Acorn Media // 2009 // 470 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart // January 12th, 2012
"God, look at them. What a crew!" -- Esther Lane, talking about husband Brian and his colleagues at UCOS
New Tricks, at first glance, seems like your typical police procedural, something that you could find anywhere on the dial, at almost any hour. At second glance, it's still a procedural, but I found myself liking the cast: James Bolam, Alun Armstrong, Dennis Waterman, and Amanda Redman. There's also a humorous streak that you just don't find in Law and Order.
New Tricks: Season Six features eight episodes on three discs:
* "The War Against Drugs" -- At the insistence of his wife Esther (Susan Jameson, Circles of Deceit), Brian Lane (Alun Armstrong, The Mummy) heads for a monastery to dry out after falling off the wagon. Naturally, he finds a suspicious death. To keep Brian off the case, Sandra (Amanda Redman, Demob) sends Gerry (Dennis Waterman, Minder) in for sex addiction therapy.
* "Death of a Timeshare Salesman" -- Reinvestigating the aforementioned murder also reopens a bank job, sending UCOS on a search for gold bars.
* "The Truth is Out There" -- Jack Halford (James Bolam, The Beiderbecke Affair) is the executor of a former colleague's will, and the colleague's ex-wife plans to contest. To help him out, UCOS investigates the death of a journalist and a possible UFO sighting. Glynis Barber and Michael Brandon (both of Dempsey and Makepeace) guest.
* "Shadow Show" -- UCOS heads to Pinewood Studios to investigate a death and a disappearance that played a part in shutting down a neo-noir movie production. Meanwhile, Emily (Hannah Waterman, EastEnders) recruits Jack and Brian for regular duty, with mixed results. Imogen Stubbs (Anna Lee) guests.
* "The Last Laugh" -- Hecklers at a comedy club lead UCOS to disappearances that involved skinheads -- and the man (David Troughton, The Norman Conquests) who killed Jack's wife. Gerry -- not Jack -- is the one who gets reckless here, though. Joe Absolom (Doc Martin) also guests.
* "Fresh Starts" -- A doctor believes he saw the wife he was told died in a car crash years ago. Meanwhile, Brian has DIY intentions, but his wife wants to hire out the job.
* "Blood is Thicker than Water" -- Naturally, there's a row when Strickland (Anthony Calf, Upstairs, Downstairs) invites the UCOS team to his yacht club to check out his new boat. It leads the team to reopen the investigation of a boat collision.
* "Meat is Murder" -- When a butcher's cut-up body is found, it means he's no longer the prime suspect in another murder. It turns out Gerry has family ties in the meat business, which makes Sandra uncomfortable -- until she learns about her own link to the case.
New Tricks tends to end seasons on shockers. Past finales involved Jack coming to terms with his wife's death and Sandra reforming bonds with her estranged mother, making the emotions relatable, even if they were ramped up beyond ordinary probability. This time, however, the twist seems extremely unlikely, even in the world of television dramedy detective shows.
The balance of New Tricks: Season Six continues its shift toward emphasizing the characters, rather than the plots, although there are meaty stories involving Yugoslavian war crimes, immigration, the war on terror, and spousal abuse. The shift has bad points and good points. In six of the eight stories, the UCOS team just happens to be on hand when something happens to reopen an old case. Given that the stories are grittier than you'd find on Murder, She Wrote, making the UCOS team the folks that you'd never invite to a dinner party is an overdone gimmick. On the other hand, watching the team -- and eventually, Brian's angry wife -- rally around him during his alcoholism treatment in "The War Against Drugs" gets the season off to perhaps the best start I've seen. It's also very satisfying to see the death of Mary Halford finally put to rest (I hope).
Alun Armstrong's oddball Brian Lane gets most of the comic business -- everything from taking up the yo-yo to handling a hostage negotiation, even though he failed the course -- but Dennis Waterman gets a couple of the best bits in this season, dealing with the familiar situation of a girlfriend who's a suspect and running into his relations while working a case. It's also a good deal of fun watching the veteran cops banter about old-time Saturday matinees and other memories.
There's one extra: a look at the sounds of New Tricks, featuring an look at the foley artists, who use quite a few old tricks to produce the many layers of sound (and foleying some of Brian Lane's business looks like one of Garrison Keillor's sound effects challenges), and an interview with composer Brian Bennett, who has worked with John Barry and Cliff Richard. It's interesting, if you're into the craft of making television and movies.
If you like the leads, you'll like New Tricks; if not, you probably won't. This is one you might want to check out on TV or from the library before you buy. Or maybe not. I noticed the DVD box uses the more American style of Season Six rather than the Series Six you'd find on other British shows; that could be a hint that this has a broader appeal than many imports.
New Tricks is good, even if it relies a lot on the same old TV tricks, as you might have guessed from some of those episode descriptions. You'll have to decide whether that's a plus or a minus for purchase. However, the comfortable cast makes it a great Netflix or library choice for powerwatching during downtime, and some of you might find it on public television.
Not guilty. What a crew!
Review content copyright © 2012 James A. Stewart; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Acorn Media
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 470 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site