It's a crime! (Or a mystery…)

Crime on the TV screen in the UK 2011

Big Hits

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

ITV’s DCI Banks was worth watching, as was Vera.  Both will return and there is a promise in the air that Vera gets better in the next series…

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.

Big Miss

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.


4 comments on “Crime on the TV screen in the UK 2011

  1. Yvonne Johnston (@Whyjay99)
    January 2, 2012

    Good round-up – can I also suggest another which I know you did not see as you do not have the Sky Arts channels?
    Romanzo Criminale, series 1 was shown on Sky Arts 1. It was a 12-part adaptation of a novel, set in 1970s Rome, about a group of young men who became that city’s dominant crime gang. With much violence carried out to a musical backdrop of 70’s music, it showed the depth of corruption that was endemic in Italian government in the 70s and 80s. I thought it was great!

    • crimeficreader
      January 2, 2012

      Thanks for mentioning that one, Yvonne. Not seen it as you know. No DVD with English subtitles available yet either.

  2. Maxine
    January 2, 2012

    Have not seen many of these, but I would be happy to watch Sarah Lund watching paint dry 😉 I found Case Histories a silly cf the books, but OK if you hadn’t read them – and Jason Isaacs was OK (all that running though, very un-Jackson Brodie!). The Shadow Line – agreed, the acting was good (some of it) but the ending pure daftness.Similarly, Exile had great acting and was a very good portrait of man with Alzheimer’s and son, but the crime plot — sheesh, they should not have bothered. And the waste of Timothy West!

    I did like Scott and Bailey because it was unpretentious, unlike some of the above. Also three good roles for women, always nice not to have women as people not stereotypes.

    The Hour – I did like it but I think it a pity the most interesting aspect/character (the Romola one) got sidelined in favour of that weedy little guy and his conspiracy theory – I was more interested in how Romola dealt with the sexism and got the programme aired. Wasn’t Dominic West fab though, and Anna Chancellor (who I always think of as DuckFace after 4 weddings and a funeral).

    BTW I hated Romanzo Criminale, I saw half of the original film when it was shown a while back (saw di Cataldi talking about it at the Italian Cult Institute once, with Karen!) and switched off in boredom, and only made it through half an episode of the remake mentioned by Yvonne. For fans of the Godfather et al, I find gangsters, organised crime and criminals, utterly tedious.

    There is also Braquo which Norman really liked and which I’ve recorded, yet to watch (French again). Spiral 1 was good, 2 not quite so good, this latest series was pretty rubbish I thought, becoming sadly formulaic after the refreshing earlier series.

    • crimeficreader
      January 2, 2012

      Maxine, I have not read the Atkinson novels so my view of the TV programme was based on the TV alone. (Actually, I did try Case Histories a few years ago and hated it. Found it annoying, ended up skimming and could see the ending a mile off.)
      Not a huge fan of Anna Chancellor as I feel she has limited range: posh totty. However, with the benefit of the passage of time and hindsight, I remember a certain sadness she brought to her role in The Hour.
      Not seen Braquo; thanks for mentioning/reminding.

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This entry was posted on January 2, 2012 by in Television.