Did we like it?
We’re not huge fans but we’re quite happy that the Glasgow crime drama trundles along, year after year (22 of them so far and no end in sight), moordah after moordah.
What was good about it?
• The post-Taggart, post-Jardine cast is now so well established that the characters react to each other effortlessly and convincingly – and they never suddenly adopt new characteristics just to suit the plots (apart from Fraser’s homosexuality which has not been mentioned since the killing in the gay community plot).
• The story was quite interesting, involving boozers, ex-boozers, a nasty ex-cop, a knife in the guts, a flashy young man and, of course, the killer – a woman who runs a burger van.
• Full marks for topicality: an old soak had to go outside the pub to smoke a ciggie. Old TV dramas will look so dated whenever the action switches to a smoke-filled bar.
What was bad about it?
• Alex Norton’s DCI Matt Burke is hardly the most endearing lead character in TV drama with his stroppy ways and piggy eyes. But he does score full marks for curmudgeonliness and abrasiveness.
• We sussed out the killer long before the cops did.
Uncompromising. The gritty Glasgow-based detective series has never been a slave to fashion, and it’s sticking to its guns. These days most cop shows take two hours to tell a story, or run it over a series of episodes, but Taggart, formerly a two-hour show itself, now wraps everything up in sixty minutes. It loses surprisingly little in the process, emerging as a distinctly punchier alternative to the likes of Dalziel And Pascoe.
Then there’s the name. The character of tough-guy DCI Jim Taggart disappeared eight years ago with the death of actor Mark McManus, and although the show’s now on to its second generation of replacements, it has stuck doggedly to its original moniker. Taggart’s first successor was his deputy, DI Mike Jardine, an ascetic moderniser whose toughness was compromised by disturbing traces of inter-personal skills. The new man, DCI Matt Burke (Alex Norton), is straight out of the old school, stony-faced and as empathetic as a metal-crusher. “Taggart-ish” would be a fair name for it now.
Then there’s the look. Taggart, believe it or not, has just had a revamp, yet it still looks like an episode of The Sweeney filmed on a particularly grim day in 1974. In The Bill these days, even the drug addicts have to be fanciable, but no such rules apply north of the border, and the result is that the minor characters look like real people – not a bad gimmick.
Then there are the plots. Well actually, Taggart sticks pretty much to the book in this department. This week’s story involved the murder of a nurse who turned out to have been the accomplice of a drug-dealing doctor. After a red-herring stalker had been dealt with, the doc became prime suspect, but – guess what – the killer was actually his jealous wife, and – guess what – she gave herself away by mentioning something that only the murderer could have known. Oops!
You don’t watch Taggart for its inventive storylines though – you watch it because it’s hard. In a world where TV detectives sit in each other’s kitchens sipping coffee and discussing their feelings, there’s room for some of that.
Friday 16 September 2005
What to say if you liked it
ITV’s longest-running crime drama plods on in that no-frills, no-nonsense manner that we’ve come to love
What to say if you disliked it
Something happened to someone because something else happened to someone else because they were unhappy about something – or something like that
What was good about it?
• We like a drama that features a cold fish and this had one straight from the cod balls cabinet at Tesco. Todd Phelps, whose name sounds like a handsome young playboy, was in fact an icy middle-aged man, reacting strangely to the murder of his younger wife. “My wife may have been beautiful and vivacious,” he told those growling cops, “but she was the untidiest person I ever met.” And he loved tidiness, even naming his yacht The Tidy Lady. He even wore a cravat. Top bloke. And no, he wasn’t the killer. He was a red herring. An iced red herring.
• The yacht club setting meant the cops could indulge in amusing wordplay eg “Looks like our ship’s coming in.”
• The death by flaregun of Trevor the lover of the first murder victim.
• Burke’s clumsy wooing of Lucy the wife of the third murder victim. When the DI summoned up the courage to ask her out for a meal, he was forced to admit: “I usually eat at Le Mircowave.”
• Skinhead thug Glass – a pink snooker ball with a moustache
What was bad about it?
• Burke, Reid, Ross and Fraser are still TV’s dullest cops, apart from that Midsomer Murders pair
• Irritating, random attempts to add artistic flourishes to the film – with speeded-up or slowed-down sequences thrown in for no apparant reason, apart from to ease our boredom.