Acorn Media // 2010 // 175 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // August 17th, 2012
DI Kate Bishop: "You're just arguing for the sake of it."
DI Jack Armstrong: "Am I?"
Do you like Sherlock or Doc Martin? How would you like an unlikable pair of heroes? DI Jack Armstrong (Toby Stephens, Die Another Day) is a womanizer who can't shut up, even when facing a murderer. DI Kate Bishop (Lucy Punch, Doc Martin) finds that her husband already wished her dead before she beat him up with that rolling pin. Naturally, they're sharing an unmarked car -- and they're Vexed, in the latest comedy/drama/mystery from Britain on DVD.
Vexed: Series 1 gives us three episodes:
* Episode 1 -- As Bishop and her husband move into the home just vacated by a murder victim, Armstrong notices the similarities to another murder case: the women read self-help books, ate chocolate, and had cats -- and they'd both just met someone.
* Episode 2 -- It's only the attempted murder of a "banker asshole" (Jack's term), but Jack and Kate still find a body: a car bomb claimed the life of a would-be thief. Soon, they're protecting the intended victim, who has given up the will to live.
* Episode 3 -- As Kate tries to save her marriage and Jack faces testicular cancer surgery, the dubious duo investigates the kidnapping of Gemma G, the singer who could actually sing in a girl group. Soon, a finger arrives in the mail, and there's a body before they crack the case.
True, Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock Holmes and Martin Clunes' Doc Martin are disagreeable characters, but both have strong moral cores -- and great observational skills. You might wonder about Bishop, who seems more aware of where she could put the TV if she moved in than in any clues at a crime scene, or Armstrong, who still cracks jokes after a woman dies because he nodded off at a stakeout.
Vexed has a tendency to go over the top with its characters, which makes it harder to like Bishop and Armstrong, especially when starting to jam personal problems into a three-episode maiden run. It doesn't help that the jokes they crack up over at crime scenes are usually randy. The characters also seem a little inconsistent, with Kate alternately going berserk and trying to make up with her husband or Jack suddenly striding out of a witness interview to pursue a hunch but not wanting to leave a steamy date to make an arrest.
Even so, there are some damned funny moments, as when Kate goes undercover as a lonely single and meets a potential killer while Jack sizes the man up into her earbud, when Jack babbles at a murderer who's holding a weapon, or when they have to stop eating and wipe their hands before picking up the phone to talk to a kidnapper.
The plots tend to be familiar, if you can still recognize them with the sort of overdrive Vexed puts on everything, including the music.
Presented in standard definition 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, with Dolby 2.0 Stereo and English SDH subtitles. Bonus features are limited to episode promos and a photo gallery.
Even if their characters aren't very likable, Lucy Punch and Toby Stephens work hard to give Bishop and Armstrong enough personality to leave room for improvement. Bishop is even a more-or-less competent detective, able to see a killer's nightmares to talk him out of another murder and agile enough to take on a trio of thugs. I noticed on IMDb that the second season replaces Punch. I think the problem's in the writing, not the actress, though.
Vexed has a tendency to put gags first instead of letting humor develop from the characters, which isn't such a good idea if you're working with flawed characters. Its humor can be funny, but tends to be uneven. It's not horrible, but it reminds me too much of better shows, including the two I mentioned to open the review. Netflix it, if you're bored.
Guilty, but there's still potential.
Review content copyright © 2012 James A. Stewart; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Acorn Media
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 175 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Photo Gallery