When Ridley was initially announced in 2021, it was pretty apparent that ITV was aiming to land itself a new long-lived detective series, the kind that could easily run ten seasons until it achieved the sort of ubiquitous status of a Vera or a Father Brown. To that end, they hired writer Paul Matthew Thompson, who worked on both those series and cast Adrian Dunbar, who had become an A-list TV go-to star for his decade-long stint as Superintendent Ted Hastings in Line of Duty. Add an unusual hook centered around Dunbar's under-the-radar talents as a singer, and it felt like the show was a no-brainer.
However, not every show is a home run right out of the gate, and while there are some places where Ridley has real growth potential, there are places where it could stand to tinker with the format. The good news is that ITV renewed the show for a second season. (Notably, it waited until the series was about to premiere on PBS to decide to move forward, suggesting U.K. audiences also were tepid on the first season.) But with a cast as strong as this one, including Terence Maynard as boss DCI Paul Goodwin and Bronagh Waugh as Ridley's partner, DI Carol Farman, it would be a shame to see this series fail to grow.
One thing Ridley's producers will hopefully consider for Season 2 is that PBS will almost certainly continue to break up the show into eight episodes instead of airing them as four feature-length series. This is inter-PBS stuff, but suffice it to say Ridley is not a Masterpiece show, which means that it doesn't have the anthology's clout behind it to dictate how it airs if it wants to be part of the Sunday night berth. It will never be given the 9 p.m. ET feature-length slot of Endeavour, instead riding with a higher-profile Masterpiece series at 8 p.m. or 10 p.m. The quicker the series bows to that reality, the better off it will be.
Unfortunately, that's not going to happen right away, as the Season 2 renewal confirmed that Ridley Season 2 will run four installments with Thompson penning two of them, with his Vera co-writer Michael Bhim and Julia Gilbert (Midsomer Murders) picking up the other two episodes. However, it took Vienna Blood three full seasons before it accepted the reality of its schedule on PBS stations, so one can't fault Ridley's producers too much for not changing the format right away.
However, the main problem is that Ridley is not nearly as interesting as those around him. Other than having a ghost wife and ghost child and a jazzy song to sing every episode, the titular character is the weakest part of the series. That's not a mark on Dunbar, who is doing his best, but the show needs to rethink that fridging two female characters and calling it the lead character's personality will carry the center of the show. That might have been sustainable back when Vera first debuted, but society shifted hard in the last decade, and it's not just about having a diverse cast but thinking beyond the traditional "white man's pain" storytelling as well.
That being said, Season 1 did seem to aim at healing Ridley by the end of the season, with the mystery of his family's murder wrapped up and the character recognizing that he has been a useless, obsessed, sad sack since he was introduced. If the show combines that with turning its solid supporting cast into a larger ensemble, a la Grantchester, or even Endeavour towards the end, that would leave plenty of room for the show to discover the potentially interesting stories it mostly ignored during the first season's cases. (Also, can we stop with the child victim stories? Or at least keep it to only one episode per season? I'm just saying it got repetitive, and that's a bad sign in a first season.)
Filming on the new season is due to begin in September 2023, in and around the same parts of the Greater Manchester area that housed Season 1. Dunbar is confirmed to return as Alex Ridley, with co-star Waugh as Carol, Bhavna Limbachia as Carol's wife, Geri Farman, and Tareq Al-Jeddal as their son Jack Farman, along one assumes, with the family's new baby girl. Maynard will be back as Goodwin, George Bukhari as Carol's actual partner whom Ridley keeps displacing, DC Darren Lakhan, and Call The Midwife's Georgie Glen will return as no-nonsense pathologist Dr. Wendy Newstone.
Plus, Julie Graham will be back as Ridley's love interest and co-owner of the jazz club, Annie Marling, with Steve Holness, Sophie Alloway, and Rory Dempsey as the house band that magically appears on cue when Dunbar starts singing. ITV plans to air Ridley Season 2 in 2024; it is anyone's guess how long it will take before it arrives on PBS.
All four episodes of Ridley's first season can be watched as originally intended on PBS Passport.