Finally, after a dearth of good British drama, this comes along. But before I talk about the first episode of the new 5-part BBC2 drama, “Line of Duty”, a word on scheduling, my own personal bugbear. While this solid drama was relegated to BBC2, on BBC1 on a Tuesday night at 9 o’clock was ‘Turn Back the Time’, one of those docu-reality programmes, this time where a family lives as they would back in other decades. You know the type -typical BBC2 fare. So why was that programme (I haven’t seen it of course) put on primetime and not ‘Line of Duty’? In fact there hasn’t been much publicity about ‘Line of Duty’ at all – despite the high profile cast and excellent first episode at least.
A cast that includes Lennie James as the main character DCI Tony Gates, Gina McKee as his girlfriend involved in a hit and run that she (and he) cover up, Vicky McClure as a young police officer who gets promoted into Gates’ squad but is actually undercover for anti-corruption, Neil Morrissey (yes the Men Behaving Badly one) as another colleague on the squad, Kate Ashfield as Gates’ wife, and other familiar faces like Dean Morfiit who used to be in ‘Dream Team’, and Claire Keelan, and with Martin Compston as the other main character DS Steve Arnott, you know you’re in good hands.
It begins with Steve Arnott instructing his swat team to raid a flat where they have a suspected terrorist. The team point their gun on an Asian man holding a baby and proceed to shoot and kill him. But he was an innocent. They got the wrong flat as they wanted 59 but they went to 56 because the 6 had fallen down (or perhaps it was the other way round). Other than wondering why the police didn’t look at the other numbers next door when they found the flat, it’s a good start. It then proceeds to their superior telling them to fudge the facts about what happened and blame the innocent man they killed for refusing to put his arms up when they asked him to – and then a coroner’s inquest. But Steve refuses to lie and wants to tell the truth. He is then moved to Anti-Corruption – the police department that looks into bent coppers.
His boss Hastings (“like the battle”) has fixed his sights on DCI Gates (Lennie James) – a well-respected policeman who gets awards and has a good record in fighting crime. He’s too good to be true according to Hastings so they’re going to investigate him. Luckily, he’s just become embroiled in a cover-up as his girlfriend/mistress Jackie (Gina McKee) has called upon his help as she was involved in a drunk hit and run and pretended that her car had been stolen. As he explained that her car had an immobiliser, he set up her place to look like it had a break-in for the car keys, and then keeps an eye on the case. He finds out that she killed a man, and tells her to confess (leaving out the bit about his involvement) but she can’t go through with it. When he finds out that the man she killed is actually her accountant – what are the chances? – he deletes the case file from the computer. But meanwhile Steve Arnott is on his case. At first Steve doesn’t want to suspect Gates, and doesn’t want to victimise him because of his race, but after someone places a turd on his car seat (ugh) he changes his mind.
“Line of Duty” seems like the new “Shadow Lines”. Bent coppers, lots of characters, moody music, good actors, BBC2 fare. Hopefully it will have a good ending and not peter out like Shadow Lines did. There are obviously lots of other minor plots going on. Kate (Gina McKee) who is working undercover and therefore alongside Steve. Will there be a romance? What is Neil Morrissey going to get up to? There’s a case about a drug ring and mysteriously while the surveillance team are changing over with a 15 minute gap in between, the drug dealers get tortured (with their fingers chopped off) and murdered. Was Gates involved in this too? What about his family life – he’s got 2 young kids, one of whom is a very good piano player.
I’m looking forward to the next 4 weeks. And I haven’t been able to look forward to a British drama for a while now. So I’m happy!