When we talk about this new golden age of television, we seem to always be talking about American TV. Certainly there has been a wealth of great American TV to enter our households over the last many years, but it seems a shame that British television is so often neglected in those discussions.
I’d argue that the Brits have not yet created a show with the scope and depth of something like The Wire or Breaking Bad (though Life on Mars gets close) but they are really great at taking a classic genre and making it as good as it can possibly get.
Line of Duty is a excellent example of this. It's not in any way innovative or original. It does solve but a single case over the entire season, which stands it out from the typical fare, but even that is becoming more common place. Its heroes are part of an Anti-Corruption unit - what we’d call "internal affairs" in the States - which is unusual as that department is usually portrayed as the bad guys in TV and film (which always seems strange to me - I mean wouldn’t the police who are charged with upholding the law want their own to do the same?) But mostly it's a pretty standard police procedural, albeit one thats ridiculously good.
Series Two doesn’t stray too far from the premise it set up in Series One, but that’s not a bad thing, not a bad thing at all. It begins with a bang as new character DI Denton (Keeley Hawes) is hastily called to be part of a police convoy escorting a civilian under witness protection to a new safe house. En route the convoy is attacked and everyone but Denton and the witness is brutally murdered.
Our returning anti-corruption police DI Arnott (Martin Compston), DC Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) and PSupt Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) immediately suspect Denton as she received not a single scratch. This being Line of Duty they (along with us) are taken on a wild ride that runs from her definitely being guilty to she’s absolutely a pawn in some larger game and back and forth through the entire six-episode run.
Kelley Hawes is just brilliant throughout. Sometimes she makes you change allegiance with just a sly grin or a simple look. The rest of the cast is equally wonderful. It's a cop show, for sure, with all the traditional action and overloaded drama but the actors keep it grounded with terrific performances all around.
I was thankful for the DVDs and their ability to allow me to binge watch, but I kind of wish it had aired in America and I’d been able to relish the drama week after week around the virtual water cooler. As it is we watched the hell out of it, episode after episode keeping our three-year-old up way past her bedtime in the process. She didn’t seem to mind, in fact she was kind of glued to the TV herself.
Extras include the typical type stuff. There's a 10-minute behind-the-scenes feature, deleted and extended scenes, and some interviews with the cast.
Line of Duty might not have that extra something to put it into the running of Best TV Show of Ever and All Time, but it's pretty damn good television. A great example of the Brits taking a tired genre and making it must-see TV all over again.