By Will Barber Taylor
When Dee Chandler Tate (Barbra Flynn) and her former sister in law, Ellie (Catherine Russell) set up a private detective agency, they had no idea what a dramatic turn their lives would take. The detective who discovered Elly’s ex-husband’s infidelities soon joins the team and when he’s not helping to crack the case Larry (Peter Capaldi) is shaking his head at their technological failures. Together they are Chandler & Co, the best private eyes out there.
In recent years, female led detective shows have enthralled TV viewers across Britain. Shows like Scott and Bailey and Happy Valley have helped redefine a genre that has centred on men for decades. However, these shows were not the first to pioneer female led detective fiction on TV; back in 1996 the BBC broadcast Chandler and Co. Starring Barbra Flynn and Catherine Russell, Chandler and Co’s USP was that it showed female private investigators starting out in their trade. As many of the characters in the series comment, neither Flynn nor Russell confirm to the dirty mac image of the detective. Far from it, the pair stands out as two individuals that want to help others rather than profit from their misfortunes as some PI’s do.
The overall arc of the series, shows the development of Ellie and Dee and is excellently done by creator and writer Paula Milne. The contrast between Ellie, who can operate without feeling the consequences of her investigative activities, is nicely contrasted by Dee who has a family and children. Throughout the series she bears the brunt of the detective work. The tensions created make the drama tangible and realistic. Dee constantly has to assess whether or not she can put her job first or her family. This dynamical dichotomy gives a core to the drama which makes each story all the more tense – will Dee feel that she can’t continue because of her family or will her chosen occupation wreak havoc on her social life? Mixing this in with the core investigation makes for addictive and sizzling television.
The acting is excellent with Barbara Flynn showing off her full range. She skilfully inhabits the character of Dee and makes her an empathetic and understandable woman; stuck at home without much intellectual outlook in her life, of course she would jump at the opportunity to prove her metal. The internal battle she must face between her desire for stimulus versus her desire to protect her children makes the series must watch television.
Peter Capaldi excels in the role of Larry. The suave and sophisticated Capaldi might not be the first person you’d expect to play a grubby and grimy hardboiled private dick but Capaldi inhabits the role perfectly. With his slouched stance and droll delivery, Capaldi brings the compassionate yet lazy Larry fully to life and dominates the scenes that he appears in.
Chandler & Co is a wonderfully dry, witty and yet truthful series about two women finding their place in the world. It is a joy to watch and can hold its chin up high in the cavalcade of detective dramas that have gone before and since.
With thanks to Simply Media. You can buy Chandler & Co here.
I love this series.