Monday, 18 December 2017

British TV Serials Worth Watching: 9. Unforgotten

Because it’s not on Netflix, Unforgotten (created by Chris Lang) is a British police serial you may never have heard of. It is well worth hunting down (it’s available on iTunes), if for no other reason than because it features some of the best acting I’ve ever seen on TV.

The title of the show refers to the fact that the police are looking into a forty-year-old murder case (the body of a homeless boy found in the basement of what used to be a hostel). The police officers in question are DCI Cassie Stuart (Nicola Walker, who is always great) and DI Sunny Khan (Sanjeev Bhaskar). When they find a list of names in the victim’s diary, four of them, now all in their sixties or seventies, become immediate suspects. Unforgotten not only follows the investigation into the murder, but also shows us what each of those four suspects is up to now and how their lives were affected by knowing the victim forty years ago. One thing is sure: all four of them are hiding something.

The veteran actors playing those four suspects are Bernard Hill as Father Robert Graves, Trevor Eve as Sir Philip Cross, Tom Courtenay as Eric Slater (his wife, Claire, is played by Gemma Jones) and Ruth Sheen as Lizzie Wilton. It is a stellar cast (including Walker and Bhaskar), but it’s Courtenay and Jones whose performances are truly unforgettable. I was not surprised to learn that Courtenay had won a BAFTA award for his performance. 

I particularly enjoyed the way Unforgotten focused on the lives of the older suspects and not just the police officers (indeed, the role of the police is somewhat understated in this show). Each of the four family stories involving the suspects is fascinating on its own.

I am pleased to see that a second series has already been made and a third has been commissioned, though I hope they find new ways of approaching the old cases. Speaking of which, this series does highlight an issue that has been bothering me for a long time: If a person commits a crime, however serious, when they are very young and immature (let’s say twenty years old), but have turned their life around since then and lived a full productive (albeit haunted) life for decades, whom does it serve to throw such a person in prison for the last decade or two of their life? Justice must be served? Doesn’t work for me. 

The first series of Unforgotten gets somewhere between ***+ and ****. My mug is up.

1 comment:

  1. We're in the middle of the second series. This is a creatively different approach - the police team's attitude is refreshingly positive (almost a little too much so - they're just so happy whenever they have a breakthrough...). Another point that is positive but almost done too well (becoming a bit didactic) is emphasizing the care for the long dead by not forgetting. But the really interesting addition is the focus on what has developed in people's lives during the years since the original crime (that you mention as well). The second series seems (so far) just as well done but also looks to be settling very much into its own formula. ***+ from me.