4 out of 5
Created by: Robert Murphy
covers season 1 and 2
British police dramas come in all sorts of flavors, and vary in predictability and complexity, so what makes a “quality” one of these is, in part, down to your preferences: how much procedural you like; how dry you prefer your humor (or if it should be completely lacking in it); how “convincing” you want your mysteries, or how excessive your violence.
McDonald & Dodds definitely veers toward the quirky side of things – cases involve dead bodies but always have an element of absurdity to them – and the odd-couple partner formula certainly isn’t anything new, but it’s an incredibly satisfying and consistently entertaining variation on its tone and theme that keeps all of its pieces in check such that it remains notable amongst its many peers.
The duo giving the series its name are mismatched detectives DCI McDonald (Tala Gouveia) and DS Dodds (Jason Watkins), the former younger and modern and aggressive, the latter older favoring pad and pencil and quite passive. Yup. Done and done. And, yeah, this is played up in the expected ways throughout, but writer / creator Robert Murphy finds good ways to balance the snark and old vs. young jabs, swaying things back and forth so that both partner gets to excel, and they actually play off of one another in a way that makes sense. That still sounds like the norm, but it’s often the case that shows structured around something similar will operate in one mode or another – i.e. this episode goes to the younguns, the next to the oldies – and the interplay doesn’t actually matter to the policing. Here, though, after some initial scuffles with McDonald getting used to the more subservient Dodds (and he kowtowing to her forecefulness), the two settle in to a respectful patter, and the way they go about solving their various cases – cast with lots of fun UK guest stars – ping-pongs off of each’s specialities. The mysteries themselves are fun, buffering some of their predictability by not necessarily trying to pull the wool over the viewer’s eyes, rather reveling in our detectives’ sussing out of things, and inserting a lot of amusing interplay amidst the generally full pool of suspects. The extended runtime – episodes run about two hours – helps all of this immensely, allowing for a very organic evolution of McDonald’s and Dodd’s partnership (and friendship), which is given comforting familiarity by charming performances from Gouveia and Watkins, enjoyable to watch even when they’re being particularly petulant or silly.
Setting the world alight with brilliant cases? Changing the face of UK mismatched cop partner shows? Surely not. But McDonald & Dodds, while part of a reliable TV formula, is a tip-top example of that formula, gathering up cues from the shows that came before and blending it with modern sass and quirk (quite in sync with its mismatched duo) for wide, and well-affected appeal.