I was pleased to see that my favourite ongoing tv cop show New Tricks returns on Monday.
For anyone unfamiliar with the show, it's a cold case series in which a group of retired cops have been hired to solve long-forgotten cases using modern forensic techniques, although in reality they use the old fashioned techniques of experience, knocking down doors, and drinking beer. The show is an excellent piece of cosy light entertainment that features actors who have been around since the days of Black and White tv, and good writing with stories that make sense and characters who act in consistent, believable ways. Having recently made the mistake of trying to watch an episode of Luther, a cop show that prides itself on its lack of plot, substance or anything that'll live in the memory for more than a nanosecond, it's heartening that these virtues are still allowed on the BBC.
Despite this, last year I reported that I wasn't particularly looking forward to series 7 as the previous series had been lacklustre with a distinct feeling that the format had run out of steam. But thankfully that turned out to be a blip and series 7 was one of the strongest since the early days. Not everything was perfect though, as the stories still didn't feature enough of the characters' private lives. Gerry's extensive family didn't appear again. His numerous wives, kids and grandchildren used to torment him continually, but now his real life daughter (playing a woman who isn't his daughter although she once thought she was) is the only part of his family we see. Jack's house only appeared briefly in the final episode and Sandra hasn't had a bad date, an argument with her mother, or a massive curry in years. Even Brian's long-suffering wife Esther had fewer appearances than usual, although she got the year's best scene and best lines in an amusing aside featuring Brian and his perfectly innocent experiments with condoms.
Having said that there wasn't a poor episode out of the ten with the particularly good ones being Brian going all obsessive, for a change, at a library and the final episode featuring corruption in the police. The series also got its gentle comedy back on top form. I particularly enjoyed Brian discovering twitter and getting more excited about picking up new followers than solving the crime. When Jack reckoned he could sum up what Brian had achieved today on twitter in three words, I decided then that I'd never waste another moment of my existence at that place, and I haven't. But the drama also ratcheted up a notch with the highlight being Jack in Dirty Harry mode trampling all over a poor criminal's human rights, and then best of all not having even a moment's pang of guilt afterwards. The cast even spent time in the pub again and Sandra's dog shooting joke from the pilot episode had a welcome return.
Hopefully this year can continue to be strong and the good news is that there isn't a cliff-hanger to resolve. The show has many strengths, but end of series cliff-hangers isn't one of them. They started in series 3 with Jack finding his wife's killer and deciding to kill him. Series 4 started with the rest of the gang arriving in time to stop him. That poor resolution turned out to be the show's best one. Series 4 ended with Jack destroying his friendship with Sandra by revealing a terrible secret about her father, thus making it impossible for them to work together again. Series 5 forgot about this until episode 4 where Sandra and Jack had a chat in a car and decided it wasn't serious. Series 5 ended with Brian going back to the booze, thus destroying his career and ending his marriage, except he was cured by series 6 and it was never mentioned again. Series 6 ended with Sandra discovering she had a secret evil twin brother, but in series 7 she decided that wasn't important. I cheered when series 7 had a non-cliff-hanger ending and I'll cheer again when series 8 begins.