Cracker (British TV series)
|Created by||Jimmy McGovern|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||5|
|No. of episodes||25 (list of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Sally Head|
Hilary Bevan Jones
|Production location(s)||Manchester, England, UK|
|Running time||50 mins. (Series 1–3) |
120 mins. (Series 4-5)
|Original network||Granada Television for ITV|
|Original release||27 September 1993 –|
1 October 2006
Cracker is a British crime drama series produced by Granada Television for ITV, created and principally written by Jimmy McGovern. Set in Manchester, the series follows a criminal psychologist (or "cracker"), Dr Edward "Fitz" Fitzgerald, played by Robbie Coltrane, who works with the Greater Manchester Police to help them solve crimes. The show consists of three series which were originally aired from 1993 to 1995. A 100-minute special set in Hong Kong followed in 1996 and another two-hour story in 2006. In 2000, the series was ranked 39 on the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes compiled by the British Film Institute.
Fitz is a classic antihero: alcoholic, a chain smoker, obese, sedentary, addicted to gambling, manic, foul-mouthed and sarcastic, and yet cerebral and brilliant. He is a genius in his speciality: criminal psychology. As Fitz confesses in "Brotherly Love": "I drink too much, I smoke too much, I gamble too much. I am too much."
Each case spanned several episodes and cliffhangers were quite often used, but it was not until the end of the second series that a cliffhanger was employed to tie off the series. Some of the plotlines in the cases took as their starting point real events such as the Hillsborough disaster, while others were purely fictional with only tangential ties to actual events.
Several different psychotic types were explored during the run of the show with increasingly complex psychological motivations that, as the series entered the middle of the second series, began to expand beyond the criminals being investigated to the regular cast members. As the series moved forward the storylines became as much about the interactions of the regulars as it was about the crimes. In many later episodes, in fact, the crimes often became background to intense, provocative explorations of the police officers' reactions to the crimes they investigated.
To emphasise how fine a line the police (and Fitz) walk in their close association with criminals, all three series featured several stories in which the police become victims of crime or themselves commit criminal acts like rape, obstruction of justice and assault and battery.
- Robbie Coltrane as Dr. Edward "Fitz" Fitzgerald. The character was named after the English poet and writer Edward FitzGerald, according to series creator Jimmy McGovern. Coltrane won three consecutive BAFTA Awards for the role, a streak only matched by Michael Gambon, Helen Mirren and Julie Walters.
- Christopher Eccleston as DCI David Bilborough
- Ricky Tomlinson as DCI Charlie Wise
- Geraldine Somerville as DS Jane Penhaligon
- Lorcan Cranitch as DS Jimmy Beck
- Barbara Flynn as Judith Fitzgerald
- Kieran O'Brien as Mark Fitzgerald
- Tess Thomson as Katy Fitzgerald
- John Evans as James Fitzgerald
- Ian Mercer as DS George Giggs
- Colin Tierney as DC Bobby Harriman
- Robert Cavanah as DC Alan Temple
- Stan Finni as Sgt. Smith
- Wil Johnson as PC/DC Michael Skelton
- Clive Russell as Danny Fitzgerald. Russell was cast at Coltrane's recommendation.
- Amelia Bullmore (Series 1.5, 1.6) and Isobel Middleton (Series 2.1, 2.3, 3.1) as Catriona Bilborough
- Edward Peel as the Chief Super
Notable guest stars
- Adrian Dunbar as Thomas Francis Kelly
- Nicholas Woodeson as Michael Hennessy
- Andrew Tiernan as Sean Kerrigan
- Susan Lynch as Tina Brien
- Samantha Morton as Joanne Barnes
- Christopher Fulford as Nigel Cassidy
- Robert Carlyle as Albie Kinsella
- Jim Carter as Kenneth Trant
- Graham Aggrey as Floyd Malcolm
- Mark Lambert as David Harvey
- Brid Brennan as Maggie Harvey
- John Simm as Bill Nash/Preece
- Liam Cunningham as Stuart Grady
- Emily Joyce as Janice
- Barnaby Kay as Dennis Philby
- Anthony Flanagan as Kenny Archer
The first two series were written by Jimmy McGovern, excepting the fifth serial "The Big Crunch," which was contributed by Ted Whitehead. Claiming that he had "nothing more to write about," McGovern originally planned to leave after the second series, but was allowed to write the controversial rape storyline, "Men Should Weep", when he agreed to contribute a three-part story to the third series. Two of McGovern's stories, "To Say I Love You" and "Brotherly Love" (from the first and third series respectively), received Edgar Awards from the Mystery Writers of America. Each serial had a different director, with the exceptions of "To Be a Somebody" and "True Romance", both directed by Tim Fywell.
Paul Abbott, who had produced the second series, wrote the remainder of the episodes (including the feature-length special "White Ghost"). Abbott later went on to create several high-profile dramas, including Touching Evil (1997), State of Play (2003) and Shameless (2004). Another crew member, Nicola Shindler, who worked as script editor on the programme, later went on to found Red Production Company.
Of the regular cast, only Coltrane and Tomlinson featured in "White Ghost" (retitled "Lucky White Ghost" for some overseas markets), which was set in Hong Kong. Although the series was still drawing large audiences, after "White Ghost" Coltrane declined to return as Fitz unless McGovern returned to write the series.
Cracker returned a decade after "White Ghost" in the 2006 special episode, "Nine Eleven", written by McGovern and directed by Antonia Bird. Coltrane, Flynn and O'Brien were the only actors to return in their previous roles. The new roles of DCI Walters, DS Saleh and DS McAllister were played by Richard Coyle, Nisha Nayar and Rafe Spall respectively. The story involved Fitz returning to Manchester after several years of living in Australia with Judith and his son James (who had been born during the third series) to attend his daughter Katy's wedding. The murder of an American nightclub comedian sends the police to ask Fitz for his help.
The series was principally filmed in South Manchester, at locations including Didsbury (where Fitz lived at the fictitious address of "15 Charlotte Road") and the police station at Longsight. The internals for the police station were filmed in the old Daily Mirror offices in central Manchester, now The Printworks retail complex. Other Manchester locations included Victoria Railway Station, St Peter's Square, Old Trafford, the Arndale Centre, UMIST, University of Salford, the Ramada Hotel, the Star & Garter pub, Fairfield Street (opposite Piccadilly Station) and the Safeway supermarket (now Morrisons) in Chorlton-cum-Hardy. The Hulme Crescents were also used for filming in the first two episodes of series one and the first episode of series two; during which time they were being demolished. The first episode involved several railway scenes which were filmed on the East Lancashire Railway in Bury (North Manchester) both on the trackside and inside the Carriage & Wagon Works, where working volunteers from the railway used crowbars to push the carriage springs up and down to suggest a moving train, while water was poured on the windows to suggest rain between a black polythene sheets and the window to indicate darkness.
In 1997 a short spoof episode, Prime Cracker, was produced for the BBC's biennial Red Nose Day charity telethon in aid of Comic Relief. A crossover with ITV stablemate crime drama Prime Suspect, the spoof starred Coltrane and Prime Suspect lead Helen Mirren as their characters from the respective series, sending up both shows.
In 1997 a 16-part US version of Cracker — directed by Stephen Cragg and Michael Fields — was made, starring Robert Pastorelli in Coltrane's role. The original UK story lines were transferred to Los Angeles. The series finished after the first season. It was broadcast in the UK, retitled Fitz.
- 'Head case' SMH.com.au; 30 September 2004
- From the business card that Fitz presents to his stalker in the episode "True Romance".
- Crace, John (1994). Cracker: The Truth Behind The Fiction. Granada/Boxtree. ISBN 0-7522-0974-4.
- Duguid, Mark (17 April 2009). Cracker. BFI TV Classics. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan/BFI Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84457-263-2.
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