New Tricks (2003–2015)
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New Tricks is probably the best of the current breed closely followed by my personal favourite, "55 Degrees North". I pity the so called young and hip series which feel the need to give identification figures to every focus group the entertainment industry cares about - "New Tricks" manages to make you care about the characters because they simply feel real and because it uses their genuine faults and quirks to propel exquisite and hilariously entertaining story lines.
The actor all are veterans of crime drama and the fun they are having with this one is palpable. These old dogs having plenty of new tricks up their sleeve to make he viewer eagerly ask for more.
The real star though, is Alun Armstrong, whose portrayal of obsessive alcoholic savant Brian is both funny and touching; and the storybase of a "cold case" police unit made up of retired ex-coppers allows plenty of latitude for self-deprecating humour. Amanda Redman is always good value too, and she doesn't disappoint here as the no-nonsense boss of this team of superannuated mavericks.
Yes, there are lots of clichés and several improbable situations, but overall it's a good-natured romp with a bunch of old pros. I always try to watch it if I'm in.
Excellent plots (every case has to do with an unsolved serious crime, or murder), excellent actors, very good scripts, professional directing, nice twists, and lovely characters, like Gerry (Dennis Waterman), who's has a host of ex-wives, who occasionally wine-and-dine him, but has contacts everywhere, or Brian (Alun Armstrong), who plays an ex-alcoholic, who has a perfect memory about facts and dates, but less perfect when it comes to his wife (lovely played by Susan Jameson) and her likes and dislikes! The third of the retired officers is Jack (played by James Bolam), who's wife was killed in a hit-and-run accident - he spends most of his off-time talking to his dead wife - even have a kind of mausoleum over her in his back garden. But his high rank before retiring, and his knowledge of people and what makes them tick, makes for an excellent interviewer of suspects, and others. Always very well dressed, always well spoken, but aged by sorrow and longing for the wife that's no longer around.
Their boss, Sandra, is a blond, forceful, young officer, who has no husband, but a messy private life, which sometimes affect the stories. Expertly acted by a, to me, totally unknown actress called Amanda Redman.
Can't be beaten, this row of series, and no two installments are alike!
Doff my hat, it's great!
I'd give it a 10/10 if the picture quality in dark scenes were better!
James Bolam is an actor I have long rated highly and this shows he has not lost his touch. In fact the range of acting skills these people bring to the show make younger actors in the same show look shallow. The team knit well together. They make great use of the fact that they are all retired police officers who can and do ignore rules and protocols to solve supposedly dead cases.
It makes a refreshing change compared to some American shows of the same genre. I strongly recommend it.
The plot is about three retired detectives who are recruited to help solve cold crimes. They also have to get used to the environment that has changed since they were in the force. The boss is Sandra Pullman (Amanda Redman) who is feisty, she can hold her own and gives a good punch. Jack Halford (James Bolam) was Sandra's boss before he retired. He has lost his wife and has a memorial for her out in his garden and talks regularly to her as if she can talk back. Brian Lane (Alun Armstrong is very clever, he can get obsessed over little things and has to take medication for his mental health. Gerry Standing (Dennis Waterman) is a ladies man who has three ex-wives, daughters and a grand child.
Amanda, James, Alun and Dennis are the crop of British talent and they make the show the success it is. They have great chemistry together and they have me in floods of laughter at times. The scripts are just brilliant, the way the writing can effortlessly move between laughter and drama is what also makes the show what it is.
I hope they continue to make this show because this is another show on the BBC that keeps me entertained for an hour. Keep up the good work.
So now to the first series. I still have a little inside laugh when I think about the talks with the soliciting team members in the pilot-episode. I have a little inside weep when I see the old copper talking to his deceased wife. And what a wonderful woman is the boss! If all women were like she is, there would be no glass ceiling (if you know what I mean, or is it a Dutch expression).
They can act, boy, can they all act. Why young actors, when this lot is still going strong? I'm not yet their ages, but it is quite reassuring that there is so much life in the old guys! Conclusion: I will keep looking for the series here in Holland, subtitled and all, and I very much want to thank the BBC for bringing so much quality and joy in the best series I've ever seen. In a word, its most 'uplifting'. A real medicine.
Plots deal with things that are often timely and of interest and push all the right buttons. The writing is fun and seems natural and is not aimed at juveniles like US based writing seems to be. Why can't they make such good programs out of the US ? Even the shows that they 'steal' like Cracker are not done well; the pacing is wrong and they seem dumbed down and acted poorly.
UK and Canadian actors look more natural and 'of the real World' than the too pretty US ones, and the acting is more natural and unforced. They have facial expressions accompanying the reading of the lines too, what a concept ! Thank goodness for some of the good programming out of the UK and Canada, I wish there was a way to keep them going by supporting the good ones. We have a long history here in Canada of the good ones living short lives. Billy Joel wrote "Only the good die young. That's what I said, only the good die young." Prove him wrong, Long live shows like New Tricks!
Just a note to say that after the departure of James Bolam as Jack Halford, I was worried about the future and that the 'chemistry' would be upset but I need not have worried. Denis Lawson seems to have settled in and the expert and professional cast has not seemed to missed a step. We on the 'other side of the pond' will just have to see what happens after learning that others are leaving the fold as well. I hope the writers can pull a few more rabbits out of their hats as there is not much else worth watching these days.
It's just started it's 5th Series in the UK...and is a hugely successful and Enjoyable Series...It's Funny,Sad & Thrilling in Equal measure and just goes to show you don't need Whizzbang CSI type Investigations to Enjoy a very well Written and Acted Series.
***** out of *****
Amanda Redman is a modern police inspector who has mastered all the latest in crime fighting techniques, but can't master the prejudices still there about women in positions of authority. They're promoting here, but she's in charge of the Cold Case Squad in London and not getting any real help, nor is she really expected to solve these long cold homicides.
What to do, but recruit her own help in the persons of three retired detectives Alun Armstrong, James Bolam, and Dennis Waterman who are wasting away in retirement. They may not be up to date and you can't teach the old dogs New Tricks at times, but they're still pretty good at what they do.
What's nice about all these people is that they're quite three dimensional and even ordinary somewhat. But they have a work ethic and they get the job done.
Hopefully this show will run in the United Kingdom for several more years and we'll have lots of episodes to look forward to.
The British do this sort of thing well. Instead of Inspector Morse, we have Redman's female boss dealing with detectives who'd rather not handle some of the cases they're assigned to.
Handsome production values help, as does the intelligent writing. Worth watching if you like your detective stories told in British style.
The quality kept up until series 11 when the rapid cast turnover took its toll in the writing and the new characters did not gel quite like James Bolam, Alun Armstrong, Dennis Waterman and Amanda Redman.
New Tricks was a phenomenal show for the BBC which started during the reign of Greg Dyke as Director General of the BBC and under his watch the corporation had a renaissance of successful and populist dramas.
New Tricks rather reminded me of those Euston Film serials that ITV had in the 1970s and 1980s. A series with a healthy mix of drama and comedy such as Minder and featured a lot of location shooting.
Apart from their office, each episode would showcase some part of London, it had a great cast of actors that certainly blended well and the mysteries were enough to keep you entertained. It really was a special show.
It is just a shame the wheels fell off a bit when many of the original cast left in quick succession. The final series was a mild return to form but all good things have to end.
I love the back and forth dialogue among the ensemble members, and the way they're all fully fleshed-out characters: Gerry (Waterman) is a multi-married man, now a grandfather; Jack (Bolam) is a widower who still talks to his wife at her grave; Brian (Armstrong) was an absent father who is trying to make it up to his son now.
The three are hilarious together. In one episode, Gerry was trying to find out if the other two made the same money. He was trying to break into file drawers and calling payroll as one of the others. In yet another, Brian realized that someone had information on an old case in which he was involved. The man worked for a Suicide Hotline. Brian storms into the building and cuts him off while he is trying to counsel someone. They are as funny as they are effective in solving cold cases.
The beautiful Redman brings authority and a certain toughness to the role of Sandra Pullman, but she has a twinkle in her eye.
I understand the cast undergoes some changes later in the run. I'll have to wait and see, but it will be hard to top this combination.