Emmys spotlight: ‘George Gently’ goes out with a bang with Acorn TV movie finale

The long-running British series “George Gently” is finally eligible for the Emmys thanks to the participation of the streaming service Acorn TV. Martin Shaw, who has headlined some of the most popular English dramas of the last half century, has the role of his career as the title character, a police detective who struggles to find his footing after his wife is killed.

While the first 23 telefilms were set in the swinging 60s, the last two see Gently and company adjusting to life in the 1970s. The last installment in the series, “George Gently and the New Age,” is contending for Best TV Movie at the 2018 Emmys. This finale brings Shaw’s character full circle as he inches closer to solving the death of his wife. That tragedy had been he catalyst for Gently leaving London in 1964 and joining the North East police force.

A large part of the appeal of this series has been the interplay between the Gently and his junior detective John Bacchus (Lee Ingleby). The two actors have an easy-going camaraderie and the relationship between the two characters has evolved into that of father and surrogate son.

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The recent addition to the cast of Lisa McGrillis as Rachel Coles, a young policewoman that the older detective takes under his wing, allowed Shaw to show a softer side to the character. One of the hallmarks of the series has been that Gently has adapted to the changing times. He encourages Lisa to pursue a career in policing and plays peacemaker between her and John as they jockey for his attention.

Throughout the series, Shaw has shown his renowned versatility, able to shift from the most dramatic of scenes to those where Gently makes merry with the hapless PC Taylor (Simon Hubbard). That the actor displays such deft comic timing in those latter moments is a reminder of one of his great stage triumphs, Oscar Wilde‘s “The Ideal Husband.” Shaw earned a Tony Awards nomination for his one foray to Broadway in this comedy of manners back in 1997.

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More recently, he managed the near impossible and stole scenes from Dames Judi Dench and Eileen Atkins in the Emmy-winning period piece “Cranford.” He worked on that acclaimed period piece just before filming the first of the “George Gently” films in 2007. A decade on, he was ready to say good-bye to the role, much to the disappointment of the fans, who included some of the leading TV critics on both sides of the pond.

Among those singing its praises loudest was Gerrard O’Donovan (Daily Telegraph) who noted, “This is a series that’s always been driven by character more than story, thanks to Shaw’s admirably complex portrayal of Gently and Lee Ingleby’s portrayal of DI John Bacchus, who has developed from two-dimensional sidekick in series one into a fully rounded, thoroughly unpredictable major character in his own right.”

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