Line Of Duty
- Brian Donaldson
- 21 March 2021
All hail a typically clunky return of the most beloved or over-rated British cop show on TV
There's no doubt that Jed Mercurio's Line Of Duty has a passionate following with admirers who will fight for the merits of his show with their last breath. Arguably its greatest defender is Jed himself who has angrily taken to social media and print magazines to blast those who had the temerity to suggest that Line Of Duty might not actually be, you know, any good. Even those who loved the Beeb's flagship Sunday night drama over its first few series questioned the frankly preposterous ending of season five as a bad man who had just been fatally shot uses his last moments to tap out a message in Morse code ('tap. Tap tap. Tap') hoping against hope that a camera was pointing straight at his left hand. He needn't have worried.
Perhaps even worse than this implausible finale were the end credits which detailed what happened next to key characters: 'under an alias, Lisa educates teenagers to avoid crime', 'Ryan Pilkington has been accepted for training as a Student Police Officer', 'for assisting subsequent prosecutions, Gill Biggeloe received a new identity' and so unbelievably on. Documentaries do this, but it's not quite so laughable in that genre given that they tend to be about people who have actually existed in the world.
Some who loved the first few series had finally seen the light that was glaringly obvious to those who watched in disbelief as Line Of Duty received all that fulsome praise. Particularly unforgivable has been the clunky, overly technical dialogue that seemed only to drain some fine actors of their ability to perform, instead blandly trotting out 'AC' this and 'OCG' that. It takes quite an effort to have the brilliant likes of Anna Maxwell Martin and Stephen Graham sleepwalking through their scripts, but Line Of Duty achieved it.
Only Adrian Dunbar's Ted Hastings seemed to be partially immune to the stilted robotics required here; instead, his jovial, no-filter ways often amount to spouting more clichés and catchphrases than you can shake a straight talkin' stick at. He's at it again in this new series describing people as 'free as a bird' or 'backing the wrong horse' while Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) 'has made her bed, now she's got to lie in it'. That's when he's not calling a grown man 'son' in the same way that he wouldn't be addressing a female colleague as 'love'. That said, Ted's not shy in describing a suspect with Down's syndrome as 'a local oddball'.
After 24 revealed that its modus operandi was the dramatic twist which proved that you could trust absolutely no one, the viewer became hyper-alert in trying to spot the next baddie disguised as a goodie. With Line Of Duty's five-series back catalogue of high-profile bent coppers, there's almost no point in speculating what part Kelly Macdonald's DCI Joanne Davidson will play in the tangled web that is this drama's corruption plot. Perhaps we should at least be thankful that she arrives with her own accent intact.
BBC One, Sunday 21 March, 9pm.