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Don't Miss This, It's A Cracker


Forget everything else tonight, Cracker's back in a brand new adventure that has not even been shown in the UK. What's not to like about Cracker? Great script, great acting, good characters, rapid pace and best of all, a leading man so flawed but so vital, so passionate, so eratic. Great at his job, hell to be married to. Ten years have gone by in the life of Fitz since last we saw him, observed his dalliance with Penhaligon and the complication of his wife, Judith, becoming pregnant. They have spent the intervening years in Australia, and are back in Manchester, for their daugher Katy's wedding. And yes, Fitz is behaving badly again. Enjoy his inspired performance at the wedding, and weep. 


Manchester is a changed town but Fitz is not. He finds himself working on the case of a dead comedian and soon is lured into a deeply engrossing hunt which involves a former British soldier still burdened with the horrors of his time in Northern Ireland and inspired to violence the spectre of the Twin Towers disaster. Fitz - his name is Eddie, which always amuses me - is eager to prove he can still get in the mind of a killer, and not so eager to catch the plane back to Australia. Again, poor Judith pays the price for being Fitz's wife. 


Robbie Coltrane's Fitz is the creation of one of television's very best storytellers, the legendary Jimmy McGovern. He didn't write every episode of the previous series and the ones written by others were easy to spot - not because they were bad but because they just lacked that special edge that comes with McGovern's work. His ability to get inside his characters requires great effort. But it shows. Indeed, Coltrane would not come back for this feature-length episode without the assurance of McGovern's pen. The heavy-drinking, heavy-smoking Fitz is such a powerful character. You can almost smell the cigarette smoke, the sweat, the sheer weight of his presence. As for as dramatic creations go, they don't come much better than Fitz. Miss this at your peril.



Fitz of Passion 


Robbie Coltrane returns to his greatest role, writes Greg Hassall.

For fans of intelligent British crime drama, the return of Cracker is like the second coming. It's 10 years since Robbie Coltrane (pictured) last played Eddie "Fitz" Fitzgerald, the show's brilliant, but flawed, anti-hero, and 12 years since creator Jimmy McGovern wrote an episode. Now they're back with a two-hour Cracker special, Nine Eleven, and Australian viewers will be the first in the world to see it when it airs this week on Seven. McGovern stopped writing for Cracker early in the third season, explaining to The Guide in 1999 that "I didn't think there was anywhere else for it to go". Writing duties were taken up by Paul Abbott (State of Play, Shameless), who had worked on the show previously as a producer. Abbott is a fine writer but the show never reached the dizzy heights of the first two seasons and Coltrane quit after the 1996 telemovie White Ghost, refusing to do any more episodes unless McGovern wrote them.


Fast forward a decade and the pair are reunited. So what brought McGovern back to the project? McGovern told British magazine The Works that he had agreed to write another Cracker for Granada if the broadcaster sponsored a charity he supported. An inauspicious start, perhaps, but McGovern has declared the finished product "excellent" and said Coltrane was "very happy" to take part. Nine Eleven sees Fitz return to Manchester for his daughter's wedding after seven years in Sydney with his wife. He gets involved in the hunt for the killer of an American comedian and finds himself on the trail of a troubled former soldier. "It's about a man driven mad by the aftermath of 9/11," McGovern said. "That's been the most amazing thing that's happened to white people in my experience. It's about that and the world today, as seen through the eyes of a white man in Britain." 


Making Nine Eleven was such a positive experience for McGovern and Coltrane that, according to unconfirmed reports in the British press, both have committed to a full series of new episodes next year. An enticing prospect, but for now the world premiere of the first instalment in 10 years will do nicely. Cracker: Nine Eleven airs on Seven on Friday at 8.45pm.



Fitz, Robbie Coltrane's giant among TV characters, is back on the job.


It will be no surprise that writer Jimmy McGovern, having invented Eddie "Fitz" Fitzgerald, should, in returning to this giant among TV characters, have something that he would like to get off his chest. A polemic or two, maybe? Ah, yes, one of which is now fired against the Americans and particularly their role in Iraq and then, almost simultaneously, the British and their role in Northern Ireland. It's been a while since McGovern handed some of his storytelling skills over to Paul Abbott, in whose safe hands Cracker continued, seamlessly, with Robbie Coltrane continuing to find fresh nuances in portraying Fitz as a hopeless, ultimately soft-centered family man, with razor-sharp perceptions of how life should be lived - if only he could manage it.


McGovern has picked up his pen and Fitz is back in his life, as much a pisspot and addicted gambler as ever, but now his wife is back by his side. Where has he been these past seven years? Why, Australia, of course. When the need arises to make themselves scarce, British television characters are traditionally dispatched to the ends of the Earth. So, as Fitz explains to the Manchester taxi driver on his return, it's been the "land of skin cancer and Skippy".  Fitz is beaming and fabulous in morning suit as he escorts his daughter down the aisle. His manner reverts to the Fitz of old, then lets loose at America in a dazzling diatribe to the groom's father.


So I have avoided telling you what Nine Eleven is all about and how Fitz returns to his old profiling skills. There has been a vicious crime, but you must wait 16 minutes for that as McGovern has things to say, and a further nine before Fitz is back on the job, divining wisdom from the urinals in a gents' lavatory. Lovely stuff.


Thanks to Bob Croucher and Greg Hassall for the above articles.

The Unofficial Guide To Cracker 1999-2006