The UK is just as inundated with police procedurals as the US. The only difference is shows like 'George Gently' run their series course with two feature-length episodes and then they're done for another season. This seems to be a better way to go about it. Spread a TV show out into the 90 minute range and add in much needed characterization. US police dramas, for the most part, seem to be all about the case. There are a few minutes here and there where we get to know the characters, but not enough that we overly feel for them. I think of shows like 'Law & Order: SVU,' where I can sit down and watch the procedure play out without thinking twice about the people involved. 'George Gently' is different. There are only two episodes in this set, but each of them provide a thrilling procedural detective story mixed with colorful characters.
'George Gently' is set in the 60s, which gives it a certain look and feel that you can't get from police shows set in modern day. Its 60s look goes a long way in creating an interesting aura for the show. Because it's the 60s we're dealing with all kinds of issues from that time period, like war protests, free love, and hate for the military complex.
Inspector George Gently (Martin Shaw) is a stern man who doesn't seem to flout the rules as much as other TV cops do. He's a straight-laced guy who gets down to the nitty-gritty of the case. His partner, John Bacchus (Lee Ingleby), provides an interesting dynamic for Gently to deal with. The two of them must be separated by twenty years, at least, but they work together rather well. That is to say they make good partners, but their personal lives overlap quite a bit.
Bacchus is dealing with the fact that he's splitting up with his wife. He still wears his wedding ring, but his wife wants nothing more to do with him. Gently finds time to talk to Bacchus' wife every now and then. Even though he isn't trying anything funny, it's a source of tension between the two. This is where the extended runtime of the episodes comes into play. The show's writers are able to create a relationship with multiple layers between Gently and Bacchus. We don't just care if they solve the case, we care about how they relate with each other. We feel for Bacchus and his family situation.
The show seamlessly ties in their personal problems with the cases they've been assigned. The first episode deals with the grisly murder of a woman that has more twists and turns than your standard police procedural thriller. The second episode relies heavily on the show's decision to base itself in the 60s. Hippies, anti-war protests, and communist paranoia take center stage when an out-spoken radical is killed under nefarious circumstances.
The detective work is straight up and reasonable. Gently gets most of his information from the well directed interrogation scenes that take place. Since it's the 60s, scientific evidence is rather limited, so Gently and Bacchus have to gather information the old fashioned way.
As far as police procedurals go, 'George Gently' is one of the better ones. The UK understands how to put shows like this together. You don't have to have 24 (or more) episodes in a season. You just need two really good episodes to draw you in.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Acorn Media has provided a standard Blu-ray case for 'George Gently: Series 3'. There's one BD-50 Blu-ray Disc in this set. Region coding isn't stated.
Even though series three of 'George Gently' sports a 1080i picture, there's still a lot to admire here. UK shows are usually hit and miss when they hit Blu-ray. Sometimes it's easy to tell that the presentation is a step below 1080p, but sometimes it's almost impossible. This set adheres to the latter.
Detail is quite exquisite. Rich textures like the weave of Bacchus' numerous suits or the patterning of Gently's overcoats, are perfectly visible. Bright, energetic colors take over in the second episode as more than a few hippie women are featured wearing colorful dresses. The whole series has a very refined, sharpened look to it. Blacks are dark and shadows nicely delineated. Close ups reveal loads of facial detail. Age lines, freckles, and pores are all distinctly visible.
While the transfer is clean of any dirt or grime, I did notice hints of aliasing on car grills and some shimmering on tightly woven suits. Other than that I didn't notice any other glaring problems. It may be 1080i, but it still looks very good.
The audio presentation, however, needs some help. The show comes to Blu-ray with a rather whimpy 2.0 stereo PCM presentation. The two channels really aren't enough to suck you into the story. The problem with 2.0 presentations is it always seems like the movie is speaking at you instead of sucking you in. Being a newer series I find it hard to believe that they wouldn't have been able to put together a 5.1 mix.
Dialogue is presented clearly, but that's about the extent of success with this mix. There aren't any obtrusive technical problems, but it's just that the 2.0 mix seems so bland. Especially for a detective show that could use a little extra oomph during the more powerfully emotional scenes.
There are no extras to speak of.
I'm a fan of Gently and his old school detective tactics. These episodes are smartly written and wonderfully executed. The first episode has a tiny Easter egg at the beginning that doesn't become clear until the credits have rolled. The entirety of these two episodes has been thought through from beginning to end. They're clever, and populated with two central characters that are easy to like. The 1080i video presentation looks great, too bad the audio is a meager 2.0 presentation. Still, if you're into the world of UK television then 'George Gently: Series 3' is worth a look.