” A Touch of Frost” is a long running British TV serial ( 15 seasons, 1992-2010) starring David Jason as Inspector Jack Frost , a quirky , arrogant detective who nevertheless gets results . I was very late discovering this excellent series , having stumbled upon it on Netflix early this year , long after its TV run had ended.
That’s not strictly true . I’d tried watching Frost some years ago but , somehow, did not find it compelling and gave up after a couple of episodes.Then , in January , I gave it another shot and found myself hooked . Of the total of 42 episodes , most about 100 minutes long , I ‘ve watched all but three and those I’ll be done with in the next couple of days .
When I first watched A Touch of Frost , I didn’t much care for the main character . A sharp-tongued ,stubborn , quirky detective inspector on the Denton police force , Frost was not at all likeable . A prickly character and a bit of a sexist, he dressed sloppily , bullied his subordinates and had a habit of pinching food from their plates and drinking their tea. Except for a sixth sense that enabled him to crack cases , there was not much to recommend him .
Over the years , however , he has mellowed tremendously. He still has his faults but he is much more human and I’ve come to appreciate his single-minded dedication to his job , a dedication which plays havoc with his love life . Every time , he’s about to enjoy a romantic dinner he’s summoned to the scene of a crime that demands the presence of a senior officer. Are British policemen really on call all hours of the day and night , I wonder ? Frost certainly is and, though he grumbles , he answers the call.
Frost is also a very upright man ; he may bully his underlings but he also stands up for them . In one episode , when Supt. Mullet and the bigwigs are about to throw one of Frost’s co-workers to the wolves , it is Frost who comes to his defense and is ultimately proved right . An advantage of being able to watch the episodes on streaming is that the evolution of the characters comes into sharper focus and one begins to appreciate the subtle changes in their depiction . This is true not only of Frost but of his boss , the insufferable Superintendent Mullet, and Frost’s long-suffering colleagues , DS George Toolan , “Razor ” Sharpe , DS Clive Barnard, Hazel Wallace and Terry Reid to name only a few. There is also PC Ernie Trigg , the police archivist , who I was surprised to find is David Jason’s real life brother. Not having watched that much British TV , I’m not familiar with the actors playing these roles but they do a bang-up job and add to the charm of A Touch of Frost.
No praise can be too high for David Jason who plays Frost ,or rather IS Frost. He gets completely into the role and we come to understand Frost’s frustration and anger , the passion and dedication for his job which takes such a toll on his family and friends. It is a bravura performance by David Jason , all the more impressive because ,before this role , he was better known as a comic actor . No wonder David Jason was chosen as the Number one performer on British TV over the last 50 years . Other names on the list that may be familar to American viewers are : John Thaw ( Inspector Morse , 3), Benny Hill (17), David Frost ( 23) , Simon Cowell ( 28) , Helen Mirren 29) and Jamie Oliver ( 34).
The series is adapted from the novels of R.D Wingfield , an author I’ve never read. The plotlines are complex ,though not difficult to follow , and there are plenty of clues sprinkled throughout . Denton is a fictitious town set in the Midlands and I enjoyed the varied settings in town and countryside . The early episodes are a little dark ( as in not bright) but the improvement in cinematography is pleasingly evident as the series winds on .
One criticism I have of the series is that Frost is shown chasing and physically besting villains in some of the episodes . As old and out of shape as Frost ( and David Jason ) is , it does not seem realistic . Far better to have had one of Frost’s younger colleagues step in and subdue the bad guy. But this is a minor hiccup. A Touch of Frost is one of those series that can be watched over and over and will still surprise and delight the viewer. There are so few of them around .
Now that I’m nearing the end of this series I’ve begun casting about for something to replace it . One candidate is the Inspector Morse series based on the novels of Colin Dexter . I’ve read and enjoyed the novels but my first experience with the TV show was not as serendipitous . The Oxford setting is not nearly as appealing to me and neither is the character of Morse , played by John Thaw. The storylines and the solutions to the crime s seem too cerebral , the clues too hard to notice for this average viewer. Still , I think I’ll give it another try . Perhaps , as with A touch of Frost , it may be a case of second time lucky.