Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Touch of Frost etc.

I'm not a big fan of serials in general and some of my friends would shake their heads in derision at my not keeping up with their respective favorite series. Especially sitcoms are something I just don't find a great appetite for.

But one thing I like watching in general is detective stuff. Admittedly this has mainly boiled down to watching / listening to different adaptations of Sherlock Holmes - Basil Rathbone, Peter Cushing, Jeremy (the best) Brett. Recently I started watching this 90's Brit series called A Touch of Frost. William "Jack" Frost (David Jason) is an aging police detective with a disdain for protocol and a passion for justice, something like a more mellow middle-aged non-trigger happy Dirty Harry...that drinks tea and says "luv". Each episode (which at 100 min long is like a film in itself) shows Frost coming to grips with a rash of crimes that later turn out to be related or the other way, a seemingly connected series of foul doings that are resolved as individual incidents.

I've been through two Seasons now, which makes for a sum of seven 100 min episodes (there are 15 seasons apparently, the last one ended early this year. Golly, that long-running?). Thankfully the stories are self-contained and don't REQUIRE to be seen in sequence. The connecting factor is Frost himself and his interactions with his colleagues, mainly his sparring banter with the paperwork-and-appearances focused Supdt. Mullet. Frost's personal life is touched upon briefly - his long ailing wife (that he was cheating on) who dies at the end of the first episode and Frost's attempts to reconcile himself with the tragedy and get on with life. All kept to a thankful minimum. Every now and then Frost will be saddled with a new deputy - a demoted former inspector with a chip, a black man in an episode about racial tension, a woman with an unconventional sexual preference. But the focus is mainly on the crime(s) of the episode and the resolving of it. There is a nice variation of themes in different episodes as Frost gets to investigate a smorgasbord of criminal activities. There is some talk of short-staffing but even so, it seems a little dubious that he gets called in for just about everything that turns up. Ah well, dramatic license.

The standard of acting is pretty good, with several of the individual episode characters coming across as more than just reservoirs of information. The unraveling of each episode's mystery provides a generally plausible conclusion, although a drawback of that may be that there are few surprises. The pace might get leisurely for those used to more contemporary serials with breakneck editing. At least in the period of the seasons I've seen there is no use of the internet and (clunky) mobile phones are rare too. Gunplay is rare. We see a good deal of old-fashioned investigation and teamwork. I like this sort of stuff.

So yea, this is what I've been seeing. If you have any other detective serials to recommend to me, go ahead...but not the ones where I need to see 15 episodes just to get the story.


  1. try wire in the blood. 2 seasons so far and some 14 episodes in total I think. Quintessentially British but not self contained episodes. Also, Prime Suspect with Helen Mirren which if I remember correctly is 3 seasons. Both are a bit darker than Frost but worth tracking down.