Baptiste (BBC One)
All good Euro detectives need their gimmick. Poirot has his ’tache, Maigret his pipe, Tintin his quiff.
And Julien Baptiste? Well, he wears funny glasses and is given to sudden fits of existential philosophy, such as: ‘Intelligence without ambition is a bird without its wing.’ But then he is French, so that’s hardly a novelty.
Maybe, in a genre dominated by explosive loose cannons, Baptiste’s very ordinariness – a happily married family man who we first see here buying formula milk for his baby granddaughter – is novelty enough.
It’s certainly part of what endeared the shuffling, softly spoken investigator to fans of the BBC One’s The Missing, and which now sees 65-year-old Turkish-French actor Tchéky Karyo promoted to leading man in his own spin-off.
This time, he’s been called out of retirement (again) to help a distraught Brit (again), played by the reliably excellent Tom Hollander, locate his missing niece in Amsterdam – a job he sets about with his usual dogged determination, tramping from door to door like the old-fashioned, shoe leather detective he is.
This understatement is all the more surprising because Baptiste is written by brothers Harry and Jack Williams who, in addition to The Missing, have been responsible for some of the battiest, most off-the-chain crime dramas of the past decade. (Remember Rellik, the one in which an acid-scarred Richard Dormer had to solve a murder case backwards?)
Less subtle is the show’s cultural tourism, which takes in everything from trams, tulips and windmills (okay, wind turbines, technically) to drugs and prostitution. By my calculation, all that was missing was a little mouse with clogs on.
So far, so Van der Valk, then. But you didn’t need to be an ace detective to work out there was more to Hollander’s nervy businessman than met the eye and, sure enough, at the end of the first episode, it was revealed he keeps a severed head on the shelf in his pantry. So as Baptiste gets drawn further into the city’s murky underbelly of criminal gangs and sex trafficking, don’t be surprised if this proves to be the calm before a very violent storm.
Australia with Julia Bradbury (ITV)
“Brought to you by Qantas”, Australia with Julia Bradbury feels a bit like an old Wish You Were Here report stretched out a series. In the first episode, Julia went on a sightseeing tour of Sydney, and sat with her hood up on a rainy, deserted Bondi beach (maybe Qantas wouldn’t stump up for peak season flights). Though, to be fair, she did also hang out with some Aboriginal drag queens, which is not something Judith Chalmers ever did. (Not on camera, anyway.)
Cold Feet (ITV)
You won’t see it in any critics’ best-of lists come December, but this series of Cold Feet has been an absolute cracker. From Jen’s cancer to David’s fall into destitution, it’s tackled sensitive subjects with tough love and humour, while Karen and Adam turned out to be the middle-aged Ross and Rachel we didn’t know we needed. Maybe I’m just getting soft in my old age, but I was utterly charmed by the whole thing.
Published in Waitrose Weekend, February 21, 2019
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