Grace Dent on TV: Line of Duty, BBC2

OK, so I haven't got the faintest idea who the bad guys are, but
the car chases are brilliant

I'm rather loving Line of Duty on BBC2, which I'm going to talk about in this
column, under a heading that says "Line of Duty", so please buzz off if you get
glum about spoilers.

I'm not entirely sure I've got the full thrust of its twisty-turny plot, but I know I need a stiff vodka when the credits roll. Line of Duty is a a sort of "The Bill meets The Wire meets Eden Lake". It's a whole lot of shouting, double-bluffing and bolt-cutter manicures. It has gangsters lynched from lamp-posts, acres of bureaucratic red-tape, multi-layered police corruption, bloody-puddles, screeching tyres and Gina McKee dirty talking to Lennie James. Being all "Oooooh DCI Tony, you can doooo anything to meeee you know that. Nothing is off limits!" while a nation yells, "STOP IT NICE LADY OFF NOTTING HILL, stop doing mucky breathing and insinuating you're tampering with yourself. Make Hugh Grant be adorable and self-deprecating for a brownie again!" McKee, playing the frankly dodgy "Jackie", had her fun-times cut short this week when she wound up lying in a deep-freeze with her throat cut. This much I know.

This week's episode has, however, left me more confused as to who the actual baddies are than ever before. The blokes in the black-windowed SUV who keep posting Jiffy Bags of fingers to enemies are certainly no gentlemen. Meanwhile DCI Tony Gates (Lennie James) is up to his neck in poo and willing to take every other cop down with him. I love DS Steve Arnott's (Martin Compston's) swagger and guile, but I'm sure other viewers find him to be a stirring little berk who'd benefit from a trip to Boltcutter Bill.

All in all, Line of Duty is a bit hammy and a bit clangy, but, as summer continues to pour down outside, it's the perfect miserable indoor accompaniment to all that dealing with trench-foot, cancelling a barbecue and ringing the insurance about flood damage.

Line of Duty is perfect pissed-on television. The sun never shines on TV for DCI Tony Gates and the TO-20 squad. Or for the team of hapless anti-terrorist marksmen who swoop in to prevent a suicide bomber, get the door number wrong and kill his neighbour. Or for their cop station full of sicknote-wielding admin clerks moaning about "their nerves'"

"The union says you can't talk to me about cases as it makes me anxious and brings on me migraine," an asthmatic secretary will moan, munching a biscuit. There's no sunshine either for the station's neighbouring problem-housing estate, filled with kids so soulless and macabre that their grotty little faces should be printed on the back of the morning-after pill box to boost sales.

Ok, so DCI Gates's mistress is dead, Arnott knows the whole set-up is shady and the gangland-related mess is escalating. This much of the plotline I can recount. The rest is rather hazy. For me, Line of Duty is one of those dramas – like The Wire or The Bridge – that plays out on a different frequency, to say, the one my husband can hear. "We've got a 412 on the snafflegate overhang ferlump, Sarg!" one cop will shout, grabbing his car keys. Well that's what I hear anyway. "Well why are you WAITING!?" his boss will roar, suddenly furious. Furious about what? Don't ask me. "DCI Boswell will be all over this and his ACPQ's will milk it dry. Get a fackin move on! And don't take DCI Hurumphch, those CGY boys are still mad about the sphghg."

"What the hell happened there?" I'll say, not at all annoyingly. Just like I don't get stabby when someone sits down beside me during EastEnders and says, "so how exactly does Kat know Alfie then?" or 'is this still set in London?" Not fully getting the twists in things like Line of Duty, or giving up on season two of The Wire, is like not being able to hear a dog whistle. Give me five episodes of Mary Wesley's wartime smut The Camomile Lawn, which I've been drinking in this week on 4OD, and I'm drowning in plot, metaplot and subtexts. Or a lovely episode of Cranford where nothing appears to be happening for 60 minutes aside from Judi Dench eating an orange and a valuable piece of historic lace being swallowed by a cat, and I can wiffle at length about dramatic tension, denouement and intertextuality.

With Line of Duty, now on week three, I'm possibly enjoying about 45 per cent of the plot, yet I'm calmly content with the pithy one-liners ("If you're going to take a shot at the king, son, make sure that you kill him!") and the thrilling chase-y bits where a man drives a car very fast despite being told by his colleague that it is "NOT A SPECIFIED AND REGISTERED CHASE VEHICLE". I love that in Jed Mercurio's police world the paperwork and the rules and procedure guidelines are as big a pain in the rear as being shot at by crooks. And I'll miss Gina McKee as Jackie, but at least we know that in the run-up to her death she was very, very happy.

Grace's marmalade dropper

The Happy Mondays on This Morning. Shaun Ryder was clean, presentable, sober, upright and concentrating on the words. Dance like your dad-chester

Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Shenaz Treasurywala
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
    Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

    Finally, a diet that works

    Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
    Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

    Say it with... lyrics

    The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
    Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

    The joys of 'thinkering'

    Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
    Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

    Monique Roffey interview

    The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
    DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
    Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

    How we met

    Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

    Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

    Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
    Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

    Who does your club need in the transfer window?

    Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
    The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015