MARTIN COLE'S THE RUNAWAY
Sky1, from Thursday, 31 March, 9pm
Sky1 continues to go its own way with crime drama, steering clear of cosy stuff (Marple, George Gently and the like) and the forensic genre (Waking the Dead, CSI) for something a little more in yer face.
That’s what the blockbusters of crime queen Martina Cole offer, and The Runaway matches the channel’s 2010 drama, based on her book The Take, for brutal, gritty storytelling.
This too is a blast from the past, kicking off in the East End of the Sixties, when young Cathy and Eamonn are thrown together when their chaotic parents – Cathy’s prostitute mum, Madge, and Eamonn’s layabout dad – move in together.
Happy families doesn’t last long – this is Martina-land, after all – and after a typically raw and painful Christmas day bust-up, Eamonn and dad depart. The bond between Cath and Eamonn is finally severed completely when Madge is sent away for murder, and Cathy ends up running away from care to Soho.
She is befriended by a transvestite as the action shifts to the 1970s and the seedy Soho underworld, while Eamonn joins Mr Dixon’s firm. The former childhood sweethearts meet and attempt to rekindle their relationship, but past scrapes and lovers ensure their lives don’t run smoothly.
Viewers wanting a change from the postcard fantasy of Midsomer and Marple will certainly get a jolt from The Runaway. The characters and violence are unforgiving, and the performances are pretty decent.
Joanna Vanderham, 19, grabbed her first leading role here as Cathy after being spotted at drama school in Wales by a casting agent. It’s an emotionally charged role, with a nude scene thrown in, but she looks the part alongside veterans such as Keith Allen as Mr Dixon and Ken Stott as Soho fixture Joey.
Jack O’Connell (Skins) is good as reckless Eamonn, while Alan Cumming takes his first British TV role in 15 years as the transvestite Desrae.
As ever, it’s hard to entirely like Cole’s characters, but the bloody, chilling swathe they cut in this six-parter is compelling.
Law & Order: UK
ITV, Mondays, 9pm
When the US original finally called it a wrap last year, Law & Order had tied with Gunsmoke as the longest-running drama on American TV.
Now that the UK spin-off has found its audience, ITV are probably rubbing their hands together at the thought of inexpensively importing the American scripts and formula for years to come. This new series is the fourth one of Law & Order: UK since 2009, and the fifth is currently in production.
So how good is it? Sometimes it is very good, though the opener to the latest series, Help, was not one of the best. The upcoming episode, Duty of Care (28 March), has a few fireworks in it.
The focus is on the legal bods here, Steel (Ben Daniels) and Alesha (Freema Agyeman), who are up against a win-at-all-costs defence lawyer (Oliver Dimsdale) in the case of a disabled teen killed in a fire. Steel is so up against it he accuses Ronnie (Bradley Walsh) of failing to provide evidence because he was back on the sauce. It’s an emotionally-charged story…
BORED TO DEATH
Sky Atlantic, from Monday, 28 March, 10.15pm
Humour is making a bit of a comeback on the crime TV scene at the moment. Alibi has Castle, which is fun in the same vein as Moonlighting was, whereas Bored to Death is a less familiar, stranger beast.
Jason Schwartzman heads it as Jonathan Ames, a fictional reflection of the series’ creator of the same name, who is well known in the States for his novels and comic memoirs. Anyway, fictional Jonathan is also a writer, for a magazine, who is dumped by his girl and, after reading Farewell My Lovely, decides to advertise himself online as a private eye – as you do.
The series follows his bungling – often irritating – attempts as a detective. In the first episode, he helps a young woman find her missing sister. He is cowardly, a klutz, while the gag is that when he meets the missing sister’s boyfriend, Jonathan bonds with him over a joint and their troubles with girls.
There’s a fine line between a character caught in a farcical situation and one who just acts stupidly. Jonathan is the latter, and he’s the least funny thing in Bored to Death. Fortunately, the series has Ted Danson as his magazine boss, George, who’s on the heart medicine, Viagra, pot and booze, and they’re joined by Zach Galifianakis as Jonathan’s mate, Ray. These two provide all the laughs.
Bored to Death got mixed reviews during it first season in the US, fared better in its second, and has been re-commissioned. Which means, it’s definitely a slow burn. If you really want something light, try the other writer turned sleuth, Castle, over on Alibi.
BBC RADIO 4 EXTRA
From Saturday, 2 April, Radio 7 becomes BBC Radio 4 Extra, and there are some interesting crime programmes on in the first month.
David Warner reads Henning Mankell’s Wallander thriller Faceless Killers starting on Saturday at 11.30pm. On Monday, 4 April, there’s a relic from the archives, a 1972 recording of Dick Barton – Special Agent. The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, which will be a major ITV drama in April, is being read here by Deborah Findlay on Monday, 4 April, at 2.30pm.
Finally the first week of April also brings a vintage Murder Mystery Week on TCM every day at 5.15pm, with Murder Ahoy (Monday), Sherlock Holmes in Pursuit of Algiers (Tuesday), Murder at the Gallop (Wednesday), Sherlock Holmes in Terror by Night (Thursday), and Murder Most Foul (Friday).