Fans of the English, Robbie Coltrane-starring series, shown in the U.S. on A&E, aren’t going to like my saying this, but the American adaptation of Cracker is pretty darn good. Murphy Brown‘s Robert Pastorelli takes over as brilliant but abrasive police psychologist Gerry ”Fitz” Fitzgerald, a drinker, smoker, and married philanderer who, in Pastorelli’s shrewdly low-key, deceptively offhand interpretation of the character, cracks cases with a minimum of blather. Like Columbo, the scruffy Fitz — whose favorite style of attire is a bowling shirt, whose favorite mode of speech is the mumble — seems incapable of tying his shoes, let alone solving a crime, and therein lies his lumpy charm.

This week’s episode concludes the debut’s hunt for a female serial killer who has in her clutches Fitz’s son, Michael (the appropriately scruffy but handsome Josh Hartnett). The killer has a kink for S&M, and one of the tartest little twists (in a taut script based on one of the original Coltrane Crackers) is that Dusty Springfield’s 1966 hit ”You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” plays a big part in the crime. Specifically the line, ”Believe me, I’ll never tie you down.” Don’t believe her. B

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