Image: ITV Pictures

‘McDonald & Dodds’: The Fall of The House of Crockett

I know what you’re thinking – not another crime show on ITV! I’d be lying to you if I claimed that McDonald & Dodds offered anything different or new, but it’s a charming way to spend a Sunday evening. ‘The Fall of The House of Crockett’ thrives on the strength of its characters, with a narrative that feels like it could and ought to have been so much better.

An unknown homeless man is shot to death in the deserted mansion of one of Bath’s most prominent industrialists, the inventor Max Crockett (Robert Lindsay). Newly arrived Londoner DCI Lauren McDonald (Tala Gouveia) is put on the case, and assigned shy and socially awkward DS Dodds (Jason Watkins) as her partner. The Bath force hope that putting Dodds on frontline work will finally encourage him to take early retirement, but McDonald and Dodds soon form an unlikely rapport and work together to try and discover the killer. But which member of the Crockett family is guilty of murder, and just what is Max hiding?

The strength of a crime show typically falls on two things – its detectives, and the strength of its puzzles. The odd-couple partnership has certainly been done before, but it works very well here. Watkins (who is always brilliant in everything) shines as a quiet and unassuming man who it transpires has a hidden talent for puzzle-solving, and he’s about the first detective sidekick not to be useless. He has great chemistry with Gouveia, an ambitious cop who discovers she may have to play things a bit differently in Bath.

I don’t think that McDonald & Dodds is meant as anything more than soothing Sunday night entertainment

Our supporting cast is a bit of a mixed bag, if only because they don’t get that much to do. James Murray appears as a superintendent who is mandatorily concerned with public relations, and given the shades of King Lear, Crockett’s three daughters – Megan (Rosalie Craig), Tamra (Susannah Fielding) and Elenora (Ellie Kendrick) – are some of the major suspects, angling for their father’s fortune. The standout here is most definitely Robert Lindsay himself, hamming it up as the tycoon and obvious villain of the piece. I don’t know how much I bought Max’s approach to Dodds (essentially, you’re a white man, I’m a white man – we’re both the same), but Lindsay certainly channelled the sleaziness necessarily to make it work.

A major issue here is that the narrative in ‘The Fall of The House of Crockett’ doesn’t really feel like enough to sustain a two-hour show. The show makes the bizarre choice of revealing the bad guy in the first couple of minutes, and this move detracts from some of the very clever deductions. If we were going full Columbo, with the premise being about the capture of the villain as opposed to the mystery of the gunman, this would have worked really well – the elements for this type of show were all there, pieces of a better narrative that is frustratingly out of reach.

‘The Fall of The House of Crockett’ is an enjoyable opener that definitely indicates the potential of McDonald & Dodds

It should be noted that, despite a lot of the criticisms of the show, I don’t think that McDonald & Dodds is meant as anything more than soothing Sunday night entertainment. It’s full of gorgeous landscape shots of Bath (I never realised the place was so beautiful) and high production values, and a cast that run through the motions but in far too charming a manner for it to be annoying or off-putting. ‘The Fall of The House of Crockett’ is full of gentle humour and some scenes that could be from a soap opera – it’s essentially Midsomer Murders in a different beautiful location and, if you like the sound of that, you’ll like this.

‘The Fall of The House of Crockett’ is an enjoyable opener that definitely indicates the potential of McDonald & Dodds. If next week’s script gels as well as the chemistry between its leads, this could become essential viewing.

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