Review: Gemma Whelan shines as The Tower makes for a welcome feast after the fast food disappointment of ITV's recent crime dramas

I sometimes think ITV’s way of finding a hit new crime drama is similar to my technique for working out if spaghetti is cooked – fling a load of it at a wall and see what sticks.

Friday, 12th November 2021, 5:00 pm

We’ve had Angela Black, The Long Call, and Hollington Drive – none of which seem ripe for a second series – and this week, we had The Tower (ITV, Mon-Weds, 9pm), which began with a policeman and a young girl falling from a London tower block, and then went backwards and forwards in time from that point to find out what happened.

Leading the investigation was ‘Red Riding Hood’ DS Sarah Collins (Gemma Whelan), all buttoned-down collars and buttoned-up emotions.

Wearing a red mac, Collins is as straight as they come, working her way through the dark forbidding forest of the Met, trying to protect her purity from her wolfish colleagues.

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Jimmy Akingbola and Gemma Whelan starred in the new ITV drama The Tower

None more so than the lupine DI Shaw (Emmett J Scanlan), the wrongest wrong’un in the history of wrong’uns – you can tell because he sits in the dark drinking whiskey with his pinkie finger sticking out.

The Tower is about the clash between ideals and pragmatism, principles and compromise. Collins is all about what’s right and damn the consequences.

“What surprises me is how untouchable some people think they are,” she tells her more morally ambiguous colleague DS Steve Bradshaw (Jimmy Akingbola).

But she’s never sanctimonious – there are enough hints to show there are emotions beneath Collins’ Victorian demeanour.

Whelan is great, nothing is as clear-cut as you might initially think and there’s enough left unsaid to think a second series would be welcome. Buon appetito!

As someone who’s not good at anything, there is fun to be had in seeing the pros on Masterchef: The Professionals (BBC1, Mon, Weds, Fri) make a mess of things. Still eat it though.

Shark with Steve Backshall (Sky Showcase, Sun, 8pm) is fascinating, but there are rather too many shots of ever-enthusiastic Steve looking sun-kissed and rugged, and not enough of the sharks.

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