Monday, 2 May 2011


Julie Armstrong finds her son in a bath of water, murdered and covered with wild flowers. A second body is discovered soon after in water strewn with flowers. Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope and her colleague Sergeant Joe Ashworth investigate.

Justifying the decision to axe the BBC One drama Zen at a Broadcasting Press Guild lunch, the channel's controller Danny Cohen suggested that there was too much crime dramas on TV (1). ITV1, home of Midsomer Murders, Lewis, DCI Banks, or The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, added yesterday another detective to its police station: Vera.

The great Brenda Blethyn (Atonement, Saving Grace, Secrets and Lies) is DCI Vera Stanhope in a 4 X 120-minute crime drama adapted from the novels by Ann Cleeves (2). With her Columbo look, her human qualities, her personal demons and her remarkable detective abilities, the lonely Vera is an interesting and likeable character. Not your average female TV detective, DCI Stanhope is reminiscent of DI Frost (David Jason in A Touch of Frost), which is a good point for this new drama series from ITV Studios.

David Leon plays Sergeant Joe Ashworth, her right hand man and sort of surrogate son. Other members of DCI Stanhope's team are DC Holly Lawson (Wunmi Mosaku) and pathologist Billy Cartwright (Paul Ritter). Yesterday's premiere is based on the book Hidden Depths, adapted by Paul Rutman, and directed by Adrian Shergold (Mad Dogs). Gina McKee, Murray Head and Juliet Aubrey are among the guest stars. One of them was not typecast as the murderer, which is another good point. If the camera work could sometimes calm down a bit that would certainly not hurt an otherwise enjoyable drama.

Filmed in Northumberland and Newcastle, Vera is co-financed by Northern Film & Media, and supported by the One North East development agency. Kate Bartlett and Kate Lewis exec produce and Elwen Rowlands is the producer.

(2) Except the fourth film, Little Lazarus, which is an original story by Paul Rutman.

No comments: