Putting on the Fitz

Posted by Ian
 
Blustering his way onto the small screen last night after a sabbatical of nearly ten years, Robbie Coltrane eased back into his role of Dr Edward Fitzgerald, sometime criminal psychologist and shameless philanderer, with all the casual aplomb of donning a pair of old loafers.
 
Faced with unearthing the identity of a man responsible for the seemingly unconnected brutal murders of a stand-up comic and American detective, Fitz was soon shuttling around his old stamping ground: offending the police establishment, disobeying instructions and indulging in a plethora of casual swearing.
 
The plot was achingly contemporary – chock-full of references to 9/11 and Iraq – as was the setting, a shimmeringly new and uber-modern Manchester. Yet at the same time viewers were presented with awkward reminders of the past, not least in the shape of Fitz’s other half and son, both of whom looked and felt a world away from the characters we’d got to know and (half) love all those years ago.
 
So what did you think of the return of one of the most defining TV creations of the 1990s? Was it worth the effort – never mind the wait? How did it compare to some of those original, towering editions of Cracker that so completely re-invented television crime drama? And did you find the endless footage of the war in Iraq illuminating or infuriating?
 
 
9.00pm update
 
Some of your mails so far…
 
 
We enjoyed Cracker last night despite it taking a while to get off the ground. The acting by both Robbie Coltrane and the young man who played the murderer was excellent and the atmosphere suitably dark. The murderer’s psychological problems (combat stress) led one to understand his motives and have a degree of sympathy for him, though given that in most respects he seemed clear-headed enough (particularly that he was able to do his job) and that he had a successful family life, it seemed bizarre that he would carry his resentment towards Americans so far as to be the architect of his own downfall – and in this respect I felt the storyline lacked credulity.
 
Robbie Coltrane’s Dr Fitzgerald was not quite the hard-hitting character he once was – it was not so much a case of tough Robbie (except in the one interview with a witness) as dear old Robbie – one could almost feel nostalgia written into the script. A weakness in the script was the portrayal of the senior police officer who to all appearances had no self-control and the manner of a Dickensian despot. If characters like this are not extinct in the work-place already then surely they should be. All in all this was a reasonably successful revival and, as I said, enjoyable, though if it had one general fault it was that it was too pedestrian.
– John
 
Once you are in your mid thirties, married with children and have neither the time, nor inclination to go out on a Sunday evening, entertainment for the lethargic, comes rarely. You can therefore imagine our shared delight, with the mounting excitement surrounding the trailers for the return of Cracker. Alas, our efforts were not rewarded. The first disappointment was the fact that this was merely a one-off, barely able to satiate our curiosity. How this political offering which albeit a sensitive and well placed attempt to deal with an extremely difficult issue, was ever capable of embracing the history of Cracker, I shall never know.
 
Ordinarily Fitz is a pleasure to watch, and whilst he was somewhat let down by his inability to interact with his usual degree of belief or entertainment, Robbie Coltrane made a fine performance from a weak, if not somewhat misguided script. I know of few people who are not aware of the atrocities of 9/11 or the ever increasing anxiety that our political leaders bring to the situation. In my opinion, this was a cheap and imprudent attempt to use this atrocity and I remain confused if not disappointed by the fact that the writers clearly do not appreciate the distinction and superiority of the character and programme that they had created. In closing, you should decide to bring Fitz back in his entirety, or retire him!
– Lucy
 
 
It was rubbish. And what was that Iraq obession? I don’t see people glued to the TV or it showing in every bar and place you go to. It was corny and seemed to be trying to ‘cash in’ on current events but just ended up showing itself as unoriginal. I only kept watching because I wondered what Fitz’s son had ended up doing and how did he buy that house…ho hum.
– SM
 
 
Really disappointed with this offering – a one off that could have been ‘solved’ in half the time and the usual bleating from his other half about all the old habits which she is more than well aware of!! Time to think again Jimmy before you put pen to paper; this was much too close to the background and MO of Robert Carlyle’s haunted scouser skinhead character!
– Graeme
 
Not anywhere as good as the original. Hopefully he caught the later flight back to Aussie. 
– Chris
 
 
I really loved it. It was great to see Robbie back in his role that he plays so well. I adored it; it was great to see a good British drama after all the american stuff you see on the telly these days. And yep, I’ll be buying the video also ….
– Joanne
 
Too many flashbacks.
– Reg
 
Cracker as a character is wonderful but I do hope the long awaited Prime Suspect return proves more enthralling
– Brigitte
 
 
Last night’s Cracker was dire. Whilst I made a point of staying in and watching it, I now wonder why I did !!!!!!
– David
 
Long awaited return? I thought it was complete pants.
– Tracy
 
Having been a huge fan of the original series of Cracker I thought last nights episode was really disappointing. It just didn’t have the depth of grittiness that the old series had and none of the twists and turns. Fitz was a little tame after his time out down under – perhaps the sun has got to him!
– Jo
 
I am sorry to say that last night’s Cracker wasn’t a patch on the last series. I gave it a chance but it could have been condensed to an hour and that would have been too long. I am a big fan but I do not have anything positive to say about it
– Sue
 
I thought Cracker was excellent. I am usually asleep by 10 as I am a trucker but I couldn’t turn it off. 10 out of 10
– Garry
 
Not enough ‘Cracker’ and too much drivel!!
– Alison
 
Why revisit Cracker? After watching last night’s special I can offer only one answer. ITV needed a quick ratings hit. There can’t have been another reason, not one that holds water at any rate. After the early twist, the plot was predictable throughout, as were big Coltrane’s pyrotechnics in the part. As for the script, Jimmy McGovern got some political chips off his shoulders, but he did little else with the opportunity the revival gave him. About halfway through, I found myself thinking back to the greatest of all Cracker stories, the one in which a then unknown Robert Carlyle played Albie the mad Scouser, and in which Christopher Ecclestone’s DCI Bilberry met a shocking end. In the original series, Coltrane and Barbara Flynn didn’t have to carry the thing on their backs from start to finish, as they did last night. They were surrounded by quality performers of a standard I just didn’t see last night. Go back to Oz, Fitz. Follow the wife and kid back home, and stay there for good.
– QJ

 
The mixing together of 9/11 and Iraq with flashbacks to Northern Ireland and the ‘troubles’ didn’t work for me. Maybe if 9/11 had been left out altogether and just Iraq references used, seeing as both involve soldiers on the ground, on foot, in the thick of it, the similarities and pains could have come across better. How coincidental that Fitz happened to realise that PC Nervous was the culprit and thus just kind of friendly unofficially semi-interrogate him to an almost confession. Could someone send that arrogant over-attitudal DCI on a ‘How to deal with people’ style course? He seemed out of his depth, unprepared, incompetent but proud to take the "good work" praise from Ma’am. I agree, this episode did seem disjointed with regards to the family, and the crazed hysterics when Fitz was going to be late for the plane seemed over played.
– Anne Marie
 
I’m relieved to see that I wasn’t alone last night in thinking, ‘huh?’ at the end of Cracker. I had really looked forward to it, and the premise had a lot of potential. The ‘Troubles’ were completely wiped off the media map by 9/11, and as well as embittered soldiers there must be some IRA thugs still wishing that they had the world’s attention on them. But the villain wasn’t nearly as creepy/complicated as previous ones, just killing Americans at random while holding down a job as a policeman. We’re supposed to think he’s basically a nice man when he restrains himself from killing his victim’s mother. In the old days, he would have been much nastier, but it would not be politically correct to portray a British soldier/cop as a psychopath. Nor was Cracker’s contribution to the investigation very marked. He and the killer have a cosy chat in the police station, then the killer goes back to work. Then the killer makes a cup of tea and goes home. Where was the tension?  The drama?  It stood out only as a piece of anti-American tosh. 
– Vanessa
 
It was alright, but not as good as previous, I agree. But at moments they got just right the tension and the tainted anger from the murderer. I think there were plenty of things they could have exploited. Another problem that I saw in it was the fact that they jumped on the bandwagon with respect with the war. Of course, their approach was at an angle, but it still didn’t come up with anything new. I thought that the Welsh bloke (the new head copper) was half-way between comic and serious, and that was a big miss. There was nothing to reflect by the end of the episode apart from questioning ourselves ‘What were they thinking?’. Considering that the series has been going on for quite a while and there is no real need to try and hack a formula for the show, it did let itself down. Let’s hope that if there are more to come, they improve from this one.
– Hector
 
With a belly full of dinner and a glass of red wine I eagerly sat down to watch Cracker. I loved the old series; it seemed to be full of intrigue and criminal psychology, and I don’t remember it being as predictable as last night’s episode.  I must admit it went on past my usual bedtime but you wouldn’t have caught me nodding off in front of the old Cracker. Maybe it was the red wine sending me to sleep, but I actually think it was more like the predictable plot and the general lack of suspense and excitement. I was very disappointed indeed!!
– Miranda
 
I did not much care for the original series, but this episode was very good.
– Lee
 
I thought it was rubbish. So disappointed after all the hype. If that is acting then I’m glad it was a one off.
– Doreen

 
 
I thought it was really disappointing. I’d been looking forward to this and felt totally let down. Far too much of the story was shot in the dark where nearly everyone looks the same!! The repeated flashes of the war just looked so very cheap. I also don’t want to watch entertainment in a gents (or any other) toilet
– Phil
 
I know a lot of people think the police are thick and useless and void of tact; well, last night’s Cracker didnt help. What a bunch of unthinking morons.
– Pauline
 
I thought big Robbie played a blinder, as did all of the other Cracker actors. I agree with some of the other armchair critics that the storyline was not as complicated as some of the originals, but who needs to be racking their brains after a few relaxing vinos on a Sunday. It had all of the elements I expected, tense, intense and I thought his interview with the killer in the station when he was dressed as a cop was absolutely brilliant. Bring more on
– Ian
 
This was a big disappointment. It just didn’t have an edge to it. It was beaten out of its original top place by Wire in the Blood (the brilliant episode last week sets the benchmark, with the prostitute slasher) and the new US import Criminal Minds. All credit to the actor who played the murderer; a pity he didn’t get a bit more to do with a lightweight script. When we saw he was a policeman it was an "OK" moment rather than a shudder down the spine.
– Keith
 
 
I sat down to watch Cracker last night and was hugely disappointed. I thought the storyline wasn’t up to the usual high standard and the acting was well below par except for the guy who played the killer. I hope more Cracker is on the way, but please make an effort with it not just trade on its reputation.
– Nicola
 
 
I think the episode was a one-off, and I don’t think a lot of people on this blog have realised that. It’s not going to be interfering with Sunday night viewing as it’s not going to be on every week. And for a one off it was very poor.
– Gillian
 
 
I thought it was a brilliant return; so great to cover such a topical and thought provoking idea!
– Anne
 
 
What a complete disapointment. The storyline was so weak. Who needs Cracker ? Do the police in Manchester not posses DNA experts, or fingerprint experts ??? What a coincidence – the same police station. The way the writers have tried to connect the killer with current events: sad !! I will certainly not be watching any more Cracker, if heaven forbid it comes back. I hasten to add I USED to be a fan but no more.
– Geoff
 
My wife and sat down on Sunday night with our 14-year-old daughter TJ full of expectation at the return of the mighty Cracker. We’d explained to TJ who he was and to our amusement she exclaimed during the title sequences ‘Why is Hagrid on at this time?’ Bless!
 
We settled down to an unfolding plot which I attempted, unsuccessfully as usual, to second guess during the two-hour opening episode. One of the high points was Cracker making the inspector look embarrassingly dim. The scene in the urinals was priceless. You were left wondering about why the programme makers made the senior police officer look so incompetent, insensitive and aggressive – surely they can’t all be like that. Was this an intended poke at the people who lead our police force or simply a fun way to make the central character look good?
 
The villain was superbly dark and menacing; the scene in the wife’s apartment was chilling as you realised his pathological hatred for the Americans, irrespective of their inclination towards or away from his own beliefs.
All through the episode you waited until Cracker had the villain alone in a room. It was almost 90 minutes into the programme before this occurred – in my book far too long and the dialogue was far too short. I seem to remember in the past Cracker had to take his time to weave his spell on the helpless victim but last night happened within minutes! ‘This is the reason you hate Americans and you did it didn’t you?’ A bit too soon for my liking but still enthralling.
 
At the end what was I left with? A few thoughts:
 
Any military conflict leaves people with deep and damaging emotional scars that they will carry with them for eternity unless they have the will and maybe the necessary help to put them aside.
 
People are inherently good but it doesn’t take much for the dark side to take hold
 
People are much more than just their behaviour
 
And finally Sunday nights will once again be something good to look forward to. Cracker is still mustard! I just hope it doesn’t clash with new episodes about the good folk from Glenbogle…
– Simon
 
 
I thought the storyline was terrible. There is enough about terrorism with a person going round killing Americans for revenge. Nearly every one is against terrorism but we do not go around killing; even ex-service people don’t do this. I like Cracker and enjoy the stories and the lead character, but if this is going to be the new Cracker series then I shall not be watching in future, which will be a shame. Please let us have some good Cracker series back again
– June
 
 
I have to say it is about time someone had the courage to bring up the forgotten trials and horrific incidents that the soldiers who served in Northern Ireland suffered. I have to say I think Cracker covered this very well and hopefully opened a lot of people’s eyes that terrorism is not a new threat. Living near Aldershot all my life, I have been used to the constant threat of attacks, bombs and general bloody mayhem. Well done Robbie, you were fab as usual.
– Claire

 
Whilst I think Cracker is great, I did not think Robbie was up to his usual form last night. He looked, to be expected, and sounded, a little jaded.  The references to Iraq, Northern Ireland etc., did go on a bit but then it is topical at the moment so that’s probably the reason. I hope the show improves and that Robbie (Cracker) is back to old self soon. He doesn’t have to worry about his wife now that she is on way to Australia, and whilst that part was interesting at times, I do think she pulled him back a little much. After all, that’s what he does and how he made his money – to keep her in the style she had become accustomed to, wasn’t it? You can’t change people’s habits no matter how you try, as if you do, they are no longer the person you fell for in the first place!
– Janice
 
Oh dear. I was really, really looking forward to the latest outing for Fitz & co. Imagine my disappointment, then, to find a somewhat pedestrian, predictable and diluted version of the originals I remember so well.

It had none of the darkness we have come to recognise with Cracker and was too highly polished. Where was the grit that accompanies a Jimmy McGovern script so well? I think Antonia Bird was perhaps trying to give Cracker a modern, contemporary, post 9/11 feel, but Fitz is a cumbersome dinosaur who was like a fish out of water in this setting. At least he’s still smoking, albeit with more than an occassional nod as to how bad it is for you. His wife has tamed him, and even accompanies him to the casino to hold the purse strings. It would have been much more interesting to catch up with him on the downslide of life rather than on the up.
I felt that the script was a bit of a rant, and it would have been refreshing to see a good police drama that doesn’t reference 9/11 or Iraq, while the amount of flashback material left me dizzy to say the least. The episode was overly constructed and polished beyond all recognition. Without Robbie Coltraine this would have simply been another mediocre outing into the world of catching bad people. No blood & guts, or fire & brimstone – metaphorically – that we have come to expect with vintage Cracker.
It’s true that in its time Cracker had no comparison and was an absolute powerhouse of a drama, but unfortunately it has been surpased by those it spawned – Messiah, Wire in the Blood and Rebus all do it better these days. I think it was a nice idea on paper – and with the right script and direction perhaps a nice idea on tape but, alas, a thumbs down I’m afraid.
– CM 

 
The new episode of Cracker was naff, corny and nothing new. Wise up and give us a decent plot to follow! A two-year-old could have worked out Fitz’s line of thinking in five minutes
– Diane
 
Yes, Cracker was cracking last night. Although being an Aussie I didn’t get get his drift on leaving Oz (the land of Skippy and Skin Cancer) for the dump he had moved to.
– Aussie Bill
 
Sorry I didn’t think it was anywhere nearly as good as the originals – not gritty enough; it was so obvious throughout.
– Monica
 
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