Anthony Horowitz’s New Blood – a fast-paced crime show for a new generation

The writer tells Ben Dowell about his new BBC detective show and the importance of nurturing a younger TV audience

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In new BBC1 drama New Blood, the two main detectives are young men who can’t afford to buy their own home.

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Ben Tavassoli’s Rash lives at home while Mark Strepan’s Stefan is shacked up in a grotty flat with a bunch of Polish builders cluttering up the front room and never a moment’s peace. Both are lumbered with huge university loans they haven’t even come close to paying back.

Sound familiar? Well it’s a predicament faced by many young people in Britain today and it’s one of many features of Anthony Horowitz’s new cop show that aims to speak about – and to – the so-called Millennial generation.

There isn’t a grumpy old policeman or a whiteboard with lots of arrows pointing at it in sight. And if you haven’t heard of the men playing the two main characters, that’s deliberate too. The BBC wanted fairly unknown actors in the leads (though you may have glimpsed Strepan from Channel 4 mini-series The Mill and Ben Tavassoli from C4 cop show No Offence).

This crime-busting duo work for the Serious Fraud Office and are engaged in a case of murder, deception, and the sinister side of big pharma. Anna Chancellor (pictured) is one of few grown-ups, playing their ballsy boss, with Mark Addy taking on the role of a suspicious old-school detective Derek Sands who reluctantly recruits the cocky Rash.

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In fact, Addy could have walked out of one of the old detective stories Horowitz is talking about – and wants to avoid replicating.

What may surprise viewers, though, is that this has been written by someone best known to TV viewers for his sedate Second World War police procedural Foyle’s War. But of course Horowotiz is also the author of the Alex Rider series of spy novels for young adults and he says that it is this interest with, and empathy for, the younger generation that he has tapped into with his latest drama.

“There are so many embittered old cops on TV,” he tells RadioTimes.com, joking that if his two central coppers ever jumped into a taxi and ordered the driver to ‘follow that car’ in traditional cop show mode, they probably would be worrying about whether they had enough money for the fare.

“It was just a chance to push the envelope a little bit and to take a new look at crime drama on TV. So much of what we see at the moment is brilliant but it’s very dark and takes itself very seriously. 

“When I began this show, after let’s not forget doing 15 years on Foyle’s War, the first question was ‘How can you push the envelope? How can you do things that haven’t been done before? How can you avoid the clichés?’ I remember saying ‘I’m never going to have a board on the wall with photographs of people’ at the very beginning.”

The first three episodes of New Blood are also airing on iPlayer a week before episode one’s premiere on BBC1 – a clear attempt to woo the younger, binge-watching sector, adds the writer.

“I’m very excited about that,” adds Horowitz. “It’s the right way to go. People don’t watch TV the way they used to and we have to respond. This freshens things up and give things a new perspective.

“I’m writing to include young people in the audience definitely. I think there is a danger if we don’t write about young people and don’t write about their world, we’re going to lose them as an audience, you know. We need to nurture them as a TV audience. But I would hope that people, you know, of age can enjoy it. I hope it’s intelligent and serious enough.”

Horowitz (pictured) was also pleased that, despite the casting of two relatively unknown young leads, the BBC has decided to schedule the show on BBC1 at primetime.

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“It was incredibly bold for the BBC to mount a multi-million pound, primetime 9 o’clock show on the shoulders of two very new, very inexperienced actors. It was amazing in some ways, that they were so young that I didn’t get into discussions of let’s make them 30, 31, you know, let’s age them up a bit’. I think me as a writer helped, but it was a gamble.

“But if you think about it, what show at the moment, there was Skins on Channel 4 and there have been shows on Channel 4, I suppose – Utopia, which is one of my inspirations, there was quite a young cast in that. But for the BBC it’s a step forward, a step in the right direction. They’re smart enough to see that they’ve got to nurture new talent and new audiences.”

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New Blood premieres on iPlayer on Thursday 2nd June and on BBC1 at 9pm on Thursday 9th June