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The Radio Times said that the storyline of the new BBC1 mystery drama, Mayday, was “pleasingly fresh”. I don’t know who wrote that particular line, but whoever it was, clearly has not seen much television or movies from the past 30 years or so.

The story is anchored around the sudden disappearance of a 14 year old girl who vanishes while en-route to the local Mayday festivities. She leaves behind her bicycle in a lane that cuts through some menacing looking woods and suddenly every male character comes under suspicion. It is here that the show spends the next 10 to 15 minutes, trying to cram in as many weird and suspiciously acting male characters as it can. I haven’t seen such a collection of clichéd characters in one television program since I last watched an episode of Scooby Doo. The writers must have watched every whodunit from the past 20 years and cherry picked their most stereotypical characters. We have (in no particular order) the hen-pecked middle aged, borderline alcoholic husband. The horny teenage boy, the feckless and abusive father and no thriller would be complete without the weirdo who seemingly lives in the woods. All of these characters have something to hide and we are led to believe that everyone is a suspect, and it is not long before the uncle of the missing girl is leading a restless lynch mob through the woods in search of his niece, before storming the home of the local old man who is accused of liking to watch courting couples in the woods, in another cliché.

The local constabulary seem a bit distant so far in this first episode too, with only a few long shots of a few parked police cars and officers standing around, not really doing much of anything at all. Oh and no DI Burnside from The Bill, type character here, oh no, at least not yet anyway, which you would surely expect to see when a child has gone missing. No, it is all down to the locals, and I was surprised that they weren’t carrying pitchforks and flaming torches whilst marching through the streets to be honest.

The acting is wooden and over the top, apart from the always excellent Peter Firth, who must have agreed to be in this whilst a bit non compos mentis at the Spooks end of show party last year!

The script is trying hard to be dark and mysterious and is desperately wanting to be a 21st century British version of Twin Peaks, however, on this opening showing it is taking on the appearance of a poor imitation of the 1970’s horror classic, The Wicker Man.

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 10. Patrick Jane – The Mentalist

Jane is a former psychic and medium who now uses his talents to help the fictional California Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to capture criminals, whilst at the same time hunting down the serial killer “Red John”, who murdered Jane’s wife and daughter.

9. Jonathan Creek

Another crime fighter who uses his skills and expertise to help solve crimes, Jonathan Creek lives in a windmill and works as a creative consultant to magician Adam Klaus, thinking up new magic routines for his shows. Jonathan uses his ability at lateral thinking to help solve crimes and correct miscarriages of justice.

 8. Sledge Hammer

Inspired by the no-nonsense approach of Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry, Sledge Hammer is the San Francisco cop who gets the job done by blowing up buildings and using is .44 Magnum for everything from catching criminals to opening beer bottles.

7. Luther

Luther (played brilliantly by Idris Elba) is a brilliant detective who has a troubled personal life that often clashes with his job. When he finds out that his estranged wife has been seeing someone else he ends up being arrested after smashing up her home. However, his analytical mind often compensates for his lack of subtlety and helps him to bring criminals to justice.

 6. Stuart McCall – The Equalizer

This former CIA operative uses all his expertise and experience to help the most vulnerable of New York’s society when he sets himself up as a freelance trouble-shooter. Often working for free to help those being stalked or victimised by individuals, crime lords and big corporations alike. He is still in contact with his former boss (known only as “control”) and some of his ex-CIA colleagues who he often enlists for surveillance or “baby-sitting” duties.

5. Fox Mulder & Dana Scully – The X-Files

The FBI’s official paranormal investigators, Mulder and Scully were brought together by the bureau’s hierarchy, Mulder had been working on the X-Files for sometime and Scully was paired with him to monitor his actions, before succumbing to the intricacies of the cases being investigated.

 4. Tommy Murphy – Murphy’s Law

Another of those cops who’s difficult personal life often affects their work, but like Luther (see above) his brilliance at his job means that he is a valuable crime fighting assets. A former officer in Northern Ireland, Murphy’s daughter was killed by the IRA in retaliation to his failure to drive a car bomb into a local army barracks. This memory often comes back to haunt him and in one episode (The Group) he comes face to face with the man who is supposed to have killed his daughter, but given the chance to pull the trigger he has a crisis of conscience. Murphy’s brilliance is his ability to work undercover in a variety of roles and he has the talent and the personality to get himself out of some tricky situations.

3. Gene Hunt – Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes

The “Gene genie” is one of the best cops on television in recent years and is played to perfection by Philip Glenister. DCI Gene Hunt is the stereotypical 1970’s hard-nosed, hard-drinking, womanising policeman based on such characters as Jack Regan from the Sweeney.

He thinks nothing of using brute force and rule breaking in order to gain a confession out of the criminals he catches.

 2. Dr. Edward ‘Fitz’ Fitzgerald – Cracker

The brilliant psychologist Dr. Fitzgerald helps the Police to “crack” difficult criminal cases by getting inside the minds of the criminals and breaking their wall of silence. The epitome of the anti-hero, Fitz is addicted to gambling, drinks too much, smokes too much and is unfaithful to his wife. Yet he is at his best when working with the Police and this helps him to focus his mind for good rather than falling back into his hard-drinking and gambling ways.

1. Columbo

Peter Falk’s dishevelled detective, Lieutenant Columbo often comes across as a bumbling chaotic character but this is just a veil for his brilliant analytical mind. He often knows who the murderer is early on and then spends the time following them around, hassling them and making them feel uncomfortable. This helps them to make a fatal mistake or lapse in concentration that incriminates themselves, he also gives the impression that he is not too bright, allowing the murderer to think that their superior intellect will help them to escape justice.

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  5. Colin Weatherby – The Brittas Empire

The walking disaster area of Whitbury New Town leisure centre is played by the now rarely seen Mike Burns. If there is an accident waiting to happen you can rest assured that it will usually happen to the hapless Colin or to someone else of which he is the cause. Colin usually starts his working day sporting a brand new illness or ailment that will affect his ability to fulfil his daily duties and he must be the least healthy person to ever work in a leisure centre. A hand shake with Colin usually ends up with the other person pealing off a sticky piece of dirty looking bandage from a hand that has been festering away from day one.

4. Mrs Warboys – One Foot in the Grave

Jean
Warboys (played by Doreen Mantle) is a friend of the Meldrews from when she
lived in the same street as them, after the Meldrews house is destroyed by fire
and they move away she remains a friend, although more with Margaret than
Victor who see’s her as a nuisance. She is one of those tedious people who end
up showing you every one of their countless holiday photographs and retell
their holiday experience in extreme detail. She often gets things wrong and
this leads to many hilarious situations and problems for the beleaguered Victor
Meldrew, such as the time when she eventually persuades Victor to take on a
deceased neighbour’s dog. Despite not being keen at first he ends up agreeing
to take the dog and spends a small fortune building a kennel and buying food,
but it turns out that the dog is stuffed and Mrs. Warboys assumed that the
Meldrews new this as everybody else did.

  3. Father Jack Hackett – Father Ted

The crass, drunken priest from Channel Four’s religious sitcom Father Ted (played by Frank Kelly) often steals the scene away from Dermot Morgan who played the eponymous title character with usually a single word. Those words are usually taken from a list that includes: Drink, feck, arse, and girls although he does occasionally manage to string a small sentence together. Known to get violent if someone comes between him and his booze he has learnt to make do when no proper alcohol is available, and it is often eluded to that he has a taste for Toilet Duck™ and other bathroom supplies. Jack likes the ladies unless they are dressed as nuns of which he seems to have a mortal fear. Jack’s years of alcohol abuse has meant that his personal hygiene habits have suffered and he is usually seen with spots and scabs, matted hair and dirty clothes.

2. Lord Flashheart – Blackadder

Loud, brash and one hell of a ladies man, the character of Flashheart appears in two episodes of the popular BBC sitcom Blackadder and is played brilliantly by Rik Mayall. His first appearance was a brief one in Blackadder 2 where he rides in as Blackadder’s best man for his impending wedding to a woman called Kate, who he originally thought was a boy named Bob. He arrives tardily for the nuptials and is shocked when he learns that the pusillanimous Lord Percy has taken his place, wasting no time he grabs his replacement by the tunic and throws him through the doors. He then proceeds to flirt outrageously with the Queen, Nursie and even Baldrick (who is the bridesmaid and is dressed thus) leading him to utter the enduring line “thanks bridesmaid. Like the beard. Gives me something to hold onto.” He then proceeds to steal the bride away from Blackadder and they disappear leaving Lord Melchet to ask Blackadder if he would like to continue the tradition of the jilted groom marrying the bridesmaid.

Flashheart appears once more in Blackadder Goes Forth but this time he is involved more
substantially with the storyline. Appearing in the episode entitled “Private
Plane”, Flashheart is a World War One flying ace, one of the Royal Flying
Corp’s top men in both, flying and “top level shagging”. He crashes his
bi-plane on top of the trench occupied by Captain Blackadder, Baldrick and
Lieutenant George, Blackadder is less than impressed by Flashheart’s vanity and
sense of self-importance and takes an instant dislike of him, telling him that
all the other soldiers despise him and they would rather meet the man who
cleans the public lavatories in Aberdeen. In retaliation Flashheart punches
Blackadder to the ground and from then on names him, “Captain slackbladder”,
however when Blackadder and Baldrick later join the Flying Corp and are taken
prisoner after being downed behind enemy lines he mounts a rescue mission with
Lieutenant George.

  1. Super Hans – Peep Show

This character is probably one of the most underrated supporting characters of any British sitcom of the past 30 years, was written with Russell Brand in mind but is played with startling brilliance by Matt King. Peep Show the award winning Channel Four sitcom that allows us to hear the inner monologues of its two main characters Mark and Jeremy, features a number of recurring supporting characters of which Super Hans is often the scene stealer. Super Hans is Jeremy’s friend and he does not get on very well with Mark who he see’s as being stuffy and uptight, however, he is not a very good friend to Jeremy either and their opinions often differ causing clashes. He is morally corrupt and is a heavy drug user who will try anything in order to get high when there are no recreational drugs available. He becomes addicted to crack cocaine after trying it once which leads him to utter the immortal line “that crack is really Moorish!” One episode see’s Super Hans trying to kick the whole drug taking habit by giving up everything “from the PCP’s to the Latte’s” but his cold turkey method fails and he is soon back on the drugs.

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