Case Sensitive: The Other Half Lives E1 (ITV)

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Has it really been 16 months since the first two-part outing for Sophie Hannah’s detective duo Zailer (Olivia Williams) and Waterhouse (Darren Boyd)? It really doesn’t feel that ITV has much sense of expectation of or commitment to this series.

Williams is still great as the very believable and realistic lead detective, suffering from outrageously overt sexism from her boss DI Proust (Peter Wight) but at the same time no paragon of virtue herself, taking quite seriously against a new, attractive junior female officer (DC Williams, played by Christina Chong) in an spectacularly bitchy (sorry, but that’s the appropriate word) manner. It makes for a more interesting and nuanced backdrop against which to play the usual cops and robbers game.

But in fact the focus of this story seems to be the guest character of Ruth Blacksmith (Eva Birthistle) and her tangled relationships with her lover Aidan (Theo James) and her estranged husband Jason, whom we only meet post-bloody murder. The story seems more interested in Ruth’s investigation of a cryptic admission from Aidan than it is in homicide.

Perhaps it’s having been spoilt by a year of Nordic Noir since the first Case Sensitive, but I found this adaptation extraordinarily rushed and compressed to the point of near-incomprehensibility. Watching the show you’d think that Zailer pops over to the Blacksmith house just minutes after a key conversation with Ruth whereas the dialogue suggests either days or weeks have passed; in acting upon the private conversation and even running unauthorised police background checks against a third party on the basis of gossip, Zailer’s motivations are completely unestablished and her actions probably career-ending. Similarly, Aidan’s behaviour (his cryptic announcement, followed by “… but I don’t want to talk about it”) and Ruth’s jumping to the worst case scenario in ten seconds flat are all hallmarks of a show with about half the running time it requires to convincingly sell it. And I’m still puzzling over how something apparently filmed on location in Buckinghamshire manages to include Ruth jumping on to a South West Trains service to London Waterloo for a crucial sequence.

As longtime readers of this blog know, I absolutely adore Nordic productions like Forbrydelsen, Borgen and The Bridge. But I’m also someone who would really like British TV to learn the lessons of those serials’ appeal and quality, and apply them to the more promising material here at home. Instead, this production seems to have has been choked by a too-short commission, a bizarre gap between story transmissions, and finally left gasping for air by not having enough air time at the end of it all. The production and everyone involved deserves better treatment than it seems to have received.

Episode two was at 9pm, Friday 13 July. Both episodes have been available on ITV Player online.

2 thoughts on “Case Sensitive: The Other Half Lives E1 (ITV)

    Simon Walton said:
    July 17, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    The problem was that the two part programme bore little resemblance to the novel and could have been sued under the trade descriptions acts. If it had been advertised as either ‘based on the characters of’ or ‘based on a basic idea by’ then there wouldn’t have been a problem.

    andrewlewin responded:
    July 17, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    Oh really? That’s interesting. I don’t know the book series at all and just based my thoughts on viewing the TV program. I’d rather assumed that the things with it that irked me were to do with the problems inherent in trying to condense a novel down to such a short running time, but if the original story has been largely thrown out then it’s hard to know why they ended up as they did.

    It’s a shame, as I like the main cast and it has promise as a detective series with something “a little different”; but the programme makers don’t seem to be going in the same direction as the source material, from what you’re saying.

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