NEW TRICKS (2003, 2004-2005)

Produced by: Wall to Wall Television.
Producers include: Mike Dormer, Alex Graham, Gina Cronk.

Created by: Roy Mitchell and Nigel McCrery.
Written by: Roy Mitchell, Simon Block, Nick Fisher, and Alison Hume.

Directed by: Paul Seed, Jamie Payne, Jon East...

Starring: Alun Armstrong, James Bolam, Amanda Redman, Dennis Waterman

Genre: Crime drama

Series 1 and 2 are only available on DVD in the UK. No information is available on when or if the series will ever be released in NTSC (US and Canada) format. Series one episodes are currently showing on PBS stations (listed as "New Tricks" not under the PBS Mystery! series). Series 4 is showing on The Knowledge channel in Canada.

Check local listings for day, time, and channel.

Reviewed by Cherie Jung

In the 90-minute pilot, Detective Superintendent Sandra Pullman (Amanda Redman) manages to mess up an important, high-profile assignment, the rescue of a kidnapped foreigner, and in the process, she manages to shoot a dog. Thus she is quickly banished from the "fast track" and sidelined in what her superior calls the UCOS department. The intent is for her to recruit several retired detectives as her staff and together they will re-examine old unsolved cases to see if owing to modern advancements in police technologies (ie: DNA screening) they can "solve" or "close" the cases.

The team Pullman puts together is quirky, but each complements the others. Ex-Detective Inspector Brian Lane (Alun Armstrong) is obsessed with the death of a drug dealer on his watch. He is searching for answers to his conspiracy theory and thinks he can get access to confidential files if he is on the UCOS team. Ex-Detective Chief Superintendent Jack Halford (James Bolam) was once Pullman's boss. He has recenlty lost his wife in an unsolved violent accident. Ex-Detective Inspector Gerry Standing (Dennis Waterman) is a ladies man with three ex-wives, several daughters, and about to become a grandfather. He also has shady friends. And last but not least, PC Clark (Chike Okonkwo) is a black constable assigned to the team. He brings an interesting dynamic to the team.

The pilot is a bit slow, but then, the audience has to be introduced to everyone. The pace picks up nicely once the episodes become one-hour long in the regular series. The scripts are well-written, combining just the right touch of detective seriousness with quirky humor. The ensemble cast is wonderful and each quickly become endearing. I can't imagine the team operating without one or more of the motley crew. With Pullman and PC Clark active police officers and the retired cops civilians, there is frequently a clash between doing things the right and legal way and doing things any way that gets results. Detective Superintendent Pullman has her hands full, trying to keep things running smoothly and legally. "It's like having children..." she exclaims in exasperation at one point.

The first case up for this new squad is to re-evaluate a twenty year old murder case. The person in prison for the crime claims he is innocent and has claimed so, all along. The trouble is, he's a known scoundrel but it is beginning to look like he might be telling the truth about this murder. The team suspects police corruption but can they prove it before those involved close ranks?

In the regular series, episode #1, the team re-investigates the brutal murder of WPC Daniels, a woman who trained at the academy in the same class as Pullman. In episode #2, the team is invited to Buckingham Palace when a fake oil painting is discovered in the Queen's private collection. Art fraud is a bit out of their expertise, but they soon get the hang of things, with a little help from Totty, seconded from the art fraud squad. Episode #3 finds the team re-examining a case involving the death of a peace protestor, near a NATO base. Some believe he was killed by MI5 or the "secret squirrels," as the retired cops on Pullman's team refer to them. Next up in episode #4, a dying man wants to know for sure whether his son killed a young boy whose body was discovered partially buried on a golf course. The man's son was the prime suspect at the time. He hanged himself in the woods of the golf course two weeks after the murdered boy's body was discovered. Episode #5 involves a missing persons case that Brian Lane was assigned to in 1971. A young mother and her baby went out for a walk and never came back. Items belonging to the missing pair have recently been discovered and turned over to the police, splattered with blood. In episode #6, Halford visits a psychic, in hopes of contacting his dead wife but is lead to another unsolved case of a teenager abducted and left to die in a transport container back in 1982.

There is always a good mix of old and new. The old unsolved cases frequently lead to other crimes that may not have been considered part of the original crime. One of the fun things with this series is that the retired cops tend to overwhelm Pullman, from time to time, with their old ways of doing police work. She wants everything done by the book, in the new, modern way of police investigations. Still, she is smart enough to learn their old ways and puts them to good use.

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