Inspector George Gently - Season 6 preview
This preview does spoil the end of season six. If you haven't seen it, even though it was shown nearly 2 years ago, well we warned you
Back when it was commissioned in the noughties, I imagine the upper echelons of the BBC were very proud. A grumpy older cop is paired with a younger local one, they drive around in a classic car and solve murders. Coupled with finally finding the right role for Martin Shaw as the upright, handsome Gently, this adaptation of Alan Hunters books must have seemed like Sunday evening ratings gold for its Heartbeat-esque and Morse-like properties. My lord, it even had the kudos of being created by the great Peter Flannery (Our Friends in the North).
In truth, it probably did just enough to keep from being cancelled and has now wandered off from Sunday evenings to the middle of the week. The key nuggets of the series have remained the same - a socio-political history of the North East told through the vehicle of a master apprentice relationship and a whole lot of homicide. Over the last five seasons, it has got preachy and it has got soapy as Lee Ingleby's John Bacchus has worked his way through many a woman and many a challenge in his growth into the kind of decent copper his boss is. Yet, it's retained enough of Flannery's concern for the region and interest in people to remain of interest. Of course, the show has relied a lot on the interplay between Gently and Bacchus, and in turn the playing between of Shaw and Ingleby. Shaw knows how to do his sexy patrician roles by now what with John Deed and others behind him, but Ingleby has developed wonderfully as an appealing actor portraying a young man stumbling through right and wrong in his youth. Bacchus has often rebelled but Ingleby has always been able to suggest that he knows what a good man Gently is despite his anger and nonsense.
Rather predictably, given the series hadn't been renewed yet, the previous season ended with a cliff hanger. Gently had been shot after being cornered in Durham Cathedral, and Bacchus had saved his life whilst getting shot himself. Would they die, would the BBC re-commission - were the two eventualities connected? So...the Beeb did and we have four more 90 minute films to enjoy as Gently and Bacchus take on social unrest, the cold war and mining whilst searching for the truth. As the series has moved on through the sixties, they've moved through the spirits of the age - from the white heat of technology and the wealthy fifties to the growing disenchantment and liberation. The show has stayed true to the discrimination of the age, and to the position of Gently as an outsider within the police whilst Bacchus has tried stable marriage, joining the establishment, and then free love and rebellion. We're now in the late sixties and the world is a far less hopeful place where good acts and good cops are regularly thwarted.
The show still attracts good casts and is always in the hands of experienced TV hands. This season we get a Pixie Lott appearance and many recognisable faces wrapping themselves around Tyneside accents. The formula for the show hasn't changed that much and Flannery still keeps a hand in the writing, and I imagine this is what has kept the standards of the show up despite the odd lapse in judgement. Better than Lewis, Endeavour and many of its competitors and with a genuine interest in the issues it explores, George Gently is welcome back when others should look for the exit.
Inspector George Gently is back on BBC1 on Thursdays at 8.30. You can catch previous seasons on iTunes and the new season on iPlayer once they are shown