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Scott and Bailey

Wed Apr 3, 9-10pm, ITV

Series three, episode one
It’s taken us longer than most to appreciate the charms of ‘Scott and Bailey’. The cases felt too hackneyed, the writing too cosy, and the debt to ‘Cagney & Lacey’ too marked. But this third series is off to a flier. Certainly, ‘S&B’ still boasts the best toilette tête-à-têtes in British TV drama, and the quality of performances (especially from Lesley Sharp, Suranne Jones and Amelia Bullmore) has never been in question.

But Sally Wainwright’s dialogue is now humming like never before, while Janet and Rachel’s tumultuous private lives are finally paired with a case with genuine emotional wallop when an old lady’s severed head is found in a house that ‘smells of evil’. Nicola Walker is impeccably sullen yet sympathetic as the dead woman’s daughter, and the central interview scenes are deftly handled. Now all that’s required is a male character who’s neither bastard nor berk. Series four, perhaps?