New Tricks (2003-) is a BBCcrime comedy/drama about the investigations of the Metropolitan Police's (fictional) Unsolved Crimes and Open Cases Squad (UCOS). Although mostly a Mystery of the WeekPolice Procedural, it also combines a hint of Amateur Sleuth in that most of the members of the squad are actually retired policemen employed to investigate unsolved crimes. The only serving police officer on the squad is the boss, Detective Superintendent Sandra Pullman (Amanda Redman), an uptight, tough-as-nails investigator. Her previously high-flying career came crashing down to earth through an unfortunate dog-shootingincident, resulting in her reluctant appointment to the newly created UCOS. Faced with an unappealing selection of job applicants, she recruited:
Jack Halford (James Bolam), an ex-Detective Chief Superintendent and Pullman's old boss and mentor, who left the job in grief over the unsolved hit-and-run death of his beloved wife Mary.
Brian 'Memory' Lane (Alun Armstrong), a brilliant but highly eccentric and anti-social detective with an instant-recall memory and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. A recovered alcoholic.
Gerry Standing (Dennis Waterman), a Jack-the-lad charmer with three ex-wives (that he is on excellent terms with), a gambling habit and some shady ethics, who left the force under suspicion of corruption after punching out his boss (who just happens to now be Pullman's boss). A softened-for-comedy version of what George Carter, Waterman's character in The Sweeney, would be like today, complete with long hair, wide flashy neckties, constant smoking etc.
In the course of of Series 9 (2012), Jack was Put on a Bus and replaced with DI Steve McAndrew, played by Denis Lawson (AKA Wedge Antilles), a Fish out of Water retired detective from Glasgow who originally came down to help with a case relevant to his past. In series 10 (2013) there was an even greater cast change, with Brian being replaced by DCI Dan Griffin (Nicholas Lyndhurst) and Sandra being replaced by DCI Sasha Miller (Tamzin Outhwaite).Also frequently appearing were Pullman's bosses (Don Bevan in the pilot and first series, Robert Strickland in the second onwards) and Esther Lane (Susan Jameson), Brian's put-upon and long-suffering but loyal wife.Although a mystery series, much of the interest in the show comes from the characters and their various eccentricities, and in particular the culture clash between modern police methods (represented by Pullman and her media-and-statistics conscious superiors) and the old-school ways (Halford, Lane and Standing are all cops from the seventies and eighties). Pullman is often exasperated by the corners cut and rules ignored by her colleagues, even as she herself is gradually 'corrupted' by them. In some ways, it can be said to foreshadow the popularity of Life On Mars, only instead of the boringly squeaky-clean modern copper being sent to the past to be 'corrupted' by it, the past's veteran coppers return in the present.This is also a seriously popular show- repeats have been known to get eight million or more viewers, and they can be found pretty often at that.
Provides examples of:
Backstory of the Day: Gerry seems to go back and forth between having a phobia of deeply wooded areas and not. He is afraid in "17 Years of Nothing" and "Into the Woods", but seems perfectly at home in "Wicca Work" (at least until his bad tea trip).
Becoming the Mask: In the episode "Only The Brave" it turns out the murderer was Reverse Mole Knowles who had gone native in the gang he was sent in to investigate.
Benevolent Boss: Strickland's grown into this role over time; having started as something of a politically-minded Pointy-Haired Boss he's gradually earned the respect of the team and vice versa. He eventually gets a Day in the Limelight in the 9th season episode "Part of a Whole" where he proves himself to be seriouslyBadass.
Beware the Nice Ones: Jack, whilst normally a pleasant, gentle sort of fellow, possesses a sharp and sometimes violent temper if someone (usually a murderer or corrupt cop) has really managed to annoy him. His interrogation of a phony psychic in one episode is conducted almost entirely in calm, reasonable tones, but it's extraordinarly evident that he is beyond outraged by the nature of the crime; watching the scene will send shivers down your spine. Similarly, Brian is normally just a little bit awkward, but becomes more than a little bit scary when he hasn't been taking his meds.
Bill... Bill... Junk... Bill...: In the pilot, Jack sorts through the list of potential UCOS candidates Sandra has been given and delivers one of these speeches. Most of the candidates are dead. The rest...
Jack:(throwing down the candidates' photos, one at a time) Dead... dead... good as... alive, but he bores for England... retired, but currently under investigation by the CPSnote Crown Prosecution Service... ditto the DTInote Department of Trade and Industry... dead... alive, but don't leave him with your kids... retired sick - well, insane, really... dead... dead... would be if I got hold of him.
Big Secret: There are usually three or four of these per episode, invariably complicating the murder investigation.
Blessed with Suck: It's established that Brian's remarkable photographic instant-recall memory and outstanding abilities as a detective and forensic investigator are the direct result of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and a manic depression that, if he doesn't take his medication, leaves him with crippling, obsessive paranoia and at the best of times renders him an anti-social pedant. He is also a recovered alcoholic.
The Boxing Episode: In "Gloves Off", the gun used to murder a talented young boxer 11 years ago surfaces in an armed robbery and UCOS is drawn into the darker side of professional boxing.
Brother-Sister Incest: A case occurs in "Couldn't Organise One", although here it turns out to provide an alibi for the murder.
At the end of the pilot, the final arrest occurs at a dinner the villain is hosting, which results in a punch-up between the villain's family and friends and the cops, with everyone pitching in... except for one bloke, presumably not that fond of the villain, who just calmly finishes his meal with the chaos going on around him and walks out when everyone's gone, blithely muttering 'very nice' to the main characters as he leaves.
In the same scene, Jack, Brian and Gerry — having caused the fight in the first place — decide discretion is the better part of valour and stand back to let the actual coppers take care of things, offering a running commentary all the while.
Character Name Alias: In "A Death in the Family", a witness gives the fake name of 'George Boole'. Brian recognises this as the name of a famous mathematician (the inventor of Boolean logic) and reasons that only another mathematician would have picked that name as a spur-of-the-moment alias.
The Cuckoolander Was Right: In one episode, Brian becomes convinced that MI-5 might have investigated him (and that he had his career held back as a result) when he finds out that his wife was involved with some activists who were investigated. At the end of the episode, an irate Halford brings him his file and confirms that he was indeed being observed. They concluded that he wasn't a threat, which leaves Brian slightly offended.
Cold Reading: Used by a fake psychic in "Dead Man Talking". Brian brilliantly turns the tables on him by doing his own Sherlock Scan and revealing all kinds of things the psychic would rather have kept secret.
Conspiracy Theorist: Brian turns into one of these if he comes off his anti-depressants, although he has shades of this even when he's on them (indeed in at least once he came off them because he was convinced modern medicine was a conspiracy); most notably in one episode where the team are investigating the suspicious death of a prominent 1970s trade unionist, Brian — himself a member of the Police Union during his service — becomes convinced that he's being observed.
Conveyor Belt of Doom: Gerry is almost dragged into a chopping machine when his jacket snags on a conveyor belt in "Dark Chocolate".
Creepy Souvenir: The season 8 finale involves a serial killer who keeps body parts in VHS cassette boxes, with labels like "Goldfinger" for the fingers.
Danger Takes A Back Seat: In "Only The Brave" one of the gang members tries this on Sandra with a gun, but she breaks his nose instead.
Darker and Edgier: The majority of episodes written by Julian Simpson fall into this category, avoiding the usual geriatric antics and veering towards more serious (and violent) cases, which usually focus on conspiracies of some kind.
To a lesser extent, the others as well: Jack most obviously with his grieving for his late wife Mary, but Gerry has to deal with borderline addictions to gambling and cigarettes (although he can control his booze, oddly enough) and a lingering reputation for corruption, and Sandra has to cope with being a workaholic with no social life and the lingering memory of her father's suicide.
Department of Redundancy Department: Brian's life has been very full since his retirement: grandchildren, gardening, football, swimming, day trips, gardening, car, pets, dogs, the wife... did he mention gardening?
Parodied with a subversion in one episode when Gerry sees someone he recognises in an old 1980s video about a peace protest. We're lead to assume that he's just had a sudden breakthrough about the case... until he proudly announces "I had her!"
Insult Backfire: At the end of the pilot, Sandra refers to the boys as 'criminals'. They react with offence. She amends the insult to 'crooks'. This, they can live with.
Interservice Rivalry: When an old case crosses with a new case, most commonly due a murderer trying to cover their tracks, UCOS are supposed to hand the old case over to the people investigating the new case and back off. Needless to say they don't like doing this.
Ironic Echo: In the pilot, the deputy commissioner tries to shut down Jack when he approaches him for a warrant by smugly pointing out that he's not actually a police officer any more. At the end, when the same deputy commissioner is getting his arse kicked in the climactic punch-up and begs Jack for help, Jack — who, with the others, his happily standing on the sidelines watching the chaos — 'apologetically' points out that he's "not actually a police officer anymore, remember?"
It's Personal: Jack was hell bent on bringing down crime boss Ricky Hanson, the man who murdered his wife. Jack actually tries to kill him with his car at one point, but only ends up hospitalising himself and the whole team. Taken Up to Eleven when Hanson takes the opportunity to try and smother him in his hospital bed (while rubbing his wife's death in his face no less) and still gets away with it due to having a ruthlessly efficient lawyer who destroys the case by referencing all of the team's flaws (including Jack's obsession with bringing Hanson down), to make them all seem like unreliable witnesses. The team celebrate with champagne when they finally bring him down in a later episode.
Kick the Dog: Subversion / parody - in the pilot, Sandra - a decent person - is forced to shoot one that is attacking her, but the resulting public outcry completely derails her career and makes her a laughing stock ("You shoot one dog in this country...")
Long Runners: The series has been going over 10 years now. One odd consequence of this is that as the 'closed past cases' have tended to become more and more recent, UCOS are now investigating crimes which took place after the series chronologically started.
Men Are Uncultured: The stereotype is played with. Gerry, who normally comes across as an unreconstructed 'real man', is a connoisseur of fine food, while Brian, the 'nerdy' one who enjoys tabletop strategy games, is conversely a Serious Business football fan.
My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels: A visit to the Deaf husband of a murder victim prompts Gerry to try and brush up on his long-forgotten sign language skills. He tries to say "I want to practice my signing with you" to the sign language interpreter, but instead comes out with "I want to dig up my elephant with you."
Necro Cam: Not as often as you'd think, though, especially given that most of the cases that are dealt with occurred up to 20 years ago and this isn't Waking the Dead.
Need A Hand Or A Hand Job - During a case that briefly took Brian into Soho, a lady of the night approached him asking if he 'had the time.' Misunderstandings ensued.
Never Live It Down: In-Universe. Sandra has been in charge of UCOS for nearly a decade after she was attacked in the press for shooting a dog in self defence, considered a dead-end job; the group in general has a reputation as a refuge for washed-up has been cops and officers. This despite the fact that they have put away crime lords, drug lords, serial arsonists and killers, corrupt police officers (including the deputy commisioner), and numerous other high-level crime figures, basically putting the rest of the Met to shame several times over.
Although it is played with, in that their hard work and achievements have been noted and rewarded several times over; Sandra has been offered 'better' jobs but for whatever reason has always chosen to stay with UCOS. However having been dumped out-of-the-way in the basement in the first series, each season has seen them be moved to increasingly nicer rooms before they reached their current, rather swish offices, suggesting that their overall reputation has gradually improved even if they do remain the butt of a few jokes.
New Old Flame: Sandra acquires one in the form of DCI James Larson in "Object of Desire". This does not end well when James turns out to be a Dirty Cop.
No Badge? No Problem!: Brian, Jack and Gerry are retired police officers and are usually pretty good at identifying themselves as such. However, they do work for the police department as investigators so they have the official authority to question people and access police records.
Noodle Incident: Whatever Gerry did when he got neuro-linguistically programmed and "Baker Street" was played.
Notable Non Sequitur: Played with. Generally, every apparently offhand comment of this type will turn out to be significant in some way, but not necessarily one related to the case (for example, it might expose an unrelated and previously unmentioned other crime or secret the suspect is hiding).
Obfuscating Disability: The killer of the week in "Magic Majestic" has pretended to be confined for to a wheelchair for his entire adult life, referencing Real Life magician Chung Ling Soo. This allows him to escape from custody at the end of the episode.
Off The Wagon: Brian. Handled far far better than many instances of this trope though.
Old-Fashioned Copper: - Jack, Brian and Gerry, although the writers hang a lampshade on the trope by having the characters gleefully excuse their actions with the (reasonable) justification that, technically, they aren't actually cops anymore.
Played with at times; sometimes, the old-fashioned way of doing things makes things worse, and the new methods are the better ones, for their flaws.
Pac Man Fever - Averted, as Jack is seen playing Ghost Squad on the Wii and doing very well.
Political Correctness Gone Mad - Although they're not too bad for the most part, the boys can at times have difficulty adjusting to more modern ways of thinking about things like race, gender equality, etc., which can cause tension.
The retired detectives have slightly Cowboy Cop attitudes compared to modern police methods and standards. So they see nothing wrong with creating a fake Rabid Cop scenario where the interrogator gets so insanely angry that he shoots the suspect's public defender lawyer. The 'lawyer' is another retired cop and the gun is a starter pistol.
And occasionally they find themselves working alongside a real Rabid Cop, such as Frank Patterson in "The Fourth Man".
Reality Is Unrealistic: In real life, drowning victims tend not to struggle or cry out. As Brian puts it: drowning doesn't look like drowning.
Red Baron: Brian "Memory" Lane and Gerry "Last Man" Standing. The former because of his impressive memory ("Memory Lane"). The latter was mockingly given to him by a mob boss, in both a straightforwardnote Because he was the only copper on the force who didn't take a bribe from him and ironicnote Because he was the only officer who was accused of corruption as a result manner).
Red Herring: We are often given several suspects with apparently suspicious behaviour, but in a variation of the trope, they will usually all turn out to be hiding something, just not necessarily something directly related to this week's case.
Especially in later series, many episodes are inspired by real crimes or types of crimes that have been in the news. For example, "Queen and Country" involves a civil servant misplacing a laptop with sensitive information, something which (as the episode itself notes) embarrassingly happened several times during Gordon Brown's premiership.
Sherlock Scan: Brian turns the tables on a fake psychic in "Dead Man Talking"; using cold reading techniques to reveal all kinds of incriminating information about him.
Ship Tease: Earlier episodes seemed to suggest some kind of potential relationship between Gerry and Sandra, but this was gradually dropped. The two nevertheless over time went from being quite sharp with each other to becoming quite good friends, however.
Shout-Out: A recent episode had Sandra describe some of Gerry's dodgier actions as being "out of the Life On Mars handbook". The two shows have often been compared by critics because their concepts can be viewed as mirror images (70s coppers back at work in the present vs modern copper in the 70s).
Shown Their Work: The backgrounds to many stories are very well researched, such as the cybercrime-themed series 9 episode "Body of Evidence".
Slave to PR: Sandra's bosses are very aware of the power of publicity and often saddles the team with pointless cases merely for the sake of favourable press. Averted for the team, they simply don't care as they are not technically policemen anymore.
Smug Snake: Stephen Fisher, from Intelligence, or thereabouts.
Sandra: How did you get down here without an escort? Fisher: Oh, bless.
Something Completely Different: Several of the cases in Series 9, especially "Glasgow UCOS", which of the main cast only has Gerry and Steve, going to Glasgow in order to help set up the Glasgow branch of UCOS.
Soundtrack Dissonance: Several episodes end on a sombre or even bleak note, which can make it a bit disorientating when Dennis Waterman suddenly starts singing "It's alright, it's okay, doesn't really matter if you're old and grey..." in a cheerful tone with the end credits. Later series introduced a more melancholy ending theme which would be played in such situations.
Stealth Insult: While investigating a crime in a museum, Gerry wonders what it is like to spend every day surrounded by fossils. Sandra thinks she has an idea.
The Summation: A neat little subversion occurred once, in which Gerry explained how a crime didn't occur.
The Swear Jar: Has the detectives install one, which eventually allows them to go out for a nice meal on the town. Gerry's a bit aggrieved that he didn't get to choose, since he "put most of the bloody money in."
Terrible Interviewees Montage: Having been given no suitable candidates for UCOS by the Met, Sandra and Jack decide to advertise for the position, resulting in a parade of interviews that are over before they begin ("names" as given in the episode's end credits):
Racist Ex-Detective: 'Morning. Oh, just before we start, this new unit... no blacks, obviously. Sandra:(at next interview) Now, you didn't officially retire, and yet I can't see any references to why you left the force. Why's that? Drunk Ex-Detective:(obviously three sheets to the wind) Absolutely no bloody idea. (cut to him staggering to the door, starting by heading to the wrong corner of the room) Vicious Ex-Detective: Police and Criminal Evidence Acts? Mistake. I mean, being able to threaten, intimidate, and cause pain to a suspect are the chief weapons in a copper's armoury! Right? Scots Ex-Detective:(opens door, sees Sandra and Jack) Ah, shite... (immediately leaves) Woman Ex-Detective:(angry) I mean, I don't take no bloody crap from no-one! (Sandra and Jack are visibly unsettled) Sandra:(at next interview, smiling as she closes a folder) Thanks so much for coming in, it's - it's obviously very valuable to have such a successful, high-ranking ex-officer applying for- (the interviewee suddenly gasps and clutches his chest; cut to him sprawled on the floor as Jack tries pounding his chest to restart his heart)
The writer named Jack, Brian and Gerry after the oldest spectator stand at his favourite football (soccer) club, West Bromwich Albion (Halford Lane Standing).
Late in the series it turns out Gerry has relatives in the meat business. Their names? Barry, Harry, Gary, Mary, Larry, and Terry.
This Bear Was Framed: In an episode, a man broke into a zoo and was assumed to have fallen into a tiger enclosure and mauled to death by the tiger. When the tiger dies a few years later it is revealed that its death was caused by a piece of a knife that was stuck in its body since that night. The team reopens the case and finds that the man was killed elsewhere and the body dumped in the tiger cage which is when the tiger was stabbed. Not only was the tiger framed but it was also another victim.
Toyota Tripwire: Brian does this in "Good Morning Lemmings": opening the door of the surveilance van to flatten a fleeing suspect.
Vandalism Backfire: In one episode, Gerry has been having an escalating prank war with a colleague, which culminated in him welding said colleague's locker shut. They finally call the grudge off... until the colleague reveals that it wasn't his locker.
Verbal Judo: Faced with a biker gang member threatening to shoot her in retaliation for what his gang members did to him for talking to the police, Sandra starts thinking out loud about the current case. After buying some time that way, she comes to some conclusions that cause the other to break down and lower the gun — as the case was his father's murder — and then punches him out in passing while he's angsting.
Wham Line: A strong contender for the shortest Wham! line ever.
Strickland: Surrey ran the third sample through the National Criminal Database. And while they didn't find an exact match, it did flag up someone from the ACPO files with a very similar genetic profile... i.e., a direct and close relative. Sandra: Really? Who? Strickland: You.