fri 15/12/2017

Scott & Bailey, ITV1 | reviews, news & interviews

Scott & Bailey, ITV1

Scott & Bailey, ITV1

A new female-led crime series gets off to a promising start

Amelia Bullmore, left, presides over Suranne Jones (centre) and Lesley Sharp, right, playing good cop, good cop

We all enjoy the moment when the detective loses his rag and lunges across the desk to grab the suspect by the lapels, but such scenes are in short supply in this new female crime-fighters series. Instead, the interrogative approach of “the new Cagney & Lacey” as it’s been called, is more slowly, slowly catchy monkey, but that doesn’t make it any less satisfying. Scott & Bailey was co-created by former detective inspector Diane Taylor, which is presumably why it seems to provide a more grounded, realistic look at the world of the Manchester murder squad.

But whereas realism in the wrong hands can equate with boredom, there was no risk of that here. After a short, snappy credit sequence we are in a restaurant eavesdropping on DC Bailey (played by Suranne Jones) as she's told by her lover that he “needs more space”. By beginning the first episode with a scene that has nothing to do with police work, the series neatly stakes out its territory. And the next hour is pretty much divided evenly between personal domestic story lines and the particular case that has to be in the bag in the allotted 50 minutes.

That case is the apparent suicide (yeah, right) of a young pregnant Turkish woman found hanged in her home. Her nervy, easily angered boyfriend becomes the prime suspect, and mobile phone and CCTV-related clues are - as is often the case in recent crime dramas – used to implicitly show that the writers have their finger firmly on the pulse of 21st-century city life. Along the way both Jones and co-star Lesley Sharp make a convincing, likeable team, with their differences (Bailey, world-weary and bitterly single; Scott, a frazzled wife and mother) subtly conveyed in a naturalistic and sometimes amusing manner.

With their DCI also being a woman (Gill Murray, played with likeable gusto by Amelia Bullmore) it would seem that the world of murder has now well and truly been taken over by the fairer sex, and it’s their very fairness and calmness that becomes instrumental in them solving the case. The only time male police officers get a look-in is when they get it wrong or when they are being chastised as if they were misbehaving schoolboys. Also, unlike their male counterparts, DCs Scott and Bailey don’t brood over their work at the end of the day, don’t drink to excess (as far as we’ve been made aware so far), and rather than do the good cop/bad cop routine, they find the good cop/good cop routine works so much better.

It may aspire to the heights of prime-cut HBO, but it only really manages superior ITV

There have been all kinds of female detectives, amateur and professional, over the decades, from the tough but tender yanks in Cagney & Lacey, to cosily domestic Brits in Rosemary & Thyme. It would be doing Scott & Bailey a slight disservice to say it exists somewhere between these two poles, but in essence it does. Because despite some excellent writing, functionally unobtrusive direction and always watchable performances, there is little trust put in the viewer to do some of the work themselves, or at least to keep up.

For example, it only takes a few minutes to notice the parallels between Bailey’s relationship implosion with an unscrupulous married man (nicely played by cad incarnate Rupert Graves) and the dysfunctional relationship between the couple in the murder case. And yet over and over again this is signposted with a facial expression here and a line of dialogue there. Crime genre fans know the territory; they’ve been there many times before, so they don't need to be told more than once. So in the end Scott & Bailey may aspire to the heights of prime-cut HBO, but it only really manages superior ITV. But having said that, it was a likeable, watchable opening episode and may well prove its full worth given more time.

‘The only time male police officers get a look-in is when they get it wrong or when they are being chastised as if they were misbehaving schoolboys’

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