Despite what you see on television, police detective work is actually pretty boring in real life. Rarely, if ever, does a detective experience a brilliant Sherlock Holmes-style deduction or dramatic interrogation room confession.
Instead, it’s a matter of patience and persistence, interviewing dozens of people, poring over hours of surveillance tape or reams of documents, going over minute details again and again looking for some small discrepancy.
Acorn’s new miniseries “Manhunt,” premiering Monday, March 11, captures the unromantic reality of modern police work while still managing to be gripping viewing. And at only three 45-minute episodes, it’s an easy binge, basically a two-hour movie.
“Manhunt” is based on a real-life murder case that occurred in a London neighborhood in 2004. A young French woman is founded bludgeoned to death in a public park. Some of the details of the killing are somewhat similar to another murder that happened in the same area, but local police are hesitant to say that the deaths are connected. They don’t want to panic the locals that a serial killer is on the loose, and also don’t want to head too far down the wrong investigative path in case it’s just a coincidence.
Heading the case is Detective Colin Sutton (Martin Clunes), a low-key but dogged investigator. Sutton doesn’t have much evidence to work with — no witnesses, little physical evidence — and it’s engrossing to watch as he works the case, painstakingly poring over every detail. Much of the second episode involves Sutton and his team hunting for a white van, a lead that most of Sutton’s investigators think is a dead end. But it pays off.
Clunes is best known as the curmudgeonly physician in the BBC’s long-running comedy-drama “Doc Martin.” While Sutton is a taciturn, unshowy character (“I’m more John Major than Churchill when it comes to giving speeches,” he tells his department), he’s a ray of sunshine compared to the deeply dyspeptic doc. We sense that Sutton’s obsessive focus on the case is rooted in his deep empathy for the victim and finding justice for her, as shown in a quietly heartrending scene where he meets the dead woman’s grieving parents.
Sticking close to the facts of the case, “Manhunt” doesn’t have many dramatic twists or turns, and no fast-paced action. What it has is a respect and a commitment to the ordinary heroism of dogged police work, and how that led to the cracking of a notorious murder case.
Also on streaming: J.C. Chandor (“Margin Call,” “All is Lost”) is the latest big-screen filmmaker to make the move to Netflix with his new action thriller “Triple Frontier,” premiering Wednesday, March 13. A group of ex-Special Forces officers (including Ben Affleck and Oscar Isaac) hatch a plan to rob a South African drug lord. As in most heist movies, things don’t go as planned.
Aidy Bryant is one of the consistent bright spots in the current cast of “Saturday Night Live,” and she gets the chance to shine in a lead role in Hulu’s new comedy series “Shrill.” Based on the book by Lindy West, Bryant stars as a journalist dealing with bad boyfriends, comment trolls and a passive-aggressive mother (Julia Sweeney), who finally stops caring what other people think about her. The six-episode season premieres Friday, March 15.