TV Review – The Last Detective

Frogs and Cheese

(Originally published in Inform Magazine, June 2005)

As we know, the Crazy Frog (Commercial Channels recurring) has displaced Saddam Hussein, the MMR vaccine and hoodies as the greatest threat to Western Civilisation as we know it. I strongly suspect that this whole thing is a Trading Places-style bet amongst eccentric millionaires. However what’s sadly most likely is that it’s the ultimate proof of that age old maxim beloved of companies like Coca-Cola or Nike, that you can sell any old crap as long as you market the hell out it. The best way to make lots and lots of money is to have lots of money to begin with.

So whilst the Crazy Frog folks spend the sort of cash that could relieve third world debt placing multiple ads during the break in every episode of Coronation Street, let’s escape to a place that even the Crazy Frog can’t touch. The Last Detective (ITV1) attracts the sort of ad placements more suited to those with severe interests in soft furnishings, being as it is a gentle police drama that can only be shown on Sunday night by constitutional decree.

Most of the current Crazy Frog-like infestation of cop shows can be expressed in simple ways: The Angry Detective (Murphy’s Law), The Female Detectives (Murder in Surburbia), or the Gardening Detectives (Rosemary and Thyme). The Last Detective labours under that misleading title, when it should be The Hapless Detective.

This absence of hap is partly achieved by casting Peter Davison as the hero, as he’s a perfectly put-upon sort of actor – which makes you wonder how he ever got to play Doctor Who. Further haplessness is demonstrated by the opening scenes, where Davison interrupts a reconcilliation between an ex-wife he still holds a torch for to stop two women from holding a literal torch to their bigamist husband. The only thanks he gets is to get barred from the pub, to which Davison doesn’t get out his card and menacingly ask the landlord if his health certificate is up to date.

Our hero is one of a kind, as we discover when we meet his police colleagues. He has the requisite shouting and boozing ‘Guv’ as well as two younger preening wideboy colleagues who constantly drag the Guv to the pub. But Davison isn’t like that, which is why he presumably hasn’t been promoted. This show seems to be aimed at those who thought Lewis never got the recognition of Morse.

Onto this week’s central mystery, as a man is savagely killed at a university reunion dinner and suspicion points immediately to junkie Stephen Tomkinson. The Guv gives Tomkinson hell: “You were jealous of Nick!” he gruffs like a shouty Captain Beefheart. “You killed him!” Tomkinson looks hapless and we immediately know that he didn’t do it and Davison will find the real killer amongst the far less hapless diners at the reunion.

With the plot all but over it’s time to go to the first ad break. The sponsors are Leerdammer Light Cheese and it’s entertaining to imagine the migraines the twonks in red-framed glasses had trying to think of lines to join up a cheese to a cop show. Over pleasing pictures of cheesy recipes, the voiceover tells us “they won’t get off with it lightly this time,” emphasising the syllable ‘light’, because it’s a light cheese. It brings back memories of the old N-Power sponsor ads for The Bill, which featured uniformed cops investigating utility bills and saying things like “they’re getting it all from one supplier!”

Back to the show, and as Tomkinson messily withdraws from his addiction in a police cell, the Guv is getting annoyed at Davison’s questioning of what to him seems an open and shut case. “I know!” he Beefhearts loudly in Davison’s face. But the Guv’s been off the booze for a few hours and gives Davison “2 days” to make his case; no doubt the writer being incapable of bringing himself to write ‘48 hours’ as is the style.

More ads. “There’s more to this than meets the eyes.” Actually being able to watch the ads without fear of stumbling over a mutant grey frog means you can pay attention to who’s the current leading light in voice over circles. Not so long ago it was Davison, but Michael Gambon’s snagged Davison’s old HSBC job, which can only increase the feeling of haplessness on Davison’s behalf. It’s not often the ads subtly help the show they interrupt, but that’s today’s advanced marketing.

Back on the show proper, Davison turns his attention to the dead man’s moody son Marcus. Davison has discovered that his father is actually Tomkinson, who is briefly seen shaking like Jacques Chirac before the referendum (sorry, it’s all the frogs and cheese getting to my subconscious). Interesting, but one can’t help feel this is a bit of a distraction from the real meat: what’s the next sponsor ad going to say? “Well that’s another one solved.” The guys who came up with these must have been sweating as much as Tomkinson, who is now disappearing into a greasy puddle on the cell floor.

Time for the denouement, and in quick succession Davison gets Tomkinson a cast-iron alibi by finding a fearsome gangster who everyone believed was long dead, and discovers that the real killer was actually one of the League of Gentlemen. So, despite possessing absolutely no hap, Davison has found the real killer, discovered who his accomplice was, got off an innocent man, found a notorious villain and united a father and son. Lewis never did that well and even he was eventually promoted. One can’t help feel somewhat unsatisfied.

Still there’s always the ads. “Every time we go over this something interesting comes to light.”

Advertisements

About klausjoynson
I'm a writer, editor, musician, DJ and cartoonist. Contact me at: klausjoynson(at)gmail.com or follow me on Twitter: @KlausJoynson

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: