Last Night's TV - Case Sensitive, ITV1; Bored to Death, Sky Atlantic

Keep watching this detective

The controller of BBC1, Danny Cohen, probably doesn't spend much time waiting for London buses. But he will be familiar with the place of the London bus in a popular metaphor, that you wait ages for one, and then two come along at once. Cohen it was who recently opined that there are far too many male detectives in TV crime drama. Some of us would counter that there is far too much crime drama on TV, a rather different argument, but when a powerful executive has a go at the profusion of male detectives, it's at least a nod in the right direction.

Of course, another way of interpreting Cohen's views would be to say that there are too few female detectives, and that's where the London buses come in. His ITV counterparts must have been sniggering into their skinny lattes at Cohen's assertion, because in the last two evenings they have given us two new female detectives, in the notably contrasting forms of Brenda Blethyn, playing Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope, and Olivia Williams, as Detective Sergeant Charlie Zailer.

Let the sniggering stop, though, because I can't think what possessed the ITV1 schedulers to place Sunday night's drama Vera and last night's Case Sensitive in such close proximity. Not only did both focus on murder investigations handled by female detectives, both also began with people arriving home to find, with the obligatory eerie musical accompaniment, dead relatives in the bath. In Vera it was a woman's son, in Case Sensitive a man's wife and daughter. To paraphrase a greater fictional woman than either DCI Stanhope or DS Zailer, Oscar Wilde's Lady Bracknell, one dead relative in the bath might be considered unfortunate, but three is downright careless. There were numerous other parallels, too, between the two dramas: marital infidelities, mistaken identities, even ornithology. So much for ITV as the home of originality.

Still, my colleague Amol Rajan gave Vera a cautious critical thumbs-up yesterday, and I find myself doing the same for Case Sensitive, based on Sophie Hannah's novel The Point of Rescue (as Vera was based on Hidden Depths by Ann Cleeves). The smoothly escalating tension set things up nicely for this evening's denouement, of which we were given a glimpse in the standard "Next Time" teaser. I'm no fan of those teasers, incidentally. By suggesting that we're not yet hooked, and that we must perforce get a hint of what happens next, they somehow manage both to patronise the audience and imply insecurity with the material. Drama producers should trust us to invest in their stories on the basis of what we've just seen; we don't need pointless flashes of what's coming.

Now that's off my chest, back to Case Sensitive. There were just a few too many clever-clever literary references, such as a commanding officer called Proust, and some rather implausible dialogue. "Have you read your Freud?" a creepy criminologist asked Zailor. "I've read his work on Narcissus, yes," she replied. Ah well. Maybe there's room, post-Inspector Morse, for a well-read telly detective.

On the other hand, brainy DS Zailor shouldn't be handling this mystery at all. A detective sergeant might take charge of an investigation into an unexplained death, but as soon as it becomes a suspicious death, as in the case of the corpses in the bath, the gig would be passed to a more senior officer, a detective inspector at least. This I know because of my own informant in the force, a detective chief superintendent, whom I called yesterday to discuss important procedural matters, and who is greatly tickled by the way TV police officers have historically worked in pairs so that one could play good cop and the other bad cop. In real life, he explained, they worked in pairs so that one could have five pints, leaving the other to drive after three.

In fairness, alcohol did play a part in the relationship between DS Zailor and her sidekick DC Waterhouse (Darren Boyd), with repeated embarrassed references to a sexual encounter they'd had the previous Friday evening after she had drunk too much. Her personal life is clearly something of a disaster zone, which of course is another requirement of the TV detective, whatever the gender. The chances of being in a happy long-term relationship, if you're unlucky enough to find yourself solving crimes on television, must be less than one in 50.

The romantic misadventures of journalist- turned-private detective Jonathan (Jason Schwartzman) also feature prominently in the sublime Bored to Death. I took three DVDs on a plane journey last week, two of the best episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm, and one Bored to Death, and I can give the latter no higher praise than to report that Jonathan's travails made my shoulders heave, with what for my neighbour's sake I hoped was silent laughter, just as much, if not more than, Larry David's in Curb.

Last night's Bored to Death, "The Case of the Beautiful Blackmailer", was the funniest so far. Jonathan revealed to his editor, George (Ted Danson), that he moonlights as a private eye, and George insisted on helping him to bust a blackmail plot. It was exquisitely done. Danson also pops up in Curb Your Enthusiasm, and as Sam Malone in Cheers he long ago staked his claim to a place in the pantheon of TV comedy greats. But it is in George, the dissolute magazine editor, that he has found the role of a lifetime.

Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’


Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'


Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from


Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Arts and Entertainment


These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Daenerys Targaryen, played by Emilia Clarke, faces new problems

Sek, k'athjilari! (That’s “yes, definitely” to non-native speakers).

Arts and Entertainment
Polly Morgan

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

    'You need me, I don’t need you'

    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
    How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

    How to Get Away with Murder

    Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
    A cup of tea is every worker's right

    Hard to swallow

    Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
    12 best children's shoes

    Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

    Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
    Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

    Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

    Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are