The police procedural is a staple of entertainment so ingrained into our televisual diets that now by law there should be at least four P.I. shows, three copumentaries and a dozen scattered detective diaspora on our screens each day. We are obsessed.
We’ve had Sherlocks, Prime Suspects and Crackers galore, the silly and the deadly serious, investigators with O.C.D. (Monk), an actual Monk (Cadfael) Angels (Charlie’s and Gene Hunt’s – more of them later) and Demons in every corner of TV-land.
Paul Abbott’s latest plunge into the TV serial ocean has the Shameless creator setting his sights on the cop shop, with a very hard edge to the comedy elements in No Offence.
Here’s a short video on what you’re getting into with No Offence, it’s NSFW as you’d expect. Get
The series is anything but ordinary and so we’re lining up some of the more unconventional police TV shows, join us as we probe and interrogate them why don’t you?
Life on Mars
The brainchild of Matthew Graham, Tony Jordan and Ashley Pharoah Life on Mars fueled a testosterone tinged nostalgia for hitting criminals and ordering crisps in pubs and gave the 21st Century male a sideburned saviour in Gene Hunt.
Hunt clarksoned his way through scores of toe rags and pillocks, took on handfuls of rat-faced gits and drove her majesty’s pleasure right up the back alleys of Manchester and London. It was the best of both worlds – all the racist, sexist, beer-sweating foul mouthery which lies barely dormant in modern society out and proud and it had the smug postmodern disapproval all in a tidy package.
The series’ overarching question of what exactly had happened to Sam Tyler (and Alex Drake in the sequel series Ashes to Ashes) to cause their bizarre journey all over time was answered expertly with an emotional punch that bore the brass knuckles subtlety of Gene Hunt.
The format was picked up in the U.S. And Russia. The American version was notable for starring Harvey Keitel and finishing after one season, concluding with the revelation that all police officers were actually part of a deep sleep dream had by an astronaut on a quest (a gene hunt you might so terribly say) to discover if there is Life on the planet Mars. Ye Gads.
A 90s TV curio this, sandwiched in the subconscious between the resurgence of the woollen cardigan and the sing-a-long theme to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. This is prime Hasslehoff.
Saving drowning extras can usually only take place in the day, so what the Mr. Belding did Mitch do when the sun went down?*
He teams up with some dude and drives fast cars and solves crimes. Yes he does! It sounds like Alan Patridge had a pitch meeting with a freshly uncorked genie but it actually happened.
Look, here’s David to tell you all about it. Yes, you.
Oddly the series performed like a sock full of human waste and so the show runners decided to do the only thing possible. Jump on the X-Files bandwagon and introduce a supernatural flavour. Oh the 1990s – you’re nuts.
*No, it isn’t sleep. He’s a vampire. Despite the fact he’s so bronzed.
This may be the most conventional presence on this list but when this programme launched towards the end of the 90s it had a bold, callous streak which made The Bill look like Trumpton. The now ubiquitous handheld camera style was still a relative televisual toddler format wise but it was used to great effect here, throwing us towards the front of the thin blue line like no other show had.
The Cops (the understated title was a touchstone for the bleak, cruel reality on display) was a genuinely scary programme. The police themselves had tremendous difficulty with the public and their superiors, indulging in all sorts of dodgy larks themselves.
One bravura sequence from the first episode had Katy Cavanagh’s cheeky young Mel Draper redecorate the inside of her nostrils with Dulux brilliant white before leaving the club in the small hours and walking straight into work and pulling on her police uniform.
It ran for three series, with the first being the most raw and the best. There was an unforgettable episode in which fear of a rough housing estate (whose fictional existence genuinely scared me) stopped an ambulance crew getting to save a young child. Devastating viewing and truly unconventional at the time. Worth finding if you can.
Though it only ran for six episodes in 1982 this slice of surreal cop show satire is both pitch perfect in its Quincyesque nonsense and utterly demented in its skewed view of the genre. Picking up with Airplane left off the team of Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker turned their sharp wits on the often-pompous police shows and struck gold.
That it was cancelled after only four episodes airing is a clear example of the madness of crowds as the show not only gave rise to the Naked Gun films but is the perfect example of a show before its time. It can be enjoyed irrespective of your knowledge of the source material. Leslie Neilsen is undoubtedly the star however the vim and vinegar in the spirit of ZAZ made this a timeless classic, cruelly slapped down before its time.
This exchange from the first episode gives you a good idea of exactly why the series is so well regarded.
And those wonderful freeze frame endings…
A neat bonus to end on. A show that, despite a sweet premise, a lead actor with more charisma than Errol Flynn shoved inside a champagne bottle and gifted young co-writers, never made it beyond a pilot.
Adam West, in the stage of his career between being TV’s Batman and being ‘TV’s BATMAN‘, was an inspired choice for the lead of Lookwell. Starring as forgotten TV actor who, by the sheer occasion of his fame, was made a nominal law enforcement official and, now his star has faded, sets out to be useful again – as a crime fighter.
Written by Conan O’Brien and Robert Smigel Lookwell was, like Police Squad before it, ahead of its time and we can only imagine what might have been.
It’s a huge shame that this show wasn’t picked up, and that the very rare pilot can only be seen via some VHS tape traders. Oh, and YouTube…
Lord love the internet.
You can get your copy of the entire series of No Offence on the 10th of August.