Crime on TV: Begging for sub-titles

Posted: February 26, 2012 in Indian sub continent, tv crime fiction

There is at least one well known crime fiction columnist who refers to those of us who read Scandinavian crime fiction as the “chattering classes”.  What does he make of the new fashion for watching foreign crime TV series, and eating herrings on rye bread. Are we exhibiting some kind of middle class snobbery, or do we just like a good story well told?

I have recently watched one episode of the promising American series Homeland, and two episodes of Montalbano, which had all the charm and comedy of the books. The start of the Danish series Those Who Kill awaits me on the recorder. To provide some balance I decided to watch the new series of Kidnap and Ransom starring Trevor Eve, who I remember from his days as private investigator Eddie Shoestring in 1979-1980. I had not seen the first series and had no idea what to expect.

I had hoped for something of the standard of Foyle’s War, or Scott and Bailey,  and was even prepared to put up with the incessant adverts on ITV. Unfortunately despite a large travel budget and a star cast, Kidnap and Ransom will send this viewer rushing back to Borgen, The Killing, Spiral, and Braquo begging for subtitles.

Writer Michael Crompton stated in The Guardian that “he wanted to make sure the drama wasn’t like those Hollywood films where there are standoff and guns. I wanted to look at the psychology and give it a sense of veracity.”

I don’t like being critical, but almost all the viewer got in episode one was “standoff and guns”.

The setting is Srinigar in Kashmir where the handover of the money for the release of a wealthy British Asian family goes disastrously wrong, and negotiator Dominic King [Trevor Eve] is faced with a situation in which one of his hostages is held hostage again on a bus with a tour group, which just happens to include the daughter of an important foreign office official.

We assume that Dominic King [Eve] is a clever expert because he calmly plays a strange game of chess with an elderly local before the first handover. That was apparently the veracity. We know King is high tech because he rambles around with several mobile phones all apparently taking advantage of the excellent mobile reception you get in Kashmir. Luckily he does not have to operate in the Exe Valley or on Dartmoor.

We know he is a smooth operator because his assistant, the attractive Amara Karan, does all the work; and back in London he has the gorgeous women Helen Baxendale and Natasha Little fighting over him. Not content with this array of female beauty the daughter of one of the hostages on the bus is played by Sharon Small.  I admit it was the presence of the fragrant Sharon Small on the cast list that made me watch this program rather than any determined search for balance in my television viewing.

The action in episode one strained one’s credulity to the limit. One of the hostages is shot attempting to escape, and with incredible speed, an autopsy, and ballistic analysis prove it was the black clad trigger happy Indian security police that shot him. Then Dominic King is allowed by the Indian police to saunter round the tour bus containing the frightened hostages and terrified kidnappers, writing messages on the side of it, while telephoning all and sundry. 

I lost interest at that point, but will probably be back for episode two to see Sharon Small travel out to Kashmir; and to find out whose body Trevor Eve dumped in a lake in the start of the episode before we flashed back to action two weeks previously.

I have my theories, the script writer…the director….his agent……..

  1. Sarah says:

    My mum used to like Eddie Shoestring! I don’t fancy this new series at all.
    As well as the good stuff, I do like to watch a bit of crime rubbish on TV. I’m enjoying ‘Whitechapel’ at the moment even though my husband keeps moaning how cliched it is.
    We both have fancied watching Inspector Montalbano but just have not got around to catching it yet.

  2. Maxine says:

    I think I used to like Shoestring! (But I am ancient I admit). I did watch one episode of a longrunning series he made – Waking the Dead? Can’t remember the title but I bought a cheap DVD of it at someone’s recommendation. I thought it was rubbish and took the DVD to the charity shop. So the new series does not appeal at all.
    I watched the first episode of Homeland, which I’d recorded, a couple of nights ago. I am afraid I thought it totally cliched too – so American. The Clare Danes character was utterly unappealing, lost of voyeurism and violence. Damien Lewis played himself but unfortunately insufficiently interesting for me to watch any more so I cancelled the rest of the series.
    I have taped Those Who Kill and have yet to watch. I quite like Montalbano but they are a bit long.
    I suppose I had better go back to my “chattering”…..;-)

  3. Margot Kinberg says:

    Norman – What a clever and witty review! There are some series I’m not in such a hurry to have released on DVD or syndication….

  4. Norman says:

    Sarah, I am probably older than your Mum. 😉 I think Montalbano is well worth watching for the opening scenes of Sicily, and the way they get the character of Catarella to a T.

    Maxine, you are far too young to have watched Shoestring! I am in to conspiracy theories at the moment, so I will stick with Homeland. But I very much doubt if the Clare Danes character would be allowed to empty waste bins in the real world of security.

    A warning, Those Who Kill, I have watched the first 70 minutes, is very tough viewing [ a woman held in a locked box by a serial killer]. I am not sure you will like it :-(, although Troels Hartmann aka Lars Mikkelsen is in it as the police boss.

    Margot- Thanks, and when I watch programs like Denmark’s Those Who Kill I see how superior it is to rubbish like Kidnap and Ransom. Superior, but much more difficult viewing, no laughs and especially tough I expect for a woman to watch.

  5. […] this link: Crime on TV: Begging for sub-titles « CRIME SCRAPS REVIEW Tags: columnist, crime, fiction, fiction-columnist, result, series, […]

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