TV preview: Chasing Shadows

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Comedy can be a funny business. One minute you’re at the top of the tree, the next you can be forgotten, a spent force no longer able to raise a smile.

When the Monty Python TV series ended, nobody knew what the future would hold for its members.

Some observers thought they may vanish without a trace, but in fact, they all went on to enjoy varying degrees of success - for them, the sum of the whole was not greater than the parts.

The same could be said about the League of Gentlemen team. Jeremy Dyson (the one everybody always forgets about) has enjoyed success in the fields of writing and directing, while Steve Pemberton is an instantly recognisable character actor and Mark Gatiss is a loveable polymath.

For a while it seemed that Reece Shearsmith might not reach the heights of his colleagues, but in the past year that’s all changed.

Inside Number 9, the series he wrote and starred in with Pemberton, was a resounding success, and he also reinvented himself as a dramatic actor with roles in the horror movie A Field in England and on the small screen in The Widower.

He’s playing it straight again in this new series.

“I’m probably what you would describe as a character actor and I do immerse myself in the parts,” says Shearsmith. “I don’t get recognised a lot because I’m usually disguised on screen.

“I quite like the level I’m at where I can have a normal life and walk around. The work is the thing that speaks for me. I’m not really a personality, I just do the acting and that’s what I want people to see.”

That may all change if Chasing Shadows is a major success and returns for another series after this initial run of four episodes. The Hull-born actor reckons it could continue. Shearsmith plays DS Sean Stone, a misfit who struggles to deal with people and is reassigned to a missing person’s unit after offending his boss. There he meets Ruth Hattersley, who learns to deal with Sean’s odd quirks and habits, and quickly realises how useful he could be when it comes to finding lost souls. Alex Kingston portrays her, and Noel Clarke has been cast as their boss, DI Prior.

Their first case involves the disappearance of 16-year-old schoolgirl Taylor, and will be told over two nail-biting episodes. She’s initially thought to be a routine runaway, until Sean discovers she had a dark secret...

Chasing Shadows, ITV1, Thursday 9pm

Ambulance on BBC One.

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