Can you teach “New Tricks” new tricks? Can it survive when only 1/4 of the cast is still around from the old days as part of the Unsolved Crime and Open Case Squad? In Season 8, actor James Bolan left and he was replaced by Denis Lawson as Steve McAndrew. In the first story of Season 10, Brian Lane (Alun Armstrong) was asked to leave the team and was replaced by the walking encyclopedia Danny Griffin (Nicholas Lyndhurst).
And then, DS Sandra Pullman (Amanda Redman) fell for a French detective and SHE decided to leave the squad! This is the equivalent of John Nettles leaving “Midsomer Murders” and comes as more of a shock because Nettles’ leaving his series was set up ahead of time. Well, Redman was replaced by Tamzin Outhwaite in the role of DCI Sasha Miller, and her presence in the last two episodes of Season 10 caused much friction between her and the others.
Thus does “New Tricks, Season 11” begin in a 3-DVD set from Acorn Media. The sole survivor from the original cast is Dennis Waterman as Gerry Standing; and he is the only one of the men that seems to put a lot of energy into his role. Both Lawson and Lyndhurst seem to walk through their roles, showing some complexity mostly when having personal problems. Outhwaite is perky enough, but memories of Amanda Redman can never be erased. Not fair, perhaps, but that is what happens when cast changes are made in long running series.
Quite a bit of the 60 minutes given to each story is taken up with those personal problems: Sasha’s ex-husband, Steve’s ex-wife and wayward son, Danny’s…well, no need to go on. Personal problems have long been an element of police shows and nothing I say is going to change that.
On the positive side, most of the 10 plots are quite good, some quite imaginative. In two or three, a current crime is linked with a “cold” one. In one episode, the death of a young student sends the cast on a search for a certain boy’s name, which turns out to be something quite different, making this the grimmest mystery episode since the last one in “Foyle’s War.”
As I said, it is really not fair giving negative criticism to a cast because it is not as good as the original. “New Tricks” is still a very enjoyable police series with a difference. Still worth the watching.