SUNDAY night, BBC1, the AC-12 team’s back. A heavily armed police convoy is heading into the country-side and a group of men and women, with balaclavas, are lying in wait, a couple of miles down the road.
So any minute now…
BBC Line Of Duty season 5 opens with new characters and plot twists
“There’s an RTC up ahead.” “Three FOs dead at the scene.” “ED-905’s in the hands of the OCG.”There’ll be a flurry of abbreviations.
The calling card of Line Of Duty which, to widespread annoyance, the BBC has advertised these past few weeks as coming: “From the makers of Bodyguard.”
It didn’t. Bodyguard came from the off-cuts of Line Of Duty and it should be eternally grateful for the association.
Line Of Duty is a television masterpiece and the opening episode of the fifth series was a genuine TV event that, despite a whiff of plot familiarity, had me reeled in before the end of the opening credits.
That was as long as it took the show to introduce Stephen Graham, who’s giving a mesmerising performance as Detective Sergeant John Corbett, the UCO (undercover officer) who appears to have gone rogue with an OCG (organised crime gang).
A hell of a trick for a TV show to pull off, introducing them all while still tying up the loose ends of series fourAlly RossSun Columnist
There are lots of other new faces as well, including: A gang of bikers, with no bikes, who appear to have been styled by Vyvyan from The Young Ones.
Slippery police spokesman Sindwhani, played by Ace Bhatti. PC Jane Cafferty, whose life was spared in the opening hijack scene by “gangster” Lisa McQueen.
And the slightly robotic Detective Superintendent Alison Powell, who’s in charge of Corbett’s “Operation Peartree” and is yet another of those department chiefs who seems strangely drawn to “Ted” (Hastings).
A hell of a trick for a TV show to pull off, introducing them all while still tying up the loose ends of series four and leaving viewers to guess which painkillers managed to get DS Arnott out of that wheelchair and whether Hastings’ faulty hotel toilet cistern is critical to the new plot. Or just a faulty hotel toilet cistern.
The fact Line Of Duty did it, however, is entirely down to the constants that have driven this show ever since its first series.
It starts, obviously, with a thrilling and complex script from Jed Mercurio, who clearly gives not a stuff for any of the lazy, modern, right-on conventions of TV writing.
Together, show and actor are a dream to watch and should be the agenda-free blueprint every new drama aims to emulateAlly RossSun Columnist
It’s all about the story that demands the total attention of the viewers and gets the performance of their lives from the actors.
Not just the newcomers, like Stephen Graham, but regulars Martin Compston and Vicky McClure, as Arnott and Fleming, who have the hardest job in drama, unravelling the plot for the audience.
Without them there would be no room for the show’s crowning glory, Super-intendent Ted Hastings, who is that rarest thing in contemporary TV drama, a strong male lead.
There used to be lots of them, obviously. Now we’re generally reduced to murderers, rapists or, at best, jaw-flexing “Yes, ma’am” dogsbodies, like in Bodyguard.
The joy of Hastings is that the part gets the performance it deserves from Adrian Dunbar, who’s from Northern Ireland, so he was born sardonic and can give a whole new edge to lines like: “Listen Alison. I didn’t float up the Lagan on a bubble.”
Together, show and actor are a dream to watch and should be the agenda-free blueprint every new drama aims to emulate.
So enjoy Hastings and Line Of Duty while you can. Nothing this good is coming our way soon (BBC1, Sunday, 9pm).
BBC Corbett, played by Stephen Graham, is finally introduced
BBC Press Handout Main characters; Detective Sergeant, Steve Arnott, Detective Sergeant Kate Fleming, Superintendent Red Hastings and Corbett
Ted Hastings behaves in a ‘shady manner’ as he returns to his hotel room on Line of Duty
TV GoldThe return of Line Of Duty. ITV4 screening John Wayne’s Red River (a classic). The Discovery channel’s epic Tigerland documentary.
The darkly funny Blue Planet Live moment when a seagull swooped down and ate one of the turtle hatchlings, just after Liz Bonnin had suggested it might live for “100 years”.And Channel 4’s sublime Gogglebox cast, every single one of whom is a damn sight funnier than the professional comedians who follow them on The Last Leg. Apart from the Brighton hairdresser, obviously.
RE: Blue Planet Live, Steve Backshall concluding his last report with: “Steve B, signing out.”
Suggest: Steve B, signing on.
Oh, Alan this was no joke
BBC Press Handout Alan Partridge jokes’ were overdone or ‘borrowed’
BBC1’s This Time With Alan Partridge finished a bitterly disappointing run last night having lost about half its viewers along the way.
And it’s not hard to see why, either.
The funniest thing about the show was its reputation. The jokes were nearly all overdone or “borrowed”, none of it had the painful ring of truth of the Linton Travel Tavern series, from 1997, and it never laid a glove on This Morning or The One Show, let alone its main satirical target Good Morning Britain.
But then, how the hell can you get excited about Jennie Gresham accusing Alan Partridge of fancying her when, on the real thing, Susanna Reid described Piers Morgan as “an HR claim waiting to happen”, after she asked, “is Phil and Holly like this?” and he replied, “it’s like this, only without the sex”.
Out loud. Live on air. At 7.59am. Good Morning Britain is beyond parody, beyond Thunderdome even, and, with the exception of Line Of Duty, my favourite thing on telly (ITV, today, 6am to 8.30am).
QUIZ show dough-balls of the week
Rex Features Ben Shephard hosts quiz show Tipping Point
Tipping Point, Ben Shephard: “The meat from which bird is traditionally included in the Scottish soup called cock-a-leekie?”
The Chase, Bradley Walsh: “What Birmingham football team has been English champions seven times?”
Celebrity Chase, Bradley Walsh: “A ‘Trumpkin’ is what vegetable carved into resembling Donald Trump?”
Christian O’Connell: “Turnip.”
Bradley Walsh: “What Himalayan mountain is often described as the world’s highest garbage dump?”
Christian O’Connell: “The Andes.”
LUGE World Cup, Eurosport’s Colin Bryce: “Oskars Gudramovics and Peteris Kalnins spank it hard at the top of the hill. But will that slow them down?” Discuss.
Having a whale of a time
BLUE Planet Live was one of those breathtaking BBC ventures where they fly a group of presenters to three fantastically far-flung corners of the world and then spend four nights lecturing the rest of us about the evils of global warming.
An irony completely lost on the hosts themselves, who were all having far too much fun in the sun to bother about their own carbon footprint.
Liz Bonnin, was oohing and aahing over turtle hatchlings, on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
Bull sharks were stubbornly refusing to eat Steve Backshall, who was squeaking away at BBC1 viewers from the Bahamas.
And Chris Packham was chasing shadows, in a helicopter, above Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, having been told “There’s a 99 per cent chance of seeing a blue whale.”
Seagull snatches baby turtles behind presenter during Blue Planet Live
Nice work if you can get it.
On a purely technical level, though, it was going OK until the second night, when the Mexican satellite link packed in and we were suddenly flitting haphazardly between a weirdo who collects whale snot and Costas the Mediterranean monk seal, before Chris Packham, reappeared, at the death, with a question-begging update.
“Unfortunately, we haven’t found a blue whale . . . but we did record one yesterday.”
In which case, what the holy harpooning hell is the point of filming it live?Quick EastEnders update
Since Doctor Legg died of pancreatic cancer and Jean was diagnosed with stage three ovarian cancer, Evie’s been gang raped, Ross and Matt have been put on trial for raping Ruby and, just to lighten the mood, Patrick’s decided to reopen the hair salon vacated by Deano, the rapist.
EastEnders. It’s here for a long time, not a good time.
Random TV irritations
PA:Press Association The Voice judges, Will.i.am, Jennifer Hudson, Tom Jones and Olly Murs refuse to criticise singers
The Voice judges uttering not one word of even mild criticism over an entire hour and three-quarter semi-final.
Sally Lindsay’s Bake Off Suffragette cake putting in a strong claim for the emptiest political gesture of all time. Anyone who thinks The Big Narstie Show made the Bafta shortlist on merit.
All Together Now judge Geri Spice Girl asking “What’s middle-aged?” (you in about 2001).
And BBC2’s New World Order guests Sara Pascoe, Lucy Prebble and Kiri Pritchard-McLean all doubled-up laughing at Frankie Boyle’s observation it’s only Michael Gove’s glasses that stop his face, “looking like genitalia”.
’Cos, for those of you struggling to place their names, they’d be just three of the people who’d be screaming for blood if anyone said the same thing about Diane Abbott and claiming: “Only female politicians get judged on their appearance.”
THIS Morning, Wednesday, Schofield: “Is scheduling sex helpful or harmful? At 10:45 we’re joined by Vanessa Feltz.”
Harmful. No matter what time, she’s ready.
Great TV lies, half-truths and delusions of the month
Rex Features This Mornings Phillip Schofield
This Morning, Phillip Schofield: “Are you sure people aren’t ready for an Alan Titchmarsh album?” (Very.)
Blue Planet Live, Steve Backshall: “I don’t want to step on a shark, that would be a bad start.”
And Piers Morgan: “If I go into a petrol station I go for Mini Cheddars or Hula Hoops.”
See also: Doughnuts, sausage muffin, a breakfast bap, Cornish pasty, a couple of Magnums, two steak melts, four hot dog croissants, a cinnamon whirl or three, the Wild Bean Cafe meal deal and some crisps. No petrol.
Exclusive’we trusted him’ My daughter, 15, was murdered by twisted uncle who lured young girls home InvestigationUK’S WORST HIGH STREET? Hookers offer sex for £10 in ‘condom alley’ & drug deals shut shops CRACKDOWN Full list of drugs scrapped from ‘free’ NHS prescriptions – for 35 conditions BreakingMAYMA MIA, HERE WE NO AGAIN! Chaos as warring MPs reject EVERY Brexit option AGAIN BreakingKNIFE HORROR Man ‘knifed in the back’ near kids play area of Chelmsford Park TODDLER DEATH PLUNGE Mum drops baby to his death from escalator after losing her balance
Great sporting insights
Jermaine Jenas: “Brighton are going to have to not show something we haven’t seen yet.”
Jack Sullivan: “You either sink or swim and I’ve done a bit of both.”
And Neil Warnock: “The equaliser was the winning goal.”
James Arthur is a dead ringer for cartoon character Dexter
Cartoon Network Dexter from Dexter’s Laboratory
THIS week’s winner is James Arthur and Dexter, from Dexter’s Laboratory.
Sent in by Reenie E, via email.
Picture research, Alfie Snelling.