The ‘buddy’ cop film was one of the most endearing entertainment tropes to come out of the 1980s. In them, two very different police types would be thrown together to squabble and, ultimately, solve a big case. There were more of these sorts of movies than you could shake a Care Bear at – from Lethal Weapon, Tango & Cash, Beverly Hills Cop to Stakeout, Red Heat and even K-9.
The premise is nice and simple – a duo with ostensibly very little in common are forced to work as a team. Humour is mined from the personal differences between the pair and, after a period of adjustment and bickering, equilibrium is achieved when they learn each other’s strengths, work together and catch the bad guy. Often, one of the two cops would be an out of towner as well. It was – and still – a winning formula. Albeit a slightly well worn one.
Welcome to McDonald & Dodds.
Let’s make it clear from the start. There’s no Eddie Murphy, Sly Stallone or Nick Nolte here. There are no Russian mobsters shooting up police cars or John Belushis cracking wise to a German Shepherd. We are, however, firmly in the tradition of the ‘fish out of water’ and ‘the odd couple’.
The two unlikely detectives teamed together here are DCI Lauren McDonald, played by Tala Gouveia in her first real starring role, and DS Dodds – BAFTA winner Jason Watkins from Line of Duty, The Crown, The Lost Honour Of Christopher Jefferies. Given their differing acting experience, even the actors are a slightly unusual pairing.
McDonald is fiercely ambitious, combative, confident, driven and single-minded. Dodds is shy, unassuming, absent-minded and meek (but astute). So it goes that McDonald & Dodds are not a natural pair. A higher rank, McDonald, seconded from London to Bath – where the action takes place – is the Senior Investigating Officer. Dodds, for his part, is only too pleased to get out from behind his desk and work under his new SIO.
This debut slice of McDonald & Dodds was the first of a pair of feature-length instalments showing over the first two Sundays in March on ITV1. Nestled comfortably in the Vera time slot of 8pm until 10pm, the tone is slightly lighter than Brenda Blethyn’s North East-set crime drama. Yet while the show never takes itself too seriously, it’s not a comedy. Or even a comedy-drama. There’s humour, but it arises organically. Well, as organically as humour derived from the ol’ odd couple set-up can be, anyway.
McDonald & Dodds episode 1 is called ‘The Fall of the House of Crockett’ and sees a murder at a plush mansion. Its owner is one Max Crockett, effectively the James Dyson of irons. Crockett is played with snide relish by a suave and dapper-looking Robert Lindsay. The My Family actor plays an arrogant figure with his own family worries here and does so rather well, as you might expect from a thesp of Lindsay’s pedigree.
Equal in quality as a supporting character here though is the city of Bath itself. Architecturally grand and generally quite gorgeous, it makes for a fine Inspector Morse-like setting.
We’ll swerve the finer points of the plot for anyone yet to watch the thing, but we will say that the conclusion of the very episode is a tiny bit outlandish in premise. And the culprit’s not exactly tricky to spot for any well-seasoned TV sleuths at home. That said, this easy going and breezy whodunit is effective enough, if not hugely original or memorable.
Gentle, charming and featuring a standout turn from Jason Watkins, this may not be the year’s best TV drama, but it’s a perfectly acceptable way to see out a weekend. Sunday nights and McDonald & Dodds don’t make for that odd a couple, it seems.
Did you watch McDonald & Dodds episode 1? What were your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below…