British Crime Drama

Filed under : Drama

Can You Really Beat

a Good British Crime Drama?

We all know that the Americans make a lot of crime dramas and some of them are very good. The Australians make a few too and some of those are not bad at all. But can you really beat a good British crime drama?

Until recently, the ABC was the home of British crime drama on Australian television. But the new digital channels, owned by Channels 7 and 9, have now taken to airing old episodes of British crime dramas. Many of these shows have been seen before on the ABC or other commercial networks, but some of them have not aired previously in Australia, to my knowledge.

In a reversal of the pattern, Sherlock, which first aired in the UK in 2010 and on Channel 9 in Australia, is now being shown on ABC1, apparently starting with series two.

I must admit that I am having trouble getting into Sherlock, despite the presence of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, the current darlings of Hollywood, who have been seen in American TV series and a whole batch of big screen movies recently.

So let’s discuss the best British crime dramas. Please let us know your favourites and why in the comments at the bottom of the page.

A Touch of Frost

David Jason and John Lyons A-Touch-of-Frost

David Jason as Jack Frost and John Lyons as George Toolan in A Touch of Frost

A Touch of Frost features one of Britain’s best loved TV stars, David Jason, previously best known as Dell Boy on Only Fools and Horses, Pop Larkin in The Darling Buds of May and Granville in Open All Hours with Ronnie Barker.

Jack Frost is a cantankerous old bugger, with as much disrespect for the Police hierarchy as he has for the villains. But he gets the job done, with his trusty side kick Detective Sargent George Toolan and a different guest DS every week, it seems.

The show has great plot lines, some great acting, especially Jim Sturgess in an episode called Close Encounters and there was a good smattering of humour too.

A Touch of Frost ran from 1992 to 2010 but can still be seen in repeats on 7Two

Click here to download episodes and entire series of A Touch of Frost from iTunes

Jonathan Creek

Alan-Davies-and-Caroline-Quentin in Jonathan Creek

Alan Davies and Caroline Quentin in Jonathan Creek

Jonathan Creek, played by Alan Davies, is a magician’s assistant, the guy that actually designs all of the illusions that the magician presents on stage. He also utilises his powers of lateral thinking to solve mysterious crimes.

Initially Jonathan partnered up with an author/journalist, Maddy Magellan, played by Caroline Quentin. As Alan Davies was previously known as a stand up comedian and Caroline Quentin was best known as Gary’s put upon girlfriend in the long running comedy series Men Behaving Badly, you can see why this series is mainly played for laughs and the “how did they do that” factor.

Davies and Quentin were very entertaining together, but Caroline Quentin left the series in 2000 and was subsequently replaced by a series of female partners and failed love interests, until 2013 when Jonathan married Polly, played by Sarah Alexander and she became his partner in crime, or in investigating crime to be strictly accurate.

Jonathan Creek ran from 1997 until 2014 in the UK and can still be seen on 7Two and the ABC in Australia.

Click here to download episodes and entire series of Jonathan Creek from iTunes

Foyle’s War


Anthony Howell, Michael Kitchen and Honeysuckle Weeks in Foyles War

Foyle’s War has got to be one of my favourite crime dramas. It first aired in the UK in 2002 and there are still shows being made, occasionally.

Michael Kitchen stars, as Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle, who investigates crimes in Hastings on the south east coast of England, during and just after the Second World War. He is a veteran of the First World War and would like to be doing more for the cause. But he is in a reserved occupation and his superiors think that he is more use to the country doing what he is doing. This is often a source of conflict between him and those of higher rank, that and his more honest idea of justice to theirs.

His sidekick is his driver, Samantha Stewart, played by the distinctively named Honeysuckle Weeks, who is young and very keen to get involved in every case. He is also assisted by, the slightly more qualified, Sargent and later DI Paul Milner, who has been injured out of the British army.

The original episodes of Foyle’s War took it up to the end of the Second World War, but the show was so popular that more episodes are still being produced that cover the post war period.

If you haven’t seen Foyle’s War, then do not miss the repeats or the new shows when they air. Or download the episodes or buy a box set to catch up.

Click here to get episodes and entire series of Foyle’s War from Amazon

Inspector Morse

Inspector Morse and Sergeant Lewis

Inspector Morse and Sergeant Lewis

Inspector Morse was one of the most popular British TV shows of all time. It featured John Thaw as Inspector Morse, a detective based in Oxford, one of the country’s major seats of learning. Morse himself was very bookish and into classical music.

He also loved his vintage Jaguar car, but most of all he loved beer. There has probably never been a crime mystery drama series with so much drinking in it.

Morse was played by John Thaw whose previous major claim to fame was playing Inspector Jack Regan in another highly popular British crime drama, The Sweeney.

Jack Regan was a much coarser character than Inspector Morse, but he also liked beer, whisky and women.

Morse was ably assisted by Sergeant Lewis, played by Kevin Whatley, who first found fame as one of the Geordie mafia in Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. Lewis spun off into his own series, after the death of John Thaw.

Morse originally aired in the UK from 1987 until 2000 but the first series is currently enjoying a re-run on 7Two in Australia.

Click Here to download episodes or entire series of Inspector Morse

New Tricks

New Tricks original cast

New Tricks original cast

New Tricks is a cold case crime comedy-drama featuring veteran British actors as retired policeman giving it one more go.

The original UCOS (Unsolved Crime and Open Case Squad) was made up of commanding officer Detective Superintendent Sandra Pullman and retired senior detectives Jack Halford, Brian Lane and Gerry Standing.

There was a heavy dose of comedy added to the weekly mysteries, mainly centred around the age of the former officers, Gerry Standing‘s aging Lothario antics and Brian Lane‘s obsessive and other disorders.

Sandra Pullman was played by Amanda Redman, the veteran of numerous British TV series. At Home With The Braithwaites, in which she played a multi-millionaire lottery winner, was probably the most well known in Australia.

Amanda was once romantically involved with Dennis Waterman, who was most famous for playing Terry McCann in Minder, alongside George Cole’s Arthur Daley. Dennis‘s chequered romantic past was written into Gerry Standing‘s character, along with a certain chemistry between him and Sandra Pullman.

Gerry Standing was, in many ways, the ageing version of another of Waterman‘s famous roles, Detective Sergeant George Carter from The Sweeney, who was the sidekick to John Thaw‘s Detective Inspector Jack Regan.

Jack Halford was played by James Bolam, star of innumerable British TV series going back to the early 1960’s, when he was a Likely Lad, alongside Rodney Bewes.

Casting was very much kept in the family, as Brian Lane‘s wife was played by Bolam‘s real life wife, Susan Jameson.

Brian Lane himself was played, very entertainingly, by Alun Armstrong. I particularly enjoyed one episode where Brian went undercover as a flashy villain with a much younger girlfriend, pretty much the opposite of Brian himself.

This cast survived from the shows inception in 2003 until 2013, when a great deal of dissatisfaction seemed to creep in and one by one all of the leading characters, bar Gerry Standing, were written out of the show.

New Tricks new cast

New Tricks new cast

The original cast were replaced by more stalwarts of British television. First came Denis Lawson, Ewan McGregor‘s uncle and a mentor to him. Lawson plays Steve McAndrew a retired Glasgow detective, who replaced Jack Halford.

Sandra Pullman was replaced by DCI Sasha Miller, played by Tamzin Outhwaite, a former star of the long running soap opera East Enders and the army detective series Red Cap. Interestingly Tamzin had previously played the mother of a victim in an earlier episode of New Tricks.

Finally, Brian Lane was replaced by Danny Griffin, played by Nicholas Lyndhurst, who is of course most famous for playing Rodney Trotter, alongside David Jason‘s Dell Boy, in Only Fools and Horses.

Danny Griffin has a disabled daughter, played by Storme Toolis, who regularly appears in a supporting role, much as Brian Lane‘s wife Esther did.

New episodes of New Tricks are currently airing on ABC1 on Saturday nights and repeats of earlier series can be seen on GEM (Channel 90) on Thursdays.

Click Here to download episodes or entire series of New Tricks

Agatha Christie’s Marple

miss marple with amanda holden

Geraldine McEwan as Miss Marple with guest star Amanda Holden

The Miss Marple series is a little different to regular British TV series. There were fewer, but longer episodes, TV films really. There has been 23 episodes made over six seasons so far.

Originally Miss Marple was played by Geraldine McEwan from 2004 until 2008. Julia McKenzie took over the title role in 2009 and sadly Geraldine McEwan died in January 2015.

Of the episodes that I have seen, there seems to be something of an uneven flow. Some episodes seem to be played a little tongue in cheek, poking a little fun at the gentry of the era. Whereas others are played straight and more loyal to the Agatha Christie books that they are based on.

The shows casts include almost all of the leading British film and TV actors and of course the Agatha Christie mysteries are excellent. Well worth watching and very entertaining TV.

Click Here to download episodes or entire series of Agatha Christie’s Marple from iTunes

By Max Power

Click here for more British Crime Dramas


One Response to “British Crime Drama”

  • British Crime Drama 2 | Oz TV Reviews — April 2, 2015 @ 1:33 pm

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