Picking up a few months after the end of Strangers, in which Chief Inspector George Bulman walked away from the job and left a nation in mourning, Bulman sees our hero turn private eye and opening up a London clock hospital.
The trappings of the job may be gone, but thankfully the gloves and love of poetry are still present and correct.
Joined by Lucy McGinty (Siobhan Redmond) and occasionally aided by ex-colleagues Jack Lambie (Mark McManus) and Derek Willis (Dennis Blanch), Bulman’s desire for a quiet life never quite materialises as the underworld and the British Secret Service, the latter in the shape of Dugdale (Thorley Walters), infringe upon his solitude.
Fans will recognise find healthy traces of Strangers in Bulman, particularly the blend of humour and drama which, in lesser hands, could derail an episode.
Murray Smith’s One of Our Pigeons is Missing, in which a tramp is found dead and Bulman must go undercover as a down and out, is a typical example, the bizarre idea that the Anglo-Soviet conflict hinges on a small area of London’s Docklands given a touch of pathos by Murray Melvin and Maggie Jones.
Throughout these 13 episodes we’re given a new spin on various well-worn police procedural themes, Bulman’s move away from the constraints of the law allowing for a new lease of life for the character. The series has a breezy air about it, helped no end by Henderson’s skill at knowing how read a line and Smith’s perfectly pitched scripts.
Redmond is undoubtedly the other star of the piece, even if McGinty’s credentials are never fully explored. Though one misstep of an episode seems to bin most of what we know of McGinty as she goes undercover for British Intelligence without question, the rest of the series offers up scripts which should be required reading for screenwriters today.
By not shoehorning too much of Strangers into the programme – the odd appearance of Willis and Lambie is always a treat – and letting George K Bulman have the lion’s share of screen time, the series isn’t merely an opportunistic spin-off, but a fully fledged programme in its own right which should appeal to those unfamiliar with its predecessor.