New Tricks

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
It's all right, it's okay. Doesn't really matter if you're old and grey.

"You shoot one dog in this country..."

—DS Sandra Pullman

New Tricks (2005-2015) was a BBC crime comedy/drama about the investigations of the Metropolitan Police's (fictional) Unsolved Crimes and Open Cases Squad (UCOS). Although mostly a Mystery of the Week Police Procedural, it also combines a hint of Amateur Sleuth in that most of the members of the squad are actually retired policemen employed to investigate unsolved crimes. The only serving police officer on the squad is the boss, Detective Superintendent Sandra Pullman (Amanda Redman), an uptight, tough-as-nails investigator. Her previously high-flying career came crashing down to earth through an unfortunate dog-shooting incident, resulting in her reluctant appointment to the newly created UCOS. Faced with an unappealing selection of job applicants, she recruited:

  • Jack Halford (James Bolam), an ex-Detective Chief Superintendent and Pullman's old boss and mentor, who left the job in grief over the unsolved hit-and-run death of his beloved wife Mary.
  • Brian 'Memory' Lane (Alun Armstrong), a brilliant but highly eccentric and anti-social detective with an instant-recall memory and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. A recovered alcoholic.
  • Gerry Standing (Dennis Waterman), a Jack-the-lad charmer with three ex-wives (that he is on excellent terms with), a gambling habit and some shady ethics, who left the force under suspicion of corruption after punching out his boss (who just happens to now be Pullman's boss). A softened-for-comedy version of what George Carter, Waterman's character in The Sweeney, would be like today, complete with long hair, wide flashy neckties, constant smoking etc.

Also frequently appearing were Pullman's bosses (Don Bevan in the pilot and first series, Robert Strickland in the second onwards) and Esther Lane (Susan Jameson), Brian's put-upon and long-suffering but loyal wife.

Although a mystery series, much of the interest in the show comes from the characters and their various eccentricities, and in particular the culture clash between modern police methods (represented by Pullman and her media-and-statistics conscious superiors) and the old-school ways (Halford, Lane and Standing, are all cops from the seventies and eighties). Pullman is often exasperated by the corners cut and rules ignored by her colleagues, even as she herself is gradually 'corrupted' by them. In some ways, it can be said to foreshadow the popularity of Life On Mars, only instead of the boringly squeaky-clean modern copper being sent to the past to be 'corrupted' by it, the past's veteran coppers return in the present.

This is also a seriously popular show- repeats have been known to get eight million or more viewers, and they can be found pretty often at that.

Tropes used in New Tricks include:
  • Becoming the Mask: In the episode "Only the Brave", it turns out the murderer was Reverse Mole Knowles who had gone native in the gang he was sent in to investigate.
  • Benevolent Boss: Strickland's grown into this role over time; having started as something of a politically-minded Pointy-Haired Boss he's gradually earned the respect of the team and vice versa.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Jack, whilst normally a pleasant, gentle sort of fellow, possesses a sharp and sometimes violent temper if someone (usually a murderer or corrupt cop) has really managed to annoy him. Also Brian, when he hasn't been taking his meds.
  • Big Secret: There are usually three or four of these per episode, invariably complicating the murder investigation.
  • Blessed with Suck: It's established that Brian's remarkable photographic instant-recall memory and outstanding abilities as a detective and forensic investigator are the direct result of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and a manic depression that, if he doesn't take his medication, leaves him with crippling, obsessive paranoia and at the best of times renders him an anti-social pedant. He is also a recovered alcoholic.
  • The Charmer: Gerry.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Brian turns into one of these if he comes off his anti-depressants; most notably in one episode where the team are investigating the suspicious death of a prominent 1970s trade unionist, Brian — himself a member of the Police Union during his service — becomes convinced that he's being observed.
  • Conveyor Belt of Doom: Gerry is almost dragged into a chopping machine when his jacket snags on a conveyor belt in "Dark Chocolate".
  • Creepy Souvenir: The Searies 8 finale involves a serial killer who keep body parts in VHS cassette boxes, with labels like "Goldfinger" for the fingers.
  • Da Chief: Sandra and her superior officers.
  • Danger Takes a Backseat: In "Only the Brave", one of the gang members tries this on Sandra with a gun, but she breaks his nose instead.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Each member of UCOS has their moments.

Gerry: So, Ricky Hanson... mate of yours?
Jack: Biggest murdering, thieving, lying piece of morally-bankrupt shite I've ever laid eyes on.
Brian: Oh. Nothing personal then.

  • Death Seeker: Jack confesses that he is sometimes this, when explaining why he doesn't want an award for bravery when he knows he was really just trying to get killed.
  • Defective Detective: Brian, as mentioned above.
    • To a lesser extent, the others as well: Jack most obviously with his grieving for his late wife Mary, but Gerry has to deal with borderline addictions to gambling and cigarettes (although he can control his booze, oddly enough) and a lingering reputation for corruption, and Sandra has to cope with being a workaholic with no social life and the lingering memory of her father's suicide.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Brian's life has been very full since his retirement: grandchildren, gardening, football, swimming, day trips, gardening, car, pets, dogs, the wife... did he mention gardening?
  • Do-It-Yourself Theme Tune: That's Dennis Waterman singing the tune, which he also wrote.
    • George Harrison, famous as being one of the Beatles, actually wrote the song as "End of the Line", which Dennis Waterman changed to "It's Alright".
  • Eureka Moment: Brian is sometimes given to these.
    • Parodied with a subversion in one episode when Gerry sees someone he recognizes in an old 1980s video about a peace protest. We're lead to assume that he's just had a sudden breakthrough about the case... until he proudly announces "I had her!"
  • Everything's Better with Penguins: Brian's tattoo.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Sandra is choleric, Gerry is sanguine, Brian is melancholic, and Jack is phlegmatic.
  • Giving Them the Strip: In "Dark Chocolate", Gerry escapes the Conveyor Belt O' Doom by taking off his jacket.
  • Innocent Innuendo: Brian often tends to wander into these.
  • Insult Backfire: At the end of the pilot, Sandra refers to the boys as 'criminals'. They react with offense. She amends the insult to 'crooks'. This, they can live with.
  • Interservice Rivalry: When an old case crosses with a new case, most commonly due a murderer trying to cover their tracks, UCOS are supposed to hand the old case over to the people investigating the new case and back off. Needless to say they don't like doing this.
  • Ironic Echo: In the pilot, the deputy commissioner tries to shut down Jack when he approaches him for a warrant by smugly pointing out that he's not actually a police officer any more. At the end, when the same deputy commissioner is getting his arse kicked in the climactic punch-up and begs Jack for help, Jack -- who, with the others, his happily standing on the sidelines watching the chaos -- 'apologetically' points out that he's "not actually a police officer anymore, remember?"
  • It's Personal: Jack was hell bent on brining down crime boss Ricky Hanson, the man who murdered his wife. Jack actually tries to kill him with his car at one point, but only ends up hospitalizing himself and the whole team. Up to Eleven when Hanson takes the opportunity to try and smother him in his hospital bed (while rubbing his wife's death in his face no less) and still gets away with it due to having a ruthlessly efficient lawyer who destroys the case by referencing all of the teams flaws (including Jacks obsession with bringing Hanson down), to make them all seem like unreliable witnesses. The team celebrate with champagne when they finally bring him down in a later episode.
  • Kick the Dog: Subversion / parody - in the pilot, Sandra - a decent person - is forced to shoot one that is attacking her, but the resulting public outcry completely derails her career and makes her a laughing stock ("You shoot one dog in this country...").
  • Monkey Morality Pose: Brian, Gerry and Jack at the end of "Powerhouse".
  • The Mourning After: Jack's wife may be dead, but he still considers himself very married.
  • Necro Cam: Not as often as you'd think, though, especially given that most of the cases that are dealt with occurred up to 20 years ago and this isn't Waking the Dead.
  • Innuendo Backfire: During a case that briefly took Brian into Soho, a lady of the night approached him asking if he 'had the time.' Misunderstandings ensued.
  • No Medication for Me: Averted, Brian never gets any better if he comes off his meds.
  • Noodle Incident: Whatever Gerry did when he got neuro-linguistically programmed and "Baker Street" was played.
  • Off the Wagon: Brian. Handled far far better than many instances of this trope though.
  • Old-Fashioned Copper: Jack, Brian and Gerry, although the writers hang a lampshade on the trope by having the characters gleefully excuse their actions with the (reasonable) justification that, technically, they aren't actually cops anymore.
    • Played with at times; sometimes, the old-fashioned way of doing things makes things worse, and the new methods are the better ones, for their flaws.
  • Pac-Man Fever: Averted, as Jack is seen playing Ghost Squad on the Wii and doing very well.
  • Political Correctness Gone Mad: Although they're not too bad for the most part, the boys can at times have difficulty adjusting to more modern ways of thinking about things like race, gender equality, etc., which can cause tension.
  • Put on a Bus: P.C Clarke, the squad's uniformed IT officer-slash-gofer, disappears between Series 1 and Series 2.
  • Red Baron: Brian "Memory" Lane and Gerry "Last Man" Standing. The former because of his impressive memory ("Memory Lane"). The latter was mockingly given to him by a mob boss, in both a straight forward[1] and ironic[2] manner).
  • The Seventies and The Eighties: Some episodes revolve around cases from that period.
  • Ship Tease: Earlier episodes seemed to suggest some kind of potential relationship between Gerry and Sandra, but this was gradually dropped. The two nevertheless over time went from being quite sharp with each other to becoming quite good friends, however.
  • Shout-Out: A recent episode had Sandra describe some of Gerry's dodgier actions as being "out of the Life On Mars handbook". The two shows have often been compared by critics because their concepts can be viewed as mirror images (70s coppers back at work in the present vs modern copper in the 70s).
  • Slave to PR: Sandra's bosses are very aware of the power of publicity and often saddles the team with pointless cases merely for the sake of favorable press. Averted for the team, they simply don't care as they are not technically policemen anymore.
  • Someone Elses Problem: At the end of the pilot, the final arrest occurs at a dinner the villain is hosting, which results in a punch-up between the villain's family and friends and the cops, with everyone pitching in... except for one bloke, presumably not that fond of the villain, who just calmly finishes his meal with the chaos going on around him and walks out when everyone's gone, blithely muttering 'very nice' to the main characters as he leaves.
    • In the same scene, Jack, Brian and Gerry -- having caused the fight in the first place -- decide discretion is the better part of valor and stand back to let the actual coppers take care of things, offering a running commentary all the while.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Several episodes end on a sombre or even bleak note, which can make it a bit disorientating when Dennis Waterman suddenly starts singing "It's alright, it's okay, doesn't really matter if you're old and grey..." in a cheerful tone with the end credits. Later series introduced a more melancholy ending theme which would be played in such situations.
  • Stealth Insult: While investigating a crime in a museum, Gerry wonders what it is like to spend every day surrounded by fossils. Sandra thinks she has an idea.
  • The Summation: A neat little subversion occurred once, in which Gerry explained how a crime didn't occur.
  • The Swear Jar: Has the detectives install one, which eventually allows them to go out for a nice meal on the town. Gerry's a bit aggrieved that he didn't get to choose, since he "put most of the bloody money in."
  • Theme Naming: The writer named Jack, Brian and Gerry after the oldest spectator stand at his favorite football (soccer) club, West Bromwich Albion (Halford Lane Standing).
    • Late in the series it turns out Gerry has relatives in the meat business. Their names? Barry, Harry, Gary, Mary, Larry, and Terry.
  • Toyota Tripwire: Brian does this in "Good Morning Lemmings": opening the door of the surveillance van to flatten a fleeing suspect.

  1. Because he was the only copper on the force who didn't take a bribe from him.
  2. Because he was the only officer who was accused of corruption as a result.