Happy Valley (and five of the best British crime dramas)
If you're a fan of crime dramas, there’s every chance you'll already be aware of Happy Valley, the BBC series set in the West Yorkshire's Calder Valley and written by Sally Wainwright, whose other writing credits include shows like Last Tango in Halifax and Unforgiven. For those who have yet to watch the show, one of the standout factors of the programme's success has undoubtedly been the brilliant performance from the show's leading star, Sarah Lancashire. Many of you may know her best as Raquel from Coronation Street, but here she's fantastic as the tough police sergeant Catherine Cawood.
The first series, aired in 2014, introduced a Catherine still reeling from the suicide of her daughter Becky some eight months earlier, leaving behind a young son called Ryan who is the product of a brutal rape which Cawood believes was the driving factor in her daughter's decision to take her own life. Having also split from her husband, Catherine is shacked up with her sister Clare (Siobhan Finneran), a recovering heroin addict trying to help Catherine bring up Becky's son. Catherine is still trying to get her life back on track when Tommy (James Norton), the man she believes is responsible for the rape, reemerges in the town, causing her to become somewhat obsessed with proving his guilt. But the plot soon thickens when Catherine discovers that Tommy may be involved in a local kidnapping.
The second series, which recently completed its run on BBC One and arrives in stores on DVD & Blu-ray on Monday (March 28th), finds Cawood implicated in a string of murders that begins with the death of Tommy's mother. Catherine then spends much of the series in the peculiar position of trying to prove her innocence while at the same time investigating a human trafficking ring believed to be connected to the recent series of murders she is suspected of perpetrating.
Fans of the show got a scare this week when a story broke that Lancashire had 'ruled out' a third series, but whether that was inaccurate reporting or the actress has had a change of heart, she has since confirmed that she's "very keen" to reprise the role in a third series – which is handy, as one has just been commissioned.
You can find the trailer for series two below, beneath that we've picked five other brilliant crime dramas that have been produced on British shores in recent years...
Idris Elba had already made a name for himself in HBO's brilliant series The Wire before this show came along, but for viewers in the UK it was his role as the titular protagonist in Luther that really cemented his place in the hearts of the viewing public. On paper, the idea of of a maverick cop who bends the rules to get justice is really nothing new, but a little charisma goes a long way and Elba has it by the bucketload, making this a crime drama that's just completely unmissable.
Life on Mars
One of the more inventive concepts we've seen for a crime drama in recent years, Life on Mars saw John Sim travelling back to the 1970s and grappling with the sort of police force colleagues for whom the phrase 'political correctness' probably means checking the right box on a ballot paper. Still, these outdated methods and attitudes make for some hilarious viewing and nobody embodies this more than Philip Glennister's character – and, if we're honest, the real star of the show – DCI Gene Hunt. Armed only with a Ford Cortina, a big mouth and an inflated sense of his own brilliance, Hunt is one of the most entertaining characters we've seen in a British crime series and Life on Mars is worth watching for his antics alone.
Its main star may be an American in the form of Gillian Anderson, but this excellent crime series is very much of British origin and features Anderson in the role of Stella Gibson, an officer from the Met who finds herself seconded to Northern Ireland and tasked with catching a serial killer who is terrorizing women in the city of Belfast. With a cast that also includes Jamie Dornan, John Lynch and Archie Panjabi, The Fall has already produced two brilliant series and a third is due to air later this year.
If on-screen chemistry can be a tough thing to get right, anti-chemistry is even tougher, but the pairing of David Tennant's Alex Hardy and Olivia Colman's Ellie Miller absolutely nails it and this is one of the key elements that made Broadchurch such a success. Set in a sleepy Dorset town, the show examines what happens to a small, tight-knit town when a gruesome murder tears the community apart and with a smart script and so many great performance sight across the show's entire cast, this must rank as one of the best things ITV has produced in years.
Despite the fact that Arthur Conan Doyle's deerstalker-wearing detective has been through too many on-screen incarnations to count, you have to hand it to Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, the show's creators; with Sherlock, they've injected new life into the well-trodden stories and the partnership of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman has made the show one of the most popular crime series to emerge from the UK in recent memory.