New Tricks

In recent years, New Tricks viewers and cast members have been racing to see who can desert this leaky boat the fastest. Since 2012, what was once reliably the most popular drama on British TV has lost three-quarters of its original line-up and a third of its audience. As a result, the current, 12th series will be the last. And while replacement limbs Denis Lawson, Nicholas Lyndhurst, Tamzin Outhwaite and Larry Lamb will soldier on for another eight episodes, this week saw Dennis Waterman, the last remaining member of the class of ’03, take his bow as ex-Detective Sergeant Gerry Standing in a two-part swansong called – what else? – Last Man Standing.

But everyone gleefully sharpening their pencils to write New Tricks’ obituary – your correspondent included – might have cause for reflection because, you know what? This was actually pretty terrific.

It started with a young Gerry chasing down some London lowlifes in the early 80s, accompanied by a theme that wittily referenced Waterman’s days in The Sweeney. Flash forward 30 years, and Gerry found his past coming back to haunt him via a complex web of secrets and lies involving bent coppers, criminal gangs and people who were generally ‘a bit tasty’ back in the day.

It was clever, densely-plotted stuff from writer Julian Simpson that played to Waterman’s strengths, both as an actor and an icon: over the course of two hours, he got to rough up some crims, mock someone for having ‘a nonce job’ and, most gratifying of all, concluded his police career by asking a gangland boss’s butler, ‘Good afternoon – could tell your guv’nor ’e’s nicked?’

Throw in some fabulously droll, deadpan lines from Nicholas Lyndhurst (‘If you could look menacingly at us after we leave, that would be super’) and the truly shocking spectacle of Bernard Cribbins swearing, and there was precious little of evidence of a show begging to be put out of its misery.

I came here to bury New Tricks, but find I have nothing but praise for a slice of precision-tooled comedy drama that bears comparison with Dennis Waterman’s career apogee, Minder. Just one question, though: with Waterman gone, who’s going to write the theme toon, sing the theme toon…?

TV extra:

 

Sex in Class

With the highest teenage pregnancy and STI rates in Western Europe, and 83% of children having watched porn by the age of 13, Britain has a serious problem when it comes to young people and sex. The answer, according to Belgian sexologist Goedele Liekens, is more explicit, European-style sex education, and this fascinating documentary followed her as she trialled her methods in a Lancashire comprehensive. At times, it was so awkward, I wanted to cover my eyes. Which I guess is precisely the problem we buttoned-up Brits need to get over.

Christian Louboutin: The World’s Most Luxurious Shoes

Christian Louboutin reckons his shoes are ‘useless’. And that’s important, because if women needed them, they wouldn’t want them. As this portrait of the carpenter’s son turned ‘cobbler to the super-rich’ showed, women will pay thousands for a pair of Louboutins, even if they can’t always quite manage to stand up in them. It’s an expensive habit that’s given their French-Egyptian creator the sort of lifestyle where he needs to travel with two motorbikes – one for him, and one for his butler. That’s shoe business, folks.

Published in Waitrose Weekend, August 13, 2015

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