After looking at the best years of the long-running cop show Dalziel and Pascoe last week, this week I'll look at the less than glorious years. Spotting the moment when a show jumps the shark can be a lot of fun and I don’t think there's any doubt that this show did just that, but it's not obvious at which point it did so. I think in truth it was a slow process where a number of changes were made to the show's format and sadly, every change made the show worse. Oddly this demonstrated the strength of the format as despite every knock down it remained enjoyable right through to the end.
The start of the end came with Mens Sana, the second episode of the 7th series. Although this is one of my favourite episodes, after 6 years of perfection, it started the rot with a significant change in the format. I can still remember the review at the time that pointed out that after 6 years of being a cop show someone had suddenly decided the show was a comedy. This episode featured Dalziel recovering from yet another heart attack at a sanatorium where too many people are dying, and fun though the set piece comedy routines were, the writers had started the process of not treating the characters with respect.
At the end of series seven, Wieldy left starting a revolving door for the third copper role, none of whom had as much screen time or personality as he had. Then the set changed from the cramped and filthy inner city cop shop to something high tech and soulless, presumably so that it wouldn’t look out of place amongst all the glossy American imports. Then the show was split into two-parters as apparently attention spans could no longer cope with sitting still for 90 minutes waiting to find out how that long dead twin feigned his death 40 years ago. The need to have something that made sense even if you missed part one slowed every story down. Then directors who thought they were destined for greatness arrived and were stylish and annoying with strange experimental techniques. The episode where Dalziel sees his memories played out on screen without a cut was a theatrical idea that the director should have learnt never to do when he was still at art school.
And then, finally and most disastrously, Dalziel got a new haircut. This may not seem important but somehow that changed everything. His posh new suit and immaculate coiffure made him irresistible to the ladies (on the other hand he always was), but after several years of being near to death his poor health was forgotten about and Dalziel became fitter than Pascoe. He even stopped scratching his nuts. But to compensate Warren did forget how to act.
Pascoe also changed as, with his wife now gone, he had nothing dramatic to do leaving the actor looking bored. But the really bad thing was that the plots became head-swimmingly convoluted with no feeling that the writers were aware of the novels and how they made even the most complex of plots work. There were a few classic episodes left to enjoy including the one where Pascoe is in hospital and falls in love with Nurse Deadmeat (known in our house as the - is she dead yet episode) and the one where Detective Deadmeat takes up a new hobby of solo underwater cave exploring (known in our house as the - is he dead yet episode). But for the most part the final years show a steady and then a sharp decline.
The 12th and final series loses all sense of reality with incredible plots featuring nanobots, the search for eternal life and devil worshippers. So to conclude these articles next week I'll look at Demons on our Shoulders, which in my opinion is the worst episode of any tv series ever made. And bear in mind I've seen the Star Trek: Voyager episode where Tom Paris turns into a lizard, mates with Captain Janeway, and produces baby salamanders.
After the 46th and final film, in which Pascoe ignores how he's behaved for the previous 45 films and forms his own one-man vigilante organization to kill off suspects, the BBC put it out of its misery. Bad ending or not, the show, at its best, was as good as the cop show could get.