Much as I would love to take a holiday in Jersey, I am too scared to do so. I was a huge fan of the BBC TV series Bergerac and the levels of crime in this small island were truly horrific. It’s the same with Midsomer, wherever that is. Murder upon murder in what is little more than a village. And Oxford? A few episodes of Inspector Morse would surely put you off even stopping there for five minutes? Stop the world, I want to get off.
The truth is that television revolves around police officers. Barely a day goes by without a police programme of some description is on the box. And if it’s not a police show, it will be a medical show. I gave up Casualty years ago on the grounds that I’d spend days afterwards fretting with the symptoms of one of the characters.
Why do we not get shows based on other public sector workers? We haven’t had a series about the Fire and Rescue Service since London’s Burning. And how about a series about a group of gum-chewing benefit fraud investigators, following and filming benefit fraudsters? Or tax inspectors sending out letters to self-employed people? Hmm. Maybe not the last one.
I have to conclude that programme planners have little idea about making new programmes if there is not a copper involved. It’s a popular genre. My guess is they all sit around the room with the initial idea of making a new police series. “Now let’s see. There’s a gap in the market for a fat, bald, one-eyed, alcoholic detective who rides a horse in the middle of town. Now go away and write a series.”
I prefer the private detective to the copper. The luddite radio presenter Eddie Shoestring, or the handsome Midnight Caller Jack Killian, for example. Randall and Hopkirk where one of the stars is dead and appears as a ghost or crafty Jim Rockford, who is several times craftier than most of the criminals.
You have more scope with the private dick, unless you create a truly great, albeit wholly unbelievable, character as Luther, where is it is necessary to set aside every last vestige of reality in order to get through the hour. To be fair, it’s always worth it, even when you find yourself complaining that “this would never happen in real life”. The truth is that almost nothing you see by way of law enforcement TV shows would happen in real life. The reality of police work and detection is overwhelming dull and bureaucratic. If the TV depiction was to show coppers ploughing through mountains of evidence for hour upon hour, labelling documents and items and plodding around taking witness statements, your average viewer would either switch off or fall asleep.
Can’t we have something just a bit different? We’ve never had a series about a librarian or even a dentist. It doesn’t have to be coppers all the time, except that doing something a little bit off the beaten track involves thinking outside the box and we can’t be having that, can we?