Tuesday, October 03, 2006

today : I watch the new Cracker

Be warned. This little sliver of writing contains possible spoilers, especially if you are American (or living therein).

It was nice to see Robbie Coltrane back on TV as Cracker. And even though the latest one-off story wasn't nearly as dire as the Hong Kong one-off from 1997, neither was it close to the quality of the originals.

Whilst everything was in place - Coltrane, MsGovern and Antonia Bird reunited, a killer with plausible motives, a political edge. Fitz at the gaming table and arguing with his (now married with children) son, embarrasing himself whilst too well oiled and putting the pieces together satisfactorily, it had a hole in the middle.

The original Cracker was driven by the energy of tension between Fitz's chaotic personal life, beset by demons and difficulties and the disturbed. violent nature of the crimes. And both the glue that tied these two elements together and the conduit that facilitated a plausible free-flow between them was Panhandle. In the early episodes Cracker not only cracked The Train Killer, Sean and Tina, Albie et al but, crucially, Penhaligan herself. Their close workiong relationship and subsequent affaire was the hidden dynamo behind the plot and character dynamics throughout the original shows. It fed the tensions of the squad room, where Panhandle was jealously regarded by the other detectives (notably Jimmy) and Fitz caused out-and-out resentment through his intimacy with her. And it contributed to the familial crises that engulfed Fitz. He had two reasons to escape into work and the main one was Panhandle. He also could use his relationship with her to avoid dealing with his problems with Judith.

Waching the originals again , it is striking that Geraldine Somerville's perfomance is subtle and terrific. She and Coltrane pinged dialogue off each other and her tough/vulnerable persona was superbly portrayed. The latest film was accompanied by a DVD style extra - The Making of Cracker. Interviews, a potted history of the show, Coltrane, Ecclestone, McGovern, Lorcan Cranitch. But no Somerville. It was like somehow she was excised from the exercise. Even during the interviews she was barely mentioned. It was odd - like Take That without Robbie.

Even with Somerville's absence, if the latest episode somehow becomes a series the producers would do well to remember that Fitz needs a Panhandle-style character, as well as other adversaries like Jimmy to really make him fire. The detectives in the 2006 version were unmemorable cyphers. In fact. the whole show would have been better done over maybe three hours to give the setting and context space to breathe and develop.

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