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Tuesday, 8 October 2013

New Tricks Series 10 arrives on DVD

The critics have long bashed BBC1 favourite New Tricks. It would seem most critics don't understand why it continues to be a ratings monster. I think the answer is staring them in the face, if they could be bothered to spend an hour with U.C.O.S that is.

I think the main reason critics don't like New Tricks is because it's cosy. It's not overly taxing on the brain, and it manages to cleverly mix the serious with the humorous. Whilst viewers have remained loyal the same can't be said of the cast. Last year saw the departure of the first original cast member James Bolam and when series 10 was announced the cast seemed to drop like dominoes.  I'll admit I'm a fan of the original U.C.O.S team, they bounce off one another effortlessly and we'd grown to know them so well over the last nine years. I'll also admit to being rather intrigued by new well known faces joining the team. Whilst I still enjoy New Tricks it is no secret that some of the stories can verge on the duller side of crime drama. When it's at its best New Tricks is fast paced, filled with snappy banter and focused on the talents of the lead cast. Too often in recent years the series has steered away from focusing on characters backstories  to put the crime story in the spotlight. Obviously with so many comings and goings series 10 would force the writers to return to the roots and bring the cast back into the focus.

The first episode of the tenth series was something a bit different for the series. A two part episode set Gibraltar. Obviously producers wanted to mark the tenth year and this was an interesting way of doing it. It also set the wheels in motion for the departure of my favourite character Brian Lane. The episode sees Brian punch a higher ranking police officer and be expelled from the team. We then learn that Brain has history with the officer and this develops into a well paced four episode arc. The episode in Gibraltar was a little on the slow side. Seeing the cast in new surroundings was novel, and the shots of Amanda Redman on a boat in the glistening sun were well done but on the whole It made me realise I prefer New Tricks on home turf.

One of the strongest episodes is Alun Armstrong's final episode. In a DVD extra Armstrong reveals that he loved everyone on the show but felt it was time to move on. His final episode was really well done and a fitting tribute to the character. It sees Lane turn private detective to find a woman's missing brother. Lane is also pursued by journalists as news about his outburst causes the press to dig deeper into his past. This was a really enjoyable episode that harked back to the earlier days of the series. It saw Brain working against the U.C.O.S team and risking his life to catch his man. It's a shame Armstrong felt he had to leave but I'm glad he was given the proper send-off his character deserved.

Of course Lane's spot on the team wouldn't be left empty for too long as newcomer Dan Griffin (Nicholas Lyndhurst) arrived to ruffle some feathers. Griffin is considerably younger than Gerry or Steve and has a different way of working to his new colleagues. He's similar to Brian in his ability to reel off facts and figures but not quite as open. When he announces he's finishing work early on his first day suspicions are already raised about his background. As I say New Tricks at its best is when it focuses more on its leads and this series certainly seemed to deliver that as we meet Griffin's disabled daughter Holly. Father and daughter share a strong bond and it's nice having some younger characters on the show. I also appreciated how the writers dealt with Griffins arrival whilst remembering that Brain Lane and Jack Halford had been an integral part of the show's history.

With all these coming and going the storytelling remains strong. Of course Lyndhurst isn't the only new face we can expect. Amanda Redman (the anchor of the show for me) also announced she was moving on, wanting to focus on new projects. Whilst Armstrong's departure was a blow, I worried that Redman going would leave a more gaping hole. Unlike Armstrong, Redman's final episode, or lead up to her final episode wasn't as well executed. As a case that Sandra wasn't allowed to pursue originally lands on her desk she sees this as her final case. In a story that mirrors Redman's reasons for leaving the show Sandra feels the needs an exiting change in her life. If I'm honest I felt the episode dragged a bit, and it lacks the impact of Armstrong's farewell. On the upside Pullman receives some  advice about leaving her job from an unlikely visitor. James Bolam reappears in a dream like sequence to tell Sandra to go for it, otherwise she'll be stuck there forever. Do you see the irony there? Even though Redman's final outing wasn't as exciting it did feature a nice scene between the two remaining  original cast members (Dennis Waterman and Amanda Redman) and at least she bowed out with the possibility of a return when New Tricks does finally come to an end.

With Sandra gone the team needs a new boss. Obviously a female but who? Ultimately the job went to Tamzin Outhwaite who joins in episode nine as new head of U.C.O.S  DCI Sasha Miller. Miller is very different to Pullman. She seems unsure of her place within the team and a little tongue-tied when working with her new group of colleagues. Like Dan Griffin, Miller is much younger than the average member of U.C.O.S She doesn't like to be referred to as Guvner and she seems somewhat uncomfortable in her role as boss. The existing members of the team don't instantly gel with their new head and what develops makes for an interesting and fresh episode. It's all down to the ability of the writers to keep the show feeling fresh despite all the recent changes.

With a new series filming later in the year it's clear that the BBC are sticking with the winning format. There's something about it that just works. The changes haven't harmed the series, they've served to enhance the brand of New Tricks and I don't think it's showing any signs of slowing down.

DVD Extras
Behind the Scenes
Cast Filmographies
Picture Gallery

New Tricks Series 10 is available from Monday 14th October

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