A bipolar pathologist, obsessed with his ex, in charge of solving a stream of cases, so brilliantly gory that they put Saw to shame? Sounds like a televisual banquet. Welcome to the world of ‘feel good’ crime dramas – the genre we never knew we needed, until now.
Writer Paul Abbott, best known for his acclaimed success with Shameless and State of Play, has poised his pen for another knockout series, Wolfe. Be ready to be disgusted and drawn in, all in the space of one scene – this is tonal experimentation at its best.
The premise is much like any old crime drama. We follow a protagonist born from, what The Telegraph’s Ed Power describes as “the golden era of police procedural dramas”. Wolfe is, of course, fantastic at what he does – what crime drama protagonist isn’t? And the crimes are, of course, as grizzly and screenworthy as they come. But, suffering with bipolar disorder, Wolfe (played wonderfully by Babou Ceesay) has a different perspective on the miraculously endless stream of morbidly fascinating crimes which we just love to watch whilst tucking into our dinner. This becomes both a hindrance and a help in his profession, making for an entertaining and multifaceted crime drama which peels away from the established norm.
It’s the tonal malleability which makes this show so special in which, as Power states “sparkling dialogue is followed by images of severed arms and legs”, a treat for all of our voyeuristic tastebuds. And it’s during these patches of gore where Abbott is the most successful. The Sunday Times’s Helen Lewis praises the show for being “horrible but also faintly comic, a tightrope that Abbott walks expertly”. And ultimately, as Barbara Ellen says in The Guardian, “what could implode into cliché is enlivened with kinetic energy and cheeky wisecracks” qualities which are typically hard to come by in a detective story.
Its visuals are as bright as its subject is dark; a fashionable neon glow illuminating every shaded and unthinkable corner of the plot, with the same deft accuracy as Wolfe’s fluorescent forensic light. And let us tell you – the stains which Wolfe picks up aren’t the kind that disappear with a spray of Vanish.
First shown September 2021.