Compared to other cop dramas, this one is notably stripped back. They haven’t chucked a load of money at fancy schmancy lighting, and don’t waste precious resource making sure the soundtrack reflects a hipster’s playlist titled “just vibes.” Instead they’ve spent their time and money on the properly good stuff: the drama.
There’s lots of it. Written by Jed Mercurio, the story focuses on the fictional police squad AC-12, an anti-corruption unit assigned to uncover the bad nuts in the police force. Formed of DS Steve Arnott (Martin Compston), DC Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) and Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar), the trio go about busting bent coppers and causing chaos along the way.
This show is seriously unafraid of killing people off, chucking a plot twist in at every opportunity and drip feeding us thrills continuously throughout the series. But it keeps from becoming all drama and no substance with the superb characterisation – everyone we meet is complex and intriguing. With all this going on, you’re not going to have chance to pop out and make that mid-show cuppa. You’ll come back to find out in those two minutes, someone’s blackmailed an officer, died or got caught. Best to pay attention.
Line of Duty has become one of the Beeb’s most talked about shows. And isn’t it nice to have a police series that isn’t set in London? We’ve swapped out the North Circular, for the M6, as Beeb brings focus to Birmingham. Plus, unlike other series where their brilliance begins to fade after the third season, this series just gets better and better. This is down to two reasons – the first is the fact that as time goes on we become more and more invested in Hastings, Arnott and Fleming, whose tricky personal lives and stressful work ones are as captivating as the cases of corruption. The second is Line of Duty’s love of bringing back old characters and linking current plotlines to past ones.
The Telegraph’s Michael Hogan agrees, saying, “perhaps the most impressive aspect of series one, with the benefit of hindsight, is how it introduced supporting characters who would resurface over the next seven years.” This is likely one of the reasons Jacob Stolworthy in the Independent calls it “the decade’s best British drama,” emphasising how “with each new series, Line of Duty has raised the stakes so dramatically it’s a wonder whether you’ll make it through another episode.”
But we always do. The Guardian’s Lucy Mangan says “for every morsel of information gathered by the team and by the viewer, another turn reveals 100 hidden possibilities,” creating what The New York Times’s Mike Hale calls a “satisfyingly nerdy police-procedural.”
And the praise has continued for season six of the show, which Mangan says “could be the best series yet,” whilst Anita Singh of The Telegraph says that “when it comes to cop shows, Jed Mercurio is the gaffer.”
First shown June 2012.