Well, this certainly has the makings of some jolly good summer fun.
If you prefer your small-screen detectives to be pensive, prickly and properly Brit-accented, then Sunday nights are about to become appointment-TV dates in your viewing schedule for the next few hot-weather weekends.
Two new series arrive Sunday -- one on Canadian specialty cable's Bravo channel, the other as the latest addition to PBS's Masterpiece/Mystery! roster -- and while they're different in tone and temperament, each is a worthy addition to any cop-show lover's must-see list.
First up is The Fall (Sunday at 8 p.m. on Bravo), a BBC import that brings Gillian Anderson back to TV in her first series-lead role since The X-Files. Anderson, who has lived mostly in England since The X-Files ended in 2002, arrives onscreen as a distinctly London-accented detective superintendent who has been dispatched to Belfast to review a murder case that has confounded the Ulster city's constabulary.
As DS Stella Gibson, Anderson is soft-spoken but determined to get directly to the point as she quickly concludes the murder case she's examining is not an isolated incident, but instead may be part of a series of killings committed by the same attacker.
This serial-killer theory rankles the Belfast P.D.'s mostly male crew of old-school detectives, but The Fall's dual storylines unfold in a manner that shows viewers immediately she is correct in her assertion. At the same time we watch Gibson sift through the evidence for clues, we also look in on family counsellor Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan), who maintains a daylight-hours identity as a loving husband and father while venturing out at night to stalk, assault and murder young women in various parts of Belfast.
It's an intriguing narrative choice, but giving viewers the answer to the "whodunit?" part of the equation right off the top affords The Fall's writers a unique opportunity to delve deep into the characters -- both the cops and the criminal.
The Fall is a deliberately paced five-part thriller that demands a bit of patience as it sets up its storylines, but those who stick with it will be rewarded by some great performances and an overall cop-show yarn that is both creepy and compelling.
This time around, it's the audience that knows something (evil) is out there, and watching Anderson, as Gibson, search for answers is great fun, indeed.
Also arriving on Sunday is Endeavour: Series 1 (9 p.m. on PBS), a four-episode collection of mysteries featuring a youthful, new-to-the-job version of the copper who would eventually become Inspector Morse.
As portrayed by Shaun Evans, young Endeavour Morse is a rookie crime-solver with the circa-1960s Oxford police department; he clearly has the instincts that will one day make him a great investigator, but his older, set-in-their-ways superiors aren't all that open to ideas and/or theories that deviate from the norm.
In the series opener (a pilot for Endeavour aired on PBS in 2011), the Oxford detachment's detectives are summoned to a munitions factory after a worker is found murdered in a storage room on the same day the plant's owners host a royal visit that could land the company a major contract for producing of a new missile system.
The body is discovered, a suspect is identified, and an arrest is made... but Morse thinks they've got the wrong man, and sets out -- despite the objections of his bosses that digging into the lives of the plant's aristocratic owners might cause embarrassment for the police department -- to find the real killer.
It doesn't blaze any new trails into the detective-yarn realm, but Endeavour is engaging and satisfying, thanks to its simpler-times period setting and solid performances by Evans as young Morse and Roger Allam as his partner and mentor, Det. Insp. Fred Thursday. He sees value and potential in young Morse while the other Oxford cops simply view his behaviour as annoyingly ambitious.
As one-two programming punches go, the same-night arrival of The Fall and Endeavour delivers a very solid shot to a previously sleepy Sunday schedule.
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