Aidan Smith's TV week: Line of Duty's Adrian Dunbar as the singing detective, plus Aidan Turner in The Suspect and techno-chills in The Capture
Three years ago in the fifth series of Line of Duty Ted Hastings wore a brown leather blouson. It was hugely dramatic. Ted was suspended from operations and he was being interrogated. The cop who investigates cops was looking very much like Superintendent Bad Apple. But I wasn’t bothered about any of that. What really worried me was the jacket.
Ted minus the polis regulation-issue crisp white shirt with glistening epaulettes had been neutered. I know this was the show’s intention at that moment but it was painful to watch such a strong, vital man fail so lamentably at relaxed-casual. I hoped never to see that blouson again.
But it’s back. Adrian Dunbar - while he and the world wait to see if there’s going to be any more Line of Duty - is retired detective Alex Ridley in one of these ITV dramas where the network takes a star from a BBC hit and plonks him in something in the same genre but more formulaic.
The eponymous hero of Ridley, in four parts and continuing tomorrow, does a lot of soulful staring across gloomy fields and lakes. It’s my problem, I know, that I can’t stop thinking about how this behaviour is the antithesis of Ted, always roaring and Mother of God-ing.
At least the director instructed his cameraman to capture Dunbar side-on. No one on TV gives side quite like him. The sweeping, silver-flecked mane and proud eagle’s beak deserve cast credits of their own and here, in wintry Lancashire, they’re deployed often as Ridley tries to come to terms not just with the coppering career seemingly being over, but the deaths of his wife and daughter in a house fire.
His protegee, played by Bronagh Waugh, is meanwhile investigating the murder of a sheep farmer. The dead man was suspected 14 years before when a three-year-old girl went missing. Another man, a convicted sex offender, ended up being jailed. He’s released on parole and a few days later the farmer is shot.
So given that Ridley was haunted by the child abduction, always believing the case was wrapped up too quickly, possibly to damp down public alarm, he’s summoned back to the force as “investigative support on a temporary consultancy basis”. This doesn’t sound very sexy, and although Dunbar does his best with the role, I’m not really gripped by Ridley with its similarities to so many other policers. That is, until the final scene.
This is when Dunbar gets up and sings. No, honestly. Just strides over to the mic in the local jazz bar. He’s got a lovely voice and chooses a lovely song - Richard Hawley’s “Coles Corner”. Two hours of whodunnit-by-numbers are very nearly saved. Apparently he’s going to do this every week. It’s schmaltzy but, mother of God, it works. You don’t even notice he’s still wearing that bloody jacket.
ITV’s second new star-vehicle drama of the week involves another big-money transfer from the Beeb but at least in The Suspect Aidan Turner from Poldark is not plonked in a field, shirtless, and told to start scything erotically. (By the way, Turner might have moved viewers to a concupiscent state but regrettably for the Scything Association - I love that they exist - he was holding his implement the wrong way round).
The Suspect is a deliberately ambiguous title for this five-parter. Turner’s Dr Joe O’Loughlin could indeed be a double-edged scythe - sorry, sword. At the start the psychologist is on a window ledge persuading a terminal cancer patient not to jump. By the end of the opener the cops are wondering: “Rooftop hero or sick killer - perhaps he’s both.”
The body of a woman is discovered in a graveyard. That’s sufficiently ghoulish for me but for those requiring a “twist”, it transpires the killer persuaded the victim to stab herself - 21 times. O’Loughlin is recruited to profile the murderer. One of his patients, awaiting sentencing for a violent assault on a woman, has an obsession with the number 21. The head-doctor, though, keeps this from the police while he’s creeping around the morgue. Oh, and it turns out he just happened to be in the cemetery at the time of the grim discovery, engaged in a ritual his family enact every year on the anniversary of their mother’s death when they throw leaves at each other.
Does O’Loughlin think he’s on Would I Lie to You? Well, the mum died in a house fire, just like in Ridley. And Bronagh Waugh is in this, too. All of which has me rushing to the conclusion: no matter the secrets which may lurk in Aidan Turner’s big beard, Adrian Dunbar’s jacket cannot be above suspicion.
The Capture (BBC1) is back for a second series. It’s still got Holliday Grainger with her bouncy, pouty, catwalk strut which I would probably find distracting if this techno-thriller wasn’t so disturbing yet gripping and also topical. For instance, when that row broke about impartiality on Newsnight, with ex-presenter Emily Maitlis accusing the Beeb of “both-sides-ism”, the drama’s producers must have been thrilled because their version of the current affairs show finds itself similarly compromised when Grainger’s anti-terrorist officer threatens to slap a D-notice on it.
For a very good reason. China, in revenge for having their facial-recognition expertise subbed by the UK, have just demonstrated how they can manipulate a government minister’s words. “A f****** mind rape,” the politician dubs the sinister melding of AI and fake news.
Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.