by Kathleen Costa
Isn’t that…? When there’s nothing on television except politics, sports, or reality shows that seem to bring out the worst in humanity, I open up the AcornTV app on my iPad and explore the dramas, mysteries, comedies, documentaries, and “Staff Pick of the Week.” The first thing that usually grabs my interest is seeing an actor I recognize. Isn’t that the actor from…? AcornTV has introduced me to several surprises for my reasonable monthly fee…from favorite actors in long ago series to new-to-me actors in entertainment gems or from rewatching shows I’ve missed to exploring shows never before on U.S. networks. While checking out the line-up, I saw several familiar actors in the pilot of a new all-time favorite George Gently. Is that Endeavour’s Shaun Evans, The Hobbit’s Richard Armitage, and Striking Out’s Amy Huberman? The synopsis intrigued, and after watching the pilot…Hooked!
Inspector George Gently (2007-2017)
The pilot, “Gently Go Man,” begins at a funeral with flashbacks of a tragic hit and run resulting in the death of a Isabella Gently. Now a widower, Detective Inspector George Gently informs the commissioner of his plans to retire and draw his pension. However, he is approach by one of his confidential informants; the man Gently is looking for and blames for his wife’s death was seen at the funeral of a young man who died in a motorcycle accident. Gently is not satisfied with The Met’s official status of the case and dismissive manner that a vicious criminal had been sighted. He’s told someone has been arrested, so case closed. When reminded he said he were retiring, Gently responds, “Eh, there’s time for one more…” The file is tossed to him, and he’s off to Northumberland. The case seems mishandled, too quick to judge it an accident, so Gently starts from the beginning, suspicious of Sergeant John Bacchus as the officer in charge, evidence surprises, and another murder that looks oddly familiar. When the case concludes, Gently realizes, “I thought I had enough, found I haven’t,” and Bacchus discovers his job in London has been denied. It turns out Gently pulled a few strings, and like in Casablanca…“I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
Brilliant Cast Puts This on Top!
Chief Inspector George Gently (brilliantly cast with Martin Shaw) is a good cop…a GOOD cop! He has honest principles, ones he’s based his career on, but often sets him apart from others. He has excellent investigative skills, ones where evaluating evidence, not planting, and talking to witness, not intimidating, is enough to bring criminals to justice. He is a great mentor, one who is light on the praise unless you really deserve it and will call you up short if you don’t meet his expectations. He is a veteran inspector, who knows “of seven, a minimum of seven, high ranking officers in The Met” on the take, so it isn’t surprising to learn he has run afoul of superiors pulling rank and retribution. But collateral damage hits close to home with the murder of his wife, an issue that is revisited frequently when new leads are discovered throughout the eight seasons culminating with a shocking series conclusion.
Joining the ensemble in “Gently Between the Lines” (2014), WPC, later Sergeant, Rachel Coles (Lisa McGrillis) has her own principles, but being a woman in the 60s with sexism and patronizing men flooding her life, she was an easy scapegoat when a protestor is found dead in one of the cells. She’s pressured to take the blame for the death, and as a woman, she has limited recourse, limited support, and limited choice but to resign. Gently, however, sees a good cop, one who takes her oath seriously and is compulsively organized; he gives her a chance…to the chagrin of Bacchus to whom she becomes the conscience he needs, as well as a positive influence. She keeps him honest, calling out his BS at every turn…and there are many opportunities. But their relationship, however platonic, evolves into collaborative respect.
Inspector George Gently earns 5++/5 Warrant Cards…Brilliant!
The series is adapted from several of the forty-six George Gently novels by Alan Hunter (1922-2005). Although maintaining the 60s era with the fashions, current events, and social mores, the series moved from Norfolk, where Hunter grew up, to North East England, centering on Newcastle, Northumberland, and County Durham. The twenty-five 90-minute telemovies explore the dark, gritty side of this coastal area with various murders, trafficking in all sorts of commodities, social upheavals, bad blood leftover from the war, personal dramas, and confrontations from the past. The cast is brilliant, and fans of British television and movies will recognize many of the guest stars in outside-the-box roles as victim, witness, or criminal. I personally enjoyed every single episode and am eager to revisit favorites like “Gently Upside Down”, “Gently Makes Friends”, and the final duo “Gently Liberated”, and the best, but sad, conclusion “Gently and the New Age”. Don’t miss this absolute gem!
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