Undoubtedly, the biggest hit in 2011 was The Killing series 1, the original Danish version, screened on BBC4. Series 2 was also very good, but not as notably outstanding. Sarah Lund is the new Jane Tennison, but with a jumper and not a crisp suit.
Also from BBC4: Spiral from France. I actually stopped watching series 3 as I found it old-fashioned and on the gratuitous side when it came to violence and post mortem scenes. However, on advice from learned crime devotees at friendfeed, I dipped into series 1 and was hooked. This is hooked enough to give series 3 another go if it gets a repeat.
BBC1’s Spooks: sadly the final series but what a finale. This was all about how to write a good ending.
BBC1’s Case Histories. The nation was gripped by Jason Isaacs’s torso. The three stories filmed stacked up pretty well too.
BBC2’s The Hour. The success of this one had a lot to do with the stunning actors involved and the clothes. It kept you guessing to the end and, as it involved uncovering the identity of a spy, caused rounds of speculation on twitter. Wonderfully, this one has been recommissioned.
ITV’s Appropriate Adult. Not fiction this time, but a docudrama focusing on the relationship between serial killer Fred West and his ‘appropriate adult’ when in custody. Controversy preceded its airing and continued afterwards. Whichever side of the fence you fall, it was compelling, well-acted TV. However, it really didn’t need two episodes split over a gap of seven days. One longer episode would have maintained the pace better where the second episode fell a bit flat.
BBC1’s Luther. This one can stretch your suspension of disbelief more than the yoga workout provided by a Dr Who episode, but Idris Elba is an on screen magnet. And putting the doe-eyed DS Justin Ripley in danger from a serial killer was a stroke of genius.
BBC Scotland’s The Field of Blood. A one-off two-parter which was not to be missed. May we have more Denise Mina novels on screen please?
ITV’s Scott and Bailey. Loved by some, but others thought a bit too light. (I was in the latter camp.) Groundbreaking in that it focused on female cops with a female boss (which is why I wish it had less of the ‘domestic’ qualities). Returns in 2012.
BBC1’s Exile. A one-off three part drama, this one scored ‘hit’ with those who watched it. Wonderful acting from Jim Broadbent, John Simm and Olivia Colman.
Hit and Miss
BBC1’s airing of Zen. This time last year, give or take a few days, we were luxuriating in Rufus Sewell’s Aurelio Zen and the city of Rome and the Italian countryside… There were three episodes made by Left Bank Pictures. But BBC1 Controller Danny Cohen decided not to recommission as he thought there were too many cops on the telly. (Meanwhile, did you see The Royal Bodyguard over Christmas? He commissioned that one. I lasted eight minutes before clicking stop on iplayer. A review in the Daily Mail on 31 December said ‘And I think it’s only right and respectful that after today we all agree never to speak of it again.’)
Enjoyable but not Groundbreaking
BBC2’s Page Eight was a one-off and beautiful to watch. If only the plot had been better with fewer holes and loose ends.
BBC2’s The Shadow Line. With its ponderously slow pace it failed to grip, even if some of the acting was exceptional.
BBC1’s The Body Farm. The less said the better. Let’s hope Danny Cohen does not recommission this one as it fulfilled the definition of ‘dire’ and had you grasping for your hankies for all the wrong reasons.