I’ve been a huge fan of Hulu since it first became available a number of years ago. The ability to watch multiple episodes of shows, in some cases whole seasons of quality television, gives the viewer wonderful freedom and the price – free – can’t be beat. While I have happily signed up for both Netflix DVD and Streaming services, I had yet to do so for Hulu’s premium service most recently bombarded with the latest offer from Hulu of a week free trial of their Hulu Plus streaming subscription.
And that may well have been the end of it until I discovered recently that the British TV comedy-drama show New Tricks is available via Hulu Plus. This is, quite simply, the best show you haven’t seen. Bold words; but a statement I’m happy to back up.
Amanda Redman plays Detective Superintendent Sandra Pullman, a high-flyer within the Metropolitan Police Force who, after an unfortunate incident with a dog during a hostage negotiation, is pushed off into a newly formed Unsolved Crime and Open Case Squad (UCOS) as the head officer in charge. Recruited in to help Pullman are three retired detectives in the form of Jack Halford, Brian Lane and Gerry Standing played by veterans of the British TV small screen James Bolam, Alun Armstrong and Dennis Waterman respectively.
So what’s the big deal? Shows such as CBS’s Cold Case, Cold Squad from Canada and Waking The Dead in the UK have all dealt with the same basic premise.
What New Tricks has is a powerhouse of veteran actors who are all at the top of their game. Bolam has had considerable success in the past with the drama When The Boat Comes In and the comedy shows such as Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads and Only When I Laugh. Waterman if anything has a higher profile with hits such as The Sweeney and Minder. Throw in Armstrong, one of the more prolific actors in British film, television and theatre – working with both Bolam and Waterman in the past – and it’s a wonderful threesome that plays beautifully off of each other and with Redman’s Pullman. That Waterman and Redman had an affair in real life 30+ years ago is a cute undercurrent when their characters clash.
The performances bump the show from the merely good to great, but it is the characterization that tips this into the superb category. All four of the main characters are defined immediately in the opening episode with various foibles and quirks even as they offer evidence as to their excellent capabilities as detectives.
Bolam’s Halford still mourns the death of his wife and talks to her about the cases in his memorial garden. Originally a mentor to Pullman, Halford has the closest relationship with the boss. Meanwhile Armstrong’s Brian “Memory” Lane’s has total recall of information and all kinds of eccentricities and Standing with multiple daughters and three ex-wives is the naughty boy playing to Waterman’s own reputation. All of this is done with an undercurrent of humor, dark in some cases, but still as the viewer you are left with the overwhelming impression that the cast is having as good a time as the viewer, yet never do they leave their characterizations.
Redman however is the standout even as her three colleagues hit every note perfectly. As DS Pullman, Redman exudes well… everything. She’s a strong career woman, a stereotypical A type personality and able to mix it up with the boys both literally and figuratively while also being quite beautiful as one of those women that gets better looking with age. Such a potent mixture, and the underlying demons that she fights because of it, also are an excellent sub plot.
Hulu Plus is missing the most recent season of 10 episodes, but still 77 episodes spread over nine seasons more than justifies the paid streaming service for just this one show. I cannot emphasize this enough. This is a wonderful show.
— Wallace Poulter