Line of Duty (2019)

Line of Duty (BBC One)

I suppose you can’t really blame the BBC for flogging this year’s Line of Duty as ‘from the makers of Bodyguard’. But, thrilling though Jed Mercurio’s ratings blockbuster was, for me LoD remains very much the senior partner, the chairman of the board and, for what it’s worth, the most consistently electrifying drama on TV.

The long-awaited fifth series opened in typically explosive fashion with an ambush on a police transport that ended, in the words of Superintendent Ted Hastings (newly minted national treasure Adrian Dunbar), with ‘three officers in the morgue, and one but for the grace of God’.

Suspecting an inside job, Super Ted assigned AC-12 hotshots Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) and Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) to investigate. But, as per standard LoD protocol, it’s the ‘person of interest’ who gets top billing – in this case Stephen Graham, who’s properly menacing as the ruthless boss of an organised criminal gang.

Or, at least, that’s who we thought he was, until Mercurio pulled one of his audacious handbrake turns by revealing – MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT – that Graham is actually an undercover cop. Albeit one his handler suspects might have gone native (certainly he seems to consider the wholesale slaughter of his police colleagues all in a days’ work).

All this caused Ted to start acting magnificently Irish. ‘Mother of God…’ he exclaimed on hearing about the hijack. ‘Oh Jesus, Mary and Joseph,’ he sighed when Maneet (Maya Sondhi) was exposed as the viper in AC-12’s nest (shortly before taking one of Mercurio’s trademark early baths). But he saved the best for a senior colleague he suspected of hiding intel from him: ‘Now listen, Alison, I didn’t float up the Lagan in a bubble!’

It’s tempting to say that Ted – who, incidentally, has been reduced to living in a budget hotel with a broken toilet (plumber's diagnosis: bent copper?) – is the hero Britain needs right now. But Mercurio keeps picking away at the idea he might turn out to be the fat spider at the heart of this tangled web of lies and deceit. In which case, we’ve all been played for fools – like we’ve just floated up the Lagan in a bubble.

TV extra:

 

David Jason: Planes, Trains and Automobiles (Gold)

This new series is basically an excuse for Sir David Jason to indulge his passion for (Del) boys’ toys by driving and flying ‘the machines that built America’. But while he’s a brilliant comic actor, Jason is not much of an interviewer (‘Is that salt water or fresh water?’ he asked as they flew over Puget Sound). Lucky for us, then, that he occasionally reacts ‘in character’: this week, we got a ‘good grief, Penfold!’ and, of course, a ‘lovely jubbly’.

 

The Beatles: Made on Merseyside (BBC Four)

Yes, it’s another documentary about The Beatles, and many of the stories in Alan Byron’s film covered well-trod ground. Where it departed from the usual script, though, was its vivid portrait of how Mersey Beat helped turn a bombed-out, smut-blackened, exhausted postwar Liverpool into the ‘New Orleans of rock and roll’. The impressive roster of talking heads, meanwhile, included Pete Best, claiming he had no regrets, because he’s lived ‘a wonderful life’. Aaaww.



Published in Waitrose Weekend, April 7, 2019

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