British police dramas

When I drive to work in the morning, even in the dead of winter, there is so much to look at that’s pretty. I pass pastures still a-blush with a vestige of green. Frost adorns the hay bales. Colts run in the frosty air, curls of smoke circling out from their nostrils. Cows braze placidly, with no flies buzzing, tails are still and quiet. There are sheep and donkeys and bright setting moons and stunning sunrises. In case I haven’t mentioned it lately, it is very pretty here.

I love Hulu and Netflix, new-ish inventions. I remember television before cable, before color, even. Before remote controls. Having on-demand entertainment I can shape specifically for my tastes is a stupendous achievement. Really. Think about it.

I enjoy British television. I don’t want to come across as a snob, but the BBC puts out better acted, better-written, and better quality programming than the US does, in my opinion. Also, it’s quieter. I’m so bothered by noise that when the week before last Friday’s busy week ended, and I came home and had a snack of potato chips, the chips were too loud in my head and I had to stop eating them.

I have enjoyed the following British police series:


New Tricks

Line of Duty
Foyle’s War

David Tennant, Olivia Colman in Broadchurch

Collision (5 episodes) and Broadchurch (8 episodes) were similar in that they had one season each, focused on a single event, in an emotional and complicated and demanding story arc. Collision focused on the police working a crash, discovering the originator of a multi-car pileup on the highway, and along the way discovering some murders and other crimes that the crash hid. Broadchurch focused on one murder and the cadre of characters directly involved. Both shows are excellent. Broadchurch has the advantage of being cinematically filmed in a gorgeous setting.

New Tricks features three veteran British cops of a certain age who have retired from the Metropolitan Police, and their middle aged leader. A new squad had been formed, an Unsolved and Open Case division, and these retirees were brought back to help solve them. They are old dogs. Hence the title New Tricks. There are 11 seasons of this show. The same characters remained with it until season 8. At the first episode of season 9 a main character left, and the next season two more of the original four departed. In my opinion the show has bright joy and whimsy for the first three seasons, and was good for the next three.

It is never announced explicitly but Alun Armstrong’s character is autistic. (Or as the series describes him, “eccentric, socially inept, with OCD”). He is my favorite character. “I must have continuity!!!” LOL.

Line of Duty and Foyle’s War are on an even higher plane than the first three. Look at the Wikipedia write-up for Line of Duty:

Line of Duty is a British police drama, created by Jed Mercurio, which aired on BBC Two 26 June 2012. The first series was BBC Two’s best-performing drama series in 10 years, with a consolidated audience of 4.1 million viewers. The drama was recommissioned for a second series, and the first episode was broadcast on 12 February 2014. The second series achieved widespread public and critical acclaim, and, on 8 April 2014, the BBC commissioned two further series. In April 2014, Line of Duty was included in a list of the Top 50 BBC Two shows of all-time.

It is really good, haunting, complicated,and will keep you guessing. This time, the crimes are perpetrated by a cop, and the squad investigating is the Anti-Corruption Unit, the US equivalent to Internal Affairs.

Netflix kept putting Foyle’s War in my ‘you’ll probably like’ page so I caved in and watched it. I did like it. Thanks, creepy side of Netflix. Christopher Foyle investigates crimes in the seaside town of Hastings in England while WWII begins, reaches its climax, and ends. The series continues after the war but I don’t recommend those episodes. The “war” Foyle was fighting was for justice for victimized British citizens at home while everyone’s attention was obviously placed elsewhere. Michael Kitchen plays Foyle. You might remember him as the befuddled and nearly blind musician in “Enchanted April” lo those many years ago.

The war episodes of the series are filled with Foyle-wisdom, ethics, justice, compassion, and the whimsically named Honeysuckle Weeks as Foyle’s driver. Despite being about the seriousness of war and murder the series has a light tone and the interplay between the original three main characters (Foyle, Weeks, and Anthony Howell as Assistant Detective Paul Milner) is tremendous. It’s exceptionally well written. Each episode also subtly teaches about the war, as we learn true things about rationing books and hunger, radar testing, the Blitz, displaced children, war injuries, approaches to treating burn victims, and more. A lot of research and detail goes into each hour-and-a-half episode and it looks it. Highly recommended.

Sadly, I’m done with Foyle and New Tricks, and Line of Duty hasn’t come on for a third series yet.  Broadchurch and Collision were one-offs, they told one story and done. So I’m looking for another British show to adopt. I know I’ll find one.


2 thoughts on “British police dramas

  1. Check out Vera on Hulu and Hinterland on Netflix. Both really good. There is also one great American crime drama, The killing which was an AMC show. Pretty sure it's on Netflix. All three of these similar to your favorites you mentioned. My all time fave is Inspector Lewis, and now Endeavor. I agree, the Brits know how to do television.

  2. Elizabeth,
    You made me smile w the loud chips comment.
    I just enjoyed a whole bunch of those Action Jones videos. Wow, so powerful. I don't know if “enjoyed” is the right word, though. He is certainly going for evangelizing not entertaining.

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