DCI BANKS (2011)


Director: James Hawkes, Paul Whittington, Bill Anderson, Mark Losey

Writers: Robert Murphy, Laurence Davey
(Based on the novels by Peter Robinson)

Cast: Stephen Tompkinson, Lorraine Burroughs, Jack Deam, Andrea Lowe, Colin Tierney...

Runtime: 45 minutes per episode part (except the pilot)

Genres: Modern TV British crime/drama/mystery

Reviewed by Cherie Jung

In the pilot, "Aftermath," DCI Banks (Stephen Tompkinson) is heading up an investigation involving several missing girls. The investigation is high-jacked when a policeman is killed, a suspect is killed, and the British equivalent of internal affairs, called "Complaints and Procedures," enters the picture in the form of one DS Annie Cabot (Andrea Lowe).

"Playing with Fire" involves art fraud and suspicious deaths caused by blazes — the cops need to determine if the fires were arson or accidental. And if deliberately set, who was the intended victim? The storyline reminded me of several similar New Tricks episodes, though not exactly the same.

"Friend of the Devil" finds DS Annie Cabot trying to snatch a case away from DCI Banks, partly to further her career and because she sees a link between two crimes involving knives — her case involving the discovery of a wheelchair bound victim on the desolate moor with their throat slashed and the alleged attacker whose throat was slashed in Banks' rape/muder case.

"Cold is the Grave" is by far the episode I most enjoyed, partly because events lead to at least one surprise and welcome, on my part, death. The storyline is reminiscent of other cop show episodes but holds together fairly well. I have to admit, I didn't guess the killer, in this one, before the end. Surprisinly, the ending was quite satisfying. Not so, in the previous three episodes.

Disclaimer: I have not read any of the Peter Robinson books this series is based upon.

First impressions? I hated the series. Stephen Tompkinson (whom I liked in Ballekissangel and Brassed Off) portrays the Inspector Banks character rather one dimensionally, seemingly capable of only glaring, staring, or bullying suspects and colleagues alike with his over-the-top shouting. Andrea Lowe who plays Annie Cabot? Hated her. Blonde, ambitious, ruthless, annoying...back-stabbing...I won't go on, but I could. The only character I was fond of is DCI Banks' DS Winsome Jackman played by Lorraine Burroughs. Other cast members were tolerable, but not particularly outstanding.

Since I had such an immediate and extremely negative reaction to this series, I forced myself to watch it again, in its entirety. Sigh. The DCI Banks character still is a bully. He glares and shouts too much. I worry that the actor is going to explode, or at least the throbbing, bulging vein on his forhead is going to explode. The Annie Cabot character is still all the things I hated about her but this time, knowing that I hated the character as portrayed in the TV version (as opposed to the books), I was able to set that aside and just watch the shows as British TV crime entertainment. At best, the stories are mediocre. I suspect the books are better. The nicest thing I can say is that the openning credits music is enjoyable. I would recommend viewers rent this series before commiting to buy it. Make sure you like it before plunking down the full retail price for it.

The DVD contains the pilot, "Aftermath," as well as Season One, "Playing with Fire," "Friend of the Devil," and "Cold is the Grave." Each title consists of two episodes. Season Two is scheduled to be aired (in the UK) beginning in August, 2012. Season Two includes "Dry Bones that Dream," "Wednesday's Child," and "Strange Affair."

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