A drama series consisting almost entirely of fictional police interviews set in four different countries – Britain, Spain, France and Germany – made by four separate creative teams with casts of local stars, yet all filmed in the same studio: that’s the set-up of Criminal. A 12-part exercise in stretching the genre of the police procedural, it’s a format which utilises the global reach of Netflix.
But is the show as intriguing as its concept? Mostly, yes. Director Jim Field Smith skilfully ratchets up the tension of the interrogations in the first of the three UK episodes, featuring David Tennant as a creepy father accused of attacking his daughter. He bats away every question with a “No comment” until an intervention from one of the detectives punctures his defences. Hayley Atwell and Youssef Kerkour play very different but equally compelling suspects in subsequent episodes, while the interplay between the cops feels genuine, especially when they all want to get things wrapped up so they can go for their Christmas dinner.
Interestingly, the same set is used in all four versions of the show, emphasising the symbolic nature of the interview room as a stage on which the police perform. At one point, the cops even conduct a rehearsal of one of the interviews, wittily underlining the artifice of the situation.
Sure, this reliance on interrogation scenes seems very Line Of Duty, but Criminal has a fascinatingly heightened tone all its own. This is a show that could go places.