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New Tricks - Series 8 [DVD]
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Detective Superintendent Sandra Pullman heads The Unsolved Crime and Open Case Squad (UCOS), cracking previously unsolved crimes from the past. Her team are three ex policemen; Gerry Standing, Jack Halford and Brian Lane, who have all opted for early retirement. The Series 8 cases include investigations into the murder of a Natural History Museum palaeontologist with plenty of enemies, a previously unidentified vagrant, a charred body with potential links to an Albanian crime circle, a popular market stall holder, a bicycle courier in possession of a deadly package, an antiques dealer and a prominent scientist who disappeared while on a train to Paris. But as UCOS dig deeper they begin to rattle cages at Whitehall and an ominous warning is issued.
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None of Gerry's extensive family appears this year, and his only memorable personal scene involves a nice comic routine involving a French cook. Brian gets the usual amusing asides with Esther, the best of which features Esther and on-line auction sites. Sandra meets another old flame and her mother returns for more memorable rounds of verbal jousting. But the character with the most interesting personal development is Jack. He hasn't been given much to do outside of work since resolving the arc tale about his wife's murder, but in the same way that series 5 detailed Brian's slow return to alcoholism, this year has a well-judged arc involving Jack's melancholy. In fact, as with Brian's earlier arc, for the most part his personal problems are unintrusive other than a sense that he's becoming increasingly maverick. There's only a small element each episode featuring Jack being distant from the others or him delivering an unexpected line of dialogue, but all these moments build up to a pay-off that's worth waiting for and which explains Jack's motivation this year. Of course, long-time fans will know that the show has a poor track record of using the final scenes from a series in the next series and so, despite the pay-off, it's likely it'll never get referred to again.
As for the stories, they are consistently strong. The only weak episode for me involves what is supposed to be the roughest, toughest, nastiest gang of scruffy bikers in the country, except the actors are a bunch of softies and they come across as being slightly less menacing than the bikers in Every Which Way but Loose. The strong episodes feature such varied subjects as fossils, homelessness, a zoo, and antiques with the highlight being an entertaining romp about a missing scientist. This episode features an amusing turn from Tim McInnery and closes with the strange addition of a nod to the Matrix, although as Jack once claimed to be a fan of Trinity, I'm not sure why he didn't spot the similarities.
Throughout, the stories feature light humour alongside some very dark subject matters, often in the same scene. A classic moment that shows why this series works involves a psychologist giving the cops a word association test. Each character's reaction is perfectly judged, combining humour, angst and sadness, all in less than a minute. Another sign of the continued strength of the series is the quality of the actors who guest star. Every episode features numerous familiar faces so that the traditional murder mystery rule that the most famous actor did it rarely applies. And it's nice to see that the usual benign nepotism continues with guest roles for Amanda Redman's daughter and Anthony Calf's wife.
Best of all, the show has already been commissioned for another two years. I'd like to think that this welcome news is played out on screen during a fourth-wall breaking sub-plot when it looks as if UCOS might be closed down due to budgetary restrictions. But the powers that be give them permission to go on solving crimes for as long as they want to although, as Jack says, that's only because they're all dirt cheap. And long may the actors carry on accepting low wages for our benefit!
New Tricks restored my faith. But, to be honest, my faith never waivered in British television. They go for character and substance...not fluff. I saw one episode of New Tricks and was hooked. An instant fan. So much so I ordered ever single season and have watched them more than once. The characters are fully developed, yet continue to be human and grow. They're not the typical Hollywood beautiful...they're real people. Believeable, flawed, human! The story lines are fantastic and keep you guessing. I can't wait for Season 9, 10, 11, 12.....I hope this show runs forever. Anyone who's tired of today's tv.....watch New Tricks. You'll be surprised, amazed and a fan.
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