For this month’s blog, I wanted to pay tribute to the Crime Drama sidekick. Before I begin my countdown and wanted to touch on some of my own thoughts for these characters and my considerations when I was writing my own crime novels and how these sidekick(s) would be part of the stories.
In the list I have chosen characters that I admire, whether it was due to what they bring to the series, their own stories or the brilliance of the performances on screen. Some characters may not play a big part in the solving of the crime, but they all contribute in their own way.
When I started writing the DI Joanne Christie stories, I was focused on two things. Firstly, I wanted a strong, hopefully memorable, sidekick. I love writing DS Mike Lyle, with his obsession with Classic Rock music and his traditional policing skills. I also wanted a sidekick who would be instrumental in the cases that Christie would be working on. Often in the stories Lyle, and other members of the team, provide the leads that lead to the resolution. So many sidekicks are left out of this, chasing red herrings and leaving all the solving and glory to the main character.
Anyway, here is my top 10 Sidekicks…
10 – Barbara Havers (Sharon Small) – The Inspector Lynley Mysteries
I really enjoyed this series and I didn’t realise that Sharon Small was actually Scottish so perfect was her accent. As with many good sidekicks, Havers’ back story added to the series and was superbly portrayed.
9 – Martin Rohde (Kim Bodnia) – The Bridge
It’s perhaps a bit unfair to call Martin a sidekick, but such was the performance of Saga he was often playing catch up. Kim played the role brilliantly and he may just have the best laugh in the history of crime dramas. Although I thoroughly enjoyed all four seasons, I felt that something was lost without Martin in the later series.
8 – Dr Watson (Edward Hardwicke) – Sherlock Holmes
One of the most famous sidekicks in crime literature, and should therefore be higher up in the list. Many actors have played the role, but I really enjoyed Hardwicke’s performance as Sherlock’s partner.
7 – Sunny Khan (Sanjeev Bhaskar) – The Unforgotten
Bhaskar expertly plays the sidekick in this excellent drama. He shows more of a caring side than many sidekicks with his own back story and career progression. The big question on everyone’s lips (of course), is ‘What is in the backpack?’
6 – Gavin Troy (Daniel Casey) – Midsomer Murders
The original and best sidekick from the Midsomer Murders series. Probably a prime example of a sidekick that didn’t add much to the various investigations, but he did add to the drama. His bad driving was added to the scripts following a close call with John Nettles and provides some humour to the stories.
5 – Robert ‘Robbie’ Lewis (Kevin Whately) – Inspector Morse
A sidekick who went on to have his own series, Lewis was the grounded support to the genus of Morse. Whately played the character so well, it was no surprise that he reprised the role many years after Morse finished.
4 – Samantha Stewart (Honeysuckle Weeks) – Foyle’s War
Strictly speaking, Milner should really be Foyle’s sidekick, but the character of Samantha ‘Sam’ Stewart is my pick. Honeysuckle Weeks played the role so well that she became an integral part of the series. With the brilliant writing, the character grows throughout the various seasons and becomes so important to the lead that he keeps going back to her.
3 – Siobhan Clarke (Claire Price) – Rebus
Many Rebus fans (including myself) were delighted with the casting of Ken Stott in the title role, however, I thought the choice of Claire Price as Siobhan was an equally clever move. She captures the strength and compassion of the character and is the perfect opposite to Stott’s brilliant portrayal.
2 – Captain Arthur Hastings (Hugh Fraser) – Poirot
Captain Hastings is probably my favourite ever sidekick and Hugh Fraser plays him to perfection. Written more for Poirot to bounce his ‘little grey cells’ off of, he occasionally unwittingly provides the spark required for Poirot to solve the mystery. A crime writer now himself, Fraser had to be high up on my list.
1 – Alison ‘Tosh’ McIntosh (Alison O’Donnell) – Shetland
My top pick is Tosh from the Shetland series, expertly played by Alison O’Donnell. What is interesting about this sidekick, is that she was created for the television series and is not actually in the books. I went to a Bloody Scotland event where Ann Cleeves admitted that she wished that she had created Tosh and I think that is the highest honour that can be bestowed to the series writers. Spoilers will prevent me from saying too much, but Alison’s performance as the series progresses is breath taking. I am so happy that there is a new season on the horizon.
So that was my pick of sidekicks. I am sure that I have missed some out that deserved a mention, but that us the fun of these lists. If you want to find out more about DS Mike Lyle, you can find the Christie novels in the ‘books’ section of this website.