Monday, June 27, 2016

DCI Banks

DCI Alan Banks and DS Annie Cabbott.
Premise:  Alan Banks (Stephen Tompkinson), a middle-aged detective chief inspector, heads a team of close-knit investigators for the Yorkshire Police major crimes unit. His right-hand "man" is the sharp--but also very ambitious--Detective Sergeant Annie Cabbott. Annie is much younger than Banks, but there's a strong bond between the two and their co-workers suspect a romantic relationship. When Annie becomes pregnant (Alan rightfully insists he's not the father), Detective Inspector Helen Morton joins the team. Helen is a stickler for following standard procedures and, despite her obvious intelligence, she has a hard time integrating into Banks' team. Banks and his fellow detectives investigate major crimes--typically murder--in the city and the surrounding countryside.

Running Time:  90 minutes (some cases are presented as two 45-minute episodes).

Status:  There have 13 cases broadcast between 2010 and 2015. The pilot and seasons 1-3 (comprising ten cases) are available on DVD in the U.S. The fourth season is scheduled for DVD release in June 2015.

Production Notes: The DCI Banks television series is based on the Inspector Banks mystery series written by Peter Robinson. The author was born in Yorkshire, but moved to Canada as an adult, where he studied under Joyce Carol Oates at the University of Windsor and eventually earned a Ph.D. in English from York University. As of 2016, he has written 26 Inspector Banks novels and two short story collections. His first Banks novel, Gallows View, appeared in 1987. Two of Robinson's novels, Wednesday's Child and In a Dry Season were nominated for presitigious Edgar Awards in mystery fiction. His 2001 short story "Missing in Action" won an Edgar. In regard to the TV series, Peter Robinson wrote in a 2010 article in The Telegraph: "A lot of people asked me about the casting of Stephen Tompkinson as Banks, mostly because he’s best known for light or comic roles, such as Ballykissangel and Wild at Heart. I met Stephen early on in the process, and he wanted to talk about Banks, find out everything he could from me about the character. I was impressed by his dedication, and when I finally saw him ‘in character’ I thought he managed to convey the essence of Banks."

Our Review:  While there is nothing unique about DCI Banks, it's a well-crafted detective series  featuring strong plots and well-developed characters. Several of the episodes feature two different story lines that converge by the conclusion. Banks is a perceptive detective that occasionally bends the rules. He's comfortable with his professional life, but struggles with non-work relationships. A divorced father, he has trouble communicating with his adult daughter. His relationship with Annie is extremely awkward--at various times, they treat each other as professional colleagues, friends, and eventually lovers. For her part, Annie obviously cares for and respects Banks, but she is still willing to bypass him on occasion if it benefits her career. There's a dark tone to the cases, which is enhanced by the moody urban and rural Yorkshire landscapes.

Grade:  A.

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