‘New Tricks’ is a Treat

Article first published as DVD Review: New Tricks: Season 5 on Blogcritics.

In “New Tricks,” Detective Superintendent Sandra Pullman (Amanda Redman) is in charge of the Unsolved Crime and Open Case Squad (UCOS). She and her eccentric team of three ex-policemen investigate past unsolved crimes. She reports to a Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Robert Strickland (Anthony Calf), who is proud of his unusual team’s accomplishments, but who still tries to keep the group reined in a much as possible.

The rest of the squad includes:

Gerald “Gerry” Standing (Dennis Waterman), a former detective sergeant and a man with an eye for the ladies and an appreciation of the finer things in life. He has been married three times. He has four daughters and a grandson, Gerry Jr. Waterman also sings the series theme song, “It’s Alright.”

Brian Lane (Alun Armstrong) is a former detective inspector and a recovering alcoholic. He frequently gets in trouble, leaving the squad to pick up the pieces.

Former Detective Chief Superintendent Jack Halford (James Bolam) is haunted by the death of his wife Mary, who was killed by Ricky Hanson in a hit-and-run incident. He has planted a memorial to her in their garden and frequently speaks to her, while trying to work out his latest case.

The main actors have a great rapport, and the cases they investigate are a nice mix of the odd and nostalgic. It is fun to see “mature” actors being vital both in and out of the office. The show’s style of filming is more open-air than most American cop dramas, which often feature scenes set in interrogation rooms or fancy deep-focus camera work highlighting gory forensics. The detectives in New Tricks get out and about, traveling throughout England to solve their cases.

Series 5, which originally aired in the U.K. in 2008, includes eight episodes on three discs:

“Spare Parts” – The team investigates an organ-donor business that seems less than honest in how it assigns its “spare parts.” Ricky Hanson stands trial for Jack’s attempted murder. James Fox plays an extremely canny and forceful lawyer who is representing Hanson.

“Final Curtain” – After the trial, Jack has disappeared, leaving a team of three to look into a case involving an actor who was shot and killed by his actress wife (Claire Bloom) on stage during a performance. In the course of his investigations Bran flirts with the idea of chucking police work for a life on the stage.

“A Face For Radio”- the UCOS goes back to the ’80s when they investigates the death of a DJ who died on-the-air. Strickland pressures Sandra to replace Jack – or leave. Brian goes looking for Jack.

“Loyalties and Royalties” – Gerry’s love for music come to the fore when the team looks into the death of the lead guitarist from his favorite rock band from the ’70s, Bad Faith. Jack finally returns, determined to stop Strickland from shutting down the UCOS.

“Couldn’t Organise One” – Sandra is forced to confront some hard facts about her dead father when the squad investigates a murder at a brewery. Will sleuthing around so much alcohol cause Brian to fall off the wagon?

“Magic Majestic” – Brian battles his alcohol demons while the crew investigates a case of a magic trick gone very wrong. Gerry agrees to be hypnotized with some surprising results.

“Communal Living” – Brian continues to battle the bottle and tries hiding out in a commune, where the team is also looking into the death of a student. Gerry must finally deal with Emily and his paternity.

“Mad Dogs” – The squad investigates the death of a British soldier who went missing after taking place in a medical trial.

I had never seen “New Tricks” before viewing the DVD of the show’s fifth season, but now I’m hooked. I was able to quickly get into the quirky characters and their relationships. Now I’d like to go back and catch up with earlier seasons of the show and watch back stories for the four main characters.

The DVD has subtitles and a bonus behind-the-scenes feature about the series. “New Tricks” is a highly successful show in Britain. Series 7 and 8 (each with 10 episodes) have already been broadcast in the U.K., with two new series, 9 and 10, already ordered with 10 episodes each. Looks like these old dogs will be up to their new tricks for some time to come.

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