`Dangerous' Davies gets no respect

Davison does

Critics Picks: New Dvds

May 13, 2007|By David Zurawik

THE LAST DETECTIVE: SERIES 3 -- Acorn / $39.99

He is known to his colleagues on the Willesden police force as "Dangerous" Davies, but like almost everything else about this unassuming English detective, it is a term of disrespect. Everyone mocks Davies, and yet he always solves the crime -- as conservative, plodding and predictable as his approach might be.

Season 3 of the British TV series based on the Dangerous Davies novels of Leslie Thomas arrives Tuesday on DVD, and it's a delight.

Peter Davison (Doctor Who and All Creatures Great and Small) plays the middle-aged, nondescript Davies with a pitch-perfect mix of self- effacement and irritation at the endless slights from crooks and fellow cops alike.

A sure-handed team of writers that includes Kevin Clarke, Matthew Thomas, Tim Vaughan and Russell Lewis knows what viewers want, and wastes no time getting its gumshoe on the case and the short end of the stick.

"Towpaths of Glory," one of four episodes on the DVD, opens with Davies' boss striding into the squad room and asking what kind of shoes each of the detectives is wearing.

"Prada," says an empty-headed young colleague who is forever checking himself out in various mirrors.

"And you, Dangerous?" the supervisor asks.

"Hush Puppies," Davies says in a quiet voice, bracing himself for the ensuing snickers.

"All right, off you go then," his boss commands, sending Davies to a garbage dump to investigate the report of a dead body.

"Ever get the feeling that we're given all the rubbish jobs?" his sergeant says as she helps him scale a huge pile of debris, atop of which sits the corpse.

"Yeah, it's crossed my mind, thank you," he says brusquely just before stepping into a particularly nasty-looking pile of goo.

And, yet, for all the predictable sense of fun on the surface of The Last Detective, there is more than enough wise social commentary underneath.

The body found at the dump is that of a highly decorated veteran of the war in Iraq. The toll that conflict is taking on some members of British society is sensitively and wisely explored -- both by the writers and the character in the Hush Puppies shoes.

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FRASIER: THE NINTH SEASON --Paramount / $38.99

This was not one of the best seasons for the long-running series about a snooty Seattle talk-show psychiatrist. But looking back at it from the depths to which sitcoms have sunk, it seems golden.

david.zurawik@baltsun.com

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