Appellate Judge James A. Stewart thinks helicopter pie delivery is the next big thing.
Our reviews of Pie In The Sky: Series 2 (published January 27th, 2010), Pie In The Sky: Series 3 (published August 15th, 2010), Pie In The Sky: Series 4 (published January 19th, 2011), and Pie In The Sky: Series 5 (published July 14th, 2011) are also available.
Henry: "Complete strangers are going to come here and eat my
Let's see: a pieman solving mysteries while running a restaurant. That premise might sound familiar, but Henry Crabbe's specialty pie is steak and kidney, and he never raised any of his staffers from the dead. If you watch Pie in the Sky, you're more likely to be reminded of another detective show from WitzEnd, its British production company, starting with the opening that pans shelves lined with cookery books and coppery books, just as Lovejoy's opening pans the antiques its protagonist loves so much. Like Lovejoy, Henry Crabbe has a magical touch with the occupation he's passionate about—cooking, in this case—and that profession factors into the series' cases. Unlike Lovejoy, Crabbe was a copper, so Pie in the Sky has a little extra grit in the recipe.
Facts of the Case
Pie in the Sky: Series 1 contains 10 episodes:
• "The Truth Will Out"
• "An Innocent Man"
• "Once a Copper"
• "Undesirable Elements"
• "Passion Fruit Fool"
• "Who Only Stand and Wait"
• "Endangered Species"
Pie in the Sky introduces the character of Henry Crabbe with a perfect opening sequence. While on a stakeout at an airstrip, Crabbe notices that "there's some wild garlic growing around here somewhere." As a colleague remarks on his remarkable nose, Crabbe's counting the days—"seven weeks, three days, and eight hours," to be precise—until his retirement. A car races through, and Crabbe's colleagues give chase. However, Crabbe realizes it's a diversion. He notices a building nearby and decides to investigate. Inside, he finds a man nibbling on prosciutto. It's Hooperman (Michael Kitchen, Foyle's War), the man they've been waiting to apprehend. Hooperman offers Crabbe some New Zealand wine, which he accepts, and a bribe, which he rejects. Hooperman shoots Crabbe in the leg—and steals the beloved pepper mill Crabbe always carries with him! Within a few minutes, Crabbe's established as a brilliant copper whose real passion is for food. His two gifts intertwine throughout the series, as he solves a case by tasting wine, fends off dangerous-looking characters with a fiery pan, or samples escargot raised by a suspect.
Crabbe's gift for extrapolating from tiny clues such as an apple left at a crime scene may be extraordinary, but the secret ingredient in Pie in the Sky is his moral sense. Although he'd rather be left alone to cut chips or tend to the chickens he lovingly plays tapes of Elgar and Gershwin for, Crabbe can't help doing the right thing, even when ACC Fisher tells him to do the officially preferred thing. After a few episodes, I got the feeling that this is actually why ACC Fisher, a bureaucrat who seems to be channeling Paul Eddington's ineffectual Jim Hacker of Yes, Minister fame and seems to be the guardian of the official line, drags Crabbe into cases; he needs Crabbe's conscience even more than he needs Crabbe's cranium. That could also be why Fisher sends PC Cambridge along with Crabbe on his cases, even if she usually tells Crabbe what Fisher told her to leave out. She's a sharp copper, but there's always the chance that Fisher's conscience will need a conscience as well. It's the way Crabbe tries to piece together the moral perspective, not his solving of mysteries, that makes Pie in the Sky fun to watch.
Another great ingredient in Pie in the Sky is Crabbe's relationship with wife Margaret (Maggie Steed, Lipstick on Your Collar). She's supportive, even though she really, really doesn't want to be in the restaurant business. She's also learning, for the first time, what Henry does as a policeman. One episode finds her watching as Henry goes into a hostage standoff. "It wasn't the first time," Henry tells her, but for her it was. She's also learning that a policeman's work is really about people, not just clues. In a running gag, it turns out that she's the only one Henry can't coax into his foodie passions with a bite of his steak-and-kidney pie. In the interview accompanying the set, Maggie Steed says her rapport with Richard Griffiths drew her to the "bizarre" series, and it shows.
"Bizarre"? Not quite, but I'd say "uneven." Pie in the Sky is one of those character-based detective shows that switches between the silly and the serious very abruptly.
The show, split between studio shooting and locations in and around Hemel Hempstead, England, looks good, with camera work setting up both the light and heavy moments well. I had no problems with the sound.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
What's amazing—and the show's unbelievable element—is that everyone in the vicinity of Crabbe is suddenly getting involved in detective work. His sous chef Steve tracks down the burglars who hit Pie in the Sky, waiter John rescues a woman from a fire, and Margaret fights off kidnappers with wine bottles. It seems you need a degree in criminology to work at this little restaurant. Adding a charming supporting cast and a sense of humor makes Pie in the Sky fun to watch even as it fills the plot with coincidences, so it's only a misdemeanor.
While Pie in the Sky tends to be a light souffle, it can get gritty, especially in "Who Only Stand and Wait," as severed body parts keep turning up.
It's a shame Pie in the Sky didn't turn up widely on Stateside television; the character of Henry Crabbe is one I very much enjoyed meeting. Fans of Lovejoy can rest assured there's more where that came from, with Richard Griffiths' performance making it more than just the same old leftovers.
Not guilty. I have to get out my umbrella; the Weather Channel's calling for
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Studio: Acorn Media
Review content copyright © 2009 James A. Stewart; Site design and review layout copyright © 2015 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.