Acorn Media // 2003 // 559 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Ben Saylor (Retired) // March 1st, 2010
Taggart, which began in 1983, is Britain's longest running crime program, continuing even after the 1994 passing of Mark McManus, who played the title role. For Acorn Media's second DVD go-round of Taggart, it has culled episodes from the 20th and 21st seasons of the show.
No-nonsense Detective Chief Inspector Matt Burke (Alex Norton) and his team, which includes the tough, driven Detective Sergeant Jackie Reid (Blythe Duff), brash Detective Inspector Robbie Ross (John Michie) and the squad's most junior member, Detective Constable Stuart Fraser (Colin McCredie), are part of the Maryhill Criminal Investigation Department, tasked with solving murders.
For Taggart: Set 2, Burke and his team's cases include the murder of a popular author, a countryside killer who torches his victims, an assassin who injects his victims with a hypodermic needle, and more.
My former colleague Judge Kristin Munson had a rather strong reaction to Taggart: Set 1. After experiencing the show for myself, I can see where she's coming from. Taggart is a rigidly formulaic show; just about each episode in this set has a precredits murder sequence that leads into a supremely lame and corny title sequence that almost seems like a parody. By and large, the detectives spend most of the runtime focusing on the wrong suspect(s), allowing one or more additional corpses to pile up in the process. The last-minute realization of the real killer then leads to a frantic action sequence (well, as much action as you can get considering these folks don't carry sidearms), which in at least one instance ends in a hilarious slow-motion bit in which the detectives try desperately to prevent yet another death. I will say, however, that Judge Munson's observation that the suspect the detectives spend the least amount of time interviewing is the killer isn't always true with these episodes, although it does happen that way more than once. On the other hand, I have to confess that some of the episodes, like "Atonement" and "Penthouse and Pavement," had me fooled.
My biggest problem with Taggart: Set 2 is that so much of the 70-minute runtime of these episodes is eaten up by misdirecting the viewer as to whodunit. Although it's not always clear who the murderer(s) is until the very end, it's usually clear who didn't do it. Ultimately, I think the show would have benefited from shorter episode lengths like the installments Judge Munson reviewed.
Although I found most of the episodes of Taggart: Set 2 to be predictable and contrived, there are some highlights. "Compensation," which takes place in a farming community being overrun by housing developments, actually offers some compelling human drama, albeit human drama that is occasionally punctuated by people being set on fire. I also enjoyed the twist-filled narrative of "Atonement," implausible though said narrative may be. And the first episode, "Penthouse & Pavement," has some strong scenes between Jackie and a woman who runs a "drop in center" for prostitutes.
With an average 70-minute runtime per episode (at least for these episodes), you'd think Taggart would have pretty interesting, well-rounded characters. Nope. The four detectives that comprise Taggart's main cast may be well played, but they're all one-dimensional. Matt Burke is the same upright, results-driven boss you've seen in a thousand crime shows; Jackie Reid is the same loyal second-in-command type; Robbie Ross the womanizer with a rebellious streak; Stuart Fraser the put-upon second (fourth?) banana. (In something of a departure from crime show convention, Fraser is gay). If that wasn't enough, there's even a sassy forensic pathologist, Gemma Kerr (Lesley Harcourt). Each of the main actors has been with the show for a long time, but almost no attempt is made to examine the personal lives of these characters unless it's somehow tied to a case, like the super-contrived "In Camera," in which Robbie finds himself covering for his married girlfriend after the two of them happen upon a corpse.
Taggart: Set 2 is presented on four DVDs, with two episodes to a disc. The transfers are good, if not great; the image can be kind of bleary, especially in darker scenes. The sound adequately conveys music, dialogue and effects. Thankfully, English subtitles are included to help suss out those Glaswegian brogues. No extras are included.
Taggart: Set 2 offers a batch of mysteries that are mostly predictable and entirely forgettable. This might be worth a rental for anyone curious about non-American crime shows, but for everyone else, steer clear.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Acorn Media
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 559 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated