As McDonald & Dodds returns, its stars reveal its magic formula
Like Midsomer Murders? You’ll love this: Quirky cases, glorious scenery – as McDonald & Dodds returns, its stars reveal its magic formula
- DCI McDonald and DS Dodds are one of TV’s best mismatched detective duos
- McDonald & Dodds returns to our screens for a third series on Sunday at 8pm
- Series three delves deeper into the detectives’ personal lives
Despite declaring in the very first episode of McDonald & Dodds in 2020 that she’d only be in Bath for two years, ambitious former Met cop DCI Lauren McDonald (Tala Gouveia) is still there. Which means the West Country’s favourite crime-busting duo are back in one of Britain’s prettiest cities to hunt more killers in a third series.
DCI McDonald and DS Dodds are one of television’s best mismatched detective duos – she’s the smart young cop trying to make her mark, he’s the fuddy-duddy with an eye for detail – and their tentative friendship is the beating heart of the hit murder mystery series, which returned to ITV last week.
‘The humour comes from the light relationship between them,’ explains Jason Watkins, 55, who plays Dodds. ‘She ribs me a bit, but there’s affection between the two.’
Their pairing, coupled with convoluted killings and the Georgian lushness of Bath as the backdrop, has proved such a popular combination that more than six million viewers tuned in to series two.
DCI McDonald (played by Tala Gouveia) and DS Dodds (played by Jason Watkins) are one of TV’s best mismatched detective duos. McDonald & Dodds returns to our screens for a third series on Sunday at 8pm
‘It’s nice that the show is finding its audience,’ says Jason. ‘We’re not complacent, we know what our strength is but it’s a matter of looking after it.’
The series was created by TV writer Robert Murphy, who’s also written for Shetland, Vera and DCI Banks, after he and TV executive Damien Timmer lamented the dearth of cosy pre-watershed murder mysteries. Yet the success of Midsomer Murders and more recently daytime hit Shakespeare & Hathaway suggests there’s an appetite for whodunnits with a lighter tone.
‘We were nostalgic for our youth, growing up on shows like Columbo and Jonathan Creek,’ explains Robert. ‘We liked locked-room mysteries in the Agatha Christie style and were drawn to characters who could bring a smile to your face.’
McDonald and Dodds, he says, are two Brits who would normally not cross paths, which brings an opportunity for cross-generational misunderstanding and a growing closeness as they get to know each other. He chose Bath because it’s rarely seen – except in Jane Austen adaptations.
‘It’s seldom in contemporary shows,’ says Robert. ‘It seemed like a good fit.’
Series three delves deeper into the detectives’ personal lives. Last week’s opening two-hour episode, a murder case in which a glamorous young woman dies on a deck chair in a busy park, allowed us greater insight into Dodds’ life when he experienced déjà vu while visiting suspects at a rambling Georgian pile.
Claire Skinner (pictured) has taken over as McDonald and Dodds’ fearsome new boss Chief Superintendent Ormond, replacing Chief Supt Houseman
For a character so private that we don’t even know his first name (though Jason says he’d like it to be Ken!), it was a rare glimpse into Dodds’ history.
‘The writers are teasing out secrets about his past,’ explains Jason. ‘He talked about his mother and his upbringing, which let him be vulnerable.’
This week’s second episode, centred around Formula 1, gives us a glimpse into McDonald’s past. ‘Someone from her past comes back into her life and is involved in the case,’ explains Tala, 38.
But McDonald’s old friend sets her at odds with Dodds. ‘McDonald and Dodds have a real rhythm of working together and trust their professional partnership, but that gets tested this series,’ says Tala.
The heart of the show is two cops who test each other’s patience yet hold each other in affection
The success of the show has enticed some big-name guests to appear. Previous series have seen Rob Brydon, Cathy Tyson and Rupert Graves pop up, while the opener to the new series starred Alan Davies and Dame Sian Phillips.
Outnumbered’s Claire Skinner has also taken over as McDonald and Dodds’ fearsome new boss Chief Superintendent Ormond, replacing Chief Supt Houseman (James Murray).
The heart of the show is two cops who test each other’s patience yet hold each other in affection. ‘She’s more emotionally intelligent and helps him solve his emotional puzzles,’ says Jason.
‘He tries to help her in a paternal way. It gives great depth to the series, and viewers enjoy that.’
- McDonald & Dodds, Sunday, 8pm, ITV.
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