Hot on the heels of PRIME SUSPECT came Robbie Coltrane's (Hagrid in the Harry Potter movies) outstanding creation of "Fitz," in the PBS series CRACKER. Fitz is an addicted gambler, a heavy drinker, and a brilliant if deeply flawed criminal psychologist. He is, to the working mind of a killer what CSI is to a trace of blood or a single hair. For Fitz, murder is just the beginning. Three stories follow Fitz as he investigates an accused commuter train killer with amnesia, a couple who share love and murder, and the killing of a young boy that shakes a community to its core.
The compelling Cracker
is among the more exciting British mystery series from the 1990s, featuring a hero so flawed he's just as likely to end up inside a jail cell as outside chasing bad guys. Robbie Coltrane, perhaps best known for playing Rubeus Hagrid in the Harry Potter movies
, is unconventional psychologist Eddie "Fitz" Fitzgerald, a rotund teacher who exhorts students to look within their dark hearts and who gleefully embraces his own addictions to gambling, booze, and nicotine.
Caught in a downward spiral, Fitz sneers as his debts mount and his wife (Barbara Flynn) leaves him, but he rallies when a favorite student is slashed to death on a train in series debut "The Mad Woman in the Attic." The suspect, a longtime amnesiac, is put through grueling police torments, but Fitz believes in the man's innocence, thus establishing his ambivalent relationship with Detective Chief Inspector Bilborough (Christopher Eccleston) and a quasi-romantic alliance with another detective, Jane "Panhandle" Penhaligon (Geraldine Somerville, also from the Potter films). Michael Winterbottom, now a renowned feature filmmaker (Welcome to Sarajevo), provides admirable direction.
Fitz's interest in obsessive behavior and his talent for spinning out instant psychological profiles makes him invaluable to Bilborough in subsequent episode "To Say I Love You," in which a rage-filled young man and his scheming girlfriend kill a loan shark. Though the story is less interesting than the Cracker pilot, Fitz's slow crawl back to self-respect and resentful cooperation with his estranged wife's therapist are irresistible entertainment. Finally, "One Day a Lemming Will Fly," in which the murder of a 13-year-old boy sparks a lynch-mob mentality among the public, is a strong two-parter that raises some interesting crises for Fitz. Does he belong with his wife and kids or with Panhandle? Is he better at his job when his personal life is a disaster? The provocative final scenes make one hunger to see more of Cracker. --Tom Keogh