We’ve begun to watch this series through a post-ironic filter. So stilted is the acting, dialogue and so leaden the plot and direction that we are now playing a TV version of ‘are we there yet?’ by spotting scenes that look as if they’ve been lifted from classic 1970s movies – tonight’s episode included glimpses of The Graduate (the modernist church for Pam’s nuptials was a bit reminiscent of Elaine’s far more memorable wedding), sub-Mean Streets-style bantering between the cops, and a pinch from Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid’s slow-mo to freeze-frame where our plods bust into the vault before the explosion at the bank. Do you think you used enough oxy-acetylene there, Butch?
Another thing we’ve noticed in surveying the scenery is that, anachronistically, although a haze hangs over the desks in the station, few of the characters light up a cigarette – this in an era where everyone smoked, especially in TV cop shows – Regan and Carter’s mob would chain it through the 50-odd minutes.
I Put a Spell On You (everybody has recorded this song, but we think it’s Creedence Clearwater Revival’s 1968 version) was a pretty good choice as an episode opener because Bradfield (Sam Reid) is clearly being led by his penis rather than his head in taking on Tennison’s hunch about the Bentleys being up to no good again.
He’s also angling to be her ‘plus one’ at Pam’s wedding – mooning around the station like a lovesick Jackie reader.
Or he could be just burning for revenge on Cliff Bentley (Alun Armstrong) for his dead colleague – either way it is a gross dereliction of duty. He’s supposed to be leading the investigation into the murders of Julie Ann Collins’ and her boyfriend Eddie, but has, along with others under his command, become exercised about Ashley Brennan’s recordings of the Bentleys’ radio conversations.
Desk Sergeant Harris (Andrew Brooke) doesn’t like women telling him what to do, but it doesn’t stop him being in thrall to the tapes she took from Brennan as they crowd round the station’s state-of the-art tape machine. However, he’s unhappy with Bradfield for stretching manpower to the limit.
Tennison, starting to think O’Duncie (still in the cells – those were the days, eh?) isn’t their man, also nags Bradfield about dropping Julie Ann’s case – only to give in to some more brazen office canoodling.
Bradfield even defies Det Chief Super Metcalfe, who orders him to get back on the murder case and leave the Bentleys to the Flying Squad, who were much better suited to gun-toting and arresting criminals while yelling, “Shut it, you slags!” after chases involving Ford Granadas (although around the time of Nick Love’s 2012 Sweeney update the unit was banned from carrying guns in ambushes, fact fans).
Bentley, meanwhile, not only has to worry about the police interest, he’s also under pressure from Whiteley to get the bank job done, having been sat for days in the adjoining café waiting for a chance to break into the vault.
Bradfield, Gibbs (Blake Harrison) and DC Hudson (Tommy McDonnell) keep such close surveillance on the Bentley boys it’s a wonder they don’t hear each other breathing; both sides are laughably incompetent – who would choose a lookout on crutches?
It’s not a million miles from the hackneyed plotlines in A Touch Of Cloth (while being nowhere near as funny or as self-aware and a crying waste of acting luminaries Armstrong and Sheen).
As the ‘boys down the station’ tool up for the bank stakeout, Ann Old-Man – sorry – Tennison (Stefanie Martini) is feeling half-hearted about the wedding. Her conflict is highlighted by her reluctance to take off her uniform brogues when she tries on her pink Chelsea Girl-meets-Elvira Madigan floral frock and wide-brimmed floppy straw hat. We’re not sure if she’s going to a wedding or filming a Timotei shampoo ad. Sadly, unlike the wedding at the end of The Graduate, there is no entertaining punch-up here.
As one-hit wonders Edison Lighthouse sing Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes, guests dig into the crisps at the reception and, barely waiting for the cake-cutting, Tennison is off to the station in her bridesmaid’s dress en route to the stakeout.
Scouting out the bank vault, Bradfield decides he and Gibbs will sit it out to catch the gang in the act. They might as well light the blue touch-paper now, as this telegraphs exactly what will happen way before we see the Bentleys drag in the oxy-acetylene kit.
Cliff Bentley tells Renee (Sheen) with stock retirony that “after this job; we’ll hang up our boots”. Renee has hidden the rainy-day money and says they should cut their losses and go to Spain. But when café owner Silas throws in the towel and tells the police, Bradfield denies him immunity – thereby setting up a tragedy.
He might limp, but there’s nothing wrong with David Bentley’s eyes so when one of the officers on obbo shoos Silas’s neighbour away from the robbery site and makes the route one error of going back to the police van, he can’t miss it. But instead of calling it in, he hobbles off to the family lock-up for a grizzle.
As the squad gets ready to storm the bank, Tennison follows Hopalong and finds Julie Ann’s green bead bracelet there – putting two and two together and probably making 402.
As for who is wearing the Red shirt of Doom in the bank inferno? Oh, this really won’t wash, Cloth.
For all our Prime Suspect 1973 reviews, go here