CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night's TV: Moby-Dick meets Midsomer

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: Moby-Dick meets Midsomer… and it’s a whale of a time!

Annika

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The Secret Life Of The Zoo 

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There are sillier holidays, I suppose. You could go mountaineering on the Norfolk fens, or pick Heathrow Terminal 3 for a meditation retreat.

But a whale-watching expedition to Glasgow is equally certain to disappoint. If you do spot something huge and grey chuntering up the Clyde, it’s probably a nuclear submarine.

That didn’t occur to Nicola Walker, as a Nordic inspector seconded to the imaginary Scottish Police Marine Homicide Unit in the crime serial, Annika (Alibi channel).

She was completely unsurprised that her first case involved the captain of a whale-spotting tourist boat, shot through the eye with his own harpoon. In fact, she seemed to be expecting it, and kept turning to the camera to point out similarities between this murder and the plot of Moby-Dick.

Each episode follows a single case, unlike the real Scandi serials that unravel an investigation across 20 parts

It takes a confident, skilful actor to get away with sardonic asides to a television audience. Phoebe Waller-Bridge made it her signature in Fleabag. Too often, the effect is amateur and awkward, as in Liam Williams’s sitcom Ladhood, earlier this week.

But Walker, as DI Annika Strandhed, relishes the game. Her frequent sidelong glances and half-smile are warning us that, despite the body count, she doesn’t take this too seriously — and we shouldn’t either.

Surely no city, not even Glasgow, has so many murders that it requires a dedicated police unit solely for the water-based ones. And it seems unlikely that any copper could have an office where the ocean laps around a panoramic glass wall.

All these clues tell us to treat the show as a send-up, a noir version of Midsomer Murders.

Walker plays Annika with a hint of a Viking accent. It might be funnier if she spoke only Norwegian and had to be subtitled, but perhaps that would push the parody too far CHRISTOPHER STEVENS writes.

As in all the best Scandinavian crime dramas, our heroine drives a classic car — in this case, a soft-top Nineties Saab, perfect for those remote winding forest roads in the Glasgow suburbs.

Walker plays Annika with a hint of a Viking accent. It might be funnier if she spoke only Norwegian and had to be subtitled, but perhaps that would push the parody too far.

Each episode follows a single case, unlike the real Scandi serials that unravel an investigation across 20 parts. This time, a fisherman’s wedding ring tipped off Annika to the killer’s identity.

Jamie Sives (you’ll know him from any number of crime dramas) co-stars as her sidekick DS McAndrews, who might also be an ex-lover. He shares her bleak humour. ‘Cause of death . . . massive harpoon to the head,’ he opines, studying the corpse.

If you’re enjoying the sarcastic quips of Professor T on ITV on a Sunday evening, but wish that series had fewer bicycles and more speedboat chases, it’s worth finding out whether your TV gets the Alibi channel.

Another aquatic mystery was solved in The Secret Life Of The Zoo (C4) when vets X-rayed a turtle called Donatello, who was swimming on a slant.

Another aquatic mystery was solved in The Secret Life Of The Zoo (C4) when vets X-rayed a turtle called Donatello, who was swimming on a slant.

He looked like a wonky underwater frisbee. Scans showed he’d been eating gravel from the aquarium floor, and had taken on too much ballast. The scans also showed that the turtle was actually female — and renamed Donatella. That was simple enough, but twigging the sex of a stick insect called Taylor proved impossible — it had three wings, and both male and female bits.

The keepers were falling over themselves not to call Taylor either ‘he’ or ‘she’. Commendably sensitive, though I’m not sure what happens if you offend a stick insect. Do they snap? Their bark must be worse than their bite.

These unusual creatures were diverting, but with the focus also turning to otters and wild piglets, the show lacked a big, central attraction. A whale would have done nicely.

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