The series focused on various murders in the fictional suburban English town of Middleford. The crimes are solved by two female police detectives, Inspector Kate Ashurst and Sergeant Emma Scribbins, aka "Ash and Scribbs".
A strait-laced British inspector is transferred to St. Marie Island's police department. Unfortunately, he hates the sun, sea, and sand. In later series, an accident-prone officer heads the Caribbean investigative team.
"Burnside" is a spin-off from famous and long-running U.K. police drama "The Bill", made by the same company and starring possibly that show's most popular character, DCI Frank Burnside (Chris Ellison).
There the similarities end.
Part of The Bill's longevity has been its quality scriptwriting, standout acting and fly-on-the-wall documentary style photography, even lacking a music soundtrack. You believe you are there.
"Burnside" introduces a hip new style, cool soundtrack, sassy characters and gritty plots. Unfortunately it also introduces odd dialogue, stereotypically non-stereotypical police officers (more like NYPD Blue) and stretched-out, convoluted plots.
The premise that Frank has moved up to the National Crime Squad (cf FBI) is a good one, but his team (DC Sam Philips and DS Dave Summers) are a waste of space. They don't do anything. How did they manage to get promoted up to that level? Sam spends most of her time talking dirty - maybe the character is trying to assert herself in a male world - or maybe it's just moronic scriptwriting. And her mother is an alcoholic? Oooh, gritty. And I'm sure there must be millions of gay, black detectives in the police.
Burnside as DCI spends a lot of time asking his junior officers what is going on, obviously a device to inform the audience but it makes Frank seem like he isn't doing anything. In the second story (episode 3), he bizarrely dismisses Sam's idea that the photographer is the culprit and then changes his mind, making most of the episode a waste of time. He whines about having "facts" although there weren't many "facts" against the other suspect, either. And Frank was never much of a "facts" man, anyway.
Why it takes the three of them to solve the crimes they do is a mystery. Reg Hollis could sort them out on his own, between tending Sun Hill's garden to building his model trains.
Putting Frank Burnside into his own show was an excellent idea but it still needs "Bill"-like scripts and production values. As it is, they seem to have inserted a character called Burnside played by the same guy into a fairly generic, unextraordinary police drama. It's actually a testament to Chris Ellison and the wonderful character he has given life to that this show is worth watching; because despite everything it doesn't occur to you that he's an actor playing a role: Burnside lives and breathes and every nuance conveys volumes.
Burnside is still one of the great dramatic characters, but "Burnside" could have been so much more.
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