TV Review: Suspects, Step Dave
Tucked away on the blokey guns-and-car-chases channel, The Box, is an incongruous offering, Suspects (screening next at 10.30pm on Sunday) – one of the most intelligent, least escapist crime dramas imaginable.
It's a British series, made in the rickety style of fly-on-the-wall documentaries. The scenes are all shot from a very basic script, upon which the actors are expected to improvise. This, the cast, including Cold Feet star Fay Ripley, do with considerable skill.
The police officers' premises are dingy and harshly lit, with regular train-roaring noises and general din uncensored. The officers' faces appear unmade-up, their conversations are sometimes terse, sometimes baggy with um-ing and ah-ing. Most daringly of all, there is almost no focus on the officers' private lives, backgrounds or foibles. Do they have kids, do they drink, are they desperate for promotion? Who cares. Their personalities are evident, but beside the point. , The whole focus is on the crime, and what an ordinary police force might need to do in order to solve it.
The result is extraordinarily naturalistic and realistic, from the stumblings and evasions, innocent and guilty, of the suspects and witnesses, to the cops' floundering and bickering.
This week's episode started with a 13-year-old girl found unconscious on waste ground, having been multiply raped and stabbed, subsequently miscarrying. Initially, her taciturn solo father seems likely to have deployed her to earn funds for a drug addiction, but that's not it.
Inquiries lead to a crafty paedophile, who convenes organised grooming and raping of young girls, and an all too credibly sordid backstory is uncovered.
Meanwhile, in a much jollier universe, Step Dave (TV2, Tuesdays, 8.30pm), is bubbling along at an agreeably dizzying pace. Grumpy Betty has delivered her baby – "Don't tell me how to breathe. I've been breathing all my life, knob-lord!" But her overbearing boss, miserable Michael, has all but elbowed the hapless Azza out of the process, leaving him drunk, stoned and miserable enough to be predated upon by the series' annoying minx, Zandra.
Just as alarmingly, Julia's amorous rampages have cost her her job, and she has found out Jen has been dating her ex-husband. And there is undeniable chemistry between Cara and her new partner/bankroller, which has clearly only been shelved temporarily. It could all end very badly – but cheeringly, unlike in the grim real world of Suspects, we can be sure it's more likely to end with a third and equally amiably bonkers series being commissioned.