Unforgotten, the new ITV crime drama which began this evening, benefits from a superb cast and a decent script. And also, I think, from comparison with another new crime show, From Darkness, which started on BBC on Sunday. There are striking similarities between the openings of both stories - human remains are found by builders, and off we go into cold case territory. But overall, I felt that Unforgotten made the stronger start.
Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar are the detective duo who try to figure out the identity of the skeleton buried in concrete on the site of a building in London, and they make a good pair,likeable and professional and thankfully free of most of the cliches which bedevil so many telly cops. As their investigation moves along, we are also introduced to a host of assorted, and seemingly unconnected characters. An affable priest, a successful businessman, a caring bereaved mother, an elderly man with a wife suffering memory loss. What secrets might they share?
There's a clue to the underlying theme of Chris Lang's script when Walker muses on the question of whether a crime becomes less serious just because it took place a very long time ago. In these troubled times when historic sex abuse cases are so much discussed, it's a very thought-provoking question. I felt that the story was intriguing, without (so far) matching the brilliance of the first episode of Broadchurch or the early series of Taggart. As for the actors - Trevor Eve, Hannah Gorden, Tom Courtenay, Claire Goose, Bernard Hill, and so on - it would be a pleasure to watch them in almost anything.
By contrast, I felt that From Darkness moved too slowly. Katie Baxendale's script had several good moments but it also indulged in quite a lot of time-wasting moodiness that failed to advance the story and didn't even offer much insight into character. It did, however, warm up rather nicely towards the end. I'll gladly give it another look, but given that life is short, the early evidence suggests that if you have to choose between one show or the other, Unforgotten is likely to prove more compelling.