Review: Channel 4 dark and gruelling new crime drama Suspect sees James Nesbitt - and the viewers - lose their twinkle

James Nesbitt seems to have two types of role – the roguish, twinkly, handsome romantic lead of Cold Feet and medical series Monroe, and the gnarled, grizzled, troubled soul of recent hit Bloodlands and this week’s Suspect (Channel 4, Sun-Weds, 9pm).

By Philip Cunnington
Friday, 24th June 2022, 5:00 pm

And after watching four hours of this adaptation of a hit Danish series, it would have been nice to have had a little more of the roguish twinkling and a little less of the gnarled grizzling.

Nesbitt plays DS Danny Frater, called to a mortuary to what seems initially a straightforward suicide, only to discover the dead woman is his estranged daughter Christina.

In eight half-hour episodes, Frater works his way through key witnesses and suspects in his daughter’s death, which is convinced is not suicide, but murder.

James Nesbitt starred in the Channel 4 drama Suspect

The half-hour episode structure was a neat thing, as it made it feel less of an investment of time and TV watching energy.

However, with each episode focusing on one suspect each, it was hard to get away from a feeling you were watching a two-handed stage play each night, confined to various dimly-lit interiors.

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And man, was it dark. Nesbitt’s face grew increasingly haggard, the shadows deepening around his eyes as his daughter’s secrets were gradually laid bare.

Richard E Grant (right) was among the big name co-stars of James Nesbitt (left) in the Channel 4 crime drama Suspect

But with each episode following much the same structure – and early argument, verbal sparring, followed by a quiet but before DS Frater realises he’s somehow to blame – it felt like we were all just treading water.

And the all-star cast, including Richard E Grant, Joely Richardson and Sam Heughan, really couldn’t lift Suspect out of the troubled cop on a mission rut it found itself in

By the end, I was as exhausted and grizzled as Nesbitt, and longing for a bit of a twinkle.

Meanwhile, one of Britain’s favourite comedians was twinkling his way through Lenny Henry’s Caribbean Britain (BBC2, Weds, 9pm). A brilliant explanation of how the Caribbean culture brought to Britain by the Windrush generation has influenced our lives and culture, it had fantastic interviews and archive footage. A must-watch.

Sir Lenny Henry and David Harewood talked about the influence of Caribbean culture on British life in Lenny Henry's Caribbean Britain

There was another exploration of the influence of immigration on British lives and culture in Back in Time for Birmingham (BBC2, Mon-Thurs, 8pm), as the Sharma family travelled through time to get an idea of how their parents lived after first coming to the UK. Funny, absorbing and eye-opening.