George Gently, Series 1
by Del Harvey
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This recent BBC Television entry into the police procedural subsection of the cop show gets it right, which is not uncommon for the BBC’s narrative filmmakers. Although set in the early 1960’s, this program was filmed in 2007 and 2008. But the flavor of the era comes through. Adapted from the popular series by Alan Hunter and written for television by Peter Flannery (Agatha Christie’s Poirot) and directed by Euros Lyn (Torchwood, Dr. Who), the George Gently mysteries are all about solid, no-nonsense police work. Making sure that’s just what happens are Martin Shaw (Judge John Deed, Cranford, The Murder Room) as George Gently, and Lee Ingleby as protégé John Bacchus (The Last Legion, Marple: Nemesis).
As the program begins, Gently’s wife has been killed in a hit and run. He decides to take early retirement and get out of the police. But a dead motorcyclist and a tip-off from an informant sends him heading up north to lead the investigation. With his young and ambitious partner John Bacchus at his side , the investigation begins. However, in addition to trying his best to solve the crime, Gently is distracted by his suspicions of all those around him, including the confusing ethics and background of Bacchus. Eventually, Gently gets the crook and begins work molding his new, young partner, John Bacchus (Lee Ingleby) into a decent cop.
The set includes two other Gently stories. The next of these is “Gently Go Man,” about the murder of a member of a motorcycle gang and the small-town secrets that Gently’s unravels as he digs up the truth of the man’s death. Then there’s “The Burning Man,” where Gently investigates the death of a man who may have been a political terrorist with the Irish Republican Army. In this episode, Gently finds himself butting heads with a cop from Special Branch with whom our world-weary hero has a past. In “Bomber’s Moon,” Gently looks into the killing of a former German prisoner of war and Gently’s returning to visit the local farm family with whom he had been stationed, all of which reveals all sorts of bigotry still lingering from the war.
The Gently stories are told with as much lean style as Bacchus’s skinny Beatles suits and sleek sports car, yet they remain surprisingly modern . “Gently Go Man,” in particular, echoes an undertone of tolerance for homosexuality that would not have been found in 60’s England. Series creator Flannery states on the commentary track that what appealed to him about the novels was that, “the world was on the cusp of massive social change,” at the time the stories are set, “and George Gently’s values were being challenged by that change.” That aspect is a strong element of all three 90-minute movies included here, and it’s just one aspect that makes the series most appealing. All in all, George Gently’s stories make for entertaining viewing.
Inspector George Gently, Series 1 releases on BluRay on January 17, 2012.
Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly, a film teacher, a writer and a film critic in Chicago.
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