The days when viewers demanded car chases and punch-ups from their favourite cop shows are long gone. Now, what we really want is a bunch of people sitting around a table discussing why an SIO has served a REG 15 on a UCO in an OCG.
Hence Criminal, Netflix’s new pan-European police drama that does away with all the faffy investigating / apprehending business and focuses entirely on the suspect getting a grilling.
The elephant in the interview room here, of course, is Line of Duty, whose lengthy interrogation scenes are the stuff of legend. But while Jed Mercurio’s scripts revel in dense police jargon and protocols, the interviews in Criminal are more old-school, presented as a cat-and-mouse battle of wits between inscrutable suspects and a police team using every trick in (and out of) the book to try to trip them up.
The investigators in the three UK episodes (France, Spain and Germany also get three apiece) include two Line of Duty alumni, Lee Ingleby and Rochenda Sandall, plus Katherine Kelly, who as the head of the elite interrogation unit spends most of her time behind the two-way mirror in a neon-lit police station where, for some reason, the decor is less cop shop, more Spearmint Rhino.
The real coup for the UK eps, though, is the superstar casting of David Tennant and Hayley Attwell as the first two suspects. As a doctor (no, not that one) accused of murdering his stepdaughter, Tennant says nothing beyond ‘No comment’ for the first 18 minutes, before suddenly launching into a highly charged, six-minute monologue. It’s a brilliant performance that will have you re-evaluating your guilty/not guilty verdict right up until the final whistle.
Of less interest are the rather half-baked professional and romantic rivalries of the police team, which aren’t really given the space to breathe. The interviews themselves also stretch credibility at times, but the chamber piece format ensures that Criminal is, if nothing else, a great showcase for Proper Actors doing Proper Acting. (Car chase fans, needless to say, will come away disappointed.)
Doc Martin (ITV)
After 15 years and 62 episodes, somebody’s finally noticed that Dr Martin Ellingham (Martin Clunes) doesn’t have the greatest bedside manner - and he’s in danger of being struck off. Elsewhere, though, it was strictly business as usual as the amiable Cornish comedy drama returned – while, for the benefit of anyone who hasn’t ever seen it, the doc’s wife Louisa (Caroline Katz) obligingly recapped all previous eight series over dinner.
Churchill and the Movie Mogul (BBC4)
Winston Churchill: screenwriter? It sounds unlikely, but Winnie really was hired to provide scripts and scenarios for legendary film producer Alexander Korda, much of it designed as a propaganda exercise to sell Great Britain to a sceptical US. According to John Fleet’s fascinating doc, this PR job may even have influenced America’s decision to enter the Second World War, during which Churchill himself would become a hero to rival any Hollywood leading man.
Published in Waitrose Weekend, 26 September, 2019
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