Aidan Smith's TV week: Trigger Point (ITV), The Responder (BBC1), The Gilded Age (Sky Atlantic)
Just like they did to Boris Johnson the other day, I’d love to see Ted Hastings and AC-12 interrogate ITV’s Head of Drama. DI Steve Arnott would activate the cassette recorder and then Supt Ted Hastings would begin …
“We’ve looked at your Trigger Point and let me say this to you, fella: it may not be an out-and-out, complete and total rip-off of Line of Duty but don’t tell me you haven’t nicked its tension, its focus on police work which isn’t standard coppering, something of its spirit and not to mention the nine o’clock Sunday primetime slot.
“I didn’t float up the Laggan in a bubble, fella, and I wasn’t born yesterday: you thought you could help yourself to Line of Duty’s audience. And the worst of it is, you’ve taken one of my key officers, DI Kate Fleming, and put her in jeopardy with those bloody bombs going off all the time. Jesus, Mary and Joseph and the wee donkey! … ”
Vicky McClure - Fleming in Line of Duty, Lana Washington here - must also be on alert for a clunky script and the creeping sense, after just one episode, that it’s all going to be about the bombs. That the bits in between will be standard-issue - fellow officer has marital problems, other fellow officer appears to be Lana’s love interest - and a bit dull.
Disaster movies when they were popular had this problem. Someone forgot to flesh out the characters, or they were simply dwarfed by the plane crashing, the tower block catching fire, the earth cleaving in two.
Parts of the first episode are so flat it’s like you’re watching a recruitment promo for bomb disposal showing off all the kit. I wonder where Trigger Point can go apart from every week building up to a great big boom. How accurate is it, and therefore how credible, that bomb disposal expert Washington’s lucky green pliers need to be deployed in this country quite so often? Will we be disappointed by too many hoaxes and too many deactivations?
One intriguing thing is that it’s a Jed Mercurio production. If Line of Duty never comes back, does this drama take over? I can’t see it myself. What would happen to Ted? Could he apply for a transfer and become the bomb squad’s chief negotiator? No, he doesn’t have the necessary tact and diplomacy. But, hang on, that would guarantee Trigger Point always ending with the required bang …
I was just as unsure about the week’s other new crime drama - not least because it’s a crime drama for, jings, how many do we need? - but The Responder (BBC1) makes a more promising start. Another issue had been the casting of Martin Freeman. Fine actor and all, but is this the only thing TV can think to do with him: yet another stressed-out copper with, don’t tell me, marital problems? Perhaps in some awful dystopia - a Dorries-topia, perhaps, after Nadine, the Beeb-bashing Minister for Culture - this role will be all that’s left and everyone - yes, Michael McIntyre, yes, Jermaine Jenas, yes, the drumming Welsh weatherman - will have to apply.
Anyway, maybe Freeman wanted to stretch himself and have less reason to use those little double-takes where, ever since The Office, he’s suppressed disbelieving laughter - and here he does. “You always look like you’re going to start crying,” his character Chris Carson is told. No wonder.
His job as an urgent response officer in Liverpool is getting on top of him. With a mum suffering from dementia and a wife tempted by a fling with a dad at the school gates, this doesn’t seem fair, but after dark in Carson’s patrol car, control buzzing him constantly, the city goes mental, runs amok, with a llama - yes, a llama - joining in. “Every night there’s spit on my face, blood on my boots and it never stops.”
This is what he tells his therapist who reassures him he’s doing good work. “Is it, though?” he wonders. “I think it’s Whac-A-Mole, except the moles wear trackies.” And he does do good, looking out for the waifs and strays, but a very big mole - Ian Hart as a gangster in a perm not seen on Merseyside since Brookside’s Terry Sullivan - has a terrible hold over him.
Bizarrely, Terry Sullivan turns up in the latest sumptuous period piece from Julian Fellowes. Actually, he doesn’t - I’m just checking you’re paying attention. If you swooned at Downton Abbey you’ll probably love The Gilded Age (Sky Atlantic). Servants scuttle as before while on the floors above more world-class snobbery is on display, but there’s something new, deployed often, and it could be this show’s motif - curtain-twitching.
Fellowes couldn’t have any twitching in Downton as the big hoose had no neighbours but in 1882 in New York there’s ample scope. Old money clashes with new on the Upper East Side where a railroad baron and his social-climbing wife have taken up residence. He says things like: “I may be a bastard but you, sir, are a fool.” She says things like: “You only think you’ve finished gilding the ballroom.” They are as awful as their dialogue but presumably only one of these things is intentional. Across 51st Street the old bat is appalled. She fiddles like mad with her drapes and snubs the parvenus’ party, as does the rest of Manhattan high society. The untouched feast is the real motif of The Gilded Age – all that money and effort, but for what?
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