At the beginning of the screening, ITV Head of Drama Steve November said that Unforgotten may be ‘the talking point of autumn’.
I think he may be right.
‘Is a crime less serious because time has passed?’
The haunting question DCI Cassie Stuart (Nicola Walker) asks her father as they sit at home discussing her latest case.
In households around the country, versions of the same conversations have taken place as the news reveals things we did not know about those once idolised and respected. Similarly, questions of whether those who have committed crimes 70 years ago should be brought to trial have been raised.
Crime can be quite a tiresome genre of television. In recent years there have been many successful crime dramas including fellow ITV productions Broadchurch and Scott and Bailey.
Writer Chris Lang has managed to bring to life something very different that – as well as crime – looks to have deep roots in socio-historical context as well as family life. Together with a strong cast and excellent acting, the six-parter promises to be good.
The discovery of a skeleton under concrete by builders is reported to DCI Cassie Stuart and her colleague DS Sunil ‘Sunny’ Khan (Sanjeev Bhaskar). In the rest of the first episode, the remains are investigated and eventually traced back to missing boy Jimmy Sullivan 30+ years ago.
The case is set to unravel the lives of those it touches – all of whom we meet in the first episode, along with their own stories.
‘People pretend to be one thing for half a century…and then turn out to be something else’
How do you build a life again after the foundation is ripped apart?
That is what I’m looking forward to the most with Unforgotten. Not the whodunnit running throughout. Crime drama it may be but crime will be the least interesting part of the plot – but the crucial link. Without the discovery of the crime, secrets would have stayed buried. However, it is not just a case of knowing those secrets but knowing how they were lived with and kept and, ultimately, the knowledge that there comes a point where it becomes impossible to run from the past.
Plenty of television drama finds itself in the 1970s in some way or other – usually highlighted through cultural references such as clothing or music. Unforgotten takes a more academic approach to looking back. Race relations and social mobility are to be just two of various themes in the serial. The former will be explored through the criminal investigation and the latter through the lives of characters (although the twain may meet).
Sir Phillip Cross (Trevor Eve) and his wife Shirley Cross (Cherie Lunghi) are central in discussions of mobility. Sir Phillip may now be a multi-millionaire but he was once ‘in with the wrong people’ in London and harbours secrets that him and his wife keep close to their hearts. Shirley’s past was much the same. They epitomise – for many – what ‘new money’ was and in some ways still is about.
Part of the appeal of Unforgotten, for some, may well be the Nordic Noir-esque partnership. The similarities to the Scandinavian brand don’t extend – at least for me -beyond Cassie and Sunny; and even then they aren’t massive so I don’t wish to suggest that either. Cassie reminded me of Saga Norén from early on. At Nicola’s admission, her character is like ‘a dog with a bone’ wanting to investigate a dated case because she feels there is one, even when Sunny or her father may not have.
On a last note, I very much welcome a storyline involving the impact of Alzheimers on sufferers and particularly those caring for a loved one in a drama. Gemma Jones’s character Claire Slater battles with the disease and is cared for at home by husband Eric (Tom Courtenay) and it is implied that her son Les (Dominic Power) is heavily relied upon as he lives locally. In order for progress to be made in the understand of the disease and the massive effect it has on those living with and indeed close to it. The cast themselves had personal relationships to the plot as I am sure many viewers sadly will as well (myself included). I commend ITV, Mainstreet Pictures and Chris Lang for the incorporation of this.
Unforgotten begins on ITV later this month.
Further information about the show and full cast can be found here.