United Kingdom

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: Zero tension, tired catchphrases... I fear it's now Decline Of Duty 

Line Of Duty 

Rating:

Keeping Faith

Rating:

Lazy screenwriters don’t need to bother inventing memorable names for their characters any more. There’s an app for that.

At the tap of a button, the software does it for you.

One popular word processor features an automatic name generator that even allows writers to choose names by nationality, or mix them up. 

If you want your hero to have a Japanese first name and a Polish surname, it takes a couple of clicks: how about a detective called Saburo Wolkowski or Yoshiyuki Stelmaszyk?

Acting DI Steve Arnott , played by Martin Compston, above, shares his surname with crimewriter Jake Arnott, while DI Kate Fleming is the namesake of 007’s Ian. And then there’s Captain Hastings from the Poirot tales

Despite his own unusual moniker, Jed Mercurio, the creator of Line Of Duty (BBC1), specialises in names that any computer would dismiss as uninspired. I’ve long suspected that he chooses them by staring at thrillers on his bookcase.

Acting DI Steve Arnott shares his surname with crimewriter Jake Arnott, while DI Kate Fleming is the namesake of 007’s Ian. And then there’s Captain Hastings from the Poirot tales (Agatha Christie’s character is an Arthur, not a Ted).

This year, the coppers of AC-12 are hunting a murderer with an exceptionally boring alias, Ross Turner. 

Then there’s Captain Hastings from the Poirot tales (Agatha Christie’s character is an Arthur, not a Ted). This year, the coppers of AC-12 are hunting a murderer with an exceptionally boring alias, Ross Turner. Ted Hastings is played by Adrian Dunbar

Perhaps it’s just a Sunday night coincidence that it appears to be constructed from Poldark’s first name and the surname of the actor who plays him, Aidan Turner.

What cannot be denied is Mercurio’s penchant for bland, two-syllable names: not just Arnott, Fleming and Hastings, but Corbett, Ifield, Denton, Huntley, Dryden, Waldron, Cottan, Trotman, Morton, Hilton, Bishop.

One reason they all sound so similar is that the emphasis is always on the first half of the word. Maybe Jed’s computer is stuck.

After a disappointing start, with an insipid opening sequence and a script constructed largely from random initials, the second episode struggled to pick up pace.

It did feature a trademark Line Of Duty confrontation in the interview room, between Superintendent Hastings and softly spoken DCI Jo Davidson (Kelly Macdonald), but the scene lacked the explosive tension and sudden shocks we’ve come to expect.

Other twists seemed forced. Trainee constable and undercover gangster Ryan (Gregory Piper) has been assigned to the murder investigation, before he’s even had a chance to go walking the beat.

Meanwhile, Ted was shoehorning his catchphrases in at every opportunity. ‘I’m interested in one thing and one thing only, and that’s bent coppers,’ he chorused. It all feels very much as if Line Of Duty is running out of energy and impetus. Six seasons is one too many.

Keeping Faith (BBC1) has opted to stop at the end of the current series — a better, braver choice than flogging the story until we’re sick of it. 

It’s a drama of turbulent emotions, where characters gaze at stormy seas from clifftops, crumpling as their theme songs pound over the soundtrack. 

It is like watching the video for Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse Of The Heart on repeat — a damburst of soft rock and overwrought acting.

It’s a drama of turbulent emotions, where characters gaze at stormy seas from clifftops, crumpling as their theme songs pound over the soundtrack

That makes it perfect viewing for a Saturday evening, telly to enjoy with a box of chocolates or a brimming glass of cheap vino.

Eve Myles plays solicitor and single mum Faith, who turns up to discuss her divorce settlement in leopard print stilettos. The meeting is held, for some reason, in a castle turret, which allows her to apply her lipstick on the windswept battlements.

Celia Imrie joins the cast as a gangland boss, a figure from Faith’s past, who wears even more garish lippie than our heroine. The colours are immense: characters are silhouetted against walls of purple, or curled sobbing on crimson carpets.

It’s sheer MTV drama — turn up the volume, and indulge.

Tonsure of the weekend: On the peaceful documentary Brotherhood: The Inner Life Of Monks (BBC4), the abbey’s barber joked as he wielded his clippers: ‘In the 70s, Brother George here looked like Phil Collins. Very long hair.’ George, 86, is a bit thinner on top now.

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