TELEVISION / The man who bought the bank at Monte Carlo

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The Independent Culture
WITH police dramas getting more and more like documentaries and the documentaries getting more and more like dramas, we're soon going to reach a time when it will be impossible to tell the two apart. There were several moments in The Nick, a three part film about a busy inner-city police station in Leeds, that reminded you of NYPD Blue; the cleaner on the stairs, labouring away beneath the bobbies' feet, the awkward swing of the camera. But for the source of the Desk Sergeant's morning briefing you had to go further back, to Hill Street Blues. 'It's rather busy at the present time', he said, 'Let's get the jobs dealt with and watch your backs please'.

It wasn't the only moment when you were conscious that television, either as influence or conspicuous presence, might have altered what you were seeing. The construction of this first episode even included that indispensible component of police procedural - the arrival of the rookie, in this case a young constable who was briefed with slightly implausible tenderness. 'People around here are the salt of the earth', said his beaming superior, delivering a brief lecture on fortitude in social adversity that would not have disgraced a miner's gala. 'Those people out there are our customers', he concluded, just to hammer the point home to the audience.

I somehow have the feeling, too, that the arrest of a man wearing stockings and suspenders and nothing else would give rise to more than some stifled giggling and a terse 'Rather an unusual case'. Members of the public also seem to feel the obligation to perform. A young woman tremblingly recounting the details of a bank raid started to say 'They had balaclavas on' before catching herself and delivering something a bit more dramatic - 'They were balaclava'd up' she said solemnly.