Lost Gems: Touching Evil (US)

Watch it! It's on tele tonight!


Is six years too soon for something to be a Lost Gem? Whatever the haggling on that one, it’s a moot point now, since a Lost Gem is about to be recovered (briefly).


The world is occasionally filled with small miracles. Tonight, starting at 2.45am, ITV1 in the UK has decided to reshow the US version of Touching Evil, one of the TV shows regularly flagged up in Top Ten Lists of “shows that should never have been cancelled”. Now you can take a trip back in time to 2005 and my fifth ever blog entry for a very exciting brief essay on why you should all watch it (and an exhortation that you should all watch season two of The Wire on FX, proof if any be needed that I’m right before everyone else, including Charlie Brooker, and you should all listen to me) or you can stick with me here for a few seconds for some updated reasons.


If you’re unfamiliar with both the UK version (which starred Robson Green, was created by Paul Abbott with occasional scripts from the likes of Russell T Davies) and the US version, the more literal plot is that it’s about a police detective who gets shot – in the head – and who comes back to work brain damaged, his life a mess and his personality altered. However, that brain damage also gives him certain insights and skills (nothing supernatural, unlike the UK version) that enable him to catch criminals better, even if it does make him obsessive and cross lines he genuinely shouldn’t cross.

The less literal theme of the show, as the title suggests, is the corrosive nature of evil – how it affects those who do it, those around them and above all the people who have to stop them. And it’s brilliant. It’s dark, it’s brilliant, and it isn’t afraid to go to places US TV almost never goes. And happy endings in it are very, very rare, which isn’t to say it isn’t also very funny at times.

Why’s it so good? Mainly, because of the writing. It has scripts from the likes of Bruno Heller (Rome, The Mentalist), Ronald D Moore (Battlestar Galactica), Anna Fricke (Everwood, Men in Trees, the forthcoming US version of Being Human) and Michael Angeli (Battlestar Galactica).

But it’s also exec-produced and occasionally directed by the Hughes Brothers (Dead Presidents, From Hell), who give the show a distinct air of unreality. You’re never quite sure if the whole thing is some near-death experience of the lead character’s; whether it is or it isn’t, it’s certainly beautiful to look at.

As if all that weren’t reason enough, there’s the cast. It stars Jeffrey Donovan from Burn Notice and the Oscar/BAFTA-nominated Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air), and co-stars Bradley Cooper (The Hangover, The A-Team) and Kevin Durand (Lost). They weren’t such big names back then so now you get to see them c2004, stretching their acting muscles.

It also features guest appearances by actors including Peter Wingfield (Highlander, Caprica), David Eigenberg (Sex and the City), Andrea Thompson (Babylon 5), Pruitt Taylor Vince (Deadwood) and the mighty Željko Ivanek (Damages, Heroes), who manages to out-do Ian McDiarmid, who played the same role in the UK original.

To whet your appetite and to show you what kind of series it is, here’s the first three minutes or so, followed the wonderfully dark title sequence and excellent theme tune (episode two onwards), and a clip of some of the series highlights, should you want to spoil it for yourself.

But whatever you do, do yourself a favour and watch it. It’s not out on DVD and it only gets repeated every five years (although you can scour YouTube for the eps if you miss one).


  • I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.