First screened in 1993, Jimmy McGovern's Cracker
was at once a variation on a familiar theme and a daring new departure from the run-of-the-mill cop show. Robbie Coltrane's Fitz is an independent criminal psychologist called in by the police to help them crack intractable cases, usually involving grisly serial murders. But like its Granada TV stablemate Prime Suspect
also delves deep into the main characters' personal lives, revealing a chaos of emotional entanglements that become increasingly inseparable from their professional duties.
Robbie Coltrane's charismatic presence dominates: the contrast between Fitz's professionalism and his complete inability to diagnose his own psychological failings provides much of the show's dramatic impetus. His frequent interrogations of murder suspects are tour de force demonstrations of coolly analytical method shot through with biting humour. But his drunken, intemperate behaviour towards his wife and everyone else is a telling contrast of extremes, and one that creates dangerous resentment among his colleagues. Coltrane is supported by a strong cast that includes Barbara Flynn, Geraldine Somerville, Lorcan Cranitch (as the terrifyingly unstable DS Jimmy Beck), Christopher Eccleston, and a pre-Royle Family Ricky Tomlinson. McGovern's screenplays balance gritty, Manchester-based realism with splendidly mordant wit, making Cracker simply riveting viewing.
On the DVD: This complete Cracker 10-disc box set contains all three series that ran from 1993-95. The feature-length episodes are: "The Mad Woman in the Attic", "Say I Love You", "One Day a Lemming Will Fly" (Series 1); "Be a Somebody", "The Big Crunch", "Men Should Weep" (Series 2); "Brotherly Love", "Best Boys", "True Romance" (Series 3); "White Ghost" (1996 special). --Mark Walker
All eleven episodes from the popular drama series starring Robbie Coltrane as the larger-than-life, hard-drinking criminal psychologist. In 'The Mad Woman in the Attic', after a student of Fitz's (Coltrane) is butchered on a train, the police believe it to be the work of a serial slasher. At the scene of the crime is an unconscious, blood-stained man (Adrian Dunbar) who is soon accused of the murders. Fitz is brought in to use his talents to reach into the soul of the man (who is claiming amnesia) to reveal the truth. In 'To Say I Love You', Fitz is called in by the police to have a look at a young man brought in for joyriding. He advises that the boy is kept for a psychological evaluation, but the powers-that-be ignore him. When the young man begins a spree of crime with his girlfriend, Fitz's theories are proved correct. In 'One Day a Lemming Will Fly', a young boy is found hanging from a tree, and Fitz is brought in to find out what led to his death. A pathologist's report indicates that the boy was murdered before he was hanged, putting the boy's suicidal English teacher and two mean school bullies on the top of the suspect list. In 'To Be a Somebody', Albie (Robert Carlyle) is a young man, psychologically disturbed by the events of Hillsborough and the death of his father, who attacks and kills an Asian newsagent. The police believe it to be a racist attack but draw a blank in their investigations into right-wing groups, and so call in Fitz to help with their enquiries. However, every minute is vital, as Albie is planning a spree of mass killing that must be halted before he strikes close to home. In 'The Big Crunch', Fitz is called in to investigate the sinister operations of a religious cult, which perversely punishes its young acolytes for the sins of its leaders. In 'Men Should Weep', Fitz attempts to fit a spate of rapes to the profile of a number of known sexual offenders. The investigation has personal repercussions when his colleague and occasional lover, DS Penhaligon (Geraldine Somerville), is raped, whilst the return of his estranged wife Judith (Barbara Flynn) only complicates matters further. In 'Brotherly Love', Fitz is called in when a father of four is arrested for the murder of a prostitute, only for an identical killing to take place while the man is still in custody. Meanwhile, Jimmy Beck (Lorcan Cranitch) returns to the force following DS Penhaligon's accusation of rape against him. In 'Best Boys', Fitz faces more problems on the home and professional fronts, as the shadow of Jimmy Beck's suicide continues to loom over his relationship with Penhaligon. Meanwhile, Judith wonders how the imminent arrival of her baby will affect her already tumultuous marriage. In 'True Romance', while Judith turns to Fitz's brother Danny (Clive Russell) for support, Penhaligon also needs someone to talk to. Fitz receives letters from an anonymous female admirer, only to discover that she could be a murderer. Dropped from the investigation due to his personal involvement, Fitz cannot help but become involved when his son Mark (Kieran O'Brien) is used as bait. In 'White Ghost', Fitz is on a lecture tour in Hong Kong when the local police call him in to help with a murder case. It soon transpires that a serial killer is at work. Fitz asks for his Manchester colleague Penhaligon, but instead it is DCI Wise (Ricky Tomlinson) who arrives from England to help him investigate the killings. Finally, in 'Nine Eleven', Fitz returns to Manchester after spending ten years living in Australia with his wife and youngest son. He is soon drawn into the investigation of a British soldier who may have been traumatised by his years serving in Northern Ireland.