Je t’adore Martin Shaw

TV | roomybonce | June 2, 2009 at 8:24 pm

I never used to. I disliked his sullen bubble perm in ‘The Professionals’, despised his crew cut Heffalump in ‘The Chief’, and was disgusted by how housewives countrywide would slaver over his silver-fox hardcase Judge John Deed, but I think he may have just found the role of a lifetime. Just as Morse was to Thaw, so Gently is to Shaw.

Inspector George Gently is a period drama, set in a rainwashed 1960’s Northeast that The Summer of Love might never touch, and starring Shaw as the eponymous plod who turns his back on London after his wife’s murder at the hands of a notorious gangster with The Met in his pocket. Lee Ingleby takes the Lewis role and sharpens it up no end but, most vitally, Jarrow-born Peter Flannery puts the words in their mouths just as adroitly as he adapted ’Our Friends in the North’.

The result is a realistic world where you can almost see the melting pot lid rattling with the pressure of change. It’s explosive – even when their idea of  ’action’ is overtaking a bus or throwing the occasional punch – and it fits Martin Shaw’s crumpled curmudgeon like a blood-soaked wetsuit. Everybody smokes, everybody has secrets, and everybody exposed for the murderer they are faces the Hangman.

Here’s Mark Williams from The Fast Show after confessing to raping & bludgeoning the nightclub Bunny Girl who spurned his advances (”This week, I ‘ave been mostly ejaculating spasmodically with a black bag on me ‘ead”). The following week a young chap gets the black cap for raping & strangling the only girl who was ever nice to him at school. These aren’t the heartwarming communities of The Royal or Heartbeat. These are lives hiding behind curtains, locked in cellars, and living & dying by a desperate sword. It’s a black & white world on its way out, and I find it interesting that it should flaunt its morality so openly. Is Flannery making a statement with these last frames of dangling feet? Is he lamenting the loss of that two-tone world? The viewer is led through ninety flawless minutes of lies & pain & sullied innocence to feel that this, finally, is Justice. No pleas, no evasions, no humanist chest-beating, only a cigarette and a noose.

Mark Williams’ main gig, the Harry Potter movies, walk a similarly stark moral line. What is it that Sirius shouts at Pettigrew when the latter admits to betraying Harry’s parents to Voldemort?  ”But Sirius,” Pettigrew protests, “he would have killed me.”  ”Then you should have died! For your friends! As they would have died for you!”

It’s a tempting old world, where choosing the right path saves your soul and the wrong path leads to death without parole. It’s a dying world that sells, and to which a great many people will always be attracted – or so I think, in my near-fortysomething, borderline Daily Mail mind. The fact that it sells so well makes me think I’ll be seeing Inspector George Gently again soon, or at least far sooner than I’ll be seeing Judge John Deed, who was only a horny George Gently in a contemporary fucked up world anyway. The wrong world.

Till we meet again then George. Sleep well, and don’t have nightmares.

Tags: George Gently, Lee Ingleby, Martin Shaw, Peter Flannery
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