Hot- tem­pered cop­per on the cold case trail

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

IF this highly suc­cess­ful Bri­tish crime drama should prove a hit for Nine dur­ing the sum­mer, as it has for the BBC in Bri­tain, the net­work will be laugh­ing all the way to the bank.

Se­ries three, which went to air in Bri­tain in 2003, con­cluded here last week. Tonight sea­son four ( 2004) be­gins. Wak­ing the Dead in­deed.

From a viewer’s per­spec­tive it hardly mat­ters be­cause, like the slick Amer­i­can Cold Case pro­duced by Jerry Bruck­heimer, the show is about old mur­ders, dug up when new an­gles emerge. Un­like Cold Case , Wak­ing the Dead has a diehard al­pha male in the cen­tral role. As Peter Boyd, Trevor Eve takes no pris­on­ers and suf­fers fools only with a great deal of glad mal­ice at their ex­pense.

The man pa­tro­n­ises his way through life, fre­quently rant­ing and rav­ing at his loyal staff ( es­pe­cially Wil John­son as De­tec­tive Spencer Jor­dan, and Claire Goose as De­tec­tive Mel Sil­ver), an­noyed when they fail to grasp the mean­ing of events as he sees them. He nips at ev­ery­one’s heels, even when not in a fit of pique, and moves about with a sub­dued, over­con­fi­dent air, cer­tain he is the only one who knows what’s go­ing on.

But de­spite his flaws, or per­haps be­cause of them, Boyd some­how en­gages our sym­pa­thies. In truth he usu­ally does know what’s go­ing on but, in a break with the tra­di­tion of such men, he backs down grace­fully when proven wrong.

So in place of the usual smart, gre­gar­i­ous foren­sic cham­pi­ons of Amer­i­can crime TV, wor­shipped by un­der­lings for their grit and ex­pe­ri­ence, we have a grumpy Brit whose team mem­bers are con­stantly rolling their eyes be­hind his dog­matic back.

But this is not to sug­gest that Wak­ing the Dead is in any way daggy or old- fash­ioned. Great per­for­mances, cun­ning plot shifts, time and per­spec­tive changes, and a stun­ning look to the pro­duc­tion make Wak­ing the Dead the equal of, or per­haps bet­ter than, any crime show com­ing out of the US to­day. Vis­ual high­lights in­clude the ac­tion from cold cases be­ing acted out in trans­par­ent mono­chrome over the colour shots of the con­tem­po­rary cast at crime scenes.

Tonight’s par­tic­u­larly grue­some out­ing in­volves a case from 1948 in which a young wo­man awakes to a crunch­ing, squelch­ing sound.

Those with sen­si­tive na­tures may want to make a cuppa or look away when the team breaks into a house in the present ( 2004), when a sim­i­lar case emerges. The body has been dead for quite a while and gi­ant blowflies have made a wrig­gling, mag­goty hor­ror of the head, shown in metic­u­lous, lin­ger­ing close- up.

Grumpy hero: Trevor Eve as Peter Boyd in Wak­ing the Dead

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