Scott & Bailey
Scott & Bailey, a truly outstanding British police drama has completed its five season run, and is now available on DVD and on Amazon Prime and BritBox. Much wider U.S. exposure seems warranted.
The show is shot on location in Manchester. Standalone murder investigations complement long major crime arcs tied to closely to the lives of the central characters. Three female detectives carry the show, and talented women also run things behind the scenes. Perhaps that's why Scott, Bailey, and DCI Murray are among the most perfectly executed female lead characters in television history.
Suranne Jones (in photo) is DC Rachel Bailey: intuitive, but prone to poor personal choices. Lesley Sharp brilliantly plays DC Janet Scott, an empathetic interrogator and a kind, if too trusting, friend. Amelia Bullmore portrays their boss, DCI Gill Murray, a mature, exceptional leader who rattles off orders with the command and confident precision of a World Series director. All three characters struggle with the men in their lives.
Writer Sally Wainwright and former Detective Inspector Diane Taylor have infused the series with a depth of realism, character, and humanity not seen in a police drama since NYPD Blue left us. Amelia Bullmore took over as head writer for season four and five, and the series didn't miss a beat.
Has the U.K. moved ahead of the U.S. in current police dramas? Broadcast networks in the U.S. have let demographic presumptions control too many casting choices. Broadcasters here sometimes make the ignorant presumption that all young viewers want shows which celebrate transgression and undermine authority.Too many U.S. police dramas also shy away from the un-PC truths about crime and crime-fighting. Hollywood prefers women advocating for "social" justice, not meting out moral justice in interrogation rooms. For these reasons and many others, Scott & Bailey is a program worth finding and watching.
I call Mad Men the most outstanding American TV series to debut in this century. Sure, The Sopranos had life-and-death stakes, almost on a weekly basis. That's almost the point. Mad Men is drama on a more life-like scale. You care deeply about the characters, so you hope they're redeemable. Or perhaps you watch because the everyday business problems are so perfectly executed, and business deserves serious artistic treatment. Or you watch to laugh, because it's very funny, in surprising ways.
Some of us also watched Mad Men because we actually remember those times, and we're eager to walk in footsteps which fell near our own. The past is so perfectly rendered in Mad Men that artifacts in Mad Men offices were just like those on my father's desk (he was a New York ad man) fifty years ago. Mad Men is true to the era, true to its characters, and in the end, true to the advertising industry. The series offers what is so far the signature artistic vision of the past half-century from the perspective of this one.
With so many linear networks chasing dumbed down ad-supported audiences, streaming channels are providing smarter choices for discerning viewers. British and other international dramas, current and past, are so abundant on Amazon Prime/PBS Masterpiece, Acorn TV, MHz Choice and BritBox you almost -- almost -- won't miss1990's U.S. television. (Where you'll also find much of it!)
Old PBS Masterpiece favorites like Foyle's War, Inspector Lewis, and Poirot cycle through, joined by more recent finds like Scott & Bailey; Vera; Murder in Suburbia, Miranda, The Crown, and Hold the Sunset.. Recent additions to my list of top favorites include Professor T. (original Belgian production only) and Astrid (France) both on PBS Masterpiece. Agathe Koltes (PBS Masterpiece) and Cherif (MHz) both set in France, are comparable to good American police procedurals and Slow Horses starring Gary Oldman is reason enough to subscribe to Apple TV+, at least until you finish watching it.
(Pictured: Michael Kitchen in Foyle's War, Series 8: The Eternity Ring a fine episode wherein former DCI Christopher Foyle joins MI-5 to expose a late 1940's Communist spy ring in London.)