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TV review: Silly or serious? How do you like your crime dramas?

Vicky McClure in Trigger Point

A couple of high-profile crime dramas started this week but only one seems to have the ingredients for success.

Which is a shame, because the one I think will catch on most with viewers is probably the worst of the two.

To be clear, Trigger Point (ITV) and The Responder (BBC One) are doing very different things – one’s a twist-laden thriller about bomb disposal experts, the other’s a bleak character study about a tormented Liverpool cop – but I still feel bad that the former is probably going to overshadow the latter.

Speaking of shadows, Line of Duty looms large over Trigger Point. Not only does it star Vicky McClure as the fearless wire-snipper, but it’s also from Line of Duty creator Jed Mercurio’s production company and shares that blockbuster show’s plot mechanics to the letter.

It’s the kind of ‘twist’ that shocked me for a split second but then irritated me intensely, because of the sheer laziness.”

It’s almost become a running joke how frequently Line of Duty will introduce a big name actor at the start of a new series and then kill them off during the first episode, and that’s exactly what they’ve done here.

It’s the kind of ‘twist’ that shocked me for a split second but then irritated me intensely, because of the sheer laziness.

Martin Freeman in The Responder

There was nothing lazy about The Responder, particularly when you consider it was written by a first-timer (and a former cop) called Tony Schumacher. His drama was just as gripping as Trigger Point but had none of the cheap thrills.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen Martin Freeman in such raw form as Chris Carson, the first responder of the title, who seems to be disintegrating physically and mentally with each passing call-out.

There were plenty of cop drama elements… but this had bigger things on its mind than just crime-solving.”

There were plenty of cop drama elements to the first episode, but this had bigger things on its mind than just crime-solving.

It most reminded me of the angry social dramas of Jimmy McGovern – which is quite an achievement when you consider this is Schumacher’s first produced TV series.


Giving victims a voice

The Nilsen Files (BBC Two) was a huge improvement on the recent Netflix film about the Fraserbugh-born serial killer Dennis Nilsen because it focused on the victims.

My criticism of Memories of a Murderer: The Nilsen Tapes was that it was distasteful because it put too much emphasis on giving the killer a voice, allowing him to narrate his own story.

Dennis Nilsen

The Nilsen Files redressed the balance by looking at the lives of his victims and the culture that allowed him to prey on young men for as long as he did.

The BBC is getting very adept at these historic crime documentaries. Their series on the Yorkshire Ripper took a similar victim-based approach and was all the better for it.


Whodunnit with a twist

Apple TV’s flashy comedy whodunnit The Afterparty has a stellar cast and gimmick that will keep me tuning in each week.

The death that kicks off the mystery is a Justin Bieber-like singer called Xavier (played by Dave Franco) who plunges from the balcony of his clifftop mansion during a party to celebrate his 15-year high school reunion.

Rom-coms, art house, action films and horror are just a few of the genres that are lovingly spoofed.”

It’s up to Detective Danner (Tiffany Haddish) to identify the suspect from Xavier’s former classmates and we see each person’s backstory play out on screen in the form of a different movie genre.

Rom-coms, art house, action films and horror are just a few of the genres that are lovingly spoofed.


Rude awakening

I know appearing on a quiz show must be a high-stress business, but Only Connect contestant Frances really has trouble hiding her irritation at teammates.

Frances’ team, The Golfers, were in the final this week and, having detected an element of tension throughout the competition, I was intrigued to see what snippy comments the team captain would come out with this time.

Frances certainly didn’t disappoint, coldly telling one teammate to “do your job” at one point. I actually had to rewind to make sure I’d heard it right.


Film of the Week: Mass (Sky Cinema)

Questions of forgiveness and blame are at the heart of this moving and stripped-back drama about two families’ lives in the wake of a school shooting.

Set entirely in the meeting room of a small-town church, Mass is about two sets of parents coming together to discuss the tragedy from their own starkly different perspectives.

Jason Isaacs and Marth Plimpton in Mass

Jason Isaacs, pictured, and Martha Plimpton play the parents of a boy gunned down in the attack while Ann Dowd and Reed Birney are the mum and dad of the perpetrator and this meeting is the first time they’ve met since the killings.

Despite the single setting, the pace of Fran Krantz’s moving film never flags and he wisely keeps the histrionics to a minimum.

That means when the flashes of anger and bitterness eventually break through the parents’ quietly spoken exteriors they feel infinitely more devastating.

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