By now, we’ve seen lots of TV cops.
We’ve met cops with attitudes, cops with quips, cops with guns or lollipops. Now meet Colin Sutton – the real-life Englishman at the core of two “Manhunt” stories (shown here with Martin Clunes as Sutton), the second arriving on www.acorn.tv.
Calm and quiet, Sutton is like no TV cop, with one exception: “There’s a faint element of Columbo,” said Ed Whitmore, the series’ writer and producer. He “invites people to underestimate him.”
Don’t. In his first case as a Senior Investigating Officer, Sutton was probing the murder of one student; that led to convictions for three murders and an attempt. In his final one, he solved a case that had eluded police for two decades – as many as 100 break-ins, most involving the rape of elderly women.
Both stories are streaming on Acorn – the former as a three-parter and the latter over four Mondays, starting Oct. 18. And in both, we’ll see Sutton remain calm — something he learned from his father, who was also a London policeman, Sutton said: “If you start low-key, you’ve got somewhere to go.”
Except his emotions rarely go far. For Martin Clunes – who also stars in Acorn’s quirky “Doc Martin” – this is a restrained role. “It’s always nice to play a hero,” he said. “Colin’s a straight-forward hero.”
In the new “Manhunt,” Sutton’s wife Louise offers a key observation: He’s obsessing on the case because he knows it will be his last and he fears a long, empty retirement.
The case was his last, but the retirement has been busy. Sutton started a blog, then wrote books about his two biggest cases. For Whitmore, they were appealing. He’s a 15-year veteran of British crime shows, but feels many have been pointing toward “how grisly the crime and how outlandish.”
He wanted a realistic story … but admits he worried at first: “Is it too low-key? Do we have a deficit of melodrama? The public told us we didn’t.”
The realism was appealing, Clunes said. “It’s good to know what police really do, instead of whizzing around in fast cars.”
Clunes plays what colleagues have called “a taller, better-spoken version” of Sutton. (Actually, the actor – 6-foot-3, a prep-school and arts-school grad – is taller and better-spoken than most people.) Sutton approves. Both “Manhunt” series, he said, “exceeded all my expectations.”
He also likes the fact that Louise doesn’t fit the stereotype of a disapproving spouse. In real life, she’s an analyst who became, he said, the highest-ranking civilian in the police department. “Her understanding (of the case) was invaluable to me.”
And his worries about an empty retirement? “I’ve been amazed.” He’s writing again. (“It’s a book without an ending at the moment.”) He’s been in an eight-week documentary series (also on Acorn), called “The Real Manhunter.” And another of his cases is expected to be dramatized by Whitmoe, again with Sutton as consultant.
Those true stories can bring surprises, including when the rape suspect was finally arrested. As an ice-breaker, Sutton commented on the guy’s shirt, which indicated he’s a cricket fan. “What’s remarkable is how that led to a three-minute conversation.”
Having just arrested the suspect in decades despicable rapes, Sutton found himself casually discussing cricket teams. That’s something you won’t see in the fast-car cop shows.