Television Review

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The Independent Culture
EVER HEAR THE one about the priest, the bent copper and the crack addict? They found themselves in Liverpool One (ITV), and I must confess I laughed at the punchline which revealed that they all sprang from the same womb. The priest and the policeman, whom at this point you knew only as acquaintances, were arguing over how to protect the drug addict, who had informed on a psychotic criminal. "He's your brother!" screamed the priest. "He's your brother too!" said the policeman. You half expected one of Harry Enfield's permed Scousers to step in and arbitrate. Eh lads, calm down, calm down. It's only make-believe.

Catholicism was spread across the first episode of Liverpool One like a thin layer of margarine. It's as if somebody's been watching too much Jimmy McGovern, and assumed that by just retrieving a crucifix from the props cupboard you can create a drama of intense moral complexity about the incompatibility of faith and the practical life.

Into this gangland of cartoon left-footers steps Samantha Janus, or Sam, as she's calling herself in the credits here, possibly to distance herself from the Samantha Janus recently sighted in the vicinity of Babes in the Wood. You can tell her apart from her new colleagues because she's the one with the plunging halterneck tops and the degree in psychology. That's another McGovernism, by the way, and another layer of marge. Psychology is a perfectly respectable field of knowledge, but stick it in a primetime cop show and it starts to resemble witchcraft, a case of here's a solution we've prepared earlier; never you mind how.

Like Fitz in Cracker, but a whole lot more perfunctorily, Detective Constable Isobel de Pauli is blessed with the ability to solve cases by sheer intuition. In this story she seemed to find the murder weapon with the help of a divining rod, and cunningly deduced that an important witness was from Essex with only the colour of her hair and her yo-yo knickers to go on.

De Pauli is also from Essex, and suffers the same prejudice that all bottle-blondes from the locality encounter: her creators just won't take her seriously. They've put more thought into her name than her character. While obeisance is paid to the cliche that incoming cops must be loathed by their new colleagues, it is done in the most slapdash and half-hearted way, as market research showed that there's no profit in being too horrid to our Sam. Even when working on her own, the script finds it hard to believe in the reputation for toughness it has given her. "Do you want me to tell you how I could make your life hell?" she asks one recalcitrant witness, and I thought, yes, I genuinely do. But the witness squealed before the list of threats could be itemised.

The real oddity of Liverpool One is that, while Janus has been cast precisely because she's a big hit with the Loaded brigade, it invites you to believe that her character is living with a boyfriend who doesn't want to sleep with her. It's a form of positive discrimination, I suppose but probably an expedient one. She'll doubtless be humping a colleague before the series is out, which is called having your cake and saving a little bit for afters.

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