1. THE GEORGE AND JOHN SHOW
Yes, the main focus of the series may the intricate cases which our clever detectives have to unravel, but one of the other great pleasures is the unique relationship between George Gently and his sidekick John Bacchus. Think this is just another chalk-and-cheese police duo? Think again.
The George-and-John dynamic is fascinating because Bacchus really does seem like a loose cannon who looks in danger of cross over the line to outright criminality at any moment. With these two, it's not just about respectful disagreements or playful bickering: Gently really does have to assume the role of stern yet wary mentor - a father-figure of sorts - while also being careful not to rile the angry young man even further. Watching the ever-volatile relationship between the two men makes the show endlessly fascinating, even between corpses.
2. BACCHUS'S TEMPER
Speaking of John's temper... the boy really does have a short one. A really, really short one. For John Bacchus, every straw is the last straw. Mouthy and stroppy, he often exhibits the kind of attitude you might expect from a 6-year-old boy who's been told he can't have any more sweets. Or perhaps a 15-year-old lad who's just discovered rock music for the first time, and doesn't think his parents understand him. And did we mention he's also impatient and resentful and comes fully equipped with prejudices against people who are "smart" or "posh" or "different"?
All of which makes him one of the most entertaining coppers you can imagine watching. Even an ordinary chat with a witness or suspect becomes fraught with risk and danger when Bacchus is in one of his moods. And let's not forget the flare-up which happened when Bacchus found out that his wife had met up with George Gently for a personal chat. Yikes.
3. IT'S A DIFFERENT TAKE ON THE 60s
Few decades have been as mythologised as the 1960s. The fact is, when most of us think of the 60s, we imagine a kaleidoscope of clichés: spaced-out hippies with bedraggled hair, anti-war marches, Beatlemania, and the strutting boys and girls of Swinging London. Well, this series brings us a whole other side of those revolutionary years.
Casting aside the clichés, this is the 60s as the vast majority of ordinary British folks experienced them. A world that's still haunted by memories of the war and all those years of austerity that followed. A world that's still intensely conservative and respects its social taboos. And yet, a world where glimmers of the future can be glimpsed, with issues like multiculturalism, nuclear disarmament and sexual equality all bound up with the cases George and John investigate. It makes for eye-opening viewing.
4. THE CASES ARE SO VARIED
Speaking of the cases themselves, no two are alike in this show. Gently and Bacchus have a very wide stomping ground, and you'll never know where the next story will take them. One minute they'll be delving into the apparent suicide of a prominent Freemason, the next they'll be wading into the murky waters of xenophobia when a woman is seemingly killed because of her non-British lover.
Sometimes the cases bring out some very dark comedy - can you imagine how John Bacchus reacts when he has to question the hoity-toity, toffee-nosed inhabitants of a stately home? But at other times, things get downright punishing for both coppers, as they're forced to confront the ugliest aspects of society - like when an investigation into a former children's home dredges up unthinkable abuses by people in power. The cases don't just challenge the detectives - they challenge us too.