Over the past eight months, I have had the privilege (thanks partly to Netflix) of watching a number of excellent British TV serials, most of them of the suspense variety. In the past, I have included my reviews of such shows under the heading Scandinavian Noir. But I’ve decided British TV deserves to be treated with more respect, so I will begin this new series of reviews.
I’ve always loved British TV. Growing up, most of my favourite TV shows were British - shows like The Prisoner, The Avengers, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, Man in a Suitcase, The Champions, Danger Man, The Persuaders, The Saint, UFO and of course all the Gerry Anderson puppet series (from Supercar on). I have watched countless British TV shows since those days and always had the sense (mentioned previously) that British TV was inherently more intelligent than American TV (or TV from any other country), at least until the advent of cable TV.
I’ve reviewed some of those shows on this blog, but now want to review at least eight recent British TV serials worth watching. Since most of these shows are worthy of having their own post, I will try reviewing them in separate posts, beginning with my favourite (of those I have watched in 2016): The Missing.
The Missing, which aired from 2014 - 2015, stars James Nesbitt as Tony Hughes, a man whose son (Oliver) disappears while the family is on vacation in Northern France. Panic quickly sets in and Tony enlists the help of a local police inspector by the name of Julien Baptiste, played by Tchéky Karyo. Tony is convinced that his son was abducted, but there’s no ransom demand and no word from the abductors. The boy has simply vanished.
The Missing takes place during two time periods and moves back and forth between them. The first episode actually begins in 2014, eight years after Oliver’s disappearance, after Tony uncovers what he thinks is evidence that his son was abducted and may still be alive. Again, he enlists the help of Julien, now retired, to help him follow the clues, though the small town of Chalon du Bois is tired of this case and Tony’s obsession.
Since it’s a mystery show that I highly recommend, I will reveal no more of the plot. Besides being a brilliantly written and brilliantly structured story, what makes The Missing stand out are the well-developed characters and the acting. Julien Baptiste is one of the best detective creations in the history of TV detectives, and Karyo, who is perfectly cast, is magnificent (one of my favourite performances in the history of television). Nesbitt is also the right casting choice to play Tony, a desperate volatile man trying to stay sane. Tony’s wife, Emily, who begins to lose patience with Tony, is the other major role, and is played very well by Frances O’Connor. Minor characters, like the various police officers involved in the case, also stand out as exceptionally well-developed and played. Meanwhile the cinematography is gorgeous and the music is perfect for this haunting masterpiece.
I should note that despite the involvement of Starz, The Missing has no gratuitous sex, violence or nudity whatsoever - amazing! Maybe that’s because it’s made by the BBC as well.
The Missing is an extraordinary TV show, as good as mystery TV can get, and is now high on my list of all-time favourite TV serials. It gets an easy ****. I recommend this series highly to all suspense fans, but I must note that it is not available on Netflix. Sorry.