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DVD Review: Taggart: Set 2

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Fans of police procedurals and gritty crime drama will find the Glasgow-based Taggart satisfying. Taggart is the longest running police drama series in the world. It premiered in 1983, and is still running on ITV in the United Kingdom. This boxed set is comprised of eight episodes on four disks, the complete 20th season (2004).

Each episode opens with the discovery of a body or two, and challenges the viewer to solve crimes along with DCI Matt Burke (Alex Norton) and his crew. The murders are mostly brutal and the doer is seldom obvious. Starker than its American counterparts, Taggart often surprises with a bit of violence (murder, self-immolation) that most American programs would avert “in the nick of time.” Some plots are quite complex with current crimes retribution for past crimes; both the past and present crimes are solved, each with its own perpetrator heading off to jail or the graveyard.

Claustrophobic city scenes contrast with idyllic shots of the Scottish countryside. In an episode centering on the foot-and-mouth disease epidemic, “Compensation,” the views are breathtaking. This is the Scotland of our dreams. However, most stories take place in dreary city settings and beautiful suburban manors. Of course, some of the worst people live in the best places.

Three detectives assist DCI Burke; they are played by John Michie, Blythe Duff, and Colin McCredie. Blythe Duff, as DS Jackie Reid, gives a particularly thoughtful performance and is ever enjoyable to watch. She is the conscience of the group, as well as the peacemaker who tries to smooth things out. The other men on the team, Colin McCredie as DC Stuart Fraser and John Michie as DI Robbie Ross, provide interesting portrayals as well.

It is difficult to pick a favorite episode; the standard is that high. For example, as much as I liked “Compensation,” “Saints and Sinners” (which is about bad builders and corrupt lawyers) is just as good. One thing every episode has in common is no one cooperates with the police. Suspects, witnesses, and people who may know something all yell at and insult the inspectors and throw them out of their homes or places of business. In Great Britain, it would appear that righteous indignation is the first defense.

On the other hand, one can’t help loving the widows in Taggart. American television gives us very few merry widows, but here we see wives of influential rich men, whom we expect would be devastated, reacting calmly, happily even. Informed by the police of their husbands' deaths, they seem to respond, “You don’t say. Would you like a cup of tea?”

Crimes are solved using both well established police procedures and forensics. Viewers should expect a lot of violence and gallons of blood. There is adult language and some of the crimes are sexual in nature. Taggart also incorporates humor, but it is generally dark and ironic. Still, there are moments you will laugh out loud.

As interesting as it is to compare American and Scottish cultures, Taggart gives us the added opportunity to compare cultural differences between Glasgow and rural Scotland. American viewers who have a problem with the Scottish brogue—no one says “murder” quite like the Scots—can try running Taggart’s closed captions. There are no special features included with this set.

Bottom Line: Would I buy Taggart: Set 2? Absolutely. Already a fan of the genre, I quickly warmed up to this British import.

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