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Acorn's 'Suspects' Improvises On Police Drama
February 22, 2016  | By David Hinckley  | 2 comments

You might think there are only so many ways to tell a police drama, until TV shows like Suspects prove different.
Suspects, a British series that arrives on American television screens Monday courtesy of Acorn TV, sets itself apart because all its dialogue is improvised.
Yup. All of it.
To fit the mood and style, it’s also framed in a documentary style. Scenes look as if they were shot on hand-held video cameras or pulled from closed-circuit TV, the kind you find in an interrogation room or on the wall behind the counter at convenience stores.
Yes, there’s considerable risk here. Suspects could just end up looking gimmicky, like other shows that have dabbled in these techniques.
There’s an even greater danger that in a given episode or scene, all that improvised dialogue just won’t work, like a Saturday Night Live sketch gone bad.
That does happen sometimes. The fact the scenes don’t all look polished is fine, because that’s the point, but there are times when the dialogue meanders and falls out of the flow of the story.
The good news is that most of the time it all holds together. Between the real-time feel of the filming and the skill of the actors at blending in with their characters, Suspects more often than not feels fresh and different in a good way.
The actors make credible cops whose cases naturally all seem to have sensational elements: 2-year-olds missing and apparently murdered, pedophiles killing to cover their crimes, that sort of thing.
The three main characters are Detective Constable Charlotte “Charlie” Steele and Detective Sergeant Jack Weston and Detective Inspector Martha Bellamy (Damien Molony and Clare-Hope Ashley, top, with Fay Ripley, left).
Martha runs the East London precinct where Suspects is set. She didn’t get to that position by showcasing her soft side.
Jack and Charlie are smart street cops with a few flaws and insecurities, though we see very little of their private lives. Suspects focuses on the police aspects of the story and that’s a good decision, because it keeps the show moving at a fast clip.
It also enables the actors to focus their improv attention on the cases and not have to wonder when they need to break off and insert something from their childhood or their relationships.
Acorn rolls out the first season of Suspects on Monday, with the second season following on Feb. 29. Seasons three and four have also already aired in the U.K., with season five scheduled this year.
This being British TV, a “season” is a relatively brief affair. Season one is five episodes, each playing as a self-contained procedural, while season two is four episodes with a serialized story that runs through all four.
Remaining seasons are also four episodes each.
Acorn TV, which specializes in bringing dramas from the U.K. and other foreign lands to America, is available through www.acorn.tv as a subscription service offering a wide range of dramas, comedies, historical series and other overseas production.

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Kelly Bradford
I love British television,especially British Detective shows. One show in particular is Suspects and the character Jack who is too overzealous and arrests someone in every scene which is a little bit rediculous . His character should lighten up some which would seem for real.
May 12, 2018   |  Reply
I'm happy to see your critiquing Acorn shows. Lately I've been watching very little American TV but rather many hours of online international shows so these helps me a lot.
Feb 24, 2016   |  Reply
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