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Cliffhanger leaves door open for more police period drama

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 17, 2012

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Cliffhanger leaves door open for more

There was a huge buzz about the return of Downton Abbey last night. Dare I confess I'm more of fan of Inspector George Gently, on BBC One, which was screening on the 'other side'?

Ever since the groundbreaking Our Friends in the North in the mid-1990s I've been most impressed by screenwriter Peter Flannery. He has a talent for penning gritty, realistic late 20th century drama rooted in a timeline of real social development and political events. It's a quality he repeats with unfaltering flair in George Gently, his adaptation of the novels by Alan Hunter.

Here is policing done 1960s style, without DNA, mobile phones, computerised records and analysis, or instant tracking devices. It harks back to when crime headlines were about gangsters, gambling, bank robbers, escaped prisoners, and corruption in high places. Attention to detail is meticulous from the language (not an F-word to be heard), the cars and the traffic signs, to the shoes and haircuts. It's given an instant must-see tag with the superb Martin Shaw in the title role. Aged 67 now, but looking a good decade younger, he's entirely convincing as this complex and dedicated former London detective. Working for the Met he made powerful enemies which led to the killing of his wife. He's now stationed in the North East, a quiet patch that seems to have got much livelier for cocky younger sidekick Sergeant John Bacchus (an excellent Lee Ingleby) and the rest of the station since George's arrival.

Last night's was the final episode of the fifth series and the bloodbath cliffhanger ending guarantees a sixth in the pipeline, or I'm asking for my licence fee back. A nasty villain from the old days turned the tables on George, accusing him of corruption and putting the inspector in the frame for killing a local young copper. Kevin Whately popped in from Inspector Lewis to make what initially seemed to be a cameo appearance as a retired high-ranking policeman.

I'm not going to tell you the story – I just urge all you Downton fans to tune in on the BBC iPlayer.

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