moment and it is easily watchable. As the fact that I've just watched three episodes in one session illustrates.

Out with Whimper, Not a Bang: Inspector Lynley

I wasn't going to bother Inspector Lynley after the previous week's dull episode, but then I read that this was the final one. I felt compelled to watch it on the playback service. I couldn't let it finish without knowing what happened in the end.

The episode was called "Know Thine Enemy" and it involved abduction, rape and power games between husband and wife. It was mile better than the previous episode, but somehow I couldn't help feel that I'd seen it all before, probably on Law & Order SVU.

I had wondered how it would end, the show more than the actual plot. Before watching it I wondered if he might die, but as the episode progressed I thought being fired or resigning would be more likely. Then it just ended. They solved the case, justice would be served and he gave some reassuring words to Havers.

I feel cheated. I want closure as much as an American in therapy. Apparently, the BBC were getting rid of it to clear space in their schedules, although I shudder to think what new reality television torture that might be.

Monday, June 02, 2008

How TV Changed Cops

I can’t remember the last time I watched anything on Channel 4, so I was intrigued to find a documentary there last night of particular interest to this blog. It was the first in a new series on How TV Changed Britain and this episode was about cop shows.

It started with a section on Life on Mars and how many people believe a return to the Gene Hunt style of policing is what this country needs. From there, it went back through the history of the depiction of police on British television, how that affected the public’s perception of the police and what the police themselves thought of each show.

It wasn’t anything particularly intellectual and some of it wasn’t particularly accurate even (incorrectly saying Gene Hunt policed Hyde, calling Cracker a policeman and claiming Silent Witness was responsible for the rise in interest in forensics, which surely must be more down to CSI?). But it was still an interesting little history of British police shows.

Whilst Dixon of Dock Green obviously looks tame and idealistic by today’s standards, it did briefly raise an interesting point that I’d never really considered before relating to class. Being a police officer back then was very much a working class occupation and the standard portrayal of cops was largely comic, showing them as bungling. Dixon was the first wholly positive portrayal of this working class type, so although it doesn’t look particularly exceptional now, it was quite a change back then. This hadn’t occurred to me before but thinking just of Agatha Christie plots, the amateur detective (Poirot or Miss Marple) is an upper-class amateur, always getting on up on the working class police man. I would have liked the documentary to have explored this more, but it didn’t.

I also found out about a programme I’d never heard of before but that goes by the same name as later US show, Law and Order! The UK Law and Order was from the 1970s and was controversial in showing wide-spread police corruption. The real police hated it and demanded the BBC withdraw it, which they didn’t and then real life cases of corruption hit the headlines. This programme claimed that the show hit such a nerve that it forced the police to look internally and make changes.

Another interesting artefact was Police, a fly-on-wall documentary series with Thames Valley Police, again from the BBC. The police were obviously confident that they could be held up to close scrutiny and the show was initially popular with police and public alike. Then there came an episode about a rape where the interview technique the victim was subjected to was horrific - questions about whether she was on the game or (bizarrely) whether her periods were normal. This rightly caused outrage and apparently led to the police changing how they dealt with rape reports.

It was good to see the positive impact that television shows have had in the past, outside of just providing entertainment. Sadly, I feel this is happening less and less as the BBC is more concerned these days with chasing viewer figures than changing society.