TV Review: Dalgliesh (Series 1)

A quality cast and some corking source material can’t save Dalgliesh from dullness

“It’s just a line of enquiry”

As Bertie Carvel is currently starring in Pygmalion, I thought I’d give Dalgliesh a go, as I’ve long been a fan of PD James’ writing. But perhaps the fact that it aired on Channel 5 should have given me pause for thought, for it is a rather doughty and dull set of adaptations that seem weighted down by the 1970s setting and a strange flatness to its leading man.

This series cover three stories, each told in two 45 minute episodes which ultimately never feels like enough, especially as this first season has the additional job of building the world of Adam Dalgliesh and enticing us in. We slowly learn that he’s a widower, still recovering from the death of his wife and child and far from your average detective, a poet and philosopher as well as so uniquely positioned to examine man’s propensity to crime.

That richness of interior life is hard to convey though and with time at such a premium here, Carvel’s Dalgliesh too often ends up dour and dull, a lifelessness that seeps from the storytelling too. There’s much potential here to be sure – the nursing school of Shroud for a Nightingale, the retreat of The Black Tower, the vaunted halls of A Taste for Death but time and again, the default to a dreary 70s-ness drags everything down.

Not even a cracking supporting cast can help. There’s Fenella Woolgar, Amanda Root and Natasha Little in the first story, Jonjo O’Neill, Steven Mackintosh and Storme Toolis in the second, and Fra Fee, Laura Elphinstone and Jane Lapotaire in the final one, John Hollingworth and Jim Norton delivering some of the best work. But it’s all to no avail, I found this whole series quite the slog.

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