The Suspicions of Mr Whicher
12 May at 8pm on ITV
I was looking forward to this. I love a bit of Victorian sleuthery, the fog, the gas-light and mangled faces of the supporting casts have always evoked great comfort and pleasure in me.
I am also a big fan (who isn’t?) of Mr Paddy Considine, he has a rare charisma that I find hard to pin down and is extraordinarily watchable so the combination of the period, the actor and ‘moider’, should have made for an excellent nights viewing.
Unfortunately it did not. Following on from ‘The Suspicions of Mr Whicher: The Murder at Road Hill House’ from 2011, we meet up with our titular hero as he looks out for one Susan Spencer; who he spies on a desperate mission to prise information about a missing child from the denizens of the seedier, grimier parts of town.
After emancipating her purse from a young oik, Whicher offers his services as an ex copper to help her track down her missing charge.These services seem to consist of wandering around, mumbling questions to an assortment of undesirables and getting useful and immediate answers. They just tell him everything at the slightest prompt, it’s quite bizarre.
I have been watching the classic ITV Sherlock Holmes of Jeremy Brett of late, (I say of late but I never really stop watching it, it’s been on for about ten years now) and I guess ITV are in some manner trying to recreate that show in the ‘Suspicions of Mr Whicher.’ If they are to do so they really need to up the ante on the writing.
The detective’s ability to evoke honest answers from everyone around him is a microcosm of the script as a whole; everyone seems to spout exactly what is on their minds without any subtlety or sub plot. None more so in the utterly wasted Olivia Coleman as Miss Spencer. She is hamstrung by the weakness of the writing, taking a layered and cultured actress and turning her (and the rest of the cast) into little more than exposition machines. Which is just such a shame, as one of the greatest pleasures of period drama is often the effortless use of elegant language.
Despite this, the atmosphere and Paddy C manage to make this ‘on the nose’, unsophisticated stuff pretty watchable at first, but at the hour mark I found myself focusing on the frivolities, like the similarity of one of the main characters to Sir Digby Chicken Caesar, instead of what was actually occurring.
By the time we got to the reveal of the main villain and the reason for their schemes my head was thick with lethargy and didn’t know what was happening and nor did I care.
However, I like to think there is potential in this and if ITV do go onto make many more, it could be thrilling. If they trust the audience to understand and enjoy a less obtuse script that is.