TV review: Line of Duty Series 5, BBC One (2 stars)

TV review: Line of Duty, BBC One

Jed Mercurio' (The Bodyguard) blockbuster bent copper conspiracy drama returns with more hackneyed fare

The BBC's hottest long-running crime drama series returns with more tangled webs, dodgy coppers and dripping paranoia. For those who've been enthralled by Line of Duty will be delighted that Jed Mercurio's show is back while the heathens can only despair at this latest slab of hackneyed boilerplate which brilliantly disguises itself as thrilling drama. Needless to say, the latter group won't need to rush back on board for series five.

The cast is full of solid acting talent (though real stars such as Keeley Hawes, Lennie James and Daniel Mays have long been brutally dispatched), yet the writing leaves many of them discussing the gravest of matters as though they're reading the contents on the back of a shampoo sachet. Perhaps this is a quibble that should have been dropped a while back, but why was Martin Compston given a ropey Lahndan accent when Adrian Dunbar was allowed to retain his Ulster brogue, while one of the show's latest recruits, Stephen Graham, performs another in his lengthening list of menacing Scousers? And in a world rife with acronyms and initialisms, perhaps a line like 'is there a UCO embedded in the OCG?' is only accidentally amusing.

Ahead of its peaktime Sunday night run, the Beeb's publicity department (BPD?) would prefer that reviewers 'remain vague on the plot'. That leaves very little to discuss other than the episode opening up with three police officers being gunned down by a balaclava gang while a fourth is inexplicably allowed to live. The following 55 minutes is a conspiracy thriller by numbers as Compston scowls, Dunbar utters one biblical reference after another, and Vicky McClure stares at something indeterminate in the middle distance. If you want to see a more incisive exploration of police corruption with superior writing, better acting and a stronger sense of how to chill as well as move an audience, best track down Channel 4's Red Riding.

Episodes watched: One of six

Line of Duty series 5 starts on BBC One, Sunday 31 March, 9pm

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