Rice cracker

Robbie Coltrane returns as the maverick criminal psychologist in Cracker set in Hong Kong. Eddie Gibb talks to co-star Freda Foh Shen about police work, Chinese- style, and working with the Big Man.

One of the best things about Cracker was that Granada quit while it was ahead which is more than you can say about a certain other cop show produced not a million miles from here that continued long after its Scottish star joined the dearly departed.

After three series, the production team which included creator-writer Jimmy McGovern and Robbie Coltrane as the criminal psychologist Eddie ‘Fitz’ Fitzgerald, decided enough was enough. The final run was dominated by the aftermath of the rape of Fitz‘s sidekick and on-off lover DS Penhaligon, taking the series deep into emotional territory previously uncharted by a popular police procedural. By the end of the third series, the audience and one imagines, the cast were so wrung out that the final episode came as almost a relief.

But as with any popular drama which hits on a winning formula, the pressure to produce more hours of prime time television can prove to be irresistible. And so it is that Granada has produced a two-hour special called White Ghost, after which a spokesman for the [TV company promises it is ‘good night, Vienna’ for Fitz and co.

It’s now traditional that any series that gets to do a feature-length special is set abroad, preferably in an exotic location with plenty of sun and sea. That’s why Fitz finds himself in Hong Kong, while on a lecture tour of the Far East, just as the colony's police force is struggling to crack a double murder in the ex-

patriot community.

The British head of the murder squad encourages him to stick around to help find the killer, despite some resentment from his Chinese second in command, Janet Lee Cheung. The familiar tensions of sex and rank are already in place. with an added dimension of race as the colony approaches the I997 handover

‘The point in the script is that Hong Kong murders tend to be very straightforward and committed for very rational reasons.‘ says Freda Foh Shen, the Chinese-American actress who plays Janet. ‘You cheat me and l’ll have you knocked off. whereas [the police] are not used to dealing with a murder which doesn’t necessarily relate to anything rational. and is more governed by the subconscious. The suspense comes from why he did it. not who did it.‘

The fascination with the murderer’s motive as opposed to M0 is one of the defining hallmarks of

Cracker: itobbie Coltane as Fitz, ilanked by Ricky Tomlinson as northern bobby,

00l Wise and Freda Foh Shen as Detective Cheung C racker, which Shen believes separates it from even the best American cop shows. Although Siren already knew of Robbie Coltrane from films like Mona Lisa

and the rather less memorable Nuns On The Run,

Cracker has significantly raised his profile. So how was he to work with?

‘What was extraordinary to tne was how he could go fromjust totally farting around right into Fitz in a split second. and the life that he gave to the part never changed,’ says Shcn. ‘Marlon Brando said that the time right before action is called and the time right after there should be absolutely no difference. and with Robbie that was totally true.’

There may be rather less worthy reasons for comparing Coltrane to Brando, but to mention their approach to acting in the same breath is some compliment.

Cracker: White Ghost is on Mon 28 October at 9pm on Scottish.

The running man

Think Tieasure Hunt, thinlr The crystal Maze. Chuck in a dash oi 0avld Janssen in The Fugitive and you’re getting close to the ieel oi Wanted, Channel 4’s new, live adventure show where there is but one rule - don’t get ught. Threeteamsoitwoareontherun (the runners) across Britain choosing any route or mode oi travel (except hitching) that takes their iancy, so long as they don’t turn back on

Wanted: you can run, but you n’t hide

littieiohn as host.

every station, every hotel.

outside someone’s house.’

themselves. On their tails are the trackers - an investigative )ournalist, a pop band manager and Dave McBride, a ionner 8A8 trainee. Back at base, the trackers are aided by a group oi experts, including err-KGB double-agent 0leg Gordievsky, with ionner Sun columnist Richard

For now the change irom tracking down war criminals to giving chase around town to a bio-chemist or iactory worker must be a welcome rellei. ‘l didn’t bring any oi my military background to bear,’ admits McBride. “It’s just the same old stuii - keep going, keep working, trying

not to get arrested when I’m hiding

The big prize at the end oi the tunnel is a whopping £60,000 ior any pair oi runners who remain at large tor the eight-week duration oi the series. They are also required to perionn a task each day such as donate blood or gatecrash a wedding - the successiul completion oi which boosts their cashilow. The trackers’ task is to capture the act on video, iorcing the runners to lose a day’s money. ‘The only way they are knocked out oi the game,’ says McBride, ‘is it I iind them calling the programme irom a phonebox.’

And beiore I can ask whether he’s ever killed a man, he’s gone. (Brian Donaldson)

Wanted starts on Wed 30 October at 8.30pm on Channel 4.

And trying

“The List 18-31 Oct 1996