Following British Procedurals


No one does police procedural TV shows better than the British. And two of then I’ve gotten into thanks to Hulu have both wowed and absorbed my interest. They both share an edginess, pull-no-punches plotting with delicious twists, and lead characters who may be flawed but hold out for justice.

Line of Duty follows the cases of AC-12, a police anti-corruption unit in an unnamed English Midlands city that is implied to be Birmingham, where it was initially filmed (later episodes were lensed in Belfast, Northern Ireland). Cops that investigate other cops are reviled by the police rank and file. But this show gives them their just due while also delving into their foibles.

Winner of the Royal Television Society’s Award for Best Drama Series and the most popular recent series on BBC Two, it’s a tough-minded show that portrays both the unit’s triumphs and mistakes, unafraid to delve into the grey areas in between good policing and corruption. It does not shy away from violence or explicit sexual topics. It’s cracking good and quite gripping over its first three seasons available here.

It has three strong moral poles. First, Detective Sergeant Steve Arnott, a former anti-terrorism officer consigned to AC-12 after a botched raid results in an innocent civilian death. He is determined and passionate, which leads him to both successes and failures.

Then there’s Supt. Ted Hastings, the flinty head of AC-12 who has a clear-cut sense of right and wrong and is unafraid to take on the powerful and see each investigation to the end. Detective Constable Kate Fleming is a hard-working investigator, who is skilled at going undercover who rises in the unit over the three seasons.

One of its plots, which uncovers past child sexual abuse done, aided and abetted by top police and local politicians, parallels the recent revelations of pedophilia rings among the rich, powerful and famed in England. Line of Duty can be uneasy watching, but in the best way, and led me into satisfying binge from the first episode.

DCI Banks is based on novels about Inspector Alan Banks by author Peter Robinson, and has been aired here on PBS as well as Hulu. The books were adapted into two or three episode segments over its five seasons, highly rated on the UK’s ITV, three of which are available on Hulu. I’m into the second season and can’t stop watching.

Veteran British television actor Stephen Tompkinson makes a compelling lead as Banks, a man of not too many words but strong convictions. Detective Sergeant Annie Cabbot is a newcomer to his team, who becomes an effective counterpart for Banks. Like Line of Duty, the show’s plots are tough and rich with twists and don’t flinch when it comes the violence humans can commit on one another.

Both shows offer an ameliorative for the tarnished reputations of American police today. Ideally, police are the moral and ethical guardians of an organized society and the front line in the effort to bring justice to modern human affairs. And these two shows are akso superior and intelligent entertainment that shall stand as classics.

Populist Picks:

TV Documentary: Churchill’s First World War – As long as we’re going English here, this examination of his formative years of failure and struggle as well as achievement offers valuable insights into one of the great if also flawed men of the 20th Century.

CD: Good ‘n’ Cheap: The Eggs Over Easy Story – When this early 1970s American roots-rock band found themselves in London for recording and at loose ends, they managed to secure a weekly residency at a local pub that sparked the English pub rock movement from which major figures in the punk and new wave movement emerged. This set collects some wonderful music nearly lost in history.

Documentary Film: Filthy Gorgeous: The Bob Guccione Story – The Penthouse magazine publisher was the flipside of Hugh Hefner and mounted a serious challenge to Playboy’s dominance of the men’s magazine field. He was a game changer in cultural history whose vision and personal dynamism and contradictions are brought to life by those who knew him.

Rob Patterson is a music and entertainment writer in Austin, Texas. Email

From The Progressive Populist, February 1, 2017

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