Remotely Interested: Walking The Shadow Line.

tslSomething very strange has been happening in telly land. Something which is vaguely disturbing in its unusual nature but also quite a pleasant surprise. Somehow, after years of absolute dross, TV police dramas have started to get good again. Long after Jack Frost started plodding around the streets in hush puppies and Dalziel and Pascoe started moaning and bickering like a married couple on holiday, it seems a new breed of infinitely more daring police shows have finally grabbed the genre by the collar and out of the murky, cliché ridden waters that it has tread for so many years.

For too long the works of Lynda La Plante (below par later instalments of Prime Suspect and Above Suspicion)and shows like Wire In The Blood have lumbered perennially onto the screen relying on increasingly bloody murders and increasingly strung out police officers without a home life. Of course the other side to such shows is cosy tea time fare like Blue Murder and Heartbeat, which, frankly, the less said about the better.

Of course there has always been the odd exceptional TV plod to liven up what would otherwise be a beige sea of programming. The original run of Prime Suspect for example, or Cracker (not entirely a cop show but they were prominent), even Morse in its own quiet way. More recently though the quality revolution has gathered pace, arguably kicked off when Sam Tyler was hit by a car and sent spiralling back to the 70’s in the first episode of Life On Mars.

This mast two months though, we’ve really been spoilt with brilliantly watchable, quintessentially British cop dramas across the Beeb and ITV. Idris Elba has returned as the engrossingly melodramatic Luther (albeit without smashing a single piece of furniture, which was disappointing), whilst Scott and Bailey proved that you can make a realistic police show without getting mired in paperwork by focusing on the problems normal people face, whilst throwing in a serial killer sub-plot almost casually.

Tucked away on BBC2 though, was what must surely be the crowning achievement in Auntie’s 2011 programming, The Shadow Line. The Shadow Line was a singular achievement in more ways than one. Firstly, it was written, directed and produced by one man, Hugo Blick, who as you may know has only had prior success with the Rob Brydon vehicle Marion and Geoff. Oh and he was a German prison guard in Blackadder Goes Forth. The Shadow Line was truly one man’s uncompromising vision and it showed. Initially, and rather unfairly, compared to The Wire for its use of portrayal of life’s grey areas and morally ambiguous characters on both sides of the law, The Shadow Line proved itself to be a different beast entirely. TSL was at its heart a Noir thriller, with dark undercurrents dictating everything down to lighting in the offices (the dodgy head copper sitting in shadow as a shaft of light shines on Chiwetel Ejiofor’s good cop, Jonah Gabriel), and with simple acts such as making soup when the doorbell rings being leant an uneasy air thanks to Stephen Rea’s turn as the softly spoken murderer Gatehouse.

The Shadow Line was British drama at its very best, with a cast including the brilliant Christopher Eccleston, Rafe Spall and Sir Antony Sher not only at the top of their game but also not upstaging the ever twisting plot, a conspiracy with the most British twist possible (*SPOILER*: It was all about pensions). There have been plenty of quality dramas recently, but The Shadow Line was arguably the best in a long time, simply because it was willing to take leaps with its style and execution. For that alone, Blick should be handed another commission ASAP.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.