A nice surprise. After last week’s distinctly dodgy Serious And Organised, starring former EastEnder Martin Kemp as a policeman, the prospect of Kemp’s former onscreen wife, Tamzin Outhwaite, as a military policewoman didn’t sound too promising. Thankfully, the two programmes turned out to be very different beasts.
Red Cap is set on a British Army base in Germany, and features the Special Investigation Branch of the military police. The show is tough, glossy and pacy, well written, acted and produced – a sort of Taggart meets Spooks with tanks and machine-guns in the background (its creator/writer, Patrick Harbinson, is a former Army man who’s worked on Soldier Soldier and ER, and it shows).
The plots aren’t bad either; this week’s was a solid, twisty whodunit about murder fuelled by drugs and lust, with plenty to think about in a 60-minute package. It also has that X Factor of all successful soapstar vehicles, a strong supporting cast, including Raquel Cassidy (Teachers), James Thornton (The Lakes) and Gordon Kennedy (The National Lottery. No, we haven’t forgotten).
Outhwaite’s pretty good (though quite Melanie Owen-ish) as feisty Sergeant Jo McDonagh, but the real star is Douglas Hodge as hard-man squad leader Sergeant-Major Kenny Burns, the bane of her life (he demoted her in last year’s pilot) but also her ultimate mentor. Hodge is more familiar as a limpid-eyed costume drama hero (Middlemarch, The Way We Live Now), but here he’s bullet-headed and razor-sharp, a character of real complexity who dominates his scenes. It’s an outstanding performance.
Serious And Organised looks as if the producers decided on the attitude first, then tried, rather obviously, to achieve it. Red Caps looks as if they concentrated on making a decent drama, and let the attitude develop along the way. One up to the squaddies.