On the heels of The Broker's Man, Series 1, released this past February, comes the British show's second and final series. The policier-type investigation/mystery program stars Kevin Whately, the actor best known as Robbie Lewis, first as the junior Detective Sergeant on (Chief) Inspector Morse (1987-2000) and more recently as the senior Detective Inspector on Lewis (2006-present). The Broker's Man, produced near the end of Morse, when that program had forsaken its multi-episode seasons format for annual television movies during 1995-2000, remains largely unknown in America. As I noted in my review of Series 1, The Broker's Man doesn't even merit its own Wikipedia entry, and seems mostly forgotten even in Britain. But it provides Whately the chance to play a very different character from Robbie Lewis, even though the plots definitely fall within the same, general genre.
As before, Acorn Media's DVD releases will probably win the show some new fans, annoy others. The first series consisted of six 48-minute episodes in the form of three two-part stories. These were recut into three feature-length ersatz TV movies for DVD. For Series 2, the original six-episode format has been retained (wise, as they have more self-contained episodes), but both series are presented in a 4:3 letterboxed format that doesn't play well on the 16:9 television standard we have today. It's not clear if these shows were originally broadcast in widescreen but, regardless, they either should have been remastered for 4:3 full frame (assuming they weren't hard-matted to begin with) or, probably better, reconfigured for enhanced widescreen, in 1.66:1 format. As it is, unless you have a zoom function on your monitor/projector, you'll have to watch The Broker's Man with thick black borders around all four sides.
Once again, Whately plays Jimmy Griffin, "ex-job" (a former copper) now working as an independent insurance investigator. In the first series Jimmy was separated from his wife, Sally (Annette Ekblom), after she learned of his extramarital affair with a colleague. Jimmy broke off his relationship as soon as Sally found out about it, and he's been unceasingly contrite toward her ever since. She nevertheless held a grudge for most of Series 1, in the end allowing Jimmy to move back home. In Series 2 the family is reunited, but he's sleeping in another room and she's still withholding sex. Just as it looks like Jimmy and Sally might reacquaint themselves sexually, problems arise with one or both of their kids: teenage daughter Jody (Holly Davidson) and her younger brother, Dominic (Danny Worters).
In this series of episodes there's more of a clear divide between Jimmy's work and home life. There's still some spillover: In the first season Dominic was kidnapped in one episode, relating to a case that Jimmy was working on, and in this season gangsters threaten Jimmy's family in one show. But this time Jimmy's home life is beset with familiar family problems often only slightly related to his work: Jody sneaking out to go nightclubbing the same evening the place is torched, and Jody's problems at school.
But like before, Jimmy's job also creates tension with regard to his income, his small investigation company forever on the verge of closing up shop. Fortunately, Jimmy's got two loyal employees, both amusing, interesting characters: assistant Harriet Potter (the irrepressibly cute Charlotte Bellamy, replacing Sarah-Jane Potts from Series 1), a woman anxious to be more hands-on with the investigations; and Vinnie (Al Ashton), Jimmy's fat but tough and tenacious right-hand man. Ashton was one of the show's creators and wrote the majority of its scripts. Sadly, the prolific writer-actor died in 2007 at the age of 49.
Episodes fall into a recognizable but entertaining formula. Jimmy usually takes on a case where either the insurance company or claimant are anxious to settle the matter quickly, but Jimmy's not so sure, butting heads with the police, gangsters, and sometimes the claimants themselves while trying to get at the truth. There's usually a "B Story," often humorous in tone, which normally Harriet or Vinnie are investigating. In one of these, Harriet is investigating a middle-aged male porn star insisting that he's unable to perform and thus files for a loss of work revenue.
Despite the obvious formula, The Broker's Man is entertaining and intelligent, and often pretty clever. In this batch I particularly liked "Pensioned Off," about a female police officer harassed and injured in a hazing incident by her misogynistic fellow officers. It's a shame The Broker's Man didn't continue beyond these two seasons.
Video & Audio
The Broker's Man appears to have been shot in Super-16(mm) with video-generated credits. It's not clear to me whether the series was originally broadcast in some form of widescreen, but these cropped 4:3 LBX presentations aren't very attractive on today's 16:9 HD monitors; they do source what are probably the original masters but are, on the whole, disappointing. The stereo audio is notably better, and optional English SDH are included. No Extra Features.
Unsurprisingly, Kevin Whately's performance and the intelligent teleplays make The Broker's Man worth watching, even though the video transfers disappoint. Recommended.
Stuart Galbraith IV is the Kyoto-based film historian and publisher-editor of World Cinema Paradise. His credits include film history books, DVD and Blu-ray audio commentaries and special features.