What to say if you liked it
An expertly-written detective series which takes optimum advantage of the 1950s setting and social attitudes.
What to say if you didn’t like it
On the run from a hunting party of cheap reality TV shows, the detective drama scurries cravenly into its hideaway marked the 50s, where fact can be tawdrily manipulated to suit the whims of the gullible viewers.
What was good about it?
• Robert Lindsay as Inspector Michael Jericho. Once the awful opening had been surmounted, Jericho was allowed to flourish into a fully-formed three-dimensional protagonist, which was superbly manifested by Lindsay.
• A strong supporting cast including Ciaran McMenamin as Jericho’s raw new constable DC John Caldecott, David Troughton as his loyal Sgt Clive Harvey and Francesca Annis as the cuckolded Lady Claire Wellesley.
• The most telling moment came when Jericho was reluctant to leave the welcoming home of his sidekick Sgt Clive Harvey, reflecting that he would have to return to his dingy flat alone and unloved. It was further revealed that Jericho blames himself for his father’s death as he innocently opened the front door to his murderers, and he is attracted to the French prostitute whose flat is adjacent to his.
• Jericho has his very own Huggy Bear – Louis. And while this was one of the many clichéd devices of a detective drama it worked, as did many of the others.
• The grotesquely quaint 1950s newspaper headline “Jet wreck kills woman pouring tea”.
• Plenty of other detective dramas have callously manoeuvred contemporary sensibilities over racism by instilling them in the hero as he fights the bigotry of the time with a modern standpoint. Jericho employed the same trick, and, though rather easy, managed to convincingly overcome the artificiality of it all.
• Lady Claire Wellesley was willing to endure her husband’s liaisons with prostitutes and other affairs but felt impelled to kill him to spare herself the shame of his second marriage to an “immigrant wife” who bored him “immigrant children”. Born into wealth, she had married him despite he too being an immigrant but he had wed simply for the money and the title and his interest in her had waned even on their honeymoon.
What was bad about it?
• The opening three minutes were among the worst in the history of television drama. The plumy-voiceover which announced Jericho as some kind of superhero amongst police officers was reminiscent of a Harry Enfield spoof (“Keep up the good work, Jericho. And London can sleep safe at night”), and then the theme music clashed jarringly with a nightclub singer being watched by Jericho
• And finally, a young black depot worker was chatting intimately with a pretty white receptionist until their conversation was interrupted by a blond Hitler Youth-a-like asking him to keep his “monkey hands” to himself. It was evident then that the young black man would be murdered (he was), but that Mr Hitler Youth, who was in fact ludicrously monikered Albert Hall), wouldn’t be his killer as that would be too obvious (he wasn’t, but he did rape the receptionist). Thankfully, the rest of the episode was much better.
• The chattering typewriter to alert the viewer to any new location was unnecessary and annoying.
• The front pages of the newspapers were littered with elementary errors. The first headline had the word “Jericho” on a line by itself centred above “confronts gunman”. If a sub-editor laid out a headline like that today he would be lashed to within an inch of his life by the chief sub and exiled to small ads section. Elsewhere Baghdad was misspelt Bagdad, and a paragraph began “Lady Claire Wellesley is arrested for the murder…”, which under modern law is contempt of court for prejudicing any future trial (although either could be correct under 50s laws and terminology).
• The amount of people smoking. While it was the 50s and lighting up was popular, we counted at least 50 instances of characters smoking which was excessive and was possibly exaggerated as to indulge the banal dramatic device of using smoking to add a staccato pacing to dialogue.
• DS Caldicott and Paul Wellesley looked too similar, especially when they were wearing hats.