Line of Duty (2017)

Amidst all the chatter about shiny new ways to watch TV in the multi-channel/on-demand age, it’s sobering to think there are millions of people who still haven’t discovered BBC2 (est. 1964). Which is why, after winning record ratings for the ‘minority’ channel, Line of Duty has now been rewarded with promotion to the Beeb’s main shop window.

With most of the dangling plot threads tied up in last year’s explosive series 3 finale, writer Jed Mercurio has hit the reset button with a new story, and a new guest lead in the impressive form of Thandie Newton. She plays Roz Huntley, a DCI who, under pressure from top brass for results (‘They’ve been killing us on Twitter!’), charges a vulnerable suspect with murder and kidnap, ignoring the doubts of forensic investigator Tim Ifield (Jason Watkins).

It’s clear, though, that whistleblower Tim has his own agenda – and may even be the killer himself, setting up exactly the kind of murky moral quagmire, where it’s impossible to separate heroes from villains, in which Mercurio likes to operate.

Over at anti-corruption squad AC-12, meanwhile, there’s a distinct chill in the air between Kate (Vicky McClure) and Steve (Martin Compston) following her promotion. Thankfully, the finest man on TV, Adrian Dunbar’s Superintendent Ted Hastings – Super Ted, as I like to call him – is on hand to keep his sulking DS focused on the only thing that matters: catching bent coppers, son.

For a moment, this looked set to follow last year’s MO of brutally dispatching its leading actor in the first episode, following Roz’s unfortunate run-in with Tim’s kitchen worktop – until her eyes snapped open just as he was about to dismember her with a chainsaw.

For a show feted for its procedural realism this was, frankly, all rather implausible. But then Mercurio has form when it comes to these sudden shocks – not least the closing minutes of the previous series, when it suddenly turned into Die Hard.

Is Line of Duty in danger of losing its hard-won credibility? Possibly. Is it still the most compelling drama on TV? Definitely.

TV extra:


Brian Pern: A Tribute

Rhys Thomas’ wickedly funny portrait of an ageing rock legend (Simon Day, playing a very thinly veiled version of Peter Gabriel) reached its final chapter with this star-studded posthumous tribute, following the singer’s recent death in a tragic ‘segway mistake’. Along the way there were Womble sex scandals, a disastrous attempt at a Bond theme with Madness, a touching eulogy from Phil Collins and, finally, an appearance from a certain former Genesis singer (yes, the other one). Magnificent.


Rio Ferdinand: Being Mum and Dad

This sad, poignant film documented the former England footballer’s struggle to come to terms with the loss of his wife Rebecca to cancer, while also raising the couple’s three children. In the Portuguese holiday home they built together, Rebecca had hung a sign that read: ‘This is our happy ever after.’ Tragically, that wasn’t to be but, despite his protests to the contrary, Ferdinand showed himself to be a man of keen emotional intelligence, doing a fantastic job in appalling circumstances.

Published in Waitrose Weekend, March 30, 2017

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