We must be hitting the time when things of the 60s and 70s provide fond memories for some. Earlier this year Zen had a planned and distinctive 70s feel to it; now we have the opening credits for Scott and Bailey looking like it was a 70s programme. And perhaps with Detective Constables Rachel Bailey and Janet Scott we have a British Cagney and Lacey for this millennium?
Keenly mixing domestic lives with the daily grind of life as a copper, the opening hook is not so much the apparent suicide that turns into a murder investigation as the dirty ditching boyfriend who stuns Bailey at dinner when she was expecting a marriage proposal. It had been two years invested in the relationship and DC or not, Bailey reacts like any other human female would, but has a few tools to hand that others don’t, even if the use of them could lead to a police disciplinary.
When it comes to the investigation, there’s a good feeling about the realism of the scenes. Our coppers look professional and contained, if a little strained on times due to personal circumstances – and even that is noted. The murder mirrors Bailey’s own personal life when the team discovers that the husband of the pregnant victim was playing away from home. Sadly, there’s not really much plot to the investigation – making it more real, yet again – but a fortuitous sighting of a certain commodity leading to the close did cause Elastoplast stretching to suspension of disbelief. Forensics only received a mention in passing, most of the time, even if they ultimately fed the denouement of this one to sated.
This has the feel of a character-driven series where the crimes are incidental, a part of the main characters’ working lives. Alongside the Bailey hook we also have the backstory as to why Scott became a copper and the promise of a cold case reviewed, later introduced.
You can’t fault the acting; it was superb on all fronts. Here, we had a troupe of familiar faces – many you can’t name, but they are so good, every time. Leads to be noted are Lesley Sharp (Scott) who can deliver with cutting-edge subtlety, as she does here and as she does in the BBC’s The Shadow Line at the moment. Amelia Bullmore – recently seen as a supremely irritating character in the BBC’s 2012 – delivers a strong DCI Gill Murray, all steel and analytical professionalism. Murray’s voicemail instruction to her offspring to text evidence of homework done was fab and realistically portrayed. Suranne Jones had the in-her-thirties ‘woman who lives and loves but may be dumped’ on the mark. Nicholas Greaves had limited presence in this first episode: looking at female legs and purveying evidence from one copper to another. But his role is set to develop as a trailer indicates he’s about to ask Scott out on a date. Rupert Graves plays the spineless barrister boyfriend of Bailey with more to contribute – he may have handed over the keys to the flat at the end, but what if…
All in all, this is a series with a good setting and fab actors. It’s worth a watch even if the first episode lacked the ability to put it into a box and label it. It is perhaps more pure drama than crime drama. I suspect we have much more to come and that the opening episode was setting in play a number of sub-plots that just might grip over a longer term.