Tied up in Notts
The latest surname with a badge, Resnick, is about to start pounding the mean streets, but does he offer anything new or is he just a TV tec retread? Tom Lappin finds out from the writer John Harvey.
Original it ain’t. The overweight scruffy middle-aged loner walking the avenues and alleyways solving crimes by a combination of inspiration and sheer persistence has been with us almost as long as the police series itself. In Morse it would have seemed to reach its zenith but that hasn‘t prevented the BBC from giving us Resnick, a Nottingham detective who on the surface would seem to have been created to a detailed blueprint. He‘s middle-aged, alone. with a non-existent love-life and a weight problem. The BBC of late has not been too proud to steal ideas wholesale from its commercial rivals. So is Resnick ersatz Morse? Not according to his creator John Harvey.
‘I think it‘s shot in a style, and Tom Wilkinson acts the part in such a way as to move it away from reproducing those stereotypes,’ he says. ‘And also, although he is the central character. and the TV series takes his name, the stories are very much about people living in a city. not just the police but also the victims. I think there’s more texture in terms of the sort of people there are. which allows Resnick to stay at the centre but doesn‘t foreground him in the way these other series do.‘
That said, great emphasis is placed on establishing the somewhat offbeat personality of Resnick, a third-generation Pole who lives with four cats and has a predilection for large sloppy deli sandwiches. Harvey admits that the characterisation was a vital part of the series. ‘I‘m not a plot-orientated kind of person really,‘ he says. ‘I’m much more interested in character or place and atmosphere. The nice thing about beginning with a guy in his mid-forties is that there‘s a lot of history there to begin with. It also gave me a good opportunity to surround him with a group of people who were mostly younger and would work in contrast to him. I was interested in not only having a central character with a rich background but to create a group ofpeople. As a writer I‘m interested in writing about the way groups of people interact in fairly stressful situations.‘
One of the understandable criticisms levelled at this type of cerebral crime series is that it doesn‘t reﬂect real police procedure. On-screen murders are solved by subtle clues or psychological insights whereas in the real world dubious eye-witness
56 The List 27 March - 9 April 1992
‘ P v‘” s. ‘
reports and even forced confessions suffice (in the Midlands, anyway). In the case of Resnick. though, Harvey was surprised to find that fiction tallied rather more closely with fact.
‘We met an officer who is actually an inspector in the Nottingham Murder Squad. who is uncannily like the Resnick character in his methods. He obviously operates successfully or he wouldn‘t be there, but he is slightly outside the norm. and follows his intuition. He recently dreamt the answer to a murder inquiry, not the actual incident, but he realised through a dream who was responsible. He‘s a man who’s always played his intuitions as well as working through the mechanics of the police force. It was distinctly eerie to find that there is this guy actually in Nottingham doing this stuff. And that‘s nice from my view, in that I’ve managed to create this
Tom Wilkinson stars as Charlie Resnick
character without ever meeting him.‘
The success or otherwise ofResm'ck will depend heavily on the actor who plays the character, Tom Wilkinson. the first choice of both Harvey and the producer. ‘I knew him mainly from the theatre,’ says Harvey. ‘and then I saw him in an episode of Inspector Morse strangely enough, and I knew he was the one. He's the right build, big, slightly shambling, with a face that suggests Eastern European origins. A lot ofwhat he does is done through reaction. In the book some of the action is explained in a sort of stream of consciousness. In the TV series that had to come from Tom’s face. So we needed a good actor. And now I‘ve seen the TV version, he’s great.’ John Thaw may have to look to his laurels.
Resnick begins on BBC] on Tuesday 31 Mar 10pm.
HOW THEY ARE RELATED:
Loners with personal hygiene problems, ﬁne aesthetic sense. a healthy regard for the beneﬁts of alcohol. and a ﬁne line in cynical world-weary one-liners.
Tubby menOpausal guys with personal hygiene problems. a healthy regard for the benefits of smelly tobacco products. and a ﬁne line in philosophical world-weary one-liners.
BARllsOW MAIIGRET TAGGART BERGERAC 1' VAN DER THE YANKS VALK Menopausal guys with hygiene MAIGRET 1] problems, physical abnormalities (that head. that wheelchair, that POIROT
beergut, that coat) and a ﬁne line in crappy catch-phrases.
SHOESTRING = COLUMBO
MORSE SPENDER RESNICK
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