‘Somewhere there must be parents who have lived in a world of almost unimaginable pain for many, many years,’ said DCI Cassie Stuart (Nicola Walker) as forensic tests revealed bones found buried under the M1 belonged to a young teenage girl. ‘Let’s give them their child back.’
This is what Cassie and her dependable DS, Sunil ‘Sunny’ Khan (Sanjeev Bhaskar) do: eschewing the turgid cliches of the TV cop playbook (no drink, no demons, no maverick going off-grid), they set about quietly, methodically and compassionately laying old ghosts to rest.
And that’s why Unforgotten, which arrived with minimal fanfare in 2015, is the best crime drama on telly: short on grisly violence and long on emotional intelligence, Chris Lang’s scripts are more interested in the human cost of crime than lurid, Luther-style shock tactics.
This third series cleaves closely to the now established formula: human remains are discovered, after which our diligent, un-showy heroes must piece together not only whodunit, but who is it. Woven through this is a spaghetti tangle of stories that at first appear unconnected – a jigsaw puzzle with a famous face on each piece, including Neil Morrissey as a salesman with money worries, James Fleet as an artist in love with a refugee, Alex Jennings as a doctor who faces being struck off and Kevin McNally as a quiz show host with a junkie son. How all these relate to the death of a young girl more than 20 years ago will only come into focus as Lang slowly reveals his hand.
It’s an irresistible format, lifted by the presence of Bhaskar and, in particular, Walker, who this column has hailed as the best actor on TV so often, it’s starting to get weird. (She is though.)
Sure, there’s the occasional convenient plot expediency, like the victim’s bones having been repaired by a distinctive titanium plate. But even here there was a plausibility about the way they set about tracing its provenance – by going through missing persons files, tramping around orthopaedic departments and, in desperation, ‘sticking a photo on Twitter’. What would Morse make of that?
Celebrity 5 Go Caravanning
As close to Alan Partridge’s ‘Youth Hostelling with Chris Eubank’ pitch as TV is likely to get, this mizzling antidote to Love Island finds Colin Baker, Sherrie Hewson, Tony Blackburn, Todd Carty and Sonia bunking in together on a no-frills camping trip around the UK. It’s an amiable bumble, not least because all the participants are good sports who quickly form a bond. Plus, sharing a caravan with Doctor Who and Tucker Jenkins is pretty much 11-year-old me’s idea of the perfect holiday.
Originally shown in Wales (in both English and Welsh language versions), this word-of-mouth hit racked up close to 10 million iPlayer views, and has now been rewarded with a primetime network slot. What starts as a sprightly domestic drama about a mildly chaotic small town solicitor and mother of three turns more sinister when her husband suddenly vanishes without trace. It’s still a mystery with an unusually generous heart, though, thanks to a career-making lead turn from Eve Myles.
Published in Waitrose Weekend, July 19, 2018
(c) Waitrose Weekend