Liam Rudden: You can’t beat a good cop drama

Jacob Ifan and Ashley Walters in Cuffs
Jacob Ifan and Ashley Walters in Cuffs
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THERE’S been a murder; well, a gruesome racist attack, a violent ramraid and a child abduction, to be precise.

Cuffs burst onto TV screens last week, doing for Brighton what Taggart did for Glasgow.

Reading the publicity beforehand, the new BBC cop show, it promised, would be “a visceral drama that will take the audience on an exhilarating ride through the challenges of frontline policing”.

It certainly lived up to its billing, and having just previewed tonight’s episode, well, let’s just say things are about to get taken to a whole new level.

Set in the seaside resort and surrounding countryside, the series depicts the lives of the front line officers of the South Sussex Police service.

‘On his first day, rookie cop Jake faces a challenging shift not least because he is the boss’ son. His biggest challenge? Earning the respect of his new colleagues.’

So began an hour of high energy drama peopled by a collection of colourful characters, all damaged in their own way and coping the best they way they know how.

It’s this insight into their fallibility (in and out of uniform) that marks Cuffs out as a bit different and, always a sucker for a good, adrenaline-fuelled cop show, I’d put my money on it being a hit.

Written by Julie Gearey, whose previous credits include Prisoners’ Wives and Secret Diary Of A Call Girl, Cuffs opened, however, with an unexpected secret weapon - comedy - as a lone copper attempted to break up feuding revellers and nudists - only in Brighton.

That vein of humour runs through the series as the darker aspects of policing in 2015 slowly seep to the surface.

Leading the action is Ashley Walters as PC Ryan Draper, while newcomer Jacob Ifan plays rookie PC Jake Vickers. Both have the charisma to make you care.

They’re joined by an impressive cast that includes Peter Sullivan, the brilliant Amanda Abbington, Shaun Dooley, Paul Ready, Eleanor Matsuura and Alex Carter.


Of course, Cuffs follows in a long tradition of British cop shows, or as they are now known, police procedurals. Hate that expression.

From Dixon of Dock Green through Z Cars and The Bill, a copper on the beat has long proved compulsive viewing. Not that every police drama lasts.

City Central and Holby Blue, the BBC’s previous efforts to capture the millions who used to watch ITV’s long-running series The Bill, were short lived. Cuffs on first look appears capable of bucking the trend.

Fast-paced, no-holds barred story lines, despite being before the watershed, ensure the action seldom relents.

Yes there are clichés, but then the very nature of the genre is cliché-ridden. Can you imagine Starsky and Hutch without a weekly car chase; The Chief without the internal politics causing friction between the ranks; The Sweeney without a hard-bitten officer unafraid of a bit of rule bending?

That our fascination with police work goes beyond gritty dramas augers well for Cuffs.

Since Rosie introduced PC Penrose in the 70s the comedy copper has long made us laugh. BBC Scotland’s Scot Squad still does.

Cuffs’ ability to capture just enough of that while remaining explosive television may well ensure its beat is a long one.