Our hero here is a fat, sweaty, womanising, gambling alcoholic. The setting is slate-grey dreary, gritty Manchester. The subject matter is murder and rape, race and kidnap. Yet is it uplifting to watch because the quality of the series, particularly in the early episodes is so delightfully rare.
The episodes are `why dunnits' rather then `who dunnits' and it is Fitz, played brilliantly by Robbie Coltrane is a genius psychologist with a rare gift to unravel a criminal mind, that plays them out. From the start of the series, when we watch him give a lecture and throw books at students, it is clear he is a magnetic character. What makes him so likable is his brutal honesty and his inability to conform.
However, it is the whole package that makes `Cracker' so essential. The scripts, Jimmy McGovern are superb. He is a national treasure.
There is also the strength of the supporting cast. In particular, I liked the characters of Jane `Panhandle' Penhaligan, and DCI Bilborough, (Christopher Eccleston in one of his finest roles) and the unhinged D.S Jimmy Beck.
The greatest episodes are when these characters are involved and when McGovern writes. These episodes in themselves warrant the highest mark possible for this collection. The quality tails off slightly after this but the series is always engrossing.
This box set does not offer any extras, but I doubt that many people will care. This is simply British drama at its finest, and essential viewing.