‘It’s more than a straight police procedural – it has big themes and complex characters’

Distributor Viaplay Content Distribution
Producer Eleventh Hour Films
Length 6 x 45 minutes
Broadcaster Viaplay (Scandinavia)

Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels were first adapted for TV between 2000 and 2007, after selling millions of copies around the world. Now, Rankin’s iconic character, John Rebus, is back, in a scripted reboot that reimagines the Scottish sleuth as a younger detective sergeant, drawn into a violent conflict that turns personal when his brother Michael crosses into criminality.

The series starts with Rebus at a psychological crossroads. Recently demoted and involved in a toxic affair, he questions whether he still has a role as a family man or police officer. As if things aren’t bad enough, Rebus and his partner are sucked into a gang war, which escalates when brother Michael steals from drug dealers to provide for his family.

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Eleventh Hour Films chief executive Jill Green says bringing back Rebus was a no-brainer: “Ian Rankin’s series is such a distinctive IP, with universal appeal, that there’s been interest in bringing the Rebus story back to screen for a while.

“Eleventh Hour partnered with Ian Rankin with the idea to deliver a modernised and fresh take on Rebus, and it was Ian’s trust and the involvement of writer Gregory Burke that drove the production forward.”

Green says Eleventh Hour has been a “longstanding fan of Burke’s work across stage and screen, and he shares a similar background to Rankin as a fellow Fifer, which led to a deep understanding of the Rebus character and familiarity with the landscape of the novels”.

“Throughout the process, the support of Viaplay Group was very important. We all shared the same vision about creating an unforgettable show with Scottish roots, international appeal and universal themes,” she adds.

Explaining how the new series compares with the original, Green says it “is an ambitious series exploring family, morality and class through an exciting and emotionally charged story, set against the Edinburgh landmarks that Rankin’s readers know so well”.

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“In the current books, Rebus is in his 60s and retired from the police force, but for this series, we’ve had the freedom to go back to the beginning of his story. We still have all the same characters that fans would recognise from the books, but it’s set in the modern day. It’s almost a parallel universe of a young Rebus in a contemporary time.”

As for why the company has backed the series, executive vice-president of Viaplay Select & content distribution Vanda Rapti says: “We see Rebus reaching the huge existing fanbase but also opening up a new generation of viewers. The proven international appeal of the books was a big factor behind the decision to commission the series.”

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In terms of the on-screen package, Rapti says: “We have a stellar cast, with Richard Rankin playing Rebus, off the back of seven seasons co-leading in Outlander on Starz worldwide.”

Other cast include Brian Ferguson (The Ipcress File) as Rebus’s brother Michael and Neshla Caplan (The Rig), who plays Michael’s wife Chrissie.

Rapti says the richness of storytelling and characterisation will help Rebus stand out in a saturated scripted landscape. “This isn’t a conventional crime series. It’s about a complicated and knotty character who happens to be a policeman. It’s more than a straight police procedural investigation – it has big themes and complex characters at its heart.”