Are you capable and intelligent, yet a bit chaotic? Are you fearsomely driven, truculent and self-sacrificing and determined to discover the truth, at whatever cost to your mental and physical well-being? Are you obsessive?
Do you have a problem with a bluff boss who wants you to play by the rules, but still expects you to achieve “results”? Are you too preoccupied with your work to make your home comfortable and welcoming? Perhaps there are dirty pots piled up in your kitchen? Or maybe you have a partner who is feeling neglected?
If you answer “yes” to all of the above then you are probably just the person I am looking for to fill the gap in all our lives. The gap for a dependable, enduring TV detective. Yes, I know there is never actually a shortage of TV crime-fighters, they are always with us. The trouble is, they are always with us but rarely for long.
Last week we met the splendid Det Sgt Charlie Zailer (Olivia Williams) in ITV1’s corking thriller Case Sensitive. But she kept our company for only two hours and then she was gone. She will return for another story based on a Sophie Hannah novel, but that’s not enough.
We need someone doughty and dependable with the potential for a long run to fill the gaps left by Tennison, Morse and Frost (I don’t count Lewis, because he’s mini-Morse and he’s not very interesting in his own right), someone who will stick around and become a well-loved fixture. Someone new.
I can hear some of you grumbling that there are already far too many detective dramas on television and I will, dear reader, have to disagree. For me, there aren’t enough. I want more, I want crime every night (fictional crime, of course, I’m not a weirdo).
Nothing grips like a good crime story, which was why I became a crime reporter so many years ago. As a journalist, nothing beats the compelling narrative of a real crime story, and as a fan and a critic and a devotee of literary crime fiction, nothing beats a corking detective story.
It’s something to do with the intimacy of the storytelling because a good TV crime drama, like the best of crime novels, is about you and the detective. Effectively you work together; you might not actually be there with him or her, roughing up suspects and conducting illegal searches because s/he isn’t about to start reading the rule book, is s/he?
But you share everything; the detective’s story becomes your story
and you have a vested interest in the outcome because you’ve put the work in.
What TV needs now is a new detective with staying power and the chance to endure. Sherlock’s flame blazed briefly, but he left in a shower of critical praise and audience devotion after three measly episodes.
Jason Isaacs will soon appear as one of my favourites, author Kate Atkinson’s
attractive and winning Jackson Brodie, in Case Histories. But that’s just one story. We need a TV detective who is here to stay.