Insurance investigator Judge Jason Panella is trying to track down the Geico Gekko—all tips are welcome.
An ex-cop investigates new kinds of crime.
For over 25 years, Kevin Whately has played Robbie Lewis, the easygoing, blue-collar detective who served as a foil to Inspector Morse before eventually starring in his own titular show (Inspector Lewis). It's the actor's best-known role by far, and one it's one that's become popular enough that Whately's lesser-known projects like The Broker's Man are getting dredged up from the bottom of the cinematic lake. That's not to say that it's dreadful, but The Broker's Man: Series 1 is a far cry from Whately's better-known programs.
Facts of the Case
After leaving the police force, Jimmy Griffin (Kevin Whately) is forced to scramble for a job to provide support for his ex-wife Sally (Annette Ekblom, Fever Pitch) and their kids. Jimmy and his private investigation team—Vinnie (show scripter Al Ashton, A Fish Called Wanda) and Harriet (Sarah-Jane Potts, Kinky Boots)—start investigating claims for a local insurance firm, which puts him in back in contact with Gabby (Michelle Fairley, Game of Thrones), whose affair with Jimmy broke up the man's marriage. Acting as an insurance investigator, Jimmy soon learns, has quite a bit of overlap with to the life of a cop in the danger department.
The Broker's Man originally aired its episodes in two 50-minute blocks. Series 1 assembles the episodes into three movie-length wholes:
"Double Dutch" (96 minutes)—When Dutch criminals steal a ton of digital audio tapes from a warehouse, Jimmy is hired to investigate insurance fraud. Betrayal and murder soon follow.
"Dangerous Bends" (94 minutes)—Jimmy investigates the circumstances surround a deadly accident, which leads to the world of illegal dirtbike racing. He enlists his team to help figure out if the claims against a water treatment plant have any merit.
"Siege" (96 minutes)—During a getaway designed to mend the soured relationship to his family, Jimmy struggles to stop a ring of car thieves and a deranged veteran of the Falklands War.
The notion of insurance investigators taking on mysteries is a novel enough idea, especially with a likeable actor like Kevin Whately in the lead. But it only took about twenty minutes for me to realize that, despite the good stuff going for it, The Broker's Man was really just a boring procedural in a different package.
In each of the three episodes, Jimmy Griffin and his team get hired to look into possibly fraudulent insurance claims that quickly dissolve into chase scenes or gunplay. Good think Jimmy is an ex-cop. The episodes usually find a way to tie all of the cases together and wrap them up neatly, too. Some of the plotting is deft—the subplot in "Dangerous Bends" involving water contamination, for instance, unfolded quite nicely (and fit the show's premise to boot). But otherwise, The Broker's Man suffers greatly when it plods along and takes the most obvious route possible to get somewhere.
Jimmy is surrounded by supporting characters with no depth, from his vanilla team to the one-note insurance company people who serve as this show's police commander. Even Michelle Fairley's Gabby does do much besides pine after Jimmy and make a few flirtatious remarks per scene. The Griffin family fairs a bit better, thankfully, and the drama surrounding Jimmy and Sally's marriage is maybe more captivating than the actual mystery stuff. (Though the number of awkward comic moments the show tries to wring out of Jimmy's old affair with Gabby is cringe-worthy.) It helps that Whately has such a friendly and genial presence on the screen, and he has enough dorky charisma to wipe away some of the show's sins. Only some.
Acorn Media's two-disc set of The Broker's Man: Series 1 is as threadbare as it gets. The 1.55:1 letterbox presentation is subpar—the picture quality is anything but sharp, with several nighttime scenes looking especially bad. (Worth noting: the picture is windowboxed on HD televisions.) The Dolby Digital stereo track fares betters with a quite average sound quality, though the super sexy saxophone music that dominates the score tends to drown out some of the softer dialogue from time to time. If you were hoping for extras, tough luck.
The Broker's Man: Series 1 is just another police procedural, even though it has an interesting hook. As ho-hum as this first season is, though, Kevin Whately delivers as usual. Recommended for Whately superfans and people who don't mind color-by-number mystery storylines.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Acorn Media
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