BORGEN, Braquo, The Bridge - must see European TV that leaves the majority of British small screen drama in its wake.
Yes, while the Danish have Borgen, we have Bob Servant Independent, as someone on Twitter pointed out recently. And while the French live the gritty cop show that is Braquo, we have the sanitised Law & Order UK. Similarly, as the plot of The Bridge held Swedes gripped, we’re subject to the formulaic deliberations of Lewis.
Foreign language they may be, but even the need for subtitles fails to dampen our enthusiasm for what is, basically, good old-fashioned telly drama, the sort that used to be shown after the nine o’clock watershed before soaps and reality TV became the staple fare.
Last weekend, in Dublin, I picked up a DVD boxset of RTE’s Love/Hate. Set in Dublin, this award-winning crime drama follows the activities of an Irish drug baron and his merry band of waifs, strays and psychos.
Gritty, dark, violent, yet with flashes of humour, it’s everything the likes of River City should have been. UK programme commissioners could well do with taking a look. This type of quality landmark drama is hard to find on UK schedules.
There are exceptions, of course, Downton Abbey and Ripper Street being two of the more recent. Complicit, just started on Channel 4, is okay but hardly a classic.
Perhaps it’s because TV is now made as a vehicle for a particular name, rather than cast around the strengths of the story that so many home-grown series fail to ignite the imagination.
Or perhaps we just need to re-learn the art of good television.