I initially came to Cracker in 2006 when ITV1 broadcast the last (at present) episode Nine Eleven. I hadn't seen the first three series and one off special White Ghost and watched it more out of curiosity rather than anything.
5 years on and with frequent repeats on ITV3 and a nagging interest to watch some old drama from the ITV stable, i set to record the first three series and slowly watched it.
The series has survived the test of time - i for one forgot how it's nearly 20 years since the first series. The first series is probably the best overall - it's new it's fresh and doesn't have to worry about much that has gone before. The highlight for me was 'To Say I Love You' with the stuttering Sean and his girlfriend Tina going on a killing spree resulting in the death of one of the team.
Series 2 is where the series started to fall apart a bit for me. The first story however, 'To Be a Somebody', is the highlight of series as a whole. Featuring an excellent guest performance from Robert Carlyle, the episode features some great location work and a great send off for DCI Bilborough (future Doctor Who Christopher Eccleston) - you really don't want to work on this CID team! The subsequent rape of Penhaligon by Beck seemed to farfetched for me - yes Beck is having a breakdown (maybe he should have shaved his moustache off again?!) - but by this point in the series two officers have been killed and another raped by a colleague. Following Beck's suicide in the early part of the third series (yes another officer down) the show starts to get back to where it was at the beginning and watching the final regular episode, 'True Romance' made me want more episodes again.
Many find the follow up episode 'White Ghost' as a let down. I actually found it refreshing, having a simple case with none of the other secondary storylines getting in the way and the change of location to Hong Kong was also welcome. Watching it 16 years after it's initial broadcast it also gives a nice look at how the British living there must have felt before China took control of the country. The final episode Nine Eleven for me is not a let down, while not adding anything more to the series than a chance to see how the returning actors have aged since the series (and boy have they!), it is a solid case for Fitz and highlights issues that are still relevant in today's world.
For me, Robbie Coltrane is Cracker and this is his defining role and the series is one of ITV's top ten detective (even though he isn't one) shows. Despite a wobble in the middle (and for some at the end) it is definately worth a look - even if to see some of our favourite actors looking much younger...