TV review: Good cop, not quite so good cop

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The line-up from Line of Duty, SoHo's new premier police show. Photo / Supplied
The line-up from Line of Duty, SoHo's new premier police show. Photo / Supplied

Cops say the darndest things. At least they do on Line of Duty, (SoHo, Tuesdays, 8.30pm) a show with some killer lines.

"Let's get the pond life moved much further away and they'll soon get back to watching Jeremy Kyle," said the show's good cop-bad cop Tony Gates.

The philandering Officer of the Year had turned up to a crime scene in his flash car and sharp suit, only to find residents in the low socio-economic area standing around gawking. He later threatened Detective Sergeant Steve Arnott, the show's "proper copper", with a little tribute to another famous stick-up man: "You take a shot at the king, make sure you kill him son." ("You come at the king, you best not miss" - Omar Little from The Wire.) But the best tongue-twister came from Tony's colleague who showed footage of a dealer "with a big fat rucksack full of crack cocaine". Try saying that 10 times.

The five-part BBC2 series is written by Jed Mercurio (Bodies) and was the most popular show on the British channel since Rome in 2005. It's not hard to see why.

Line of Duty is a taut, gripping and authentic cop drama that moves at quite a pace. Like The Wire, which explores institutional corruption, the line between good and bad was blurred early on. Police thought they'd nabbed a terrorist, there was a shoot-out and the wrong guy was killed. Their boss insisted they lie in their statements. Arnott refused. After resigning from the anti-terrorism unit he was assigned to investigate Gates on suspicion of corruption. There was a nice twist, well into the episode, when Detective Constable Kate Fleming, the new girl in Gates' TO20 unit was revealed to be working on the case, undercover. Meanwhile, Gates was busy perverting the course of justice for the sake of his mistress, Jackie, (the enigmatic Gina McKee) who had hit and killed a man while driving drunk. Or so she said. Bad boy though he is, Lennie James' performance makes him flawed but likeable.

Line of Duty isn't without melodrama - the opening sequence had more slow-mo than a scene of Baywatch, and when Jackie broke down it felt more soap than thriller. But for the most part it's a smart little drama that is well worth watching.

If Line of Duty is a kind of British version of The Wire, Prime Suspect (TV One, Wednesdays, 10.55pm) is an American version of, well, who knows? The "re-imagining" of the original Prime Suspect with Helen Mirren is another beast. Times have changed since the original show was in its heyday. Mirren's Inspector Jane Tennison smoked - often in the office. Maria Bello's Jane Timoney is struggling to quit, and pretty pissed off about it. Tennison dressed conservatively. Bello wears a fedora and chews gum. It's hard to believe there aren't sexual harassment laws in place now that would keep Timoney's misogynist colleagues in line. When Line of Duty's Kate Fleming showed up to the pub, one of the young lads presumed she'd like two small beers, rather than a pint. Timoney is bullied relentlessly, the bulk of her colleagues believing her transfer to the NYPD homicide division was because she was involved with the Deputy Chief.

Despite all this, Prime Suspect ain't a bad cop drama. But it may not have enough to see it stick around, particularly given the slew of police procedurals that ultimately serve the same purpose: solve the crime and move on. It has already been tentatively shelved. Still, I take my fedora hat off to Bello, who so far seems the right woman for such a tough job.

- NZ Herald

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