Another new BBC detective programme, centring around leads Hugh Bonneville and Janet McTeer as the chief and assistant of the local CID, here drawn into a strange case of initially two (later three) kidnapped children. The outcome is a cross between the "Inspector Lynley Mysteries" "Dalziel & Pascoe" and "Trial & Retribution. In other words nothing too original.
Spread over two one-hour episodes there was enough time for characterisation of most of the team and the story itself to develop and although never rising above "standard fare", the viewing time passed speedily and I was reasonably well entertained.
The direction wasn't too tricksy, employing mostly short punchy scenes to accentuate pace and energy, highlighting in detail the various, often mundane procedures the police must follow in pursuing a case, although the core story itself was unusual and of the "only in TV-land" variety, to say the least.
Even in these days of different types of fanaticism, it's hard to imagine a group of pro-life abortionists kidnapping young children, born to mothers who've had previous abortions, ritually posing them in front of cameras and holding them for ransom, their demand being the airing on national TV of a graphic video in support of their cause. Unusually, and daringly I suppose, for the first time I can remember, one of the children dies at their hands, although only by injection, nothing physical or abusive is perpetrated.
How the unit works hard to get their leads, follows them through and eventually cracks the case with a neat twist at the end on an old "beat the clock" premise all worked well but the usual cop-show clichés let it down, as is often the case with this type of drama. There's the "pushed to exhaustion" perception of the squad as if they're superman or women, the endless alphabetti-spaghetti jargon which the viewer has to assimilate instantly (TSI, ACC, CLO, SOCO, etc. - okay some are well-known but too much is a distraction) and worst of all the preponderance of physical inter-relationships between male and female officers. Less soap and more thud, say I.
The off-beat relationship between leads Bonneville & McTeer rings true, all the more so in comparison to the credulity-stretching antics of a very ordinary looking and seeming sergeant, capable it seems of bedding every girl on the team.
The ensemble acting was decent, Bonneville going from slob to suit effectively, so too McTeer from boozy do-nothing to sharp as a tack Mrs Organiser. I was also impressed by the actors playing the chav mother of one of the abducted children and the icy female doctor behind the plot.
I'd be happy to see more of this particular team in action if they can rein in the human stories of the individual squad members but know that if a long series follows, this is as likely to happen as snow in August. I live in hope...
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