Last Night's TV - Luther, BBC1; True Stories: Erasing David, More 4

Keep watching this detective

John Luther has just returned from a long period of gardening leave, while an internal investigation establishes how he – oops – failed to prevent a serial-killing paedophile from falling four storeys. His immediate boss – Saskia Reeves, 'eaving out 'er 'aitches to show how down to earth she is – would like him to play it by the book in future. He is, she tells him at the beginning of Neil Cross's new detective series,
Luther, to "observe case management protocol... any proactive strategies to be signed off by me". Fat chance of that, we know at once, because the only book Luther appears to care about is "So You Want to Be a Maverick Detective". Rule One. Have relationship difficulties so you can gloom about the place in between pounding desks and chasing killers. Tick to that, since Luther has just discovered that his wife plans to make a temporary separation permanent. Rule Two. Combine a penetrating psychological intuition with a grasp of the basic rules of evidence that would shame a probationary constable. Tick to that too, since all it took for Luther to spot that his suspect was a "malignant narcissist" and had just topped her mum and dad was the fact that she didn't yawn after he did during an interrogation.

And yet, despite the fact that that was all he'd got to go on, he still threw a tantrum in his boss's office when she was eventually released. Rule Three. Be a lot brighter than any of your suspects expect you to be. Big tick to that, given that Luther is able to discourse suggestively about dark matter and Occam's razor in a way that sends a frisson of sexual thrill through the psycho-killer physicist he's trying to crack.

They're so conventional mavericks, these days, rarely enlivened by anything that would genuinely give the conventions a bit of a twist, such as a passion for Civil War re-enactment, say, or a happy home life with a drag queen. It's all lonely drinking in late-night pubs and revelations of existential angst: "I love to talk about nothing... it's the only thing I know anything about," Luther said at one point. But Cross's series does have some things going for it. One is Idris Elba, who was magnetically commanding as the Baltimore drug dealer Stringer Bell in The Wire, and makes a pretty good fist of the hand he's dealt here. You might suspect that Luther is more a loose constellation of cop-show clichés than a fully formed character, but Elba brings the clichés to life on more than one occasion, his eyes jittering from agitation to acceptance in a way that suggests that there really is something going on behind them. Another thing in its favour – though you'll have to suspend your disbelief to relish it – is the pathological flirtation between Luther and the killer he can't quite nail, which looks as if it will run through the series to deliver a bit of Hannibal Lecter intrigue. It is, there's no getting away from it, a bit of a comedown after The Wire. But then it's hard to think what wouldn't be.

The killer in Luther did a swift bit of Googling at one point, learning all she needs to know about his private life with a few quick keystrokes. All of his intimate connections and weak points are laid bare – a facet of contemporary life that was the starting point for David Bond's True Stories documentary, Erasing David. His idea was to play a 21st-century game of hide-and-seek. He would try and disappear and two private investigators would attempt to track him down, the purpose of the exercise being to reveal the tangled snare of inadvertent revelations that any modern transaction leaves behind it. And it was eminently watchable both for the fieldcraft of a contemporary manhunt – which ranges from sifting through your bins to triangulating the position of your last phone call – and its revelation of the submerged iceberg of information that lies beneath the surface. The film ran like a thriller, cutting between his attempt to stay invisible and the ingenious trawling of his chasers, and finding time as well for the thoughts of civil- liberties activists such as David Davies and Henry Porter.

Bond – and a lot of other people – worry that having the architecture of a police state in place make it a lot easier for a police state to occur. And it's true that we're sometimes blithely unquestioning about the uses to which our private information could be put, by someone who didn't have our interests at heart. But the final conclusion of Bond's film – he was caught after 18 days when he attended an ante-natal meeting with his wife – left several questions unaddressed. For example, what's the difference between privacy and loneliness?

Every human connection leaves a trace behind it – whether computer databases are involved or not – and sometimes an officious protection of individual privacy can be as onerous and soul-destroying as the alternative. Bond was caught because an NHS receptionist confirmed the time of his appointment to an investigator pretending to be him on the phone. His wife said she was shocked. But would she really want to live in society where, if you forget the time of your doctor's appointment, nobody will tell you what it is unless you supply a proof of address and a valid ID first? Trust is risky, but it's not always naive.

Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 back in 2001 when they also supported 'Children in Need'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth rejoins Tess Daly to host the Strictly Come Dancing Children in Need special
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey getting ready for work

Film More romcom than S&M

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Review: The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
The comedian Daniel O'Reilly appeared contrite on BBC Newsnight last night

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
The American stand-up Tig Notaro, who performed topless this week

Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars

Arts and Entertainment

TVNetflix gets cryptic

Arts and Entertainment
Claudia Winkleman is having another week off Strictly to care for her daughter
TV
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Children in Need is the BBC's UK charity. Since 1980 it has raised over £600 million to change the lives of disabled children and young people in the UK

TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his winning novel

Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

    Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

    Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
    The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

    The young are the new poor

    Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
    Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

    Greens on the march

    ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
    Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

    Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

    Through the stories of his accusers
    Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

    The Meaning of Mongol

    Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible