DCI Banks: Wednesday's Child

How many shows is it possible to make about basically the same subject, and with basically the same premise? ITV is trying to prove that the possibilities are endless. There’s Vera, Lewis, Endeavour, Midsummer Murders, and to a lesser extent Marple, The Bletchley Circle, Law and Order: UK, Scott & Bailey and the now departed Poirot and Whitechapel. You could even put the superior Broadchurch into this category, and now the third series of Stephen Tomkinson’s DCI Banks.

What have these all got in common? Well, they’re all detective shows of one sort or another, most of them have different mysteries to solve each episode (Broadchurch aside), and each has a central character as its focus. At a very basic level you could switch that central character in and out of each of these and you’d end up with that characters show. Imagine putting Vera into any of the ‘cases’ that Lewis gets involved in. That’d just be Vera. And Lewis and Endeavour are almost literally the same show.

Anyhow, this is supposed to be about the new series of DCI Banks which is actually a more than decent slice of ITV detective drama. Stephen Tomkinson’s droll detective is a surprisingly magnetic screen creation who has the aura of a man who just doesn’t want to be bothered by anything or anyone, a hibernating bear woken from his sleep by an annoying rabbit if you will. Unfortunately for him he’s surrounded on all sides by hassle. There’s the disappearance of a boy, the main thrust of Wednesday’s Child, and now there’s a brewing conflict within his team between old favourite and recent mum DS Annie Cabbot (Andrea Lowe), and DI Helen Morton (frostily played by Caroline Catz).
The atmosphere of the show is as dour as its setting, the outdoor scenes are depressingly familiar to British audiences, grey skies and that look on the faces of the extras when you know you should have taken a warm coat out with you. It’s not a challenging watch and there are no twists and turns on view, but that’s not what we want from an ITV drama is it. If that’s what we wanted we’d be watching an American or Nordic show.

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