Thursday, 23 May 2013

Dear ITV, can we have more Murder on the Home Front please?

Snappy dialogue, humour, intrigue, fine acting, a moral dilemma, period setting… Murder on the Home Front delivered a heady combination of all those, but above the lot, for me, was the humour, often provided in varying degrees of black.

If you were in any doubt, the last shot was of our heroes dancing in the morgue, while in the foreground of the shot was a corpse. Not the usual heart warming or thought provoking finale you come to expect from a crime drama.

When I started watching the sadly-only-two-episodes-long drama I was expecting something far more generic, being a cynical idiot that I am. A crime drama in a period setting might be the kind of show that sounds like a ratings winner on paper, firing up the excitement level of TV execs, but it hardly raises this viewer's expectation levels. But in practice, the show was thoroughly entertaining, a quality maybe sometimes underrated in drama, with writers sometimes sidetracked into wrong-footing the audience with twists or gore if it's a crime drama.

Admittedly, the setting - a Home Office forensic department in a heavily bombed London during the Second World War - did provide a high body count, with corpses strewn everywhere. The leads - Dr Lennox Collins and his new assistant and ex-journalist Molly Cooper - were backed with some equally well drawn and, yes, fun characters. Even the police escaped a 'dull, plodding' style characterisation, grudgingly accepting the methods of Dr Collins and providing comic relief without resorting to buffoonery. And it'd be remiss of me to omit a mention of the highly amusing crime photographer Issy Quennell.

Another sign that we were in safe hands was the drama getting under the skin of the period setting. While characters often pooh-poohed the air raid sirens to gather vital evidence to save the condemned man, there was still a palpable sense of peril from the air raids. Speaking of peril, despite (or because) of the laughs, we were left with five minutes of the final episode without being sure of the fate of the falsely condemned man and that's fairly uncommon.

It even managed to subvert (SPOILERS) a cliche or two, with Molly not requiring saving in the final confrontation after all, delivering the blow that knocked out the murderer.

But dammit, it was the snappy dialogue and humour that really set the drama apart. It'd be a crime (ho ho) if Murder on the Home Front doesn't return. In the paraphrased words of the mortuary assistant, trying to dissuade the two heroes from going on a dangerous expedition onto the streets of London: "Don't get yourselves killed, I'm become rather fond of you."

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