Posted: 11/09/2011


Case Histories

by Del Harvey

Now available on DVD from Acorn Media.

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This BBC adaptation of the Kate Atkinson mysteries, “Case Histories,” aired early this year on in the U.S. on PBS’ “Masterpiece Mystery.” And while some of the mysteries put out by the BBC can be about as dry as an old maid’s parlor, this series is full of brilliant character, wry charm and excitement. Jason Isaacs (“The Patriot,” Showtime’s “Brotherhood,” “Harry Potter”) stars as Jackson Brodie, a former cop turned private investigator in Edinburgh, Scotland.

I became a fan of Isaacs in “Black Hawk Down.” I did not watch “The Patriot” until just a few years ago, and so was unaware of his having been the villain in that one. After “Black Hawk Down,” I next saw him in the Showtime series “Brotherhood,” where he played Michael Caffee, the black sheep of an Irish family in Baltimore who was well known for turning out sons both good and bad, but always prominent or infamous. Like HBO’s “Dead Wood,” “Brotherhood” was one of those series many people should have seen but for some reason never quite caught on. Isaacs was brilliant in that show; dark, evil, ruthless.

As detective-for-hire Jackson Brodie Isaacs is the antithesis of that archetype. He is tough, but he’s caring. He’s a former cop who let his work get to him. He’s a father who loves his young daughter more than anything in this world. He cares for his ex but seems to have come to terms with her desire to want separation. If his character has any fatal flaw, it is his love for his daughter and his concern for the welfare of others.

I’ve never read any of Kate Atkinson’s books, had never heard of the character before receiving this series for review. But I am now a confirmed fan of the show and can’t wait until BBC commissions more. There is something very warm and human about Brodie’s character, as well as the characters of the people around him. Amanda Abbington as DC Louise Munroe is his best friend and the most fed up with him. She clearly has feelings for him but through the first two of the three series, he seems not to notice her, as though she were part of the room decor. Millee Innes as his daughter, Marlee, is cute and intelligent far beyond her years, and it breaks your heart every time they have to be apart. And yet theirs is the strongest bond of all. Zawe Ashton as his receptionist and office manager, Deborah, is hard-headed and self-centered, and the perfect counterpart to Brodie’s self-effacing loyalty to lost souls and missing persons.

Here is a breakdown of the episodes -

Episode One and Two (based on the novel Case Histories)
While searching for a lost cat, Jackson takes on the cold case of a girl who went missing thirty years earlier. He is also talked into helping a grieving father find the man who murdered his daughter, and tracking down the niece of a mysterious seductress.

Episode Three and Four (based on the novel One Good Turn)
The only witness to a drowning, Jackson is on a desperate search for the victim’s identity when he meets a crime novelist caught in a road rage incident. So begins a strange journey that also involves the wife and dominatrix of a comatose crook.

Episode Five and Six (based on the novel When Will There Be Good News?)
Jackson is injured in a train wreck and acquires a teenage sidekick who saves his life and insists that he return the favor by finding her missing employer. Also, while barely conscious in the hospital, Jackson makes a startling declaration to a former police colleague.

The seriessix episodes are included here on 2 discs along with a 15-minute behind-the-scenes featurette. You won’t want to miss this release!

Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly, a film teacher, a writer and a film critic in Chicago.

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