New Blood. Some old ideas. But it all balances out as a show worth watching.
Mark Strepan (as Serious Fraud Officer Stefan Kowolski) and Ben Tavassoli (as pavement-plodder-donut-scoffer-turned-budding detective Rash Sayyad) are new to these eyes, and they’re brought together as typical buddy-buddy cops, forever getting on each other’s nerves, but needing each other to solve their respective cases. It’s a well-worn trope, but the key question is: Does it work? And the answer is: Mostly, yes.
Series 1 is three cases over seven episodes, the first case lasting for three, while the remaining cases will run for two apiece. Case one begins with dodgy medical trials in India, run by a company called Green Fern, enticing eager backpackers in need of extra cash. One participant, Henry (Ian Bonar), regularly signs up for these while travelling because the money is good and the belief is that they’re not going to give you anything deadly, and that half the time, you’re getting a placebo, anyway.
Without giving too much away, the clinical pharmaceutical trials also take in two rival firms from Britain and the US – UK Remicon and Ruhn Laboritories, respectively, there’s evil men in top positions taking backhanders, one of the two maverick leads fancies the other one’s sister (Leila – Aiysha Hart), and there’s also two women in particular who are not to be trusted…
Very cleverly, New Blood begins, only revealing small elements bit by bit, teasing you as it goes. Once innocent parts of the puzzle give way to more sinister ones, making for a series with much more depth than the average 9pm BBC1 output, these days. The second episode was a bit slow, while the third picked up the pace slightly, but hopefully the two-parters will be tighter – this first case certainly could’ve benefitted from being edited down to just two episodes.
Elsewhere in the cast, Mark Addy goes through the motions as Rash’s grumpy superior, DS Derek Sands, while Anna Chancellor also smarms briefly in a high-up position. There’s also support from Fresh Meat‘s Kimberley Nixon, Benidorm‘s Kathryn Drysdale, and it’s always amusing to see Mark Bonnar, who met an unfortunate end in Psychoville. Here, his character is Peter Mayhew, the real name of the actor who plays Chewbacca in the Star Wars films. That must be on purpose?
One really good thing about this series is how we can watch it. It doesn’t start on BBC1 until June 9th at 9pm, where it will air on a typical one-episode-per-week basis. However, from one week earlier, it was made available on BBC iPlayer from 7am… a bit confusing, then, when I saw the trailer just before 6am on that day, stating it was “available now” when it wasn’t. But anyway…
The point is that with the first case online to watch now, case 2 following on June 23rd, and then, presumably, case getting the same treatment two weeks later, this means you can see each case in full, and in one go, should you so desire. This is the way a lot of TV shows are going with the takeover of streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, often streaming an entire season of a drama at once. The BBC also tried this last year with Peter Kay’s Car Share. When I review a Nordic Noir TV series such as Follow The Money and The Bridge, I wait until the Blu-ray is available, and I’ll check them out at around one episode per night, increasing the number as I get towards the end – after all, there are only so many hours in a day.
Hence, when ITV scored a blinder by hiring The Bridge‘s Hans Rosenfeldt to write the recent series Marcella, the complex plot got lost amongst the traditional scheduling, and I started each episode desperately trying to remember what happened the week before. Nightly episodes over two weeks would’ve been great (4 per week, for example, and I know one friend who recorded them and watched them that way), but isn’t the sort of format a channel like ITV are going to employ.
Oh, and when any BBC bigwig talks about “consuming” television, we do not! We WATCH it, we don’t EAT it! Gahhh! I hate that phrase!
New Blood‘s plot gets a bit convoluted and the execution is often silly, but it’s still worth a watch. It has a number of well worn ideas (which could normally nub it down to a 7/10) but its style is a lot of fun and very engaging, nudging it back up to 7.5 (it’s not quite good enough for an 8), although it owes a debt to Lethal Weapon in places, probably trying to steal a march on the forthcoming US TV series based on that film.
New Blood Series 1 is available to pre-order on Blu-ray and DVD, ahead of its release on July 25th, and the first episode airs traditionally from this Thursday on BBC1 at 9pm. However, you can watch all of the first three episodes on BBC iPlayer. Also, click on the packshot for the full-size version.
Case 1 (Episodes 1-3) Score: 7.5/10
Director: Anthony Philipson
Series Producer: Eve Gutierrez
Writer: Anthony Horowitz
Stefan Kowolski: Mark Strepan
Rash Sayyad: Ben Tavassoli
DS Derek Sands: Mark Addy
Eleanor Davies: Anna Chancellor
Marcus Johnson: Ariyon Bakare
Leila Sayyad: Aiysha Hart
DI Martin Heywood: Dorian Lough
Alison White: Kimberley Nixon
Mark Henson: Charlie Archer
Tom Robinson: Ian Bartholomew
Henry Williams: Ian Bonar
Peter Mayhew: Mark Bonnar
Jan: Slawomir Doliniec
Laura Jones: Kathryn Drysdale
Nasreen Sayyad: Mandana Jones
Paul Webster: Greg Kelly
Steve Mullen: Danny Kirrane
Caroline: Kirsty Mitchell
Indian Doctor: Kumar Muniandy
David Leese: Chris New
Sgt Colin Short: Steve Nicolson
Bruce Lockwood: Henry Pettigrew
Maureen Williams: Carolyn Pickles
Indian Nurse: Varada Sethu
Joan Philips: Ellen Thomas
William Ashton: Jay Villiers
Angela: Avena Wallace
Mrs Clayton: Sarah Woodward
Gemma: Sophie Wu
Mr Menakis: Miltos Yerolemou
Journalist: Sarah Champion
Coleman Blake: Mark Dexter
Anchor Woman: Jemma Forte
PC Louise Tunstall: Dinita Gohil
James Deakin: Silas Carson
Jenny: Caitlin Drabble
Gwynn Hughes: Mali Harries
Lucy: Preeya Kalidas
Gail Meadows: Georgina Strawson
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.