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…
Still catching up? Read Steve’s review of McDonald & Dodds episode 1 here.
McDonald & Dodds is likeable & silly, knockabout & watchable.
Much like an enthusiastic greengrocer, last week’s debut episode of this lighthearted ITV crime drama set its stall out very early indeed. It was clear from the start that writer Robert Murphy’s (DCI Banks) new Sunday night show was no mean ‘n’ moody True Detective-style examination of the darker side of humanity. It was quite the opposite.
These two feature-length episodes ably filled the 8pm until 10pm evening time slot left vacant by the likes of Vera and Endeavour. In tone, think Midsomer Murders. For the set-up here in episode 2, think Agatha Christie.
A woman’s body is found in her room at an addiction recovery centre. It’s suicide, apparently. Except, of course, it isn’t. Our murder suspects, we quickly learn, also all live at The Mara Retreat. There’s Joanna Scanlan’s Kelly, the course leader, CEO George (Hugh Dennis), his nephew Miles (White House Farm’s Freddie Fox), slots fiend Mary (Michele Dotrice), anxiety-afflicted Maheeda (Kiran Sonia Sawar) and sex addict Alison (Caroline Catz)…
Who’s the killer? Well, that would be telling, wouldn’t it?
The plot here was, to be fair, a little daft. The acting, in parts, was theatrical almost. Some of the twists could be quite contrived and the clues downright bizarre (pine seed in a vodka bottle anyone?). Trying to keep up with it all and guessing the killer here was no mean feat. By the time The Big Reveal came around, the identity of the killer seemed almost irrelevant. Their selection almost seemed random. Arbitrary. But…
All of that doesn’t really matter. True, this was a whodunit of sorts, but McDonald & Dodds is no great crime mystery. It’s far more about the journey than the destination. The hurried explanations and contrivances of the final twenty minutes tie up the plot, but the fun here is in the build-up.
Tala Gouveia seems more relaxed here in this second instalment, her character – DCI McDonald – less one dimensional and more fleshed-out. The ‘odd couple’ set-up seems more convincing here than last week too, with Jason Watkins still – far and away – the show’s greatest asset.
Plot development may not be this knockabout crimer’s greatest strength from a writing perspective, but the script is razor-sharp. Genuine wit and laugh-out-loud one-liners pepper the dialogue.
The music deserves a mention too. Composer Blair Mowat (Torchwood) weaves his catchy theme tune with the traditional orchestral musings throughout to great effect. It’s never intrusive, genuinely helps build tension and, best of all, cleverly features subtle little flourishes here and there. The idea of dropping in wedding music as our two leads strolled down the aisle of a church was genuinely brilliant. It’s rare a TV score makes you chuckle on its own.
By the end, the plot ties itself up in knots (quite literally at one point). As with episode 1, we were left with a rather outlandish explanation rather hastily explained, that relied quite heavily on the near-supernatural detective skills of DS Dodds. A man who’s supposed to be a laughing stock within the Avon and Somerset Police and yet possesses frequently vital puzzle-solving and code-breaking skills that make the Enigma Machine look like a Commodore 64. Yet still, it didn’t affect our enjoyment of the thing.
This double bill played out almost like an audition. If we worked in casting at ITV, we’d give McDonald & Dodds the part. Maybe with a few notes on how to brush up for the role, mind. But we’d happily see this charming Sunday night show return to the set.
Did you tune in for McDonald & Dodds episode 2? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!