Blue Lights, review: BBC One's Belfast cop drama deserves as much hype as Line of Duty
Now, bear with me. I’m going to recommend a police drama. Yes, another one. You may have decided that you can’t face any more of these, what with them taking up 75 per cent of television schedules.
You may watch the first episode of BBC One’s Blue Lights (all episodes are available on iPlayer) and think, “Hmm, it’s fine, but should I commit to watching all six episodes?” But I have watched all six episodes of this Belfast-set series and can report that it’s great.
Writers Declan Lawn and Adam Patterson are Northern Ireland natives and former investigative journalists, whose previous credits include The Salisbury Poisonings. Their idea is to look at policing through the eyes of rookie constables, which is smart, because it means that things can be explained to them – and therefore us – without it feeling like stupidly expository dialogue.
It appears, at the beginning, to be about a probationary constable called Grace (Sian Brooke), who has switched jobs after years as a social worker. She’s a bit naive, desperate to help every lost soul she comes across, and is paired with an experienced partner, Stevie (Martin McCann), who tells her how things should be done.
But Grace doesn’t turn out to be the lead character, just one of many in an ensemble cast: her fellow probationers, beat veterans and bosses on one side, Belfast’s criminals on the other, and shady intelligence officers somewhere in between.
Bad things happen – there is one horrible scene of a kneecapping – and the show deals with sectarianism and drugs gangs, but it isn’t unremittingly dark or overly political. There is real warmth in the friendships between the officers, and plenty of lightness in the divide between the probationers and the old hands.
Richard Dormer (Beric in Game of Thrones) is terrific as the grizzled Gerry, who likes to take the rookies under his wing. He is nonplussed by a newbie who has never heard of Kris Kristofferson or Johnny Cash. “All right, then. What music do you listen to?” he asks. “I like podcasts,” comes the reply.
By the end, you will have a real fondness for these characters. Blue Lights won’t receive a fraction of the hype of Line of Duty, but there isn’t a duff line or an overcooked scene to be found here. The various storylines knit together into one satisfying conclusion.