TONY ON TV: Crime continues to rise with detective dramas

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ITV seems to be cranking up the crime figures with its current run of detective dramas.

There’s the latest series of ‘Poirot’ (marking the beginning of the end for David Suchet as he completes all the cases investigated by the famous Belgian sleuth), Julia McKenzie making sure there’s no retirement for Miss Marple, plus a re-run on ITV3 of the Manchester-based ‘Scott & Bailey’ ahead of more sweeping Northumbrian views as Brenda Blethyn reprises her role as the obsessive detective in ‘Vera.’ And, just by moving to a neighbouring county, preparation work is underway for filming on the third series of ‘DCI Banks.’

Penned by Peter Robinson, with a skilful mix of real and imaginary Yorkshire locations, the novels have a loyal legion of fans who have followed the work and home trials and tribulations of the music and booze-loving detective chief inspector over 22 novels. The books have a natural progression of time and place, even if Banks stays as a hands-on detective chief inspector, so it may have upset some purists that the earlier TV adaptation have zig-zagged over the years and career of Banks played with deadpan accuracy by Stephen Tompkinson.

This scattergun approach looks set to continue with the next three titles - ‘Wednesday’s Child’ (child abduction), ‘Piece of My Heart’ (death of a journalist has links to a cult rock band) and ‘Bad Boy’ (Banks’ daughter is in danger after a gun is found in a young girl’s bedroom) - but there’s an added bonus as the series will see a return from maternity leave of Banks’ sometime love interest, DS Annie Cabbot (Andrea Lowe -‘Love Life’ and ‘Monroe’), rejoining the team and working alongside her temporary cover, the disarmingly blunt DI Helen Morton (Caroline Catz -- ‘Doc Martin’ and ‘Murder in Surburbia’).

Banks’ maverick approach to cases always pays off, but I think he would be hard placed to understand all the goings and comings in the supernatural crime thriller ‘The Returned’ (Channel 4, Sunday).

This has proved a runaway success at home in France and it’s easy to see why with the opening episode as a school bus carrying students on a day trip plunges off the road and down an Alpine ravine. Fast forward many years later and as the locals discuss a memorial to the 36 who died, one of the “dead” teenagers returns . . . only to be followed by others who show no signs of injury or ageing as they try to reclaim their lives.


Flights and Fights -- Thursday, BBC2. For anyone who has a beef about budget airlines this behind-the-scenes report, subtitled ‘Inside the Low Cost Airlines,’ is essential viewing as operators look at new ways of making us rack up the air miles.

Trojan Donkey -- Friday, Channel 4. New hidden camera comedy aims to show how funny life can be when people think that no one is looking, so look out for a celebrity stalker who thinks that Peter Andre is on her bus, or the man who is having the entire Bible tattooed on his body.

Love Your Garden -- Tuesday, ITV1. TV gardener Alan Titchmarsh, aided and abetted by fellow experts David Domoney, Katie Rushworth and Frances Tophill, travels the country to give surprise transformations to the outdoor spaces of some of Britain’s most deserving people.