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Ghost Canyon

'New Tricks: Season 8'
(Amanda Redman, James Bolam, Alun Armstrong, Dennis Waterman, et al / 3-Disc / Not Rated / (2011) 2012 / Acorn Media)

Overview: Recruited out of various stages of retirement are the deeply gifted English character actors James Bolam (playing recent widower Jack Halford), Alun Armstrong (terrific as the obsessive-compulsive Brian Lane, who left the force after a nervous breakdown), and Dennis Waterman (a former sergeant and hothead who likes his liquor). Indeed, 'New Tricks' is part police proceduralas well as a humorous work dramedy!

DVD Verdict: OK, I know I've said this before, but it stands to reason that I would like to repeat it again! For the record, I love this UK TV crime show! I have done since its conception on British TV some eight years ago, and knowing that they are filming a brand new series of this as we speak, with another further one announced for 2013, well, I'm rubbing my hands in glee as we speak!

That said, the episodes have started to blend into same-old same-old territory. The freshness that once was is now a little stale. The jokes about their collective ages, their quips to each other, their personal traits are all known, all tiresome now. Now, don't get me wrong here, for I'm not banishing them to the has-been's corner of the basement just yet. But, and sadly, it goes a long way to explain why one of the main characters, Jack Halford (James Bolam) has decided to call it quits. The oldest member of the team, and the cast, he has always looked tired, but in this 8th season he also didn't seem to move much, get out much either.

Anyway, let's get into the show. And as I have been told by readers of the Magazine that I give too much away about the episodes, I shall try my hardest to take a step back from en mass reveals! In the first episode of 10, 'End Of The Line,' a tramp (or as the guys call him, a "dosser") is strangled to death on the Circle Line (London's famous Underground train system) back 15 years ago; and the team is asked to find out the who and why. This episode stars Peter Davison (Dr. Who), but is most fun for the role undertaken by the shady character Richard Meyer! In 'Lost In Translastion,' the title sadly kinda gives away where the guys will find the true clues to the killing of an Albanian interpreter working for the police back in 1995. Gerry (Waterman) is also taking cooking lessons, but I love this episode for what Brian (Armstrong) says whilst watching boaters out on the water on a cold, snowy day: "Rather them than me. It's brass monkey's out here!" This episode also stars the lovely Lucy Liemann (`Reggie Perrin').

In the third episode, 'Old Fossils,' which could so easily have been the title to this show in the first place, a murder takes place at the Natural History Museum in 2001. A palaeontologist was the unlucky victim, but as things progress it seems that he wasn't the aloof person that they once assumed him to have been. In the fourth episode, 'Moving Target,' the old boys are put under the microscope themselves when a Psychologist comes to UCOS to conduct a study of older men in the workplace! But they soon find out that she also needs help to investigate a hit-and-run accident that left her brother Darren Gerson (a bicycle courier) with a brain injury and memory loss.

In 'Objects of Desire,' Sandra's old boyfriend DCI Larson (Paul McGann - `The Hanging Gale'), now head of the Met's Arts & Antiques Squad asks UCOS to reinvestigate the murder of antiques dealer Mal Baxter. Originally thought to be a burglary gone wrong, it now comes to light he was a police informant - and yet still doing dodgy deals! In 'Setting Out Your Stall,' one of the best episodes in this 8th season set, back in 2009 a market trader is found dead. It turns out her coffee was drugged. Having worked on a prior case involving a man who raped women after doping them with coffee from his snack van, suddenly things get murky when new evidence comes out of nowhere to sideswipe them. And the UK's beloved Sheila Hancock is back playing Sandra's mother, Grace Pullman.

In 'The Gentleman Vanishes,' after the disappearance of her husband (a prominent scientist at UCL, working on cold fusion), the wife is sent anonymous emails from someone claiming to know what happened to him. And as he vanished whilst on a train to Paris, the team get to polish their French vocab skills - sometimes with the most cock-eyed of results! But, the deeper they dig and their leader, DAC Strickland gets a warning from the bigwigs at Whitehall! Tim McInnery (`Notting Hill') is also a guest star here, as he is in the season opener to season 10! In 'Only The Brave,' assuming that a rival bike gang member was responsible for his fathers death, a man sets out to murder him as part of a so-called 'initiation' into the bike gang. But, his girlfriend is so convinced that he's going after the wrong man, that she brings in UCOS to prove her right.

In the ninth episode, 'Half Life,' the team investigate the murder of Christopher Collins. A man once part of the Witness Protection Programme, he was recognised on a website about unsolved crimes by a former employer. But, the real underlying sub plot here is that the Met has announced that there will be manpower cuts made across the board. Back to the case in hand, and the team put their heads together to find out why a man in WP suddenly got his photo into the public eye. This one also stars Claudie Blakley (`Lark Rise to Candleford'). And, in the final episode, 'Tiger Tiger,' the case of a zookeeper originally thought to have been mauled to death by a tiger, is reopened. The guys discover old blood stains at his last-known place of residence which lead them to think he was killed there, and not at the zoo after all.

And, luckily for us, as the last two seasons didn't really end on so-called "cliffhangers," as this case come to a wrap, deeply buried secrets start to come to the surface in UCOS - which leads DAC Strickland to the conclusion that not all of the team is still up to the tasks at hand. Which comes full circle to what I was detailing at the head of this review re: the character of Jack Halford (James Bolam) deciding (in the UK press) that he'd had enough of the show. So, I guess come season 9 they will write him out as "too old" for the job, whilst at the same time we all know that in real life he decided enough was enough for his ol' acting bones. These are all Full Screen Presentations (1:85.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Behind-The-Scenes Featurette (19 min.)