Masterpiece’s Fall kicks off on Sunday, October 3 with the second series of Wallander, the Swedish detective portrayed by Kenneth Branagh, memorably described by one critic as “having the permanent mien of a recently slaughtered halibut”. British critics have found series two relentlessly gloomy, although they couldn’t find much to criticise in the acting, stories or production design. The Sunday Times called it “close to perfect” while the Telegraph called this new miniseries “top-notch”. Branagh tracks murderers across the beautifully photographed, yet roiling with evil, farm country of southern Sweden. BBC Worldwide hopes that Wallander will sell as well internationally as ITV’s Inspector Morse did, which sold to more than 200 territories. Both shows share the same confounding storylines — with the solution to the mystery pleasingly beyond the ken of most TV viewers — and the same fjord-like glacial pacing.
Sunday, October 23 sees the BBC’s acclaimed modern-day retelling of Sherlock begins for three consecutive weeks. To be honest, I couldn’t see the point of updating the Conan Doyle stories to 21st century London, especially coming so soon after Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes being released at Christmas. After all, the Holmes character has provided the template for so many TV detectives from Horatio Caine in CSI: Miami to Doctor Gregory House (as in Holmes, geddit?) to the Beeb’s own Luther. Cor blimey guv’nor, I didn’t ‘alf call that one wrong. Sherlock, written by Doctor Who writers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, was the Beeb’s runaway summer hit. Jay Hunt, controller of BBC One, announced she was commissioning three more TV movies at the Edinburgh TV fest. The improbably-named Benedict Cumberbatch plays Holmes and Martin Freeman is sidekick Doctor Watson as they investigate a wave of suicides; a bomber who straps explosives to innocent people and then has them taunt Holmes with baffling mysteries; and a killer who seemingly walks through walls. Freeman has reportedly turned down starring in The Hobbit to concentrate on filming this second series – which has left MGM and New Line execs scrabbling to try and accommodate shooting the Lord of the Rings prequel around the BBC. UK culture minister Jeremy Hunt, who normally spends his time taking hefty kicks at Auntie, even praised the show as “a very good example of the BBC at its best, investing in new programming” in UK Parliament. This new BBC retelling should have plenty of time of establish itself in US viewers’ minds before Ritchie’s Baker Street sleuth returns in Christmas 2011.
Framed (Sunday, November 14) is a one-off feature-length drama starring Trevor Eve. Flooding at the National Gallery forces the curator (Eve) to return the entire collection to the disused quarry in North Wales where the paintings had been stored during the Second World War. Cue just about every fish-out-of-water cliché you can think of as the skinny moccachino-sipping metropolitan comes up against eccentric yet well-meaning yokels. Framed is an Ealing-type comedy “so warm-hearted and well-intentioned that you’d have to work hard to dislike it,” said the Times of London. The script is by Michael Winterbottom’s regular scriptwriter Frank Cottrell-Boyce, based on his own novel.
Christopher Eccleston (GI Joe) stars as John Lennon in Lennon Naked (November 21), a TV movie first shown on arts channel BBC4 over here. The TV movie goes into Lennon’s relationship with his boozy absentee father, and how Lennon replicated this distant relationship with his own son, Julian. Critics were harsh about casting Eccleston as Lennon, who, at 46 they said was too old (Lennon was approaching 30 during events depicted). The New Statesman called Eccleston “disastrous”, while the Daily Mail said the whole TV movie “just didn’t work”.