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10-disk box set on DVD

powerful, intelligent, and utterly, utterly brilliant

a personal favourite it would have to be "To be a somebody" with Robert Carlyle

Cracker by Jimmy McGovern (with Robbie Coltrane)

First screened in 1993, Jimmy McGovern's Cracker was at once a variation on a familiar theme and a daring new departure from the run-of-the-mill cop show. Robbie Coltrane's Fitz is an independent criminal psychologist called in by the police to help them crack intractable cases, usually involving grisly serial murders. But like its Granada TV stablemate Prime Suspect, Cracker also delves deep into the main characters' personal lives, revealing a chaos of emotional entanglements that become increasingly inseparable from their professional duties.

Coltrane's charismatic presence dominates: the contrast between Fitz's professionalism and his complete inability to diagnose his own psychological failings provides much of the show's dramatic impetus. His frequent interrogations of murder suspects are tour de force demonstrations of coolly analytical method shot through with biting humour. But his drunken, intemperate behaviour towards his wife and everyone else is a telling contrast of extremes, and one that creates dangerous resentment among his colleagues. Coltrane is supported by a strong cast that includes Barbara Flynn, Geraldine Somerville, Lorcan Cranitch (as the terrifyingly unstable DS Jimmy Beck), Christopher Eccleston, and a pre-Royle Family Ricky Tomlinson. McGovern's screenplays balance gritty, Manchester-based realism with splendidly mordant wit, making Cracker simply riveting viewing.


On the UK DVD: This complete Cracker 10-disc box set contains all three series that ran from 1993-95. The feature-length episodes are: "The Mad Woman in the Attic", "Say I Love You", "One Day a Lemming Will Fly" (Series 1); "Be a Somebody", "The Big Crunch", "Men Should Weep" (Series 2); "Brotherly Love", "Best Boys", "True Romance" (Series 3); "White Ghost" (1996 special).

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