1 9 9 3 – 1 9 9 6 (UK)
1 x 100 minute episode
23 x 50 minute episodes
Writer Jimmy McGovern introduced the idea of the forensic psychologist – in the shape of Edward Fitzgerald – to British audiences in 1993.
His intent was to reduce the role of the police in the stories and to represent them (mostly) as heavily reliant on the maverick skills and insights of “Fitz” in ways that have been reproduced in a large number of television dramas since then.
McGovern imagined Fitz as a quiet, wiry individual, but the casting of heavy-set Robbie Coltrane took the role in a different direction entirely.
Coltrane made the character an intellectual bully and an alcoholic gambler whose addictions drove his family away. He was contemptuous of the police and thought he could solve cases better than they could.
In his first association with Detective Chief Inspector Bilborough (Christopher Eccleston), he succeeded only in proving their one suspect innocent (the real culprit was revealed to the audience, but escaped undetected), while his goading of a murderer through the press resulted in the violent death of an officer.
For all Fitz’s faults, there was something seductive about his rudeness. Viewers approved of his refusal to obey the rules at the ‘nine items or less’ checkout line in the supermarket and his baiting of a sexist officer.
His relationship with Detective Sergeant Jane Penhaligon (Geraldine Somerville) was more complicated. He enjoyed teasing her (calling her ‘panhandle’) but shared her frustration that she was often overlooked because of her gender.
Cracker was never comfortable viewing. Like its ITV counterpart Prime Suspect (1991), it explored some of the darkest areas of the human psyche. But every episode was gripping, none more so than the season two opener, ‘To Be A Somebody’.
In 1997, Cracker was remade as Fitz for American TV with Robert Pastorelli in the title role. It lost much of the appeal of the original and lasted only one season.
Robbie Coltrane passed away on 14 October 2022, aged 72.
Dr Eddie ‘Fitz’ Fitzgerald
DS Jane ‘Panhandle’ Penhaligon
DS Jimmy Beck
DCI Charlie Wise
Kate ‘Katie’ Fitzgerald
DCI David Bilborough