Inspector George Gently has the appearance of a run-of-the-mill detective series but its setting in 1960s rural England makes it interesting. The death penalty was still in force and enforced, which makes a conviction for murder a risky affair for your own life. The lack of modern gadgetry in crime solving such as DNA testing, cellphones and computer databases are still decades away. It makes for so much better drama when it is all about the relationships of the protagonists, the criminal motives and the psychological games played between the 'cops and robbers'. Hence the popularity of series like Cracker, Inspector Morse and (even) Waking The Dead.
Male homosexuality was verboten at the time but that didn't make it invisible or unknown and it featured as a crucial subplot in the first episode. The hotel lobby scene, gay "Brief Encounter"-esque in feel if not linked to the reality of the scene, turned the frisson between the closet and the contemporary illegality into a marvellously subtle criticism of the law's nonsense. The waiter, in the briefest of appearances, gave a brilliant performance on how to skirt the sensitivity of the subject professionally. And Martin Shaw's face was priceless at the hapless Bacchus. "I'm not like that, I'm married!" still echoes down the ages as the truth that dares not speak out.
What I also liked (in episode zero at least) was that despite the psychotic revenge binge the Philip Davis character embarked on, the actual violence or gore was barely shown and the horror was implied off-screen, which makes it a very classical Greek-style drama.