'New Tricks: Season One'
(Alun Armstrong, Amanda Redman, Dennis Waterman, et al / DVD / NR / (2003) 2009 / BBC Home Video)
Overview: The premise of ''New Tricks is irresistible: A career-driven British detective hits a career speedbump and is put in charge of a new cold-case division that she thinks is way out of the spotlight. And if that isn't bad enough, she must build a staff from a raggedy crew of retired cops with loads of time on their hands--as well as, it turns out, some pretty great detective skills they're dying to use again.
DVD Verdict: After a rather long 90 minute pilot, once you get into normal episodes, they are strong from start to finish. Unlike US TV shows, where going back and viewing the first 5 or 6 shows can sometimes look awkward; and actors don't really find their niche in their character, sometimes up until the 2nd season; this superb gang of British vets really nail their characters right out of the gate. I felt the pilot was merely a preview of what was to come, and it certainly doesn't play like the rest of the episodes do in the series (they are much better). I was almost ready to write the series off after the pilot, but I'm glad I didn't.
One other fine character is PC Clark, played by Chike Okonkwo. In this first series, he is the low on the totem pole, young police constable, who really offsets all the older characters. He was always eager to help out and offer his young viewpoint and detective skills to the team. I feel this will be a slight negative not seeing him reappear in later shows, as his character does not return for series 2. A minor setback to an otherwise strong and entertaining British show.
While following that TV crime solving mold, it still manages to have that certain appeal that US shows simply do not have. It's also great to see one of my favorite actors, Dennis Waterman, still holding his own after 4 decades. He also sings the show's theme song (a staple for shows he's starred in over the years) and a cover of the Traveling Wilbury's End Of The Line in one of the episodes.
It's surprising to see this as a US DVD release, because as far as I know, this only appeared on some PBS channels in certain parts of the country, and I haven't seen it on any cable channels (maybe BBC America at one time?). I think it's high ratings in it's later seasons in the UK have warranted a US "trial". I say trial as in they release a first season, and only subsequent sets come out if sales are good. However, even The Sweeney hasn't had a series 2 release in the US yet, so I presume there's a slim chance of all 5 latter series' of 'New Tricks' getting released here, but you never know! Indeed, Series 6 aired in July in the UK with a DVD release!!! [DT] This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.77:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs, but does not (unfortunately) come with any Special Features.