Although I was always aware of existence, I only really started New Tricks last year as I was reviewing it for this here site. Whilst I found it an enjoyable enough crime series, I never really saw the appeal of the drama and I found it unclear why it was one of the most-watched programmes on British TV. Last year’s series of New Tricks was a transitional one in which Alun Armstrong and Amanda Redman were replaced by Tamzin Outhwaite and Nicholas Lyndhurst. As she only appeared in the final two episodes of the series, I felt that the opening instalment of series eleven would be an ample opportunity to embellish Outhwaite’s Sasha Miller. But instead tonight’s episode was almost entirely devoted to Dennis Waterman’s Gerry Standing.
The fact that Gerry is the centre of tonight’s episode is a way to appease long-time fans of the drama as Waterman’s traditional copper is the only original character left standing. At the same time, from my limited experience of the show, I found Gerry to be the least likeable of the quartet and Waterman’s performance to be incredibly clichéd. Right from the start of the episode we see Gerry’s traditional values on show as he is upset that his younger daughter Caitlin is getting married to a solicitor. Part of his problem with the union is that his future son-in-law didn’t ask for his permission before the wedding. Whilst these feelings fit in with Gerry’s character I didn’t feel they were really justified and I was completely on Caitlin’s side when she decided she didn’t want her dad at the wedding. At the same time Caitlin’s marriage was partly a narrative device to get Gerry back to his native Bermondsey in order for him to be followed by an old acquaintance. The old acquaintance in question was Ralph Paxton, who grew up with Gerry but ended up being sucked into a life of crime. When they finally catch up, Ralph implores Gerry to reopen a case that he believes has been left unsolved.
The case, which is later taken on by UCOS, is the death of Ralph’s grandson Jake who was thought to have fallen from the top of a tower block. However Ralph believes that his old partner-in-crime Wayne Pelham was responsible as he thinks that Jake was pushed from the top of the building as revenge for a heist gone wrong. Pelham feels that Ralph stole money that belonged to him and therefore UCOS are forced to track down both the missing cash and Jake’s potential murderer. During the last series of New Tricks I found that my enjoyment of each episode highly depended on the quality of the central mystery. In the case of tonight’s episode, I wasn’t really taken by Simon Allen’s story which delved into the past and saw how it affected the present. As is nearly always the case with these sorts of stories, Allen tried to swerve us by creating two separate shocking outcomes neither of which really caught me by surprise. As I’ve never been invested in the character of Gerry, I did the elements of the story that related to his past hard to care about. In particular his affections for Ralph’s wife Sarah, who Gerry himself had feelings for before she ultimately decided to romance his best friend. Probably my favourite part of the central storyline was the way in which it focused on the changing face of Bermondsey and the way in which plenty of Gerry and Ralph’s old hangouts had now been turned into apartment buildings. The fact that the renovation of the area played into one of the reveals was a neat little touch but again wasn’t as shocking as the writer intended it to be.
Despite her not being the focus of the central storyline, Sasha Miller did at least get several scenes to herself most of them relating to her former husband. As she’s forced to confront ex-husband Ned on a daily basis, Sasha is portrayed as a strong woman who gives as good as she gets. At the end of the last series it was unsure whether or not Sasha would be able to lead her bunch of misfits but it appears that since we left them she’s more than taken the reigns. This is exemplified during a scene in a pool hall in which Steve attempts to hustle Sasha only for her to get the upper hand and ultimately win the game. While it was important to see that Sasha is in control of her team, I don’t feel that the actors quite have the chemistry that the old team possessed. Although Waterman and Dennis Lawson bounce off each other perfectly; new arrivals Outhwaite and Nicholas Lyndhurst are still trying to find their feet.
I personally feel that Lyndhurst is the strongest member of the team in terms of acting ability and he proved this tonight despite having minimal screen time. Lyndhurst portrays Danny as a smart and quick-witted individual but also somebody who can use their intelligence to fend off criminals. I think it was great to see Danny’s more vicious side and I hope that this gets incorporated into more of his scenes. Unfortunately Outhwaite hasn’t had the same effect on me and I don’t think that her performance as Sasha was particularly compelling. However I’m going to give her the benefit of the doubt for the time being until she becomes the focal point of one of the episodes. Finally I still can’t really see why Waterman is still being given big storylines in New Tricks as to me he’s the weakest performer of the four. His delivery isn’t great and I think that he doesn’t really make me care about any of Gerry’s stories. In fact I believe that if Waterman didn’t sing the New Tricks theme tune then he’d have been ousted alongside his former co-stars.
I do feel that tonight’s episode of New Tricks was a missed opportunity to let us get to know more about new arrivals Danny Griffin and Sasha Miller. Instead the episode was all about Gerry which meant coping with the substandard performance given by Dennis Waterman. I personally didn’t find this episode particularly gripping and the only enjoyable elements for me were Lyndhurst’s performance and the focus on the changing face of Bermondsey. Despite not being particularly great, I still have no doubt that this series of New Tricks will continue to maintain a strong audience who would rather stick with familiar fare such as this than try something new.
What did you think to the return of New Tricks? Did you enjoy it more than I did?
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