CORRIDOR OF MYSTERY
VOL. 9, No. 17
A FRESH TASTE OF
"WIRE IN THE BLOOD"
Don't look away. That's the eye
of Dr. Tony Hill, sizing up your
capacity to commit MURDER!
Dr. Tony Hill returns for
another season of 'Blood'
By RON MILLER
Robson Green seems a strange customer to become the hottest name in the field of television mysteries. He's not very tall, his hairline is receding and his middle name is, believe it or not "Golightly." I should explain, though, that the middle name is in honor of William Golightly, a trade union leader in the 1920s, and not Truman Capote's Holly Golightly, the heroine of "Breakfast at Tiffany's."
And his current screen "detective" persona--author Val McDermid's forensic psychologist Dr. Tony Hill--isn't exactly a two-fisted tough guy type, overflowing with testosterone.
For example, in the April 6 episode of BBC America's "Wire in the Blood," Dr. Hill is in Austin, Texas, helping establish whether or not an Iraqi war veteran killed his wife and children because he was suffering from traumatic stress syndrome. Along the way, Dr. Hill begins to turn up evidence someone else may have done the murders, so the bad guys try to warn him off by putting a live rattlesnake in his rental car.
Now your standard TV mystery hero probably would grab the rattler back of the head and toss it out the car's window. Some "hardboiled dicks" of the Dashiell Hammett school might even bite the reptile's head off.
Not Dr. Hill. He simply yells something on the order of "EEEEK!!" and scrambles out of the car as fast as his little legs can carry him. That's SO today! I could identify with a guy like that a lot sooner than somebody who's into snake-wrestling.
It seems millions of viewers in America and the UK feel the same way. Dr. Tony Hill is a huge success and Robson Green has become a TV sex symbol to women as well as the hottest actor in the mystery world. "Wire in the Blood" is now in its fifth season on BBC America and Green couldn't be any busier.
American viewers first became acquainted with Green when he was playing a similar character to Dr. Hill in the British mystery series "Touching Evil," which played a couple of seasons here as part of the PBS "Mystery!" lineup. He also stepped out of the mystery genre into several very popular showcase dramas on PBS' "Masterpiece Theatre," including "Reckless" and its sequel "Reckless II," playing a young doctor who romances the sexy wife of his boss. Those two roles also were played by actors closely identified with the mystery genre--Francesca Annis, who was Tuppence in the "Partners in Crime" series and Michael Kitchen, most recently the star of "Foyle's War."
Viewers in the UK have lots of other reasons to remember Robson Green. For one thing, he had quite a reputation as a pop/rock music performer before he got involved in TV mysteries.
That began when he was a regular in the British TV drama series "Soldier, Soldier" and was required to sing the old American pop hit of the 1950s, "Unchained Melody," with co-star Jerome Flynn in a 1995 episode. So many fans besieged England's ITV network with requests for a recording of the duet that it finally was issued as a single--and soared to No. 1 on the British pop charts, where it stayed for seven weeks. By the end of the year, it had sold 1.9 million copies, becoming the top single of 1995.
Green had performed with his own bands in his youth, so it wasn't exactly a fluke that he had a hit record. Buoyed by that phenomenal hit, he and Flynn continued to record and scored two more #1 British singles and two albums ranked #1. His recording fame led him to his starring roles in "Touching Evil" and other TV shows.
But Green is a very effective actor, so his rise to leading roles probably was only speeded up by the hit records. His current fame has helped to remodel the whole British notion of a TV mystery hero. For one thing, Green almost always plays vulnerable characters. In "Touching Evil," he has been in rehab from a traumatic attack that left him with a serious head wound. In "Wire in the Blood," we often see his own psychological stresses rear up during his cases with the police.
During the first three seasons of "Wire in the Blood," Dr. Hill was partnered with Deputy Chief Inspector Carole Jordan (Hermione Norris), who frequently came under criticism for wanting to bring in a forensic psychologist to work on cases. There was a growing romantic attachment between Dr. Hill and DCI Jordan that fans seemed to appreciate.
But at the start of the fourth season, viewers learned that DCI Jordan had left the force to go "overseas." She was replaced by a new partner, Deputy Inspector Alex Fielding (Simone Lahbib), who's also a very attractive lady that only a eunuch would not be interested in knowing better. Dr. Tony Hill may say "eek" at rattlesnakes, but he's no eunuch, so I expect him to grow more and more intimate with D.I. Fielding.
as Dr. Tony Hill with his new partner, Deputy Inspector
Alex Fielding (Simone Hahbib).
In the April 13 episode, "The Color of Amber," Dr. Hill and D.I. Fielding are trying to find out who abducted and murdered a 12-year-old black girl. Like so many of the "Wire in the Blood" episodes--shown here as two-hour movies--this one touches upon many issues involving the social order in the UK, especially once Dr. Hill begins to believe the abducted girl may not be the same one whose body was found.
The April 20 episode, "Nocebo," involves the murders of a teenage girl and a young boy, possibly in some sort of voodoo ritual. Two more feature-length episodes are scheduled April 27 and May 4. Episodes are scheduled Sunday nights at 5 p.m., repeated at 8 p.m., Pacific Daylight Time. Check your local TV guide to find the exact times in your area.
In a season totally messed up by the Hollywood writers' strike, first-run mystery shows have been hard to find when and where you expect them to be, so it's grand to have "Wire in the Blood," one of TV's very best series, back with fresh episodes when the American networks are running out of nearly everything.
And if you haven't tried "Wire in the Blood" before, this would be a good time to discover if you're going to be addicted to Robson Green like so many others on both sides of the Atlantic.
©2008 by Ron Miller. The photos are courtesy of BBC America. This column first posted April 7, 2008.
Ron Miller is a former nationally syndicated television columnist and the author of "Mystery! A Celebration," the official companion book to PBS' "Mystery!" series. He currently writes about television mysteries for MYSTERY SCENE magazine.
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