Jack the Ripper reappears in modern dress in 'Whitechapel'

McClatchy NewspapersOctober 24, 2011 

“It’s not all serial killers, car chases, saving the girl at the end, you know. It’s gangland murder, drug land-related murder, domestic, aggravated burglary, knock-on-the-head-for-no-reason-on-a-Friday-night murder. That’s Whitechapel. Are you up for that?”

A new addition to cable’s BBC America’s “Dramaville” series, “Whitechapel” is an English police procedural show not unlike “CSI” or “Law and Order” in the U.S.

In the initial three-part story arc, the past is very much present as the police deal with a modern take on 1888 London serial killer Jack the Ripper.

Detective Inspector Joseph Chandler (Rupert Penry-Jones), an up-and-coming socially well-connected young officer, is being groomed for a high position in the police force. But first he has to earn the position by solving what looks like a commonplace murder of a woman killed in the East End-Whitechapel section of London. Chandler, dressed in a tuxedo, meets his new squad led by Detective Sergeant Ray Miles (Phil Davis) at the scene of the crime. Miles, a grizzled veteran of breaking in newly assigned officers, grimly jokes, “Another fast tracker.” Their clash is inevitable.

From scene one, England’s well-defined upper-class versus lower-class dynamic plays a major part in this series. Chandler wears well-tailored suits while the others resent having to dig out ties to come to their everyday jobs.

As Chandler and Miles clash, the Ripper wannabee continues to kill women in the same fashion as 120 years ago. The local expert, a “Ripperologist” named Edward Buchan (Steve Pemberton), becomes involved much to his distress.

One of the funnier elements is the squad, sitting at their messy desks, discussing various theories about Ripper-who-done-it back in the 1880s after being assigned books to read by Chandler. Even the avid British tabloid press becomes part of the plot.

“Whitechapel” is rich with British history, difficult accents and modern touches. Many Americans might not be aware that much of London is under CCTV video surveillance. Those videos become an important element in tracking down the killer.

For Chandler’s squad, fear grows as they flail around for suspects. An excellent musical score and evocative cinematography keeps viewers on edge.

“Murder is not entertainment,” one suspect says in anguish.

Unless you’re watching “Whitechapel.”

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WHITECHAPEL

10 p.m. EDT Wednesday

BBC America

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