Charlie Gallagher and Police Procedural TV Shows

I can see why I was asked for my opinion on police themed TV shows. Firstly, I write police thrillers so it’s my business to know what is good and appealing to audiences. Secondly, I worked as a police officer for thirteen years, living the life of a (mildly grumpy) police character. My opinion then is valid; worthy even.

But I don’t really watch them.

I’ve tried, I really have, but a police career makes this difficult. For example, I recently tried Line Of Duty and… I didn’t like it. There, I said it. I may be the only person in the world, but I stand by it.

LoD would have you believe there are only two types of copper: super cop or bent cop and nothing in-between and from my experience most of policing is time spent in-between. Police Stations across the country are filled with detectives doing their best. There are days when there are wins and days when there are losses, and, for most, a win is a shift that ends with being able to see out from under a pile of case files.

The true life of a detective is a grind, it is not car chases and first fights or incredible, ingenious leaps from scraps of evidence to catching offenders, it is monotonous, gruelling detective work, it is blind alleys, frustration and closed doors, it is forming an honourable part of the thin blue line, not standing out. And you know what happens to coppers like that in all police procedurals?

They get shot first.

I often get asked if police themed shows are authentic, true to life. Some are, ‘The Fall’ comes to mind and was very enjoyable, but does authenticity actually matter? This is entertainment and my favourites are those that don’t care too much for authenticity – or even plausibility in some cases.

Take ‘Luther,’ a show I enjoyed very much, but DCI John Luther? Total nonsense. No DCI is that active, cunning and reckless, DCI’s certainly do not run (ever) and they would not be seen dead in a car that naff (that rank get company cars!) But it didn’t matter; it was a riot. Luther is a fantastic character and the plots were pant-fillingly-scary.

Another show to mention: ‘Criminal.’ A show that takes place solely in the interview room. What I love about this is how it reveals the twists, turns and stresses of the interview process. Often, the time between a crime committed and the suspect interview can be lengthy: days easily, weeks for sure, months or years a definite possibility, meaning that a lot of enquiries have been done before anyone takes their place on the screwed-down furniture. So, a detective will know a lot, enough perhaps to have made up their mind, for the interview to be nothing more than a formality.

And then suddenly, it isn’t.

Suddenly you’re hit with a cast iron alibi: plausible, littered with checkable facts (that check out) and delivered with none of the liar’s ticks. Six months of knowing; twenty minutes to realise you know nothing at all. The interview process is a game, one I thoroughly enjoyed, but it can kick back hard and ‘Criminal’ really delivers on this. Superb writing, superb acting, superb twists. Oh, and the state-of-the-art interview rooms that this show portrays are nothing – nothing ­– like the real thing.

‘Criminal’ is all two-way-glass, mineral water and fancy LED lighting, the truth is mottled walls with misspelt graffiti, machine coffee like someone slightly warmed a puddle and urine-yellow lighting to mingle with air that, if it had a colour, would be urine yellow.

But no one wants to watch that in ultra HD.

Lethal Game by Charlie Gallagher is out in ebook, paperback and audiobook on the 11th November 2021.

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