New Tricks (TV series)

New Tricks is a BBC television drama series which follows the work of the Unsolved Crime and Open Case Squad (UCOS). Led by Detective Superintendent Sandra Pullman, it is made up of retired police officers who have been recruited to reinvestigate unsolved crimes. Following the success of Series 5, the BBC has recommisioned New Tricks for a sixth 8 part series to be broadcast in 2009.

Main characters

Detective Superintendent Sandra Pullman (Amanda Redman): The head of the unit and the only currently serving police officer in UCOS, Sandra Pullman was previously a Scotland Yard high flyer and a highly successful career woman until an incident involving the shooting of a dog during the rescue of a hostage (which becomes a running gag during the series). Following this incident, her career stalled and she was given the dubious honour of running UCOS against her will. An intensely ambitious and competitive woman, she has sacrificed most of her personal life in pursuit of her career and likes to be in absolute control of every situation; a running subplot involves Pullman's lonely and unsuccessful love life, consisting of a string of adulterous relationships in her past and numerous failed efforts at romance (including, in one episode, speed dating). Pullman believes in following the rules, and is often exasperated by her colleagues' eccentricities and willingness to bend the rules in pursuit of a result. She does at times. An example is when the team were told to fix the accounts but the boys went behind her back and when she found out she went into the case saying "I'm a copper, not an accountant.". Although reluctant to lead UCOS, as time goes by, she begins to warm to her colleagues and view them as her friends, and at the same time change her attitude towards life. Her mother Grace is still alive, but recently had a stroke. Her father, Gordon Arthur Pullman, another police officer, committed suicide in 1975 by carbon monoxide poisoning, when Sandra was 14, while under investigation for corruption by Jack Halford. However, she did not find out about this until 2007, believing that he died of a heart attack.

John Alan "Jack" Halford (Ex-Detective Chief Superintendent) (James Bolam): The highest-ranking ex-officer on the team and the first to be approached by Pullman when she was forming UCOS, Jack Halford is something of a second-in-command to Pullman and acts as a mentor to her on numerous occasions (based on their previous working relationship when she was subordinate to him on the murder squad). Halford retired from the police force to care for his dearly-loved wife Mary who had been involved in a hit-and-run incident; he is still haunted by her death, partly due to the fact that no-one was ever been charged in connection with it, and still speaks to his wife's memorial in his garden, often seeking her help and opinion in solving cases. A softly-spoken and gentle man, Halford nevertheless possesses a quick and at-times violent temper that he has unleashed towards several of the suspects in the cases that he has worked on.

Gerald "Gerry" Standing (Ex-Detective Sergeant) (Dennis Waterman): Something of a 'Jack-the-Lad', Gerry Standing is very much an old-school police officer; in his time, he was 'a top thief-taker' who passionately enjoyed catching criminals but nevertheless mixed easily with them. As a result, allegations of corruption arose, which he angrily denies but nevertheless were among the reasons he left the police force (the other being that he punched his then-superior officer, Don Bevan, as a result of these allegations). Something of a ladies man, he has been married three times; although his marriages were unsuccessful, he is a devoted father to his three daughters and has a grandson, Gerry Jr, maintains amicable relationships with his three ex-wives (so much so that he occasionally manages to seduce them once again). Along with his familial commitments, he also has a keen interest in gambling and thus is keen to work in UCOS for financial reasons. Although he is a now a grandfather, he maintains his devil-may-care lifestyle, but insists that he is merely "a naughty boy, not a bastard". Although initial tension existed between them, he and Pullman share a mutually respectful but nonetheless barbed friendship.

Standing joined UCOS for financial reasons, and much to the consternation of DAC Bevan.

Brian Lane (Ex-Detective Inspector) (Alun Armstrong): Brian 'Memory' Lane is an exceptional detective, possessing a keen attention to detail and a remarkable instant recall memory that allows him to call up obscure details not only regarding cases but the officers investigating them at the time. He is also extremely socially inept and highly eccentric, a sufferer of Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder and a recovering alcoholic; as a result, despite being an essentially well-meaning individual he possesses extremely poor social skills and a tendency for getting himself into trouble. He left the force under a cloud, having been partly held responsible for the death of a prisoner in his custody; although Brian maintains it is part of a conspiracy against him (and was, at least initially, consumed with attempting to discover who was behind it), his colleagues believe that he simply cannot admit he made a mistake. Brian is married to the long-suffering but caring Esther and they have an adult son called Mark. Brian finds his work in UCOS becoming too stressful for him throughout the fifth series and resumes drinking alcohol when nobody else is around, attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings once again. In the final episode of the fifth series, he gets drunk in a pub and ends up kissing two young women that he is drinking with, in full view of Esther and Mark as they come into the pub to look for him. Esther then walks out, leaving Brian realising the cost of resuming his alcoholism.


One of the original writers, Roy Mitchell, is a supporter of the English football team West Bromwich Albion and in the first series numerous characters were named after players who previously played or still play for the club. The three male characters of the programme, Halford, Lane and Standing, were named after the oldest stand at The Hawthorns football ground in West Bromwich.

Supporting characters

Robert Strickland (Anthony Calf)

From the second series onwards, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Robert Strickland is the team's boss. He is a political animal who enjoys basking in the reflected glory of UCOS's clean up rate and his choice of cases is influenced by a desire to make his department look good.

Esther Lane (Susan Jameson)

Esther is Brian Lane's long-suffering wife. Esther and Brian met when he arrested her for attempting to steal a copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover from a library. They have an adult son, Mark, who is rarely spoken about but was seen for the first time in the final episode of the fifth series. At least once, Brian's obsession with the incident which caused him to leave the force has led Esther to leave him, although she did return. The fifth series ends with Esther and Mark witnessing Brian kissing two young women in a pub while drunk, and Esther walks out as Brian realises they are there. Susan Jameson, who plays Esther, is in real life married to co-star James Bolam.

PC Clark ("Clarkey") (Chiké Okonkwo)

PC Clark (we never learn his first name) is assigned to the team to help them with their IT needs and administration, though he soon becomes a valued member of the team. He only appears in the pilot and first series, and the disappearance of the character has not been explained.

Donald Bevan (Tim Woodward- pilot, Nicholas Day- series one)

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Donald Bevan is the team's boss during the first series. He knows both Jack Halford and Gerry Standing, and strongly opposed Standing's inclusion in the team, mainly due to the history between them. (It is later revealed that Gerry punched Bevan in the face and broke his jaw). In an episode broadcast in May 2006 concerning a group of witches there is a reference to the film The Wicker Man. The film starred Edward Woodward, Tim Woodward's father.

Occasional guest stars

Grace Pullman (Sheila Hancock) Grace Pullman is Sandra Pullman's mother and the widow of her late husband - Sandra's father Gordon, who committed suicide by carbon monoxide inhalation. She appeared in two episodes in Series Four. The first of which - her daughter was helping her choose a home to stay in, where a murder had recently been committed. Grace then became ill with Ménière's disease, but, after the murder was solved, moved into the home. She next appeared in the last episode of the fourth series - where she had suffered a stroke and it was then that Sandra found out the truth about her father's death.

Emily Standing (Hannah Waterman) Emily Standing is a trainee police officer who turned up on the doorstep of Gerry Standing saying she thinks he's her dad. However, unknown to her, he does a DNA test which proves he is not her biological father. He doesn't have the heart to tell her, and she continues to believe he is her dad. She appeared in three episodes - one in Series Three, the other in Series Four and a third time in Series Five. She realises in the first episode of series five that Gerry has lied to her when he gives evidence in court relating to Ricky Hanson, due to Gerry hesitating before saying that Emily was his daughter. She later ignores his phone calls to try to apologise to her. Emily is eager to be a great police officer like her father and proves successful. Hannah Waterman, who plays Emily, is Dennis Waterman's real life daughter.

Ricky Hanson (David Troughton) Ricky Hanson is a career criminal and the man responsible for Jack's wife Mary's death. He confessed this to Jack in the last episode of the third series, which finished on a cliffhanger, where Jack was about to run Hanson down in his car as Hanson had done to Mary. In the first episode of the fourth series, the cliffhanger resumed and Sandra, along with Gerry and Brian, slammed her car into Jack's in order to prevent the murder. Hanson remained unharmed, but all four of the U.C.O.S. team were hospitalised. Hanson returned later on in the episode disguised as a doctor. He went into the ward in which Jack and Brian were being kept, and, after muttering to Jack, "Jack...Jack...Say hello to the wife", he began to smother his nemesis with a pillow. Luckily, Brian, despite being on crutches and without sight in one eye, hit Ricky on the head, stopping him from smothering Jack. As Ricky was choking Brian, Jack picked up an oxygen cylinder and struck Hanson on the back of the head, knocking him out. Hanson was then arrested for attempted murder. He did not return until the first episode of the fifth series, where he stood trial for attempted murder. His shrewd representative Ian Figgis (James Fox) led the jury to think badly of the U.C.O.S. team whilst they gave evidence, Brian for his recovery of alcoholism and his OCD, Sandra for her occasional tendency to bend rules and Gerry for incorrect use of forensic facilities within U.C.O.S. When Hanson gave evidence himself, he lied to the court that he did not attempt to murder Jack Halford, that he bore no ill will towards Jack Halford. The jury gave the verdict that Hanson was not guilty, and he triumphantly left the court with a few of his criminal friends, all singing smugly at his not guilty verdict. Jack disappeared after this, despite the efforts of Sandra, Gerry and Brian to keep him under friendly surveillance, and it was thought that he had left UCOS for good. Strickland even ordered Sandra to start interviewing possible replacements for Jack, but Brian was determined to get Jack back on the team, and managed to track him down. Jack felt unable to carry on in UCOS knowing Hanson had been let off with his wife's murder, but Brian pursuaded him to return to the team to ensure other career criminals like Hanson would not be loose on the streets, and so Jack resumed working for UCOS again. Hanson has not been seen since his not guilty verdict.

DVD release

Series One, Two, Three and Four of New Tricks are available on DVD on Region 2 (UK) and Region 4 (Aus).


New Tricks is produced by Wall to Wall Television for the BBC. It began as a one-off episode, broadcast on 27 March 2003. This attracted a sufficient number of viewers for the BBC to commission a series of six episodes, which began on 1 April 2004. Subsequently several eight-episode series were commissioned for 2005, 2006 and 2007.

A fifth series was commissioned by the BBC after the audience share rose week upon week for the previous series. In 2007 an episode from the fourth series received viewing figures of 9.25 million, becoming the second most watched programme on BBC One that week, and the most watched New Tricks episode, at that point. The fifth series continued this good run - it was the most watched programme in Britain for the week twice and the seventh episode gained the series' highest ever rating, of 9.36m - second only to the X Factor that week. The fifth series began airing on July 7, 2008 and completed its run on August 25, 2008. The sixth series is due to air in Summer 2009.

ABC TV also broadcasts the series in Australia, regularly gaining a comfortable spot in the top ten most viewed programmes of the week.

Production music was composed by father and son team Brian and Warren Bennett.

Theme tune

The theme tune is a song called "It's Alright", written by Mike Moran and sung by cast member Dennis Waterman, whose penchant for singing the theme tune of productions in which he stars is the subject of a famous caricature in the BBC comedy show Little Britain.

International broadcasters

Country TV Network(s)
Argentina Film&Arts
Australia ABC TV and UK.TV
Finland YLE TV1
Italy La7
Singapore BBC Entertainment
Thailand BBC Entertainment
The Netherlands KRO
Israel yes stars 2
Sweden Kanal 9
United States KCTS Seattle, Washington
KERA-TV Dallas, Texas
KETC St. Louis, Missouri
KTEH San Jose, California
KOPB-TV Portland, Oregon
WLIW Long Island, New York
UNC-TV Chapel Hill, NC
France France 3
Canada TVOntario

See also

The series is similar in concept, relating to "cold case" investigations, to two other BBC dramas:

  • The Enigma Files, which ran more than 2 decades earlier (1980)
  • Waking the Dead, a contemporaneous drama series (2000-), also about a "cold case" squad. New Tricks differs from Waking the Dead in being far lighter in tone, with many humorous situations, drawing much of its humour from the former detectives' unfamiliarity with modern methods of policing, and their increasing age.

There are also cold case drama series from Canada Cold Squad, CTV / 1998), and the USA - Cold Case Files, A&E / 1999 (true cases) and Cold Case, CBS /2003).


External links

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