Unforgotten (ITV) and Apple Tree Yard (BBC) are two high profile crime dramas that have both come to an end this week. The storylines are very different, but they have something in common - a focus on cruel and violent sexual abuse. The series also boast superb casts. A curiosity is that Mark Bonnar,a very charismatic actor, appears in both stories. So does Adeel Akhtar in slightly less prominent, but still (especially in Unforgotten, where he excels) significant roles.
I was very impressed with the first series of Unforgotten. Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar make a pleasing detective duo. Their relationship develops in the second series, in an interesting and believable way. One key difference between the two shows is that Unforgotten is an original TV drama, written by the talented Chris Ling, while Apple Tree Yard is based on a best-selling psychological thriller by Louise Doughty.
For the sake of those of you who have not yet seen these programmes, I don't want to go on too much about the plots. But I must say that the effects of cruel abuse seemed to me to be extremely well depicted in both scripts. Emily Watson's performance in Apple Tree Yard is powerful and affecting. Mark Bonnar plays very different parts in the two stories; in Unforgotten he is compelling as a gay barrister whose final discussion with the police proves to be pivotal to the outcome of the story.
Overall, though, I felt that Unforgotten was much more successful than Apple Tree Yard. It was longer (six episodes, as opposed to four) but it felt much leaner. In Apple Tree Yard, for all its merits, the characters of the male abuser, the male fantasist, and the husband of the victim seemed shadowy and insignificant; presumably that was the intention, but the narrowness of focus didn't really work for me. In contrast, there was hardly a weak link in Unforgotten. Excellent, well-rounded characters, a clever story, a strong moral dimension, and an ending which - though some might think it unconventional - struck me as finely judged. There were intriguing echoes of famous crime stories of the past in the plot but those elements were blended seamlessly with a first class cold case mystery. If there's a better British TV series than Unforgotten this year, it will be a very good one indeed.