The first series of Line of Duty, Jed Mercurio’s BBC2 cops-investigating-cops drama was a good show with some great character writing and shocking moments. It was a pleasant surprise to discover it was getting a second season.
Along comes the second series and the whole thing goes stellar, to the point where tonight’s final episode is getting the full no-clips-in-the-trailers locked box treatment. It’s a show that has gained tremendous momentum over its five episodes, the ratings rising as the word-of-mouth drives people to catch up on iPlayer then start watching the episodes on broadcast. I suspect it’s clearly going to be massively influential on how BBC2 approaches drama, especially with BBC3 drama disappearing in the near future.
So why the big deal? There are a few easy things to point to – a career elevating BAFTA worthy performance from Keeley Hawes, playing the polar opposite to the sympathetic lead roles she’s often played before, making DI Lindsey Denton a terrifying, determined bruiser who you absolutely would not want to fuck with. The rest of the cast are great, and the whole production is slick and fast moving, very well-directed.
But at the base is a stellar script that throws in massive plot twists and shocks while still being rooted in the believable. Mercurio’s specialty as a writer is that, as an ex-doctor, he has an instinctive and detailed understanding of what it’s like to do a big, serious public service job where lives are in the balance. He understands the internal tensions of the characters, and he understands the bureaucratic framework that drives, constrains, frustrates and occasionally protects the people who work in that system. Line of Duty has the same feeling of researched authenticity that The Wire had, but without breaking that grounded feel it also has big thriller moments. People do bad, desperate, very violent things but the story never descends into an action fantasy shootout.
9pm, BBC2 tonight. See you on the other side.
We’d like to go after anyone threatening to continue production of Torchwood. Do you know who we mean?
Here’s a curio for fans of 1960s ‘Doctor Who’ (i.e. any ‘Who’ fan over twenty-five with a functioning taste gland).
While in Paris for our honeymoon a couple of years ago, we browsed a vast second hand book shop in a covered market. It was the kind of place that, for whatever reason, you don’t see in the UK. Amongst all the filthy Italian horror comics and other oddities I spotted a familiar face:
… William Russell, Ian Chesterton himself. Now, most fans of any vintage will know that Russell was the star of ‘The Adventures of Sir Lancelot’ before starring in ‘Who’. Indeed, as with Matt Smith et al on the back of current ‘Who’ books, Russell is credited by name at the front of this French tie-in book:
As ‘Who’ has never been big in France, it’s interesting to see that one of it’s initial stars was well-known enough to have his face plastered over a kids tie-in storybook in the late 1950s/early 1960s.
There was a DVD release of ‘Lancelot’ a few years back, some of you may even have seen it. I’m seriously doubting that it had the kind of action this book’s illustrations suggest:
Finally, it’s good to know that even when playing Lancelot, Russell still had Ian’s frankly awesome haircut:
I don’t know much French, but I’m glad we found this book, physical confirmation that William Russell was a global star five decades before the current ‘Who’ team started doing premiere events in New York, as well as a charmingly straightforward TV tie-in from long ago.
After writing one red-mist topical screed here on Saturday, I’ve now written another for Shiny Shelf, this time regarding the constant snivelling attacks on the BBC by various Tories, Murdochs, and other predators.
As with the journalism piece, I welcome any feedback. I scrawl these things out in a frenzy, and welcome any chance to correct any ambiguities or nonsenses that have slipped in via sloppy wording on my part.
By way of keeping up a post a day, some randoms to keep you busy, if you’re really bored, or are in a later timezone still at work (to which I say HA HA POOR TIMEZONE LOSERS LOL:
- Agreeable Comics has revamped its website, which you can find here. If you haven’t read comic shop sitcom The Rack, or more recent additions such as The Loneliest Astronauts (a fantastically bleak humour strip) or She Died In Terrebone (an early 1970s murder mystery) now is as good a time as any to catch up.
- I played the Brutal Legend demo the other day on the X-Box 360. It’s a lot of fun, a button-mashing combat game with a ludicrous heavy metal theme, witty script and sharp voiceovers – Jack Black is playing the lead character, and he’s actually playing that character rather than just being Jack Black. It could be a lot of fun, but equally I’m unsure whether it’s going to hit one of the two problems that hit action combat games: 1) the hideous difficulty spike that brings you to a screeching halt; or 2) the endless ache of constant button-mashy repetition. This is one where I hope the main campaign is focussed, with sufficient variety, and doesn’t suddenly ratchet the difficulty level up purely to drag things out. As it stands, it’s worth clearing space on your HD to download the demo, just for the genuinely funny cutscenes and… but that would be spoiling it.
- And finally, doing my review a day I looked at BBC4’s Micro Men for the Shelf. This was an absolute sod to write, as I tried to weave my opinions about the programme into a bit of context and commentary on the era the show covered. I’ve already had some feedback suggesting that I give too short shrift to the business and practical applications on 8-bit computers. While I acknowledge the feedback, these reviews are inevitably a simplified view (I skipped over the ST and Amiga altogether when discussing the evolution of the industry, just as the show itself didn’t mention later Acorn branded products like the Archimedes), and I’d still maintain that it took the introduction of hard drives, more accessible operating systems and so forth for home computers to be practical devices for doing useful stuff for anyone other than the most dedicated hobbyists. I may be wrong. I’m certainly not fiddling with an already torturous review to nuance my own point.
And a lovely weekend to all of you at home,
I wrote this thing about some British TV crime stuff. It took ages, so please read it. Plead plead, whimper whimper.
In other news: job stuff, wedding prep, Left4Dead, Peggle, whine whine, blah blah.
But who is this, on the horizon, in an image of a slightly different character of the same species ripped off the Happy Endings cover via postmodernbarney?:
More on that soon…
This one looks great. Come on Five, get on with it:
In which case, you need cheering up:
Good luck to us all, we need it.