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Suspect: Critics trash ‘unbearable’ and ‘cartoonish’ new James Nesbitt drama on Channel 4

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James Nesbitt’s new crime drama Suspect has received a flurry of poor reviews after its debut on Sunday (19 June).

The Channel 4 drama stars Nesbitt as DS Danny Frater, a policeman who encounters the corpse of his estranged daughter while examining a Jane Doe at the local mortuary.

Critics have been quick to point out that it’s a role Nesbitt has played time and time again over the course of his career.

Just last year, the actor played DCI Tom Brannick, a Northern Irish policeman with tragedy in his past, in the BBC drama Bloodlands.

In a recent interview with PA news agency, Nesbitt said: “I don’t certainly set out to play a policeman and I don’t set out to do dark dramas, it’s just sort of what presents itself.”

Find a roundup of Suspect reviews below.

James Nesbitt in ‘Suspect’ (Channel 4)
James Nesbitt in ‘Suspect’ (Channel 4)

The Independent: What makes James Nesbitt want to play the same character over and over? – two stars

“There’s obviously something deep in Nesbitt’s thespian core that makes him want to play the same character over and over. ‘I’m gonna call the police!’ Algar’s Nicola screams in his face at one point. ‘I am the police!’ Danny replies, a line that could be lifted, word-for-word, from about half the projects Nesbitt’s been involved in of late. The truth is that doing the same thing again and again seems like genius if the piece works. [...] But Suspect isn’t good. It isn’t a compelling new addition to the British TV detective canon. In fact, the only thing convincingly mysterious about it, is its existence.”

The Times: One hard-bitten cop role too many for James Nesbitt – two stars

“I fear Nesbitt, aka the King of Gurn, has been asked to play the same character (hard-bitten cop who doesn’t go by the rules) so many times that he’s run out of ways to express grief. As he wielded a scalpel and tried to force pathologist Jackie (Joely Richardson) to open up his daughter’s body in front of him (yeah, right), his face seemed to change; actually he looked a bit like Keith Allen. But then, a few minutes later, came a genuinely moving scene in which he told his daughter he loved her and I welled up. So it’s a performance of extremes.”

Joely Richardson stars alongside James Nesbitt in ‘Suspect' (Channel 4/Anthony Ellison)
Joely Richardson stars alongside James Nesbitt in ‘Suspect' (Channel 4/Anthony Ellison)

The Guardian: James Nesbitt rages endlessly in unbearable Luther-lite – two stars

“Clearly Suspect is aiming for a certain mood, a sort of Luther-lite. It is noirish, all neon lighting in darkened corners, with locations named the Crimson Orchid (a strip club), Baz’s Sauna and Gym (a boxing club) and, er, County Racecourse. But it is a strained version of noir that doesn’t land, and often ends up cartoonish.”

The Telegraph: Channel 4 must stop pumping out derivative Euro trash – two stars

“James Nesbitt plays a detective – his fourth in the space of a year, by my reckoning – in Suspect (Channel 4), and what an odd little drama it is. It is adapted from a Danish series and directed by a Belgian, and instead of feeling like a British show (because, surely, that is what Channel 4 is here to provide) it feels distinctly European. In the opener, Nesbitt and Joely Richardson deliver their lines as if they’re getting to grips with a foreign language.”

The i: James Nesbitt takes this silly crime drama far too seriously – two stars

“Although it might be authentic for a grieving parent to ask the same questions over and over again, the format of conversations unfolding largely in real time became repetitive even by episode two (which did offer a strong performance from [Niamh] Algar). Perhaps it would work better as a tight two-hour play.”

Suspect returns to Channel 4 on Monday 20 June at 9pm.

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