Vexed (Series 1 & 2)

Primarily, this series is a simple sit-com with a police procedural veneer… and a very thin one at that. The buddy-cop formula is stretched to have a male chauvinist with uncanny luck at solving crimes and bedding women, paired with a female partner who is very much his equal. The give-and-take and differences are done better in other comedies which also incorporate more realistic crime process (for example: Murder in Suburbia), but there are some good laughs despite the groaningly bad investigatory process.

Season 1 is a mere 3 episodes and includes Lucy Punch (Doc Martin, The Giant Mechanical Man, and the current TV mess, Ben and Kate). Punch brings an interesting quality to the team in that she is very much a female version of Stephens’ detective. She allows him his actions and consequences, but as a good partner doesn’t tend to try and stop him or otherwise interfere. She is also happy to point out his issues and failings. Despite her own personal trials, she remains relatively strong in the job and in the relationship.

In the six episode Season 2, Punch is replaced by Miranda Raison (Dirk Gently, MI-5/Spooks). To their credit, they didn’t attempt to replicate the original pairing , but dropped in an extremely dedicated, single, junior detective who also happens to be exceedingly bright. That she was equally attractive allowed some of the season 1 by-play to continue. The new character, however, from a junior role, is rather weak, despite her trying to push back on her partner’s proclivities. Ultimately she ends up forging more of her own trail and it becomes a fractured team than a partner situation. On the positive side, the available tension between the two was very nice as they are both single this go-round.

Vexed is no more than an evening’s distraction as a show, but watching it evolve, from a show-runner point of view, was interesting. When US television attempts to recover from an unanticipated loss of a cast member, they almost inevitably try to recreate the original role rather than allow the story to grow. As much as I dislike Two and a Half Men, Lorre got past the loss of Sheen by pivoting deftly in a way that allowed him to keep what he thought worked without looking like it was a cheap copy of the season before–though that slipped over time. But this is an exception. In the UK, multiple shows have pulled of this kind of rethink (Misfits, Being Human, Ashes to Ashes). It requires the willingness to risk, which is anathema to the US market–even though when it is done well, it would more often save the show rather than tank it.

 

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