UK TV viewers have been getting more crime series then ever before, but the usual TV and social critics are smiling about it because “all feature great storylines fuelled by emotion and moral dilemmas,” and they “also feature adult women playing mature and complex characters.”
Adult women? Really? Does anyone in the U.S. TV biz even know what an adult woman looks like any more?
by Christopher Stevens
For great British drama today, it’s a case of dialling 999. For the most riveting shows on television all feature sleuths and detectives in storylines fuelled by emotion that confront complex moral dilemmas. Crime TV has grown up from the early days of Dixon Of Dock Green and Z Cars.
These highly acclaimed series have another major factor in common. They all star women — not young actresses but adult women — playing mature characters full of flaws and contradictions.
Currently, we are in the middle of two rival series — both starring the outstanding Nicola Walker. In one, she is playing the compassionate senior copper in charge of a historic murder inquiry in ITV’s Unforgotten. In the other, it’s the hyperactive, mocking — and, incidentally, stone-dead — DS Stevie Stevenson in River on BBC1.
Sunday night saw Anne-Marie Duff as a reluctant detective, dragged out of retirement to hunt down a serial killer with a grudge against her, in From Darkness, also on BBC1.
And that’s just this week. In recent months we’ve been treated to superlative performances by Suranne Jones (in Doctor Foster, the anatomy of a marriage break-up), Sheridan Smith (as a widowed constable in the undercover police thriller Black Work) and Gillian Anderson (on the trail of a sex killer in The Fall).
Then there’s Sarah Lancashire (simply superb as a tough police sergeant in Happy Valley), Olivia Colman (investigating the killing of her best friend’s son in Broadchurch), Keeley Hawes (a detective fighting corruption charges in Line Of Duty) and Anna Maxwell Martin (an exorcist and religious sleuth in Midwinter Of The Spirit).
As if that wasn’t enough, there’s another highly touted police drama, Cuffs, promised tonight, starring Amanda Abbington, from Sherlock and Mr Selfridge.
It’s no exaggeration to say that just about all of these actresses have been tipped for Baftas and similar awards. They’ve blown us away.
Perhaps the greatest impact was made by Suranne Jones in Doctor Foster, the tale of a wronged wife who turned private detective to uncover her unfaithful husband’s lies.
The five-part drama benefited at first from its scheduling, tapping into a huge audience straight after The Great British Bake Off on Wednesday evenings. It needed this boost at the beginning because the plot was melodramatic and the clues improbable: highly strung brunette Gemma’s world fell apart, simply because she discovered a long blonde hair on her husband’s jacket.
But by the third episode, viewers were hooked by the sheer neurotic power of Jones’s performance. She wasn’t likeable — a fact her amiably charming husband Simon (Bertie Carvel) exploited, as he tricked her GP colleagues and neighbours into covering up his infidelity….