Cardinal (Saturday, BBC4) is a noirish new thriller set 200 miles north of Toronto
I did not think they did things like that in Canada. Log cabins, maple syrup, grizzly bears and handsome prime ministers, yes.
But crime does not really fit into our picture of the place. As we start watching Cardinal (Saturday, BBC4), a noirish new thriller set 200 miles north of Toronto, it is worth remembering how we used to think about Scandinavia and what changed our ideas.
It was crime fiction – first books, then tv shows and films – brushing off the Nordic snow to reveal the darkness underneath.
So will this latest import do the same for Canada? It has certainly got that killer combination of a story that could only happen in a certain cold place, and a subplot that would be a sizzler anywhere.
The Cardinal of the title is a taciturn detective, nursing various emotional wounds and obsessed with the unsolved murder of a 13-year-old girl.
Katie Pine belonged to a local indigenous people and when her frozen body is found, the top brass see it as an opportunity for bridge-building and PR. John Cardinal (Billy Campbell) is urged to solve the crime but his conviction that Katie’s murder was perpetrated by a still-active serial killer does not go down well.
Like all the best police procedurals, he is assigned a keen rookie assistant, Lise Delorme (Karine Vanasse), whom he does not want but gradually warms to.
For extra complication, Lise is no rookie at all, she is secretly there to gather evidence on Cardinal and his suspected links to organised crime. Does he have any?
He has got secrets, a drug habit and a wife periodically sectioned for long periods. For lovers of gore and depravity, there is enough of that, but the beating heart of it in the first two episodes was the relationship between the cops. Neither wanted to start liking the other, but the more time they spent together, the harder that became.
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When Lise used a minor row with her husband as an excuse to leave the house and follow Cardinal, you wondered what was driving her – her job or her heart? If you have to explain a joke, it is not funny. SGT Pepper’s Musical Revolution (Saturday, BBC2) suggested music is the same.
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The famous Beatles album, fifty years old last Thursday, is viewed as a game-changer for music. For the most part, broadcaster Howard Goodall did a grand job of explaining why.
The combination of kitchen-sink song lyrics with recording wizardry, a menagerie of instruments from bygone eras, created something startling and brilliant (and as far away from the lads’ pappy ‘Love Me Do’ era as Bach was from The Barron Knights). When Goodall zoomed in on the fine detail, though – the beats, the chords, the harmonic shifts – it all went very Open University.
Meanwhile, his conviction that songs like Strawberry Fields and Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds had nothing to do with drugs, just came across as daft. He was spot-on in showing us how both songs captured the wonder of being a child, but that is exactly what attracted The Beatles to mind-bending drugs.
One was being viewed through the lens of the other and no good song is ever just about one thing.