BFS Video // 1996 // 400 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // July 21st, 2010
"Something's not right...It's just a gut feeling, that's all." -- Det. Supt. Charlie Wycliffe
If you've been watching British detective shows and gotten tired of drab, faded industrial towns, you might look forward to a video trip to Cornwall. The old farmhouses, cliffs, ports, and sea are undeniably beautiful.
Wycliffe: Series 3 follows Det. Supt. Charlie Wycliffe (Jack Shepherd, The Golden Compass) throughout Cornwall, with suspicious deaths bringing him into troubled lives and volatile situations, not to mention a few pubs where the food might be less than four-star. The series is drawn from the novels of W.J. Burley.
Oddly, the box description for Midsomer Murders, comparing that long-running whodunit series to Law and Order, fit Wycliffe better than it does the adventures of Inspector Barnaby.
Wycliffe: Series 3 has eight episodes on three discs:
* "Dead on Arrival"
On Charlie Wycliffe's anniversary, he's called away from a party to investigate the deaths of illegal immigrants being smuggled by truck.
* "Number of the Beast"
The Beast of Bodmin gets the blame for a teacher's murder, but when the murders continue, Wycliffe and his team see a pattern. DI Kersey gets a dinner invitation and meets a troubled veteran.
* "Slave of Duty"
A wrecked BMW is pulled out of the sea, and the driver is found in a shallow grave elsewhere. The clues lead to a treasure hunt and to a possible romance between DI Lane and a suspect.
* "Total Loss"
A death brings the team into the investigation of a fishing boat's suspicious sinking.
* "Crazy for You"
A psychologist whose wife has been murdered joins Wycliffe's investigation. The trail leads to a former patient, who tells Wycliffe he has voices in his head.
Wycliffe's troubled friend disrupts his home life as the team investigates the discovery of a strangled baby outside a church. Could the murder be linked to a pagan ritual?
* "Last Judgement"
The coroner says it's suicide when a magistrate is found hanged, but Wycliffe wants to make sure.
* "Old Habits"
A dead woman dumped from a car has newspaper stuffed in her throat, which suggests a link to a serial strangler who prowled Cornwall more than a decade earlier.
As police procedurals go, Wycliffe isn't bad. The three leads work together well, and the Cornish scenery adds a nice touch. Following a lead to an amphitheater overlooking the sea or a crumbling abandoned house on the moors makes the series visually enchanting, even as that scenery contrasts with the intensity of the stories. The show looks good and sounds good, both in terms of score and the ambient noise, such as the birds cawing during a questioning.
Jack Shepherd's Charlie Wycliffe is a principled, gruff detective who listens to jazz in his off hours and is a loving husband and father. Although the series is titled Wycliffe, much of the action revolves around his two right hands: DI Doug Kersey, an ex-soldier who Wycliffe lauds for trusting his gut, and DI Lucy Lane (Helen Masters, The Affair of the Necklace), who relies on her observational skills. Kersey and Lane have a relationship Wycliffe likens to a marriage, and every once in a while, there's a hint of something between them. Just a hint, though, since that would take the focus off story. As Kersey, Jimmy Yuill (Local Hero) gets the best scenes in this series in confrontations with dangerous suspects, letting a trace of fear slip through his surface calm.
The regular characters are strong and well-acted, but Wycliffe leaves most of the dramatic room for character turns, mostly of the scared and troubled variety. The scared and troubled characters include a truck driver, a father, a veteran, a former mental patient, and a fisherman who appears destined for the scrap heap. The stories are intense, bringing topicality and shocking revelations into the mix. There are some overdone coincidences -- Wycliffe knows a killer or two so things can hit close to home -- but the stories more often avoid that sort of cliché.
There are no extras.
How many police procedurals do you really need? While Wycliffe might be a nice change if it should turn up on your local public TV station, it's not really a must-see. It's well-made, but not compelling.
Also, one episode came in a few minutes short, suggesting that the version cut down for current broadcasts got in here by mistake.
Wycliffe could fit easily into a network primetime schedule in the United States with its procedural storylines. It's not my cup of tea, but if you can't get enough of procedurals, the Cornish scenery could be a plus.
Not guilty, but procedural with caution.
Review content copyright © 2010 James A. Stewart; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: BFS Video
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 400 Minutes
Release Year: 1996
MPAA Rating: Not Rated