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Wednesday, 29 August 2012

What to expect from the Good Cop, BBC1



It’s nine o’clock on a Monday morning in June and I’m excitedly making my way across London to a screening of Stephen Butchard’s new BBC1 drama Good Cop starring Warren Brown. It’s absolutely pouring with rain.

As I make my way into the hotel and begin mingling with a few other equally soggy writers, researchers and hardcore journos, I can’t help thinking I should have come better equipped with a Dictaphone and a knowledge of shorthand. There's a chance though even if I had packed myself sheets of A4 or invested in a Dictaphone that too would fall victim to the rain and I'd be no better off.

I barely have time to ponder this however before we are whisked away into the screening room. As I settle into my chair I’m excited at the prospect of becoming engrossed in a great piece of British drama and the miserable weather soon becomes a soggy memory. Sure enough, ten seconds in I was totally immersed in the action as I watched Warren Brown’s character race through the streets of Liverpool, a determined look on his face. Only one problem. It was pouring with rain. What are the odds?!

But if you’re thinking, as was I momentarily, that all this rain was a metaphor for a slightly damp experience (other than physical dampness of course) you’d be wrong. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I saw a drama as gripping orcaptivating as this. My knuckles were white for a good proportion of the hour-long preview and my bum was so far off the edge of my seat I’m surprised I didn’t fall off and spectacularly embarrass myself.

Now don’t let the title fool you. Good Cop is in no way your average police drama, so if you’re conjuring up images of a four-part ‘The Bill but on the BBC’ scenario with half-formed characters and outrageous crimes, eradicate them from your mind right now. Stephen Butchard has centred his Liverpool-based plot entirely around main character John Paul Rocksavage (Warren Brown) and his reactions to the death of his partner and best friend, Andy (Tom Hopper).

It is a show that has more name changes than Prince. The original working title for the production was ‘Savage’ to reflect not only Warren’s character’s name, but also the brutal violence he is forced to witness as part of his job. However it has now been replaced with Good Cop in order to give a more substantial idea of the concept, genre and principles explored throughout the plot.

There’s no doubt that Stephen Butchard wrote Good Cop with morality in mind. Whilst the first few minutes offer a gritty, compelling scene with PC Rocksavage racing home, a gun in his jacket and blood all over his hands, the viewer is soon transported back in time to a time where life was easier for the young cop. There's a recent trend in dramas that shift time forward and back but it works brilliantly in Good Cop.

We are given the chance to see just what a ‘good cop’ John Paul really is when he and his partner have to deal with a suspicious cot death. However, his character is also typified as ‘good’ in a rather clichéd way, by having a sick father at home to care for. It seems to me that the surrounding script and credible acting are substantial enough to convey the goodness in John Paul without the need for this particular plot thread.

Having said that, a rather poignant encounter between father (Michael Angelis) and son sees Angelis’ character telling John Paul that the “trouble with being a copper is you get to see too much shite”, with John Paul replying, “people are good, dad”; an opinion which presumably has altered significantly for the young PC by the end of the episode.

In the events that follow, John Paul witnesses some of the most harrowing scenes of his life as his partner is beaten into a coma by a gang, simply for being a police officer. The scenes are so harrowing in fact; Warren Brown admits they were even distressing to film.




John Paul Rocksavage. Hero, vigilante or criminal?

After an hour-long thrill ride through the streets of Liverpool (all from a comfy chair in a London hotel, how nifty) we were invited to ask the men of the moment some questions.

Stephen Butchard admitted that he didn’t want John Paul to come across as a vigilante, rather a good man facing a huge moral dilemma. He is a good cop and a good man, but a life or death situation forces him to make a ‘bad’ decision, although just how bad a decision this is lies within the judgement of the viewer. When asked about JohnPaul’s actions, Warren reiterated Stephen’s views about his character and assured us that, had he been put in a similar situation to John Paul, he most likely would have chosen the same actions.

And whilst Warren admits that certain scenes were particularly harrowing to film, he also confesses to ongoing,occasional pranks and antics between the actors and crew in order to lighten the mood on set. 

So, what’s in store over the course of the series and beyond? Well straight from the horse’s (sorry Stephen!) mouth, the subsequent episode will be “truthful”, “exciting”, “tough at times” and John Paul will find himself “torn”, presumably metaphorically over whether or not to exact revenge on the gang who altered his life forever. Will the rest of the series be as gripping and fast-paced as the first episode? Here’s hoping!

What is for sure is that Good Cop is in no way a typical ‘police drama’; the focus is not so much on the crimes, criminals and legal system as it is on it’s main characters. Stephen Butchard himself stated that he “didn’t want to get bogged down” in all the ins and outs of police work. He has succeeded in exploring a more personal and emotional approach, resulting in a gritty and captivating drama.

Good Cop Begins Thursday 30th August on BBC1.


Contributed by Vicki Greenfield Follow Vicki on Twitter

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