Every British/Irish Police Drama Since 2005 – Except Luther. Maybe.

Sorry I was AWOL last week. I was finishing the Covid audio book. More to come on that very shortly. It sounds great, and we anticipate having a finished Kindle, paperback, and Audible version by Halloween. Thanks for your patience. 

 

During the recent decade I’ve had a chance to watch quite a few British and Irish television shows on NETFLIX & AMAZON PRIME.  It has become abundantly clear to me that to make a modern police drama in Great Britain you really only need to follow a mold and add a few variables. 

At the risk of ruining all of your television watching for the rest of your life, and that’s quite a threat to some of you, I will set out the formula in the paragraphs below. You have been warned.

First, your hero, or heroine, will need to be deeply flawed, conflicted, and hopefully bisexual at a minimum. Broken marriages are a key component. You can substitute the bisexual/gay/lesbian trait with rampant drug abuse, or strong suicidal tendencies. It is strongly recommended that regardless of the above, they have a serious substance abuse problem, and a violent temper.

Second, the reason for the above noted situation will have to be kept secret until the third episode. You are allowed to have them longingly stare at those they are attracted to, but make sure you throw in some random leering at other people with different orientations. In the event of their family being shattered (which is a huge plus) you can have them stare at their voice mail indicator, pictures of small children, or repeatedly rub their ring finger as though it is on fire. 

It is vital that they were a member of the Metropolitan London Police (Or in the case of the Irish, Dublin) and have been exiled to an outer ring of hell. This will likely be the middle of nowhere in Wales, on an island off the coast of Scotland, or in some dump of a police station that even zombies will ignore come the apocalypse. They are paying penance, and there is always the hint that they might be allowed back into the big city if they pay enough in the way of dues. 

In regard to the paragraph above, they will continue to screw up just like they did in London on a regular basis. But, and this is always fun, their enigmatic boss will let them get away with murder and redeem them because the rest of the local force are such a troop of baboons that it’s only by accident that they solve any crimes. 

There will be a lot of hurtful shouting between cast members, and they all know each other’s darkest secrets. You will slowly get the backstory over the first season, and most likely one of  the supporting characters will die needlessly because it helps the plot. Also, they will lie and lie and lie, and the tangle of lies will be their downfall. And, if you’re an actor with any kind of talent, you don’t want to be known as the ‘scouse from that telly’ for the rest of your days. 

Speaking of supporting characters, there will be one immediate subordinate who should have had your job, you filthy interloper, but they can’t quite make the grade. They will be the opposite sex of the main character, and while makeup and wardrobe will work very hard to make them dumpy/bland, they are hotter than the core of a reactor, and will eventually give you a shot of bum or leg that will send a thrill up the spine. You will only realize their hidden secret in episode 4 or 5. But then you will know there’s even more to uncover, so you will wait until the second season to find out. Unless they get snuffed/pregnant/in rehab and can’t make it back for a couple of seasons. They will only return at that time to be killed off in the third episode, because it was just too good to be true that they were back.

The locale. If the show is set in London, you will get a lot of pretty sets. If it is true to this form, and set outside London, you will only see walls painted in the early 20th century or later every 4 weeks. In general, homeless people live better than the locals as they are portrayed. There will be dead animals all over the set, left there by the landowner because they’re so hungry they have to trap/hunt their food. Most homes are filthy, and always have a junk-filled room in an outbuilding that the hero wades through to find the case-breaking clue. For Irish television, most of the time is spent in a pub or the police station. Evidently Dublin cops only shoot billiards, drink tea, eat cookies and pizza, and read papers in the station break room. No point in being on the street if you can avoid it. There will be limited sets otherwise, and all will be either glamorous or dowdy. No in between. 

Vehicles are also important. There is some poor slob with the production company who was given this edict: “John, be a good lad and round up vehicles for the next 14 episodes. We will need vehicles never seen before for every episode. We will require 6 that look like they were attacked by Godzilla, and covered in mud and bird shite, but they must run enough to go on and off the set. We will need 12 cars that just sit in barns/yards and are covered in filth/tarps and/or have bushes growing out the windows. The hero’s car is to be spotless and shined each morning, no matter its vintage. The police vehicles must all be brand new and looking good. Oh, and you can never repeat the background vehicles during the season. Ever. If you do, we’ll get rid of you faster than a shagged out hooker in Piccadilly. Clear?”

Side kicks. There will be at least two. One will be a socially awkward nerd. Hopefully with some hidden emotional problem. But vital to the team, and a counterbalance to the main character who’s a lunatic. Steady nerd (beautiful under the glasses if it’s a woman) will be pivotal in solving things and never get credit. 

The other nerd will be there to say stupid things to advance the plot. Male, or female, they will be good to look at, and easy to kill if they need some blood. Totally pointless in the overall scheme. Possible dalliance for one of the two main characters, but perhaps not. May have a fetish we don’t want to know about – at least not openly.

The main character will have sex with several people they should not. Usually suspects, but often a despairing loved one involved in the case. The kind of crap that gets you gone in real police work. Everyone will know about it. 

Closely linked to the bad-judgement-sex, you will have deaths through empathy. The main character will be the direct cause of a needless death on a regular basis because they “care too much.” Get used to it. Normally, a cop would be put on the rubber gun squad for the stuff they pull, but on British television the angst is a delicious sauce they flavor the plot with on a weekly basis.

Finally, they film chunks of the next season before they wrap the current one. There are very few cliff-hangers, but the return to the next season always implies that the main character has imploded along the way. All of the unused scenes from the previous season can be cobbled together to kill off a character who doesn’t want to come back for the next season. It doesn’t have to make sense.

IN the upper end shows, there will be a large number of forensic technicians in “Bunny suits” at every crime scene. Yet the main character will steal something, or dip their finger in blood, handle a whiskey bottle, or violate some other evidence rule within moments of arriving on scene. 

Oh, and look for McGuffins. There will be some thing that shows up at every crime scene. It’s not really a McGuffin, but an annoyance set dressers thrive on. Often a picture of someone, or a work of art that everyone in Wales/Yorkshire/Scotland evidently has in their home. Hummel figurines are also acceptable, but they must be so hideous as to cause eye pain.

This would be incomplete if I did not point out that every scene must be under lit. Dark, gloomy, dingy is good. It is a big problem when the sun shines. I wonder how the crops grow with the total lack of sunlight in these places. The main character almost always squints outdoors, so I have to wonder if they’ve put a filter on the production print to make it look cloudy, or if they only hire actors who squint. Either way, it will only be a sunny day if the main character has a huge personal break through. This will be once a season at the most. 

Glad to have helped you with your viewing. Now you can concentrate on something useful. Me? I have to go have a cup of tea. These damned shows always do that to me.

Cheers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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