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Acorn Offers Crime-Solving Twists and Turns With ‘Loch Ness’
June 19, 2017  | By David Hinckley

The new murder mystery Loch Ness introduces us to some monsters who live around Scotland’s most famous lake and, alas, are not mythological.

Loch Ness, a six-episode British series that becomes available Monday on the streaming service Acorn, pits two imperfect female detectives against an unseen serial killer.

Laura Fraser (top left and below), best known here as an ice-cold drug dealer in Breaking Bad, plays Annie Redford, a small-town detective who hasn’t handled a murder case before.

She’s smart and perceptive. She also has something that seems to be standard issue with female TV police officers: a kid who causes her trouble.

For Annie, that’s Evie (Shona McHugh), who is 18 and about to leave home.

Evie isn’t a bad kid. She’s just a teenager, and she thinks it’s cool to join some of her teenage friends in an elaborate prank that places the apparent skeletal remains of a large creature on the banks of the lake.

Unbeknownst to Evie and her friends, those fake remains include a human heart, which raises the question of who was once its host.

At the same time, an actual dead human body is found beside the lake. This one, the police can identify. It’s Niall Swift (Jordan McCurrach), who hours earlier had been sacked by Dr. Simon Marr (John Heffernan) as the piano teacher for Marr’s daughter.

Their falling-out was triggered by Marr’s loud insistence that he is a Christian, by God, and Swift was somehow instilling filth in his daughter through his piano instruction.

As this might suggest, our small town is chest-deep in dirty little secrets and nasty minidramas.

This gives it a superficial resemblance to the title town in sister Brit drama Broadchurch, though the issues and tensions here go in notably different directions.

Annie has support at home from her husband, but Evie’s involvement in the fake monster prank has put Annie in a tough position at work.

She is considered too compromised to work on the murder case since there are troubling if unconfirmed potential connections among the fake monster’s human heart, Niall Swift’s body and a slow accumulation of seemingly unrelated body parts elsewhere in town.

Annie finally gets onto the case by working with another detective, the no-nonsense Lauren Quigley (Siobhan Finneran, top right). They’re not Rizzoli and Isles, but they’re relentless, and they have the help of another investigator who is known for his unorthodox methods, Blake Albrighton (Don Gilet, left).

It takes a while to figure out the lineup here, once you throw in a couple of shadowy townsfolk, a couple of other locals who are just annoyed about this whole investigation, and some less-than-helpful fellow police.

Despite the obstacles, Annie and Lauren finally figure out what they’re dealing with and who might have perpetrated it.

It’s a tense, twisted path that doesn’t always promise to end happily, which gives viewers plenty of opportunities to guess what will happen next. Don’t expect always to get it right.

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Good news, TVWW readers: David’s new book from Doubleday, The Platinum Age of Television: From I Love Lucy to The Walking Dead, How TV Became Terrific is available on Amazon for $20. (Paperback will be available September 5th, here.)

Doubleday says: “Darwin had his theory of evolution, and David Bianculli has his. Bianculli's theory has to do with the concept of quality television: what it is and, crucially, how it got that way."

"The Platinum Age of Television is an effusive guidebook that plots the path from the 1950s’ Golden Age to today’s era of quality TV. For instance, animation evolved from Rocky and His Friends to South Park; variety shows moved from The Ed Sullivan Show to Saturday Night Live; and family sitcoms grew from I Love Lucy to Modern Family. A high point is the author’s interviews with Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Norman Lear, Bob Newhart, Matt Groening, Larry David, Amy Schumer and many others...Bianculli has written a highly readable history." —The Washington Post