“The best incentive to write T.V. is to look at what’s not there.”
This was the reason that Paul Abbott gave when he was first asked about where the idea for his new Channel 4 show No Offence came from. Describing the show as a ‘jet black comedy cop show’, Abbott wanted the programme to be a fusion of both the police procedural format and the sitcom. Although they’re two worlds that seemingly shouldn’t fit together, If anyone could make the two fuse though it’s Abbott and No Offence delivers a balance of belly laughs and incredibly dramatic moments.
The majority of the laughs come courtesy of Abbott’s latest brilliant incarnation DI Vivienne Deering, played by The Thick of It’s Joanna Scanlan. Deering is a woman who isn’t backwards in coming forwards and is the mother of a somewhat dysfunctional workplace family. Scanlan described Deering as a Monolith of a character and at times she found her a hard character to play.
Deering’s two deputies in the show are the somewhat impulsive DC Dinah Kowalska (Elaine Cassidy) and the very nervous but quite intelligent DS Joy Frears (Alexandra Roach). Roach’s ambition to be on the show came after she learnt that Paul Abbott was involved as she was a massive fan of his earlier work Shameless. It didn’t hurt that Roach comes from a family of police officers.
The first episode introduces the characters whilst at the same time setting up the central narrative thread of the series. This recurring plot sees the team attempt to hunt down a serial killer who is seemingly attacking women with Down’s Syndrome. Speaking about the use of Down’s Syndrome characters, Abbott said it was the hardest thing to write in the first episode of a series that’s been billed as a comedy. However he said that the characters themselves were researched really well and he hoped that by writing the characters he would dispel some of the myths of people who grow up with Down’s Syndrome.
Despite the trio of feisty female characters in the lead roles, Abbott informed us that was never a conscious choice. He added that Deering, Dinah and Joy are all women in a man’s world and that they were equally at home going out for a pint as their male counterparts.
Abbott also spoke about the writing’s team initial struggle to balance the comedic elements of the plot with the police procedural aspect. Eventually Abbott discovered that the material was only funny if the cast only played it completely straight. Additionally he felt that it would be much more interesting to create a comedy about officers who did their jobs well rather than bumbling cops.
In my opinion I think that the first episode of No Offence is pure Paul Abbott as it has some high drama as well as echoes of the humour that made Shameless a hit. All of the cast members shine; most notably Joanna Scanlan who I’m glad is finally getting her chance to shine after years of playing supporting parts. Whilst I’m not sure if the series will be as good as its first episode, Abbott at least starts things on a high and I would go as far as to say that No Offence is one of the most promising TV series of the year so far.
No Offence begins on Tuesday at 9pm on Channel 4