U.K. Crime TV We’d Like to See

Everyone has a wish list. This is mine.

I’ve been reading with undisguised envy about various TV series that aired in the U.K. during the past year or that are scheduled to debut in 2013. Some of them, I’ve heard, are heading our way. (Where? When? Tell me!) Others are up for grabs if any wise U.S. TV programming folks were so inclined to grab ’em.

Here then is a brief rundown of a few programs that struck my fancy. I haven’t watched any of them so my selections are based on the subject, the source material, the creators, and the cast.

It would be possible for me to find a way to watch said programs on my computer or via some other technological means, but I want to sit on my couch and watch them on my TV. Is that too much to wish for?

1. Dirk Gently—Stephen Mangan (above) stars in this series inspired by Dirk Gentlys Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams. There are just three episodes from 2012, plus the pilot from 2010. And even though critics and viewers loved it, BBC cancelled Dirk Gently in May 2012. (How many times have we heard that before?) Nevertheless, American TV viewers will have the chance to see Dirk for themselves. The show should begin airing on public television in April 2013, although your local public television station may choose to air it later. I am really looking forward to this one!

2. DCI Banks—This seemed like such a natural for the U.S. audience I don’t know why it took so long to arrive, but author Peter Robinson announced on his website recently that the hit ITV series based on his Inspector Alan Banks novels would be coming to public television in 2013. Around the same time, ITV announced that it would be making a third series of DCI Banks starring Stephen Tompkinson, bringing the episode total up to 14 (7 novels dramatized in two-part eps). So if you like the first round, you’ll be happy to know there are more where they came from. Banks is a thoughtful detective, relocated from London to Yorkshire and surrounded by the usual array of colleagues and criminals. Peter Robinson’s 20th Inspector Banks novel, Watching the Dark, comes out in the U.S. in January, so there’s that too.

3. The Bletchley Circle—There are three 60-minute episodes of this drama, starring Anna Maxwell Martin (Bleak House) and Rachel Stirling (you’ve seen her in Inspector Lewis, Miss Marple and Poirot!), about female code-breakers from Bletchley Park adjusting to post-World War II life in the 1950s. It received a lukewarm reception, but something tells me it might have potential if it were spun like the fantastic Call the Midwife with crime-solving. Who knows? No word yet on whether it will be continued or whether it will reach our shores.

4. The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher—This true Victorian crime novel by Kate Summerscale was a best seller and series 1 of Suspicions, starring Paddy Considine as “Inspector Jonathan ‘Jack’ Whicher, the real-life pioneering detective who worked in the newly established Detective Branch of the Metropolitan Police during the 19th Century,” was a hit in the U.K. Filming for series 2 starts in January.  The show might make it over here, and if it does I’d give it a look.

5. Shetland—In January, BBC One is scheduled to air Shetland, a two-parter starring Douglas Henshall and based on Ann Cleeves’s Jimmy Perez novels—the ones that earned her the CWA Golden Dagger. Vera, starring Brenda Blethyn and based on Cleeves’s Vera Stanhope novels, is currently available on some PBS stations and it’s excellent (more on that shortly). So, if we’re very, very good we might have Shetland to look forward to as well.

6. Jonathan Creek—This detective comedy/drama starring Alan Davies debuted in 1997 and had several full seasons plus a few standalone specials. The most recent was in 2010. It has been broadcast on a few public television stations and on BBC America, but I missed it. “The Clue of the Savant’s Thumb,” a brand new 90-minute special episode written by series creator David Renwick, starts filming shortly. I need to catch up. Bring it back please?!

7. Anything created by Jimmy McGovern—I don’t need to ask if you remember Cracker, the 1990s police procedural series set in Manchester and starring Robbie Coltrane. (Not the American reboot with Robert Pastorelli set in Los Angeles.) If you saw it, you remember it. If you didn’t see it, I recommend that you do so. Jimmy McGovern created and wrote Cracker. I’ve admired his work ever since, and waited very, very patiently to see more of it on TV in the good ol’ US of A. Now I’m asking nicely: May we please have BAFTA winner The Street (starring Timothy Spall) and/or Accused (which sounds like a devastating drama series) somewhere soon?

8. Broadchurch—I’m putting in a very early request for this one; it’s just begun filming! Nevertheless, read the description and tell me you’re not interested:

This brand new eight part series is written and created by Chris Chibnall (Law and Order: UK, Doctor Who) and will explore what happens to a small community in Dorset when it suddenly becomes the focus of a police investigation, following the tragic and mysterious death of an eleven year old boy under the glare of the media spotlight. One by one the community of Broadchurch are drawn into the police enquiry.

It stars David Tennant and the cast includes Olivia Colman, Pauline Quirke, and Arthur Darvill (you know him as Rory from Doctor Who). Sounds like something to wish for, don’t you think?

Now it’s your turn: what’s on your wish list?

Leslie Gilbert Elman is the author of Weird But True: 200 Astounding, Outrageous, and Totally Off the Wall Facts. Follow her on Twitter @leslieelman.

Read all of Leslie Gilbert Elman’s posts for Criminal Element.



  1. Terrie Farley Moran

    Why do the shows written for British television seem so much more interesting than much of what we produce in America? Thanks for your heads up on those that are coming in 2013, and I am waiting breathlessly for your post on Vera as I discovered the show very recently on PBS and now I keep a sharp eye out so as not to miss any episodes that might pop up.

  2. LauraT

    This isn’t exactly British crime TV, but I’ve been reading about the Italian-made Inspector Montalbano series that’s been showing on UK TV, and desperately wishing I could get my grubby hands on it.

    I’ve also managed to catch part of the first episode of Falcón, which I think is a Sky Network production but filmed in Spain, and I think it would do well over here too.

  3. Lakis Fourouklas

    I’d just like to say that there’ll be a new TV movie based on an Ian Rankin book airing soon in the UK, and add that if you like spy/crime dramas BBC’s Hunted is a must.

  4. Leslie Gilbert Elman

    @Terrie They do seem fresh, don’t they? And I love, love, love Vera. They’re making a season 3. Woo hoo! Post is coming soon. 🙂

    @LauraT I absolutely adore the Montalbano books by Andrea Camilleri. I know they’re loving the Montalbano series in the UK, and it is available on DVD. Have you seen the actor who plays Montalbano? Is he what you picture when you read the books? Haven’t heard about Falcón, it sounds interesting.

    @Lakis Do you mean [url=http://www.criminalelement.com/blogs/2012/06/ian-rankin-inspector-rebus-return-standing-another-mans-grave-scot-noir-doors-open-art-heist-stephen-fry-leslie-gilbert-elman]Doors Open[/url]? I’m still trying to find out when it will be broadcast here!

  5. LauraT

    @Leslie I’ve only read one of the Montalbano books so I don’t really have an image of him in my mind, so if I enjoy the TV series I can easily see the actor becoming him in my imagination. I’d like to “try before I buy” before investing in the DVDs, though, so I’m hoping I can find an episode to watch somewhere.

  6. Lakis Fourouklas

    Yes, that’s the one.

  7. Manda Collins

    Wow! Thanks for the multiple heads ups, Leslie! I’ve been a fan of the Banks series for a long time but had no idea that it had been adapted for television. Can’t imagine Stephen Tompkinson in the role, though. In my head he always looked like Daniel Craig. (And that was even before I’d seen Daniel Craig.) We’ll see, though.

    Count me among the fans of Vera! I discovered it on Roku (can’t remember if it’s Amazon or Netflix) and watched both seasons in one big gulp. Glad to hear there’s a third season on the way!

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