For the uninitiated, it ran as a series of movies from 1993-1995 (with a one-off special screened in 1996 and a further special in 2006) and starred Robbie Coltrane as Dr Edward "Fitz" Fitzgerald, a troubled criminal psychologist brought in to assist the Manchester Police Force interview, profile, and catch killers. It ranks right up with the 'Prime Suspect' series as some of the best of British television.
Character-driven 'open mysteries' - not so much 'who done its' as 'why done its' - they were filled with nifty plot twists, usually in the personal stories as opposed to the mystery story. Just the fact they are introduced as the creator/writer Jimmy McGovern's 'Cracker' should tell you that there's something right about this series. And 'To Be A Somebody' is still one of the best stories ever committed to film.
A young Robert Carlyle is terrifying yet mesmerizing as the working class sod who snaps, pulls a Travis Bickle, and decides to avenge the tragic deaths of 96 footballer fans at the 1989 soccer match in Hillsborough. His soccer fan chant mantra's will haunt you long after the program is finished.
"L..I..V E..R..P DOUBLE O..L Liverpool Are We!"
Sarah K at the Unofficial Guide to Cracker puts it rather well...
Everything about 'To Be A Somebody' is classic Cracker - McGovern's powerful writing, the interview scenes between Fitz and Albie which are some of the best of the series, along with the general interaction between Fitz and the police (most notably the still lingering tension between Fitz and Bilborough). At the time of its screening, 'To Be A Somebody' may have received a lot of attention due to McGovern's tackling of the sensitive issue of the Hillsborough disaster, but it without doubt left its mark and will long be remembered as three hours of the finest British television ever made.
Hear hear...if you don't have a lot of time, follow that movie up with the sixth installment 'Men Don't Weep' and you can experience an abridged best of this series in all its brilliance.
It struck me while watching Cracker how much 'Fitz' and Dr. Greg House are alike.
Unlikeable in so many ways, yet they manage to engage and intrigue and fascinate us. We 'like' them against reason and better judgement. Much like Jim Rockford (going waaaay back here to the Rockford Files), the surly snarky Malibu based private investigator.
I loved Rockford Files when I was a kid. Or at least I knew my dad loved it, and it was something we watched together, so I loved it too. A mystery series with requisite action (and those car chases), it was something of a revisionist take on the genre, grounded more in character than crime, and neatly infused with humor and realistic relationships. And they still hold up today - I try to catch it on Superstation WGN each morning whenever I can - with the winning supporting cast (Becker, Beth, Rocky...Angel!), and those wacky answering machine messages that led off each episode...
"Hi, sonny, it's Rocky. I got the bill and I've been trying to figure what everybody owes on L.J.'s birthday party. Tell me, did you have the Pink Lady?"
And that theme song....mmm...so good,
Rockford, Fitz, House...they all give us so many reasons to change the channel, yet we don't. What is it about these kinds of characters that turn our notion of the hero upside down yet still manage to entertain us?
The leads all have unpleasant traits and vices, are generally sarcastic and bitter, seem unable to keep any sort of lasting relationship...yet we still want to watch them. Reluctant heroes or Anti-heroes?
I read somewhere that the Rockford series was pitched as 'a private eye who would rather be doing something else'. Fitz and House appear to be cut from the same cloth. A psychologist who'd rather be doing something else...a doctor who'd rather be doing something else. I suppose all of us would rather be doing something else, even if most excellent at one thing...maybe that's part of the attraction.
I'd love to see Fitz and House and Rockford in their prime go toe to toe. Three brilliant bastards at the top of their game, trying to outsmart and outshine each other.
That'd be sweet.