Review: Lancashire-set The Bay does a lot with shifting sands, but you might find yourself getting bogged down

ITV’s Lancashire-set crime drama The Bay (ITV, Weds, 9pm) doesn’t half like to get its shocking twists in early. Series one saw a twist before the first ad break, but this opening episode of the second series managed it before the titles had moodily unfurled.

By Phil Cunnington
Friday, 22nd January 2021, 6:00 pm

From then on, we’re in fairly familiar territory – a family in thrall to a fading patriarch, a ‘well-respected’ pillar of the community with a whole graveyard full of skeletons, and a town full of red herrings, dead ends and shifty-looking characters.

The Bay makes full use of its beautiful setting, with characters meeting on Morecambe’s windswept front, and expansive shots of the distant Lakeland fells – although it does make you wonder how directors coped before drones, with direct overhead shots becoming as much a crime-thriller cliché as unfurling police tape and grumpy senior officers.

Speaking of which, here’s Daniel Ryan, as the grumpy senior officer DI Tony Manning, who’s one insubordinate comment away from slamming a glass door and demanding a badge.

Morven Christie stars in ITV's crime drama The Bay, set in and around Morecambe

There’s lots here about family, as our lead DC Lisa Armstrong (Morven Christie) struggles with being a single mum, and DI Manning’s marriage is on the rocks, while our knowledge of the police ‘family’ is gradually expanding – which bodes well for future series.

Which is good, because the central crime procedural is – once you get past that bravura, well-known-face-in-the-chip-fryer style opening – a little pedestrian.

However, like Morecambe’s famous quicksand, you find yourself getting sucked in, as stroppy teens, dumped guns and Albanian tattoos are added to the mix. If you don’t struggle, you’ll enjoy it.

ITV is piling all its dramas into the beginning of the year, with Finding Alice (ITV, Sun, 9pm) popping up as well as The Bay. Enlivened by the presence of Joanna Lumley, it was a pleasant hour, but no more.

Daniel Ryan plays DI Tony Manning in The Bay

Back (Channel 4, Thurs, 10pm) is, well, back after a long hiatus, but it was well worth the wait for this profane, scabrous, hilarious sitcom, which reunites Peep Show’s Mitchell and Webb.