Great Britain

Line of Duty series six? Old Bill and Ted’s not so excellent adventure

NINE years, six series and 1,000 acronyms later, millions of underwhelmed Line Of Duty viewers finally learned H’s identity and the lousy price of his treachery as well.

It was poor, gormless Det Supt Ian Buckells, who’d done it all for “a time-share in Gran ­Canaria”.

Not even Fuerteventura, with a “resort swap option”, which would’ve had me tipping off the OCG the moment I passed out at Hendon Police College.

Buckells sold his soul for Gran Canaria, we were asked to believe.

A stretch of the imagination that might have dumbfounded me, but Vicky McClure ­certainly seemed to be speaking from the heart when her character Kate Fleming bark-ed: “For God’s sakes. What does this make us look like?”

Well, it didn’t make AC-12 look good, that’s for sure.

In fact it made them look like they’d been the victims of a last-minute rewrite, by Jed Mercurio, even though disappointment had actually been brewing since the first episode of this series, back in March.

Admittedly, the second instalment did show a significant improvement and hinted at a permanent return to form, but then LoD settled into a strange, hit-and-miss pattern until it nearly lost me forever with two acts of self-indulgence in the fifth episode.

BECAME A CLICHE

The first came when you could almost hear Mercurio clearing his throat as he got the show to address the murder of Stephen Lawrence via a ­character called ­­Christopher Lawrence and AC-12’s Chloe Bishop, who was beautifully underplayed by Shalom Brune-Franklin.

A noble intention, I’m sure, but it ignored the fact the plot was already buckling under the strain of real-life ­references and twists (Jimmy ­Savile, Jill Dando, Rochdale, Daniel Morgan, Cliff Richard) and that one of the reasons a lot of us loved the show so much was that, unlike almost every other television drama, it never left the viewers feeling as if they’d been brow-beaten or lectured.

The gears on that one had only just stopped crunching, however, when we were ­suddenly introduced to a photo-fit of James Nesbitt, who’d worked with the writer on BBC1’s Bloodlands.

A character name and plot twist was just about attached to him (DI Marcus Thurwell), but the intrusion was far too knowing and made it feel like appearing on Line Of Duty had become a competition prize or favour, rather than the greatest honour in ­television.

I stuck with it, of course, mainly for the three regulars (Hastings, Fleming and Arnott) and their interaction with Anna Maxwell Martin’s ­mesmerising creation, “Patricia bloody Carmichael”, who almost became the show’s dominant figure.

It had a knock-on effect, though, because once the audience feels excluded from the process they tend to become more irritated by all the other faults in the process.

The convoy ambushes became a cliche, the acronyms turned into a tired joke and Kelly Macdonald never felt like a good fit until the long interview scene when we learned about Jo Davidson’s inbreeding.

By episode six, however, LoD’s cast was already deep into “What the hell’s going on?” territory.

That stage of a drama when either the writer’s lost the plot or he knows the viewers are struggling.

It meant I had no real expectation the final episode was going to be able to pull all the strands together in a satisfactory manner, or even explain what the hell had been going on.

And sure enough, it didn’t. It ended instead, in the worst possible fashion, with the unmasking of the already jailed Buckells and an over-emotional Ted throwing ­himself at the mercy of ­Carmichael.

Opinions vary widely, I ­realise, and there are many who think another run will only confuse things further.

If ever a television show has earned a crack at redemption, though, it’s surely Line Of Duty, an extraordinary and beautifully made TV programme whose virtues far outweigh any series six vices.

With the greatest achievement of them all being the fact it’s got us watching television together as a nation again. Something I thought had become impossible in the Netflix era.

I’d never beg, but I would certainly want Jed Mercurio to write one more series.

Not for the chance to sermonise or indulge himself, but to give Ted Hastings the ending this TV giant really deserves and “because”, as the man himself said, “you carry the fire”.

Jo's gloomy future

INCIDENTALLY, at the end of Line Of Duty, in-bred Jo Davidson, whose uncle was also her father, was forced to retire into the witness protection programme where she’ll, presumably, spend the rest of her life expecting an assassin’s bullet in the back of her head.

But on the plus side, ­Norwich City have just been promoted.

Watch with Hitler

WHILE 13million of you watched Line Of Duty, the History channel was getting to the very heart of World War Two on Sunday night.

Hitler’s Secret Sex Life, a four-part investigation that came with a pretty heavy warning: “This programme contains disturbing material.”

Which it certainly did.

Incest, sadomasochism, pornography, voyeurism, whips, golden showers, some even worse stuff.

Old Adolf was into the lot, apparently.

And according to the narrator, Rod Mullinar: “Some said Hitler was a chronic masturbator as well.” Though probably not in quite such flowery language.

“But what Hitler really liked to do,” added Rod, a little too slyly for my liking, “was watch. Strippers, dancers, acrobats, women who performed in the circus.”

Hell, the man was so depraved he’d probably even have watched ITV’s Game Of Talents, if it was on back in the day.

There was a lively cast of first-person sources supporting all these allegations, of course, who included Eva Braun’s gynaecologist and a bloke called Hans Mend (they certainly do!), plus some contemporary “experts” who drew us towards the thunderingly brilliant conclusion that: “Hitler was a man of extremes.”

A real stick-your-neck-out moment that might have had one or two people wondering how this ever came to be made.

Personally, though, I’m glad the History channel pushed its luck.

I was also genuinely taken aback when Rod calmly explained: “In the early days of the Nazi Party, gay men were welcomed into the inner circle.

“In fact, it was so widespread, the Nazi Party was known as a ‘Brotherhood of Poofs’.”

Because this name wasn’t just a historical revelation, to me, it was very nearly Britain’s greatest ever Eurovision entry as well.

Great sporting insights

Robbie Savage: “Apart from the negatives, it was all positive.”

Clinton Morrison: “He knew what he’d done and put his hands in his head.”

Martin Tyler: “0-0 at half time is a result.”

(Compiled by Graham Wray)

TV Gold

IAN WRIGHT’S enduring love for teacher, mentor and Spitfire pilot Sydney Pigden on BBC1’s Home Truths.

Beat The Chasers host Bradley Walsh demonstrating the art of keeping a quiz show moving, while charming the socks off everyone.

BBC Scotland’s Killing Escobar, with SAS veteran Peter McAleese.

And Ted Hastings’ brilliant Line Of Duty response to DCC Andrea Wise telling him to “stop fighting old battles, Ted”.

“The name’s Hastings, ma’am, and I am the epitome of an old battle.”

TV Quiz

From what programme was the following link taken last week: “Coming up, Peter huffs and puffs, but the cow’s prolapse won’t go down.”

A) A routine episode of The Yorkshire Vet?

B) The worst ever episode of Dragons’ Den?

Lookalike of the week

THIS week’s winner is Darragh Ennis, from Beat The Chasers, and Viz comic legend Sid The Sexist.

Sent in by Alan Grieve, via email.

Picture research: Amy Reading

Steve's been beaten to it

RE: BBC2’s Down The Mighty River, in New Guinea, on BBC2.

Not wishing to pour a bucket of cold sick all over Steve Backshall’s claim that “with their own distinct ­language and culture, many of the Yali live their lives shut away from the outside world”, but to the trained anthropological eye it did appear a couple of people had beaten him to it.

The Stone Roses an­d ­Primark.

Random TV irritations

THIS Morning’s tiresomely woke news reviewer Nicola Thorp somehow managing to link Disney’s Snow White theme park ride with “rape culture”.

BBC1’s This Time somehow managing to remove all the laughter from Alan Partridge.

Political trainspotters and Westminster gossips crawling out of the sewers and back on to our news shows.

ITV imagining poison-dripping Alastair Campbell, the architect of the Iraq War, is anything like a suitable person to present Good Morning Britain.

And the entire premise of Rose Matafeo’s Starstruck, which asks us to try to believe a world-famous actor finds her utterly irresistible.

Oh-kaaay . . . 

Johnny's new mission

MEANWHILE, on Channel 4: “Johnny Vegas wants to set up a glamping site made up of old vehicles.”

Fine.

But why the hell film it?

Unexpected morons in the bagging area

TIPPING Point: Lucky Stars, Ben ­Shephard: “Which Latin American ­country is officially known as The United Mexican States?”

Sheila Ferguson: “Argentina.”

Beat The Chasers, Bradley Walsh: “The fall of Saigon in 1975 marked the end of what war?”

Junior: “World War Two.”

The Chase, Bradley Walsh: “What is the world’s most popular ball game, in terms of ­spectators?”

David: “Chess.”

Tipping Point, Ben Shephard: “A ­Spaniard is a native of which ­European country?”

Vani: “Pass.”

I smell a rat

CONGRATULATIONS to “researcher” Ophelia Cave, whose full list of TV credits now reads: 25 Myths About Lesbians and Late Life Lesbians.

I smell a rat.

Line of Duty creator Jed Mercurio reveals huge clue he dropped in series ONE that Buckells was ‘H’

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