In the last week or so, two new dramas have started on BBC One and ITV with on the face of it similar themes. Both are essentially crime dramas, and both deal with dead bodies from years earlier being dug up. Who are the bodies, and how did they get there. We get brief flashbacks in both during the discovery of the bodies.
The two series also share themes that, well, seem “inspired” by those of Scandi dramas like The Bridge, and Broadchurch. You know, all strings and chorals.
But from there, the two series depart. Unforgotten on ITV has gone out of its way to cast a big name in just about every role. We open with Nicola Walker’s detective talking to her dad, Peter Egan. Her fellow detective in Sanjeev Bhaskar, and then we get into the various characters who are somehow involved in the over-arching crime. These include Tom Courtney, Trevor Eve, Ruth Sheen, Bernard Hill, Gemma Jones, and Cheri Lunghi.
I’m not ITV is quite saying it, but I very much suspect that they believe that they might have another Broadchurch on their hands.
In fact, it’s a very decent drama, and while some of it feels a little unlikely – Trevor Eve’s parliamentary bits for example – overall it’s a show I’ll stick with. Even allowing for a team of forensics scientists who like to unveil their findings a little slowly to keep the detectives on tenterhooks.
Meanwhile From Darkness is trying for something a little more psychological. Unfortunately it seems to have many more genre tropes, making it decidedly average. The lead detective, Johnny Harris, is a gruff Londoner who on the discovery of several bodies on a building site, immediately heads up to the Western Isles, because he’s got a hunch that it’s related to a series of prostitute disappearances from 16 years earlier. He needs to talk to Ann Marie Duff’s character, who has long since left the police and started a new life in remote Scotland, where she trains for triathlons (although we’ve seen her swim and run a lot, there’s been no sign of any cycling just yet).
I’m sure there are Londoners who’ve spent 16 years with the Greater Manchester Police, but that’s not a good start. Oh and when he heads to Scotland, he takes his wet-behind-the-ears newbie DS, Anthony Boyce, with him. We know he’s wet because he asks for sweetener, can’t stand dogs, and doesn’t like blood. Even the script acknowledges that the police seems like an odd option for him. Of course he’s an Oxbridge type, and gruff Londoners who’ve seen it all, have to rub up against such types.
Even the boss, is the stereotypical hard woman who gives her detective a bit of leeway. I mean, he’s the kind of person who, upon seeing some bones in the mud, has instantly identified that they must have been prostitutes. There was a serial killer before, and there may be another one now! Can they catch him?
It’s just all a bit lazy, and decidedly average. Unforgotten is much the more interesting programme.