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Touch of Frost, A (1992-)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of Touch of Frost, A (1992-)
Yorkshire TV / Excelsior Group Prodns for ITV, tx. 6/12/1992 to present
37 x 120 minutes, colour
Directors includeDon Leaver
 Roy Battersby
Created byR.D. Wingfield
Writers includeRichard Harris
 Malcolm Bradbury

Cast: David Jason (DI Frost); Bruce Alexander (Supt Mullett); Neil Phillips (DCI Allen); John Lyons (DS Toolan); Caroline Harker (WPC Hazel Wallace); Matt Bardock (DC/DS Barnard); James McKenna (Sgt. Don Brady)

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The cases of Detective Inspector William 'Jack' Frost, a cantankerous veteran policeman in the town of Denton.

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A Touch of Frost's pedigree is very similar to that of Inspector Morse (ITV, 1987-2000). Like the Oxford-based DI, Frost sprang from a series of detective novels and his cases occupy a generous two-hour slot. The Denton DI's investigations move at an equally leisurely pace in a provincial town, with the requisite crime genre ingredients of red herrings, unexpected twists and intertwining sub-plots. The two series even share some directors and writers.

With the more uncouth characteristics of R.D. Wingfield's original character ironed out - his predilection for swearing, chain-smoking and cheerful sexism would not have sat well with an ITV family audience - Frost's defiantly old-fashioned coppering characteristics came to the fore. He abhors paperwork and delights in flouting the restrictions imposed on him by his by-the-book boss Superintendent Mullet. Although this determinedly individual archetype is nothing new in TV crime fiction (Morse shared many of the same characteristics), Frost arrived at a time when management culture was really taking root in Britain, and this may partly explain the show's instant popularity.

But the major factor in A Touch of Frost's success was David Jason's transition from comic actor into an assured dramatic presence with an anti-establishment gleam in his eye. The series picked up on Jason's phenomenal across-the-board appeal by making both Frost and the milieu he inhabited appealingly universal. An ordinary man to whom viewers can easily relate, the DI cares about life's injustices and inequalities. In the fictional, ever-expanding Everytown of Denton, cases can revolve around settings as recognisable but diverse as the local football club, power station and abattoir.

The series' conventional visual style and narratives has led to unfavourable comparisons with edgy, uncompromising British police dramas such as Prime Suspect (ITV, 1991-2006) and The Cops (BBC, 1998-2000), some critics seeing Frost's beat as safe and rather dull. This overlooks one of the series' major strengths, its ability to tap into the zeitgeist and tackle contentious subject matter: love between Down's Syndrome sufferers, escort agencies, bullying in the army and paedophilia have all been explored in unsensational and intelligent storylines. Another hallmark of the series' maturity is its depiction of criminals as normal people pushed by circumstances into extreme behaviour.

With Frost showing no signs of retiring, there remains a place on British television for a series that can look into the dark heart of British society and make what it finds there acceptable family viewing.

Robert Fairclough

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Video Clips
1. Introductions (2:09)
2. Difficult questions (2:19)
3. A full report (1:15)
4. Trying to feel something (4:12)
Complete episode 'Care and Protection' Pt 1 (23:09)
Pt 2 (24:01)
Pt 3 (31:37)
Pt 4 (23:44)
Inspector Morse (1987-2000)
Jason, Sir David (1940-)
TV Police Drama