REVIEW / Giving up crime for the straight and narrow

IT'S NO easy business, 'going straight' in television. You might not be a recidivist, incorrigibly drawn back to your old ways, but the audience is a different matter; it takes a lot to persuade them to forget your criminal past. In the case of Hale and Pace, the past includes close connections with two dinner-jacketed gangsters, Ron and Ron. A Pinch of Snuff (ITV) offers the two comedians a chance to break with their criminal associations by giving them their first straight acting roles.

As an escape attempt, it comes across as ill-conceived, to put it mildly. In order to shake off the preconceptions formed by all those sketches in which the fat vulgar one offended the refined smoothie, they have cunningly taken roles as a fat vulgar Northern detective who continually offends his refined Southern partner.

What makes things even more difficult for Hale and Pace (the actors) is that Hale and Pace (the comedians) are so fond of pastiche, a form that generally starts in deadpan and works its way up to the punchline. So it is difficult to resist the temptation to giggle when they get all serious, since in the sketches that is the invariable prelude to some silly gag. The title sequence here, a ludicrously overblown affair of backlighting and tough guy postures, could have been used as the prelude to a Hale and Pace parody without a frame being changed. What makes it even more difficult still is that the average comedy sketch would put the script to shame when it came to subtlety of characterisation.

Norman Pace is reasonably convincing as Detective Inspector Pascoe, a long-suffering Oxbridge-educated underdog, but that's because the part, though a cliche, clings by its fingertips to the real world. It's the affable, underplayed stuff of the straight man. Gareth Hale, on the other hand, has been stuck with the altogether more difficult task of persuading us that Chief Superintendent Dalziel hasn't been bought whole at a Monty Python jumble sale. Dalziel is more chippy than Harry Ramsden's, one of those telly no-nonsense Yorkshiremen who like to belch loudly, eat pickles and say 'bum' at inappropriate moments. I don't believe any actor could make him plausible, but when Gareth Hale ends one of his ludicrous lines with that little roll of the head familiar from the comedy sketches all hope of gravity is lost.

The plot isn't much help either, dealing with sado-masochism and snuff movies in the grim underbelly of Harrogate. The soundtrack valiantly tries to make these streets appear mean, with a building-site percussion suite played on scaffolding pole and tuned cement-mixer, but it succumbs eventually to the genteel force of Victorian stonework and municipal planting. In the end, it just looks like another good joke. The spirit of fair play, however, demands that we leave Hale and Pace on probation for the remaining two episodes.

The Knock (ITV) pretends to be a documentary at first, introducing its scenes with terse identifying captions ('London. 5am.') and framing some of the action with the inadvertent clumsiness of surveillance photography. It is in fact a standard ensemble series based on the Customs - bit of London's Burning, bit of Hill Street Blues, bit of Between the Lines. Not the right bits in my view, though the opening episode contained a good sight gag in which an Audi nosedives into the pavement from the top of the screen, and there were some nice lines in Anita Bronson's script.

The problem is partly the programme's obedience to the EEC directives on Genre Requirements (like A Pinch of Snuff this programme contains the obligatory downtrodden Oxbridge swot, and it adds a pony-tailed drug-dealer to be absolutely sure that fines won't be levied for inventiveness), partly the fact that it feels like an animated brochure for Customs and Excise recruitment. No debates about legalisation here, and no cynicism about the PR grandstanding of 'major drug hauls'. Between the Lines delivered on its title's promise, reading deeper meanings into the official script. So far, The Knock has nothing quite so interesting to declare.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor