Does British TV really need another cop drama? Probably not, but what ITV1 needed was something to occupy Martin Kemp, poached from EastEnders last year. Wisely, they decided not to make him an SAS officer, a female Redcap or anyone who’d stray beyond the M25. That left them with only one option – he’d have to be Old Bill.
So that Kemp didn’t stick out like a giant sore thumb, he was cleverly cast as one half of a crime-busting duo, alongside his (fictional) brother. It’s the East End. They’re DCs but they’re also geezers, with scuffed leather coats to show they’ve been around. They’ve got guns, they do things their own way, and they get results. Their DI doesn’t approve, but knows when to leave well alone. Some of the squad think they’re out of order, but they’re not the ones putting the villains behind bars, are they?
At this point, ITV’s Serious Soapstar Vehicle Squad must have realised that there wasn’t quite enough evidence of dramatic intent to achieve real conviction, so they fitted it up with some more. There’s a little domestic – Jack Finn (Kemp) fancies his brother’s wife (perhaps it’s the Marlboro hanging seductively from her lip), but restricts himself to staring longingly at her bum and nutting his bro’ when he finds he’s cheating on her. Plus, of course, there’s the Unusual Mode Of Transport (an Audi TT Cabriolet) which marks Jack out as an Unusual Bloke, not to mention one who’s doing pretty well on a DC’s salary. Sorted, as they say in E20.
Despite a Formulaic And Obvious, saw-it-coming setup, the production managed to be slick and contemporary while giving a big nod towards 1970s Sweeney graininess. The brovs pulled some clever stunts, including obtaining information by means of mobile phone theft and threatening to shoot a dog. They had a terrific villain too, a really ugly version of Eddie Izzard without the humour or feminine side. In fact, no-one was especially beautiful, in contrast to The Bill, currently looking like the finals of Pop Idol.
Martin Kemp wasn’t, however, particularly noticeable, which either means they successfully avoided making it a crude star vehicle, or he isn’t really star material. Previously famous for villainous roles, he seemed a bit lost on the side of good, and only came alive while temporarily a bad boy again. Perhaps his character is just too close to EastEnders’ Steve Owen. Or perhaps he doesn’t have a tremendous range