George Gently (UKTV)

UKTV has started screening a terrific cop series here in New Zealand. Inspector George Gently
has the appearance of a run-of-the-mill detective series but its
setting in 1960s rural England makes it interesting. The death penalty
was still in force and enforced, which makes a conviction for murder a
risky affair for your own life. The lack of modern gadgetry in crime
solving such as DNA testing, cellphones and computer databases are still
decades away. It makes for so much better drama when it is all about
the relationships of the protagonists, the criminal motives and the
psychological games played between the ‘cops and robbers’. Hence the
popularity of series like Cracker, Inspector Morse and (even) Waking The
Dead.

Male homosexuality was verboten at the time but that didn’t make it
invisible or unknown and it featured as a crucial subplot in the first
episode. The hotel lobby scene, gay “Brief Encouter”-esque in feel if
not linked to the reality of the scene, turned the frisson between the
closet and the contemporary illegality into a marvellously subtle
criticism of the law’s nonsense. The waiter, in the briefest of
appearances, gave a brilliant performance on how to skirt the
sensitivity of the subject professionally. And Martin Shaw’s face was
priceless at the hapless Bacchus. “I’m not like that, I’m married!”
still echoes down the ages as the truth that dares not speak out.

What I also liked (in episode zero at least) was that despite the
psychotic revenge binge the Philip Davis character embarked on, the
actual violence or gore was barely shown and the horror was implied
off-screen, which makes it a very classical Greek-style drama.