Acorn Media // 2012 // 590 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart // June 15th, 2013
"It's alright. I say, it's okay. We're getting to the end of the day."
For James Bolam (The Beiderbecke Tapes), the ninth season of New Tricks is the end of the day. His character, retired cop Jack Halford, is retiring to France. His UCOS teammates -- Sandra Pullman, Gerry Standing, and Brian Lane -- at first think he's running off with "a floozy," as they so unkindly put it, but Lane actually looks beyond the surface, investigating the way he'd look into any cold case the team tackles. He finds an answer that will disturb fans of New Tricks, but those who've been following the series won't want to miss.
The very familiar, very comfortable cop show is Britain's "top-rated drama," as a DVD cover blurb from The Daily Telegraph puts it, coming ahead of American favorites like Downton Abbey and Doctor Who. Thus, you need a strong replacement. Enter Denis Lawson as Steve McAndrew, a Glasgow copper who's moving from the Big Deep Fried Pizza (a Gerry Standing complaint about Scottish food trends) to the Big Smoke.
New Tricks: Season Nine contains ten episodes on three discs.
* "A Death in the Family" -- Secret agent man Stephen Fisher (Tim McInnerny, Black Adder) asks the UCOS team to look into a bludgeoning way back in 1851 which could have political implications today. James Bolam exits.
* "Old School Ties" -- A work crew at a private school unearths a long-missing PE teacher. UCOS wants to quietly wrap up the case before his identity is confirmed.
* "Queen and Country" -- Sandra (Amanda Redman, Demob) fears a woman who fell through ice and drowned may have been silenced for national security reasons. Gerry (Dennis Waterman, Minder) takes up sign language to reconnect with a cousin.
* "The Girl Who Lived" -- Retired Glasgow cop Steve McAndrew (Denis Lawson, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope) comes to London to see if a woman believed murdered is still alive.
* "Body of Evidence" -- As Steve joins the UCOS team, one too many cadavers turns up at a medical school. Turns out the body is a copper who is somehow involved with hackers.
* "Love Means Nothing in Tennis" -- A bad game turned out to be fatal for a young tennis champion. Alexei Sayle (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) guests.
* "Dead Poets" -- The UCOS team wants to prove a prisoner guilty when his alibi for a murder in his scrapyard springs leaks. However, the case might not be so simple.
* "Blue Flower" -- An East German immigrant's death is somehow tied to identity theft, a hit-and-run accident, and the Stasi. Brian (Alun Armstrong, The Mummy) takes German lessons while on a stakeout, annoying Sandra.
* "Glasgow UCOS" -- Gerry and Steve head up to Glasgow, where Gerry learns about foodie favorites and Steve reconnects with a flame. Oh, and they look into the murder of a bookie and the disappearance of four girls.
* "Parts of the Whole" -- When Steven Fisher's apartment is bombed, it turns out that DAC Robert Strickland (Anthony Calf, Upstairs, Downstairs) is a former secret agent man himself -- and part of a team that's being targeted.
I can't say that James Bolam isn't and won't be missed, but Denis Lawson isn't bad. The quietly grumpy, honest Jack Halford is replaced by a guy who talks a mile a minute -- at first in a thick Glaswegian accent, but milder as the season continues -- and has a set of lockpicks to enter suspects' homes, something that Sandra, the team's "governor," takes offense to straight off. He's here on a case that has become personal -- he's friends with the father of the missing woman, and he's been keeping up to date even after his retirement.
As you'd guess, the UCOS team doesn't like Steve McAndrew at first. They're annoyed by his accent, and Sandra chides him like he's a kid when he won't shut up. However, you know Sandra is going to make him an offer which he won't refuse, for personal reasons established later. Gerry warms up when Steve teaches him the art of drinking whiskey. Brian needs a lecture from his wife Esther (Susan Jameson, To Serve Them All My Days) on making new friends and the surprise of her inviting Steve to dinner. As usual, Brian will get involved in the minutiae of cases and Gerry will grump around, but show a surprisingly soft core.
It's a season that carefully lays its transition -- letting Bolam exit, giving the remaining UCOS members a couple of cases to themselves, opening Steve's tenure with a personal case, and sending Gerry back with Steve to Glasgow. Since viewers likely are -- like me -- on a first-name basis with the characters, something that you don't get with procedurals (or even a Rockford or a Magnum), it's something that the production team had to do that way.
One more outlier that is introduced into this season is a Strickland-centered episode that gives him a past and lets him do a lot of the investigating. He's usually seen barking at Sandra or the team (and then defending him against their critics elsewhere), so it's a rare treat for fans that helps ease the transition from Bolam's long tenure.
Picture quality is great, especially with the picturesque Glasgow locations of "Glasgow UCOS."
In extras, Denis Lawson discusses Steve McAndrew, concentrating on his first appearance and the Glasgow visit, and the last episode is dissected.
You could start with New Tricks: Season Nine. With the characters introducing themselves to a new teammate, they're also introducing themselves to any new viewers. That's a good idea for television, or any fans brought in by Denis Lawson. However, there are still eight seasons of New Tricks out there to go back to and enjoy, a better idea if you're new to the show.
Several episodes, including the finale, are missing Dennis Waterman's singing of "It's Alright" at the end. This might scare viewers into thinking that Gerry Standing might be getting to the end of the day, too. Let's hope not.
New Tricks always seems to straddle the line between no-nonsense procedurals and character-centered crime dramas like Psych and Elementary (Brian Lane will sound like an Adrian Monk or a Sherlock Holmes at times), making for a show that doesn't seem distinctive on the surface, but has an inexplicable way of drawing viewers in for more.
Since anyone watching is on first-name basis with the characters, it'll take a while to get over Jack Halford's absence from New Tricks. Still, there's enough life in the old dogs' tale that it could last as long as Doctor Who or Coronation Street.
Not guilty, and nowhere near the end of the day.
Review content copyright © 2013 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: 590 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Not Rated