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Audrey Kupferberg: Detective Shows

Audrey Kupferberg

Some are cerebral.  Some are character-driven.  Some specialize in car chases.  The genre is known as criminal investigations, police procedurals, and just plain detective shows.  I find the best of them so entertaining, no matter the approach. 

The Bridge, aka: Bron or Broen, is a Swedish/Danish series that first aired in 2011.  It’s mainly in Swedish with English subtitles. Two years later an American version appeared.  It is the Scandinavian version to which I refer.  The cast changed through its four seasons, and my favorite is the original, with Sofia Helin as Saga, an attractive and capable detective who has Asberger’s and, as a result, frustrates those around her with her bluntness and lack of pleasantries.  She works in Sweden, on that side of the Oresund Bridge.  When crimes occur in the vicinity of this bridge which joins Sweden to Denmark, a Danish detective, Martin, played by Kim Bodnia, partners with her to solve the case.  Many will recognize husky, virile Bodnia as Konstantin from Killing Eve.

Available for streaming from several sources and on DVD, The Bridge has terrific detailed cases with oddball characters.  Some of the plots are exotic and a few are stomach-churning.  But the characters, even the dastardly villains, are well scripted, colorful, and at times even fascinating.

Hinterland, which was released in 2013, is an intelligent production -- the first of  several Welsh-made series with Welsh actors shot in both Welsh and English. It is described aptly as a noir crime series. The series stars Richard Harrington as Detective Chief Inspector Tom Mathias, a character who is suffering deep depression from something that happened to him and his family.  It was enough of an ordeal to send him on his own from his family and post in London to the Welsh port town of Aberystwyth.  There he forms a partnership with an understanding Detective Inspector, Mared Rhys, a single mother with a teenaged daughter.  Along with several sergeants and constables, they make a brilliant crime-solving team amid the antique ashen surroundings and the desolate countryside.  Hinterland is exceptionally well written, and its plots and characters all hang together over three seasons. 

Van Der Valk was a real find – not the 2020 adaptation, but the original cop series that ran from 1972 to 1992. In the original, Barry Foster plays the title role.  It’s set in Amsterdam, as is the remake, but unlike the new version, the title inspector is urbane and a family man.  The plots are mildly interesting, but nothing really exciting enough to have you on the edge of your recliner.  Foster plays his part really well.  He’s the standout feature.  I first heard about this series as the 2020 version was about to be released on PBS.  At that time, I bought several used DVDs for pocket change.  Since the new release, the DVD prices have soared.  I do not believe it is available for streaming.

The Sweeney from the mid-seventies is being streamed on Britbox.  The series was remade a few years ago, but I am referring to the original version.  My favorite TV actor, John Thaw, and Dennis Waterman from the more recent series New Tricks, star in a show that has become a cult favorite.  Unlike its British TV predecessors, The Sweeney is gritty and street savvy, with stories about unsavory characters, violent fights where no one plays fair, and car chases that remain exciting even today.  Most appealing is the partnership of Thaw, whom many know as Inspector Morse, as hardboiled Inspector Jack Regan and his loyal street-smart sergeant George Carter. They fight together, joke together, and chase after criminals at record speed.

There are so many impressive cop shows that it will take fans years to catch up with them. It takes a network of fans to share all the information on which series were produced, which are worth one’s time, and where to find them in this complex world of streaming sources.

Audrey Kupferberg is a film and video archivist and appraiser. She is lecturer emeritus and the former director of Film Studies at the University at Albany and co-authored several entertainment biographies with her husband and creative partner, Rob Edelman.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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