Bluedo

TV Given that the last whole episode of Casualty I saw was probably about five years ago because Star Trek's Marina Sirtis was special guest starring and I've never seen a whole episode of its spin-off Holby City, oh and I stopped watching The Bill when it became a soap opera, I'm probably the last person you'd expect to be watching the next series set in both their worlds. But something about the lineage of the series (created by Tony Jordon of early Eastenders, Life on Mars and Hustle), some of the cast members (particularly Tim Piggot-Smith) and the decent preview reviews from the likes of Radio Times were enough persuasion to at least give it one look.

It's nice to be pleasantly surprised. Of course, it is basically a good old fashioned police precinct drama within a format as old as the Hill Street Blues but running through there's a gentle seem of satire about present policing and none of the earnestness that usually turns me off such things. The pre-publicity has highlighted that this is a 'sexy' new police series set in the post 9/11 world, and so it is, with central character DI John Keenan (played with ramshackle charisma by Cal Macaninch) bemoaning at length the fact that he can't get enough officers to cover the day-to-day crimes because they're all on terror alerts. But it isn't afraid to make fun of such things with Keenan even taking advantage of them in the hunt for a paedophile, lying about the suspects possible terrorist involvement so that he could cut through red tape.

Actually, the show probably wouldn't be half as entertaining without Keenan, a Gene Hunt for the naughties and his central relationship with new DCI Luke French (Richard Harrington who seems to have been in every other major BBC drama for the past ten years) has more than a whiff of the duo at the centre of Life On Mars, the well broken in mix of by the book policing and rule breaking to get the job done. The writers have followed a somewhat American playbook in realizing that people will tune in week on week if the characters are entertaining enough - and there are a few other growers, not least crackerjack trainee Lucy Slater and Jenny Black (played by Kacey Ainsworth, Eastender's Little Mo) a sassier version of The Bill's June Achland.

Perhaps it's the willingness to surprise the viewer that I enjoyed most, to wrong foot our expectations. A female constable is on route to picking up someone who's broken their asbo carefew. Cut to a sweaty young scallywag having his way with some bit of skirt in her bedroom - who then turns out not to be the Asbo after all but said constable's partner. Or when a jealous husband who threatened his wife has been released without charge on the understanding that he's imagined her affair returns home to find said spouse on the couch with a neighbour. To be honest the biggest surprise is that for a pre-watershed show, there's even more procreation than Torchwood, mostly tasteful and at least in this case it's human on human.

There are a few problems - the characterization of said paedophile was hardly subtle - he looked like he'd walked in from a 70s public information film and I can already imagine that one of the problems the show might have is that the coppers will be more interesting than their quarry which could make the whole thing a bit lopsided. Plus that scene shifting technique from NYPD Blue where the camera slashes past scenery has been unnecessarily imported perhaps to divorce it even more from its parent series - which is odd considering its already shot on handhelds and in a single camera style and is closer to the kind of thing that usually turns up in the nine o'clock drama slot on BBC One. Oh and it's possibly too long, dragging itself out the fit the timeslot, some storylines showing signs of stretch marks.

Despite the appearance of Charlie from Casualty in the teaser the series couldn't be further from what I've seen of the parent series - indeed with a title and locale change you'd be none the wiser. It's interesting then to see that in order to launch the series it's been plonked in the same universe as though it simply wouldn't have worked without that connection. It all has the potential to become a British version of this universe (exemplified by the Law & Order franchise) and I wonder if, before long, when the BBC launch a new series in another genre if they'll simply tie it in as well, enjoying the connection. Might Party Animals have survived if Ashika had been contesting the seat of Holby West and we'd seen Duffy (is she still in Casualty?) taking a break to go and vote?

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