Mystery! Jericho 2

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9-11 p.m., Sunday, June 3
KCET (Los Angeles)

In the world of murder mysteries that play out on the small screen, PBS' "Mystery!" series is up there at the top in terms of sheer intelligence and whodunit fun.

"Jericho" is one of the series' better efforts, with its noir stylishness mixed with contemporary angst. Two new episodes of "Jericho" are now offered, first "To Murder and Create," then "The Hollow Men." Both grab our complete attention with first-rate production values and compelling casts.

"To Murder and Create," up first and airing Sunday night, is a cocky mixture of murder, mystery and a vintage time frame. It is St. Valentine's Day 1958, and an eminent H-bomb scientist, Charles Hewitt, is found slightly murdered -- garroted with cheese wire and left lying on the banks of the Thames River. It's up to Detective Michael Jericho (the wonderful Robert Lindsay) to find out who done it, especially since a few other victims begin to pop up.

As fleshed out by Lindsay, Jericho is a chipped masterpiece, one hell of a detective whose emotionally rocky past (including memories of his own father's murder) makes him perfect for hunting down those who commit horrible crimes. Lindsay is delicious in the part, cheeky and sardonic, yet always watchable, never too emotionally withheld. The rest of the cast holds its own, including David Troughton as Sgt. Clive Harvey, Ciaran McMenamin as John Caldicott, and a sly Claire Bloom as Marie Hewett, the mother of the murder victim.

In the few minutes Nicholas Farrell has onscreen as murder victim Hewitt, he's a bundle of nerves and the perfect face to gaze on in a time (the 1950s) full of paranoia and fear. The culture of the H bomb is the perfect backdrop for a murder mystery, since it was a time when friends could just as easily be enemies and the world could blow up, literally and figuratively, at any time.

Director Nicholas Renton gives the story a wonderfully serious tone with just the right hint of humor. The pace is slow at times, but that's forgivable when the characters are so much fun. Writer Stewart Harcourt has the great edge on us all: his characters and situations and witty dialogue have just the right emotional snap. The production is terrific all around.

MYSTERY! JERICHO 2
PBS
A co-production of Granada WGBH Boston
Credits:
Director: Nicholas Renton
Teleplay: Stewart Harcourt
Art director: Philip D. Harvey
Music: Dominik Scherrer
Production designer: Rob Harris
Editor: Tim Marchant
Director of photography: Sue Gibson
Casting: Carrie Hilton
Executive producer: Granada: Michele Buck, Damien Timmer
Cast:
Jericho: Robert Lindsay
Harvey: David Troughton
Caldicott: Ciaran McMenamin
Juliette: Aurelie Bargeme
Marie Hewitt: Claire Bloom
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