Crime dramas are rather like Easter Eggs – almost everybody loves them, some are much better than others and too many can lead to an acute case of boredom.
Over the years ITV has produced some memorable police and detective dramas although critics will point out that the proliferation of such programmes is evidence that the nation’s writers have run out ideas.
The return of Vera (ITV, Sunday) was a welcome relief for millions who have missed the small screen’s best-loved female detective – not that there are a great many to choose from.
To the uninitiated, Vera is an eccentric senior detective in an old mac and unfashionable hat and is played by an authentic national treasure (Brenda Blethyn) – it is rather like A Touch of Frost but with much nicer scenery.
I am always wary of series which rely upon breathtaking scenery as it can act as a mask for a weak cast and even flimsier plot-lines, but Vera is different, largely due to the brilliance of Blethyn as the idiosyncratic lead character.
Yes, the Northumberland locations make for stunning television and will keep the viewer engaged during a lull in the action, but Blethyn is allowed to take advantage of a decent script.
For the start of series five we were presented with an iffy death in a fire at a coastal holiday park just days before the owners’ daughter was to walk down the aisle.
It wasn’t long before it was treated as murder and even though we had a good idea that it was young bride-to-be who was the killer, there were enough twists and turns to keep the viewer interested.
Vera’s latest sidekick Aiden, played by Kenny Doughty, is sure to set a few hearts racing but he is unlikely to draw legions of female viewers away from Poldark, which is running on the ‘other channel’ at the same time.
The following night, ITV screened the first part of Code of a Killer, which should have been a belter considering it boasted the talents of David Threlfall and John Simm, but it wasn’t.
This is a drama with a difference as it is a two-pronged story with Simm playing an unfamiliar role as an academic, Alec Jefferys, who developed the use of DNA fingerprinting three decades ago.
His meandering storyline really took some explaining and it was well over 80 minutes before Simm and Threlfall’s characters came together on screen and it was far too long.
The murders of two Leicestershire schoolgirls investigated by Threlfall’s senior detective David Baker is a shocking case that older viewers will remember but this dramatised version was just not gripping enough and there is a case that this is a programme which should have been boiled down to a single episode.