sat 23/09/2023

Jericho, ITV | reviews, news & interviews

Jericho, ITV

Jericho, ITV

Once upon a time in the West Riding

3:10 to Swaledale: Clarke Peters, Jessica Raine and Hans Matheson on Yorkshire's wild frontier

Interesting idea – a Western set in the Yorkshire Dales in the 1870s. Jessica Raine, spotted last year as the other Boleyn girl in Wolf Hall and evidently keen to put Call the Midwife as far behind her as possible, stars as Annie Quantain, a schoolmaster's widow forced to leave the family home thanks to a mountain of debts. As the bailiffs cart away the furniture, she's horrified to find herself a penniless vagrant.

Desperate not to give up her children, she gets a tip that there's work to be had on a new viaduct-building project out in wildest Culverdale, and before long she's in among the boozing, brawling navvies and setting up a guest house.

It's more Little House on the Prairie than a bawdy shoot-'em-up saloon, despite being slap in the middle of a primitive shanty town. No can-can girls and honky-tonk pianists here, but instead we have Annie promising her tenants a mattress, meals and laundry service. "A man works harder on hot victuals than he does on cold," she instructs as she doles out breakfast. "You get to live a cut above the others."

Although Raine's Annie wears a permanent expression of pursed-lipped sulkiness, romance is already in the air. One of her tennants is hunky Johnny Jackson (Hans Matheson, pictured above with the Quaintain family), a strong, silent type with the obligatory personal-trainer torso who starts off carrying her suitcase and shortly thereafter moves in. However, Annie is going to be in need of his upstanding ruggedness, because the Culverdale viaduct project is seething with all kinds of conflicts.

A slaveringly beast-like worker called Red Killeen is out to kill Johnny (which he doesn't quite manage to do), but he also seems to have been hired to do some unscrupulous dirty work involving gunpowder. While the workers sweat and struggle among the cranes and scaffolding at the grand-looking viaduct set, a consortium of industrial fat-cats are planning to get rich on their labour. Ambitious landowner Charles Blackwood (Daniel Rigby) has a grand design to link together the London and Midland railways by building the splendid viaduct across his own estate (this will make Britain "one nation", he trumpets), but when there's a fatal explosion at the site, his financial backers drop out, leaving him gazing at an ocean of red ink. But wait – here comes his glamorous ex-lover Isabella (Jeany Spark) with a trust fund full of cash...

Despite the amount of plot stuffed into this 90-minute opener, there was still time for some luxurious shots of folk in period costume roaming across the moors accompanied by plangent piano musings, while elsewhere the souped-up folk music with screechy fiddle was suspiciously reminiscent of Ripper Street.

Writer Steve Thompson had laid plenty of booby traps to last through the remaining seven episodes. Annie's son George, for instance, has already managed to commit a murder, and by 'eck, bluff Yorkshire detective Mr Bamford (pictured left) is sniffing for evidence. Then we have the enigmatic Ralph Coates (the ubiquitous Clarke Peters), a veteran of building American railroads from Tehachapi to Tonapah, now over here and in charge of the Culverdale workforce. He seems to have a few dark secrets hidden under his Sergio Leone-style overcoat. It's all quite entertaining, but it's hardly Deadwood.

Although Annie wears a permanent expression of pursed-lipped sulkiness, romance is already in the air


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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