Shetland: Is casting Ashley Jensen in the lead role a good idea?

Should Tosh now be show lead?

When it comes to Shetland, we knew what was going to happen – Douglas Henshall had announced that series seven was going to his last. It was just a matter of finding out how he was going to leave.

Would he die, or would he walk off into the sunset, alive and well and somehow having fashioned a new life away from the police. In the end – spoilers for those who don’t know – he did indeed walk off into the sunset with new love, nurse Meg. I think we can all agree this was the right decision – Jimmy Perez has been through heartbreak and controversy in his life, and him finding a way out after finally admitting he needed a change felt like a plausible development. The fact that Jimmy had also become one of the most beloved British TV detectives meant that this type of exit was one to celebrate.

So we knew how Jimmy had left, the only question remaining was: what happens to Shetland now?

At the end of the series, a shell-shocked Tosh and Sandy processed the news that their boss and friend had handed in his notice.

In fact, Jimmy had told Tosh that she would be fine and intimated that she would be the one to step into his shoes.

Ashley Jensen in Agatha Raisin

Was hiring Ashley Jensen for Shetland a good idea?

However, news dropped last week that the creators of Shetland had cast Ashley Jensen in the lead role as DI Ruth Calder, a native Shetlander who returns to the isles after 20 years working for the Met in London.┬áIt was an intriguing and somewhat surprising move – not because Jensen is not a good actor (she’s actually brilliant in everything she’s been in, from Extras and After Life with Ricky Gervais, to cosy crime drama Agatha Raisin), but because many were hoping that Tosh (the fabulous Alison O’Donnell) would become the show lead.

It’s a big step up for Jensen, and a deserved one. She was show lead on the aforementioned Agatha Raisin, and was excellent in the role, using her comedy chops to give the show bounce and a sense of fun in among all the murrrrder. But Shetland, as we know, can be dark and intense.

As for Tosh, it felt like she was primed for a promotion – she had just become a mum, had come through a sticky moment after surviving a bomb attack in series seven, and had seemed to have accrued and soaked up all the knowledge and expertise from Jimmy she needed.

Many will be disappointed that Tosh is not the show lead.

Me? I’m a big fan of Ashley Jensen and I’m looking forward to seeing what she can bring to Shetland. I do feel for Tosh as a character, but a newcomer might just provide the reset the show needs after seven series of Jimmy Perez.

But what do you thnk? Let us know in the comments…


8 Comments Add yours

  1. Funnily enough we saw Ashley playing Douglas’s girlfriend in an older film the other night.


    1. Blackhorse47 says:

      Down Among the Big Boys is on BBC iplayer at the moment and is well worth a watch.


      1. Ha, you got it too!


  2. Michael Leonard says:

    A real shocker. She will be good. This is a highly dramatic role though. So we will have to see. Regarding Tosh not getting the top job, well they did the same to Sunny in the Unforgotten, passed over for the top job…


  3. rickerw says:

    Tosh is good but not as a lead. They made the right decision.


  4. Columbus says:

    The actress who plays Tosh is terrific but she doesn’t have the name recognition to bring new viewers to a long-running show. Ashley Jensen is a very interesting – and Scottish – pick. It will be very interesting to see how Tosh melds with a woman running the unit.


  5. Fred says:

    I would just like to see more Shetlanders in the series. Poor Steven Robertson (Sandy) is the only one!.


  6. Harry says:

    The character of “Tosh” clearly needs more seasoning under a gifted tutor. She has grown into her role and shows great promise but is not ready to run the entire department. As for Sandy’s character, that is without question still a “major work in progress”. Both of the these observations take nothing away from these two characters in terms of their professional or self-worth. AJ’s character could be used as the perfect transition to moving Tosh up the chain of command and allowing Sandy to finally mature and understand the concept of “choices have consequences”. Looking forward to a continuation of this terrific series with the continuation of (hopefully) superior writing.


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