Glasgow’s the star in this hackneyed show
Taggart has a visual credibility that exceeds the often so- so scripts
THE first law of reviewing is not to give surprises away, but rules were made to be broken, so here’s the scoop: there are murders in this episode of Taggart . Just as there are in every episode of a series that started 25 years ago last month. And more of the same is imminent. The 10 new episodes commissioned early this year will take the Taggart toll past 100.
You can’t beat Taggart for consistency, unless I mean repetition. This episode sticks to the usual script: a bloke is murdered and just as the cops are sure they have the killer cold, somebody else gets knocked off.
As the murder squad goes about its business, they punctuate questioning suspects with earnest arguments about why goodies turn bad and baddies become badder. There are also multiple plots and deepfried ( well, it is set in Scotland) red herrings.
As usual the characters are cliches. The rich are dissolute or dills. At least one villain blames his unhappy childhood. And businessmen who have made a lot of money are deeply dodgy. The police come in two categories: cynics who are secret softies and do- gooders who never lose faith in people, at least not until they crack under questioning and explain everything in ways that are comprehensive, if not credible.
If it sounds ordinary, it is, and yet the series has run for a quarter of a century. Taggart has survived longer than Rebus , the better- written rival detective series set in Edinburgh, cancelled earlier this year.
( Jim Taggart, the character, was written out in the mid- 1990s
Copping the cliches: Alex Norton and Blythe Duff in when the actor who played him died).
In part Taggart ’ s popularity is due to the pulp plots. Taggart is traditional crime writing with lots of blood and no shades of grey.
The cast has something to do with it, especially Blythe Duff, who has played ( now detective sergeant) Jackie Reid for 18 years. Despite some appalling haircuts through the years, Duff is always excellent. While the men are the usual British television coppers ( savage, simple and smartarse), Duff is convincing as a woman who understands how to work with, and around, men whose egos get in the way of investigations ( admittedly in tonight’s episode her generosity overwhelms her judgment).
But above all, the shining star of the series is the city where it is set. The outdoor scenes are shot on grey and gritty Glasgow streets, on the docks and in the public housing estates. Nothing is tarted up for Taggart and the result is a visual credibility that exceeds the often soso scripts.
It has to be Scotland’s most consistent cultural export since the deep- fried Mars bar.