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100 TV Shows #42-Cracker


An actor who is primarily known as a comedian plays an abrasive genius who is a substance abuser and treats everyone around him like shit, but gets away with it because he always solves the case, even if it's not always in time to prevent more death. But we've already talked about House MD. (Even more amusing since Robbie Coltrane and Hugh Laurie worked together on Alfresco and both appeared in Blackadder.)

I agree it's not a perfect analogy, but there are some similarities including the fact that Fitz has no problem getting women at least he does get DS Penhaligan who tells her DCI that she's invited Fitz to go on holiday and "roger her rigid," still one of my favorite lines from a UK TV show.

Fitz is clearly a compulsive gambler, probably an alcoholic and a smoker. He mocks the idea of recovery and calls anyone who goes to GA a wanker. In a lot of ways, he strikes me as what House would have been like if he weren't played by an actor who brings an immense amount of good will the way Hugh does and if they'd allowed him to actually be unattractive. House keeps SAYING he's unattractive, but it's sort of like Hollywood Homely. We all know better and every woman (as well as Wilson) is forced to swoon at his feet, either literally or metaphorically. (Also if addictive behavior would allowed to have real consequences in Hollywood, or at least on Fox.)

The one thing Fitz lacks is a "Wilson." NO ONE is allowed to even have the illusion of getting close which makes him even more of a superior bastard and there's very little slashy potential that I could see, and if I'm not mistaken there's also some borderline homophobia.

When I watched the episodes back in the 90's....I think they were being shown on A&E or possibly Bravo, I was with Fitz all the way and even found him attractive, since as Irene Adler told us, smart is the new sexy. And of course because Fitz IS always right, eventually. Plus the accent, and the power of the performance. ALL the performances really, because aside from Robbie Coltrane, we got Christopher Eccleston as DCI Bilborough and when he calls Tina O'brien, "You murderin' bitch," it's one of the most chilling things EVER.

One reason to get the show on DVD is the number of actors making debuts or early appearances and giving absolutely SEARING performances, including an incredibly young John Simm, an absolutely terrifying Robert Carlyle, and Susan Lynch as the aforementioned Tina O'brien. Her reveal speech is absolutely frightening and heart-rending. "I was born to be dog." I haven't seen the shows in YEARS and I can still hear a lot of the exact intonations of the dialogue. Also points for being the first show I remember being set in Manchester so the accent was very new to me. (Is there any LoM crossover fic out there? If not, why not?)

As much as I bought into it at the time, I know find certain aspects problematic, especially the whole Housian (and maybe even Sherlockian, or at least BBC Sherlockian) premise of the bastard gets away with it because he's a genius. I'm still mostly willing to give House the benefit of the doubt, which may be Hugh-lust still in the cauldron, or the love I had for the writing before it all went to hell. In retrospect though, if I were ANY of the other characters on the show, I'd pretty much want to bitch-slap Fitz ALL THE TIME. (It's the same problem that ruined the last season of Lie to Me for me.)

Then there's the rape. Because you know, they just HAD to have a rape to make Penhaligan so much more vulnerable. And then they had to make Jimmy Beck the rapist, simply because he was the character who had the most antagonism against Fitz. It slightly bugged me then and it really bugs me now. It gets worse, not only did that have to demonize Jimmy, they had to resolve the plot by having him commit suicide and leave a letter admitting to the rape, which prior to that we hadn't been 100% sure of because Penhaligan didn't actually see him. If they'd left it even remotely ambiguous, maybe it wouldn't bug me so much, but bug me it does. Again, mostly because at the time I was like, OH, Jimmy doesn't like Fitz, he must be the rapist. There was nothing else in his character that necessarily put him in that role, except hating Fitz.

Wow! Apparently I still have a lot of feels as our Tumblr friends would say.

I still think the show was amazing and it's well-worth you checking out if you've never seen it, but be aware, some bad stuff in with the good. The good is REALLY good though. To me Robbie Coltrane isn't Hagrid, he's Fitz. (Wiki tells me he won three consecutive BAFTAS for the part. Well deserved.)

Not to be confused EVER with the American version of which the less said the better. PROBABLY the worst attempt at Americanizing a British show until Life On Mars US. (Maybe it shows that what happens in Manchester should stay in Manchester.)


( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 7th, 2012 07:14 pm (UTC)
smart is the new sexy.
This has always been true for me. Really smart people always turn me on, independently of looks, age and gender. Of course the combination of brains and a body type/face I would like anyway can drive me bonkers (that's why I like House, of course, and to a slightly lesser extent Wilson).

I'm fascinated by this whole TV series of yours, in case this wasn't obvious already.
Aug. 7th, 2012 10:27 pm (UTC)
Apparently there's a word for it, because there's a word for everything these days.


I'm enjoying the meme too, although finding 68 more shows is starting to feel a bit daunting.
Aug. 9th, 2012 02:35 pm (UTC)
It's only 58, hon :), you're almost halfway, not less than a third in. And thanks for the sapiosexual, the fact that there are so many words is part of why I love English. If only the connection between spoken and written language was less crazy.
Aug. 9th, 2012 06:31 pm (UTC)
Clearly, I am NOT a likely lust object for your sapiosexuality. :)
Aug. 7th, 2012 10:42 pm (UTC)
When House started, Hugh's character made me think of Cracker a lot. Not least because both are played by men who were comedians of the same school now in serious dramatic leads.

they had to make Jimmy Beck the rapist, simply because he was the character who had the most antagonism against Fitz.

It was a bit more complicated. SPOILER ALERT (highlight to read, assuming my html isn't failtastic)

Due to an error of judgement by Beck (I think he believed an oncologist's letter that Kinsella showed him was actually about Albie Kinsella, not his recently-deceased father, or maybe another error) Kinsella was free to murder Bilborough, and Penhaligon blamed Beck for Bilborough's death. Beck, too, felt guilty and took his guilt and anger out on Penhaligon by raping her (following the 'pattern' established by the case of a serial rapist they were investigating). Beck committed suicide the following year, his radioed suicide note quoting Bilborough's dying words.
Aug. 7th, 2012 10:52 pm (UTC)
Agreed there were some complexities, but it still doesn't sit well in my memory for various reasons including the fact that it effectively made Penhaligan an SRV (sainted rape victim) instead of a more multi-faceted character.

In my Hugh/Robert RPS series, I even had Hugh being leery of Robert getting to close to Robbie because he felt he was following in Robbie's shoes by taking the House role. I doubt Hugh felt any such thing, but it is a really interesting coincidence.
Aug. 8th, 2012 12:02 am (UTC)
I really need to watch more of this - I have the DVDs but I actually got to see some of the re-runs and haven't quite got around to it (I've also decided for reasons that Chris Eccleston can compete with Sean Bean for a certain title). Also I had some extremely inappropriate thoughts about young John Simm (and some weird slashy ideas with the mentor/older guy). I also find it amusing that Robbie went on to play Hagrid and the lady who played Penhaligan was cast as Lily. But yes. I loved the show. Very gritty.
Aug. 8th, 2012 12:08 am (UTC)
Oh wow! I hadn't even made the Lily connection. Shows how not that much of a Harry Potter person I am. Young Simm is just gorgeous and that episode isn't terribly ambiguous about their relationship. Gritty is the word, in that way that UK television is willing to be and US TV so rarely is.
Aug. 8th, 2012 01:22 am (UTC)
I know. I'm oddly not that much (mostly a book reader/movie watcher/occasional writer - I often get matched up in wider fandom ficathons on it and if I can't do the fandom matched on I can usually pull out a min length story with HP characters requested) of a HP person though I'm a fan of many of the actors, some of who I came to through HP - Jason Isaacs, David Tennant and even Robert Pattinson (when he's not in Twilight). But I do have a bit of a liking for redheads so I was curious about the casting of Lily and recognised her.

No it wasn't ambiguous. I think US is often safer. Australian TV seems to be (to me) somewhere in the middle and leaning closer to UK overall. I've seen things on our TV shows that I would never expect to see on US, pretty much.

Also Robert Carlyle was terrifying. But honestly, even when he's playing a good guy, he gives off villain vibes to me. With the possible exception of The Full Monty.

Edited at 2012-08-08 10:20 am (UTC)
Aug. 8th, 2012 06:59 pm (UTC)
In the case of Eccleston, Simm and Carlyle and even Lorcan Cranitch, it was the first thing I ever saw any of them in, so they were "fresh" to me and not carrying any character baggage as it were. I didn't see Trainspotting so after Cracker the first thing I saw Carlyle in was as the father in Angela's Ashes, which is one hard role to make even remotely sympathetic, but I thought he did a good job. Then I caught some episodes of Hamish MacBeth and seeing him in something considerably warmer was a shock. But yeah...villain vibe...when Albie starts singing the football chants. EEK! Especially because I wasn't familiar with the custom back then.

All the episodes live very powerfully in my memory despite having not seen them in years and that's the generally the mark of a good show. (Although it can also be the mark of a great disappointment.)
Aug. 8th, 2012 11:32 pm (UTC)
Oh interesting. Hmm. Eccleston I'd technically seen in a couple of movies (I liked him in The Others) but it was Who that really cemented him for me. Carlyle I did first see in Hamish MacBeth but there was something off about him even there, and then The Full Monty, and then there was Cracker - he was terrifying. He played the unsympathetic but not entirely evil protagonist in Stargate: Universe (I actually watched it for him despite having lost my love for SG-1 years ago and never seeing Stargate: Atlantis), and his character in Once Upon A Time is fairly villainous but possibly sort of sympathetic - it's kind of hard to tell how he's going to end up but he's definitely an antagonist. Also he has deliciously creepy tension that can be read as sexual with Jennifer Morrison's character (though maybe that's just me - there's a rather popular other ship for his character which I don't mind either, but then I'm not in the fandom, this is just as a viewer).

It is, I think. Also for a slightly sweeter part - I loved the part where Bilborough's wife had the baby. It was interesting to see Eccleston play that side of things. Of course I knew it wasn't going to last, already knowing his fate.
Aug. 9th, 2012 04:48 am (UTC)
I really have to check out Once Upon A Time, mostly to see what Jennifer Morrison can do when she's free of David Jacobs and his ass-hattery.

Aug. 9th, 2012 11:14 am (UTC)
I really enjoy it. I'm not into it fannishly per se, but I think it's a really interesting show, but I actually really love retellings and adaptations of fairy tales, especially darker takes. Jennifer's amazing in it - definitely my favourite character - and I like the rest of the cast. Robert's great, actually, he's just a great villain. There's also a lot of interesting guest star spotting.
Aug. 8th, 2012 02:31 pm (UTC)
there were FOUR American attempts to copy Fawlty Towers. Even more bizarrely, two of them starred Harvey Korman.
Aug. 8th, 2012 06:53 pm (UTC)
Aug. 9th, 2012 02:55 pm (UTC)
Sir, you are no John Cleese.
Sep. 15th, 2012 06:16 pm (UTC)
Some of the finest acting talent of the era
As an American who loves British drama so much that I own a region-free DVD player, I watched Cracker back in the 90's where I may have caught my first glimpse of Susan Lynch, Robert Carlyle, Christopher Eccleston, Lorcan Cranitch and John Simm. Cracker lead me to discover treasures like Prime Suspect, Rebus, Wire In the Blood, Silent Witness, Waking the Dead, etc.

Lorcan Cranitch is amazing! His character is complex yet recognizable. So much like a lot of cops with which I am familiar (on the job) that I had to keep reminding myself he was just a character. IMHO, the Beck on Penhaligon rape was too much of a caricature.

Here is where I disagree with you folks: Fitz's physique is less an issue bc "smart is the new sexy". First - Penhaligon is Fitz's junior by how many years? Would Fitz have lusted after a woman his own age? Many of us are familiar with the scenario of the doe-eyed school-girl infatuated with a teacher many years her senior. That's an old story.

Cracker seemed to accept the myth that (male) homosexuality = child molestation. Fitz should have been better informed. Back in the 90's it was already established that both pedophilia and child molestation were primarily the province of heterosexual, often devoutly religious, males. And yet, the episode equated the teacher's sexual orientation with being a child molester. It could have been done - no, it SHOULD have been done - so much better. When such gaffes are made on popular programs, it can cause a lot of harm.

As for intelligence being at least as important as looks - some traits, like obesity, are forgivable in a man but not so in a woman. Dr. Eddie Fitz is able to attract a "hot" woman even with all of his other problems; but what if Dr. Eddie Fitz were Dr. Edith Fitz, a morbidly obese woman? How likely would a young guy be hanging on "her" every word? The answer: NOT.

So many of us relate to Fitz bc he was his own worst enemy - the ultimate tragic hero - able to sort out clues that stump everyone else leading him to crack even the most illusive cases. He could attract a young, sexy Penhaligon - but could he maintain ANY healthy relationships? (Did he have the social skills to love anyone intimately?) Lacking any real insight to his own self destructive nature, he compulsively pursued the next big win - when, in fact, he already had what most of us want: a family who loved him in spite of his own self loathing.

Edited at 2012-09-15 06:20 pm (UTC)
Nov. 28th, 2015 01:38 am (UTC)
Re: Some of the finest acting talent of the era
Thanks for all your comments. Well thought out and succintly stated and SO TRUE that an Edith Fitzgerald would change the dynamic and probably not be put in that relationship. (I hate genderswap fic, but I'm suddenly tempted just to see what I could do with it.)

I don't if you're still out there in LJ land. Sorry I missed or overlooked this comment when originally posted.
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )



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