There are a couple of names that are big in BBC circles right now: Peter Capaldi and Paula Milne. Capaldi is of course set to become the 12th Doctor Who (or should that be 14th? We’ll soon know) this Christmas, while Milne has been responsible for series such as Angels, The Hour and The Politician’s Husband, as well as TV movies such as Legacy.
So it seems an appropriate time to have a look back at 1996’s Chandler and Co, written by Milne and co-starring Capaldi. The show’s two lead characters, however – the eponymous Chandler and co – were Dee Chandler (Catherine Russell, who’s probably best known as Serena Campbell in Holby City and as Helen Lynley in The Inspector Lynley Mysteries) and her sister-in-law Elly Chandler (Barbara Flynn from The Beiderbecke Affair and A Very Peculiar Practice). After Dee divorces Elly’s philandering brother Max, she convinces Elly to help her set up a private detective agency.
Unfortunately, of course, having no background in law enforcement or anything investigative, neither has a clue what she’s doing. Enter Larry Blakeston (Peter Capaldi), the PI who investigated Max for Dee and a supplier of fine technological devices to inquiring detectives. Blakeston agrees to help out – with some degree of eye rolling at the duo’s amateurism.
With the show keen to depict a more realistic milieu for the private detectives, far away from the drug lords and master criminals of other TV shows, in favour of the more bread and butter cheating spouses and runaway children, you’d have thought it would have been a relatively genteel piece. But instead it was largely about the emotional and physical damage loved ones can do to each other (particularly men). Indeed, even Capaldi, an ostensible hero of the piece, doesn’t get let off lightly, pressurising Dee into sleeping with him in order to maintain his good favour and by extension the viability of her business.
Fitting into a period when female crime investigators were on the rise again in the UK (Prime Suspect, Anna Lee), the show lasted two series, during the second of which Flynn was replaced by Susan Fleetwood (who sadly died shortly after the series aired). It’s not been repeated since, but you can watch the first series on YouTube below: