ANNA LEE: HEADCASE. ITV; UK. Made-for-TV movie, 10 January 1993. Pilot for the 5 episode series Anna Lee, 1994. Based on the novel Headcase by Liza Cody. Imogen Stubbs (Anna Lee), Alan Howard, Michael Bryant, Barbara Leigh-Hunt, Ken Stott, Kate Beckinsale. Director: Colin Bucksey.


   I’ve not yet watched any of the five episodes of the series that followed, but in my opinion it got off to a good start. I understand that Liza Cody was unhappy with it, however, so maybe there was a hitch somewhere between this two-hour film (including commercials) and what followed. Having somehow lost control of her own character, Cody even decided to stop using fledgling PI Anna Lee as a character and switched to writing her Eva Wylie series of novels instead.

   But this introductory episode is a good one, and if it ever passes by your way, in my opinion you ought to snap it up. Anna Lee is a fledgling private eye in this one, having abandoned the police force due to her ambivalence toward regimentation and following orders. She doesn’t try to make a go of it on her own, however. She takes a job with an investigative firm headed up by Commander Brierly (Michael Bryant), a no-nonsense type who nonetheless seems to take a shine to Anna, even though the rest of the staff seems to stay rather cool toward her.


   It may be because of her age, as well as her difficulty in showing up to work on time, phoning in, and all of the other office rules. It’s not clear how old Anna Lee is, but Imogen Stubbs, who plays her, was only 32 at the time, and she looks much much younger, especially when she comes in to work the first day in a mini-skirt and flowing strawberry blonde hair.

   What she had expected was only a small duty as an undercover security agent in a record shop. Instead the Commander assigns her to another case, that of a missing daughter, a girl in her early 20s perhaps, but a sensitive one whose family had closely guarded over her. An easy case, the Commander thinks, but naturally there’s more to it than that. Once found, her memory’s confused and she’s kept sedated in a nursing home, unable to explain where she had been and what she’d been doing.

   Thea Hahn, it seems, played to perfection by the ethereally frail Kate Beckinsale, was seen in a coastal hotel the night a man’s body was found the next day in his room. There are more suspects than Thea, but what Anna’s task is now is to protect her while she cannot protect herself.


   Which makes for a most interesting and entertaining case for her first outing, with sex – casual, real and imagined – the key to many of the characters’ motives. The only flaw, if one there is, is that it is not all that difficult for the viewer, taking a relaxed pace, to separate the red herrings from the actual trail of events, as they happen.

   And as the case goes on, and as Anna pulls the facts together, she also begins to dress more appropriately – and act more and more professionally – as the story goes on. In both regards, the Commander stolidly and (as far as I can tell) enthusiastically approves.