Last Night's Viewing: Good Cop, BBC1
Only Connect, BBC4

 

Not nearly enough television writers remember how engaging it can be to be on the outside of a conversation trying to get in. And when it comes to blue-light drama, the problem is even worse. There's a kind of general dread of misunderstanding, which is supposed to be in favour of audience seduction but actually works against it.

As expository sentence after expository sentence clunks off the conveyor belt, you're never left in doubt for a moment. What if you were to blame the writer for your confusion and leave? And yet not fully understanding what a stranger is about or why they're reacting as they are is what really intrigues us. Stephen Butchard gets this, I think, which is why Good Cop is much better cop than most police procedurals.

The exemplary figure of the title is the unfortunately named John Paul Rocksavage (and I can't think of any excuse for the effortful Dickensian oddity of that name), a beat policeman of essentially melancholy strain. An early encounter on the beach with a bitter ex-girlfriend suggests that past sorrows may account for his downbeat manner, nicely caught by Warren Brown. But present frustrations are in the mix, too. While off duty in a café, John confronts a nasty local thug who is harassing a waitress, and the villain's sneering contempt (he promises to "hammer" the next policeman he meets in retaliation) hints at the attrition of a job that daily confronts you with inadequacies of justice.

The opening sequence has already made it clear that Rocksavage will end up with blood on his hands, and it's no great surprise to find out whose blood it is. The way it gets there might strain your credulity a little – a chain of coincidences that allows Butchard to wedge his lead character into a corner where he has very little choice about what he does next. It's also true that Good Cop has some expository clunks of its own. It probably wasn't necessary to get the lead character's dying father to try and correct his gloom with the line, "You see too much shite... Life's good, people are good", even if Michael Angelis can do loving sagacity while lying in bed (literally). But those flaws are more than outweighed by indirections and detours that make it come to life.

Rocksavage's first call-out is a case in point, he and his partner being dispatched to a reported domestic dispute that turns out to be a tragic cul-de-sac (in terms of television narrative). A baby has died and the mother assumes her step-son has been involved. In fact, it's a natural death, muddied by misunderstanding and other sorrows. The situation mocks the jaunty phrase with which Rocksavage's partner had inaugurated their shift: "Ready to do some good?" How do you make good such a human mess? John Paul's partner doesn't worry about it, just nicks a chocolate biscuit from the shopping left abandoned on the front step. But Butchard's hero can't let it go, and his helplessness there feeds directly into the violence with which he acts later. Well worth following.

How proud E M Forster would have been to know that one day he would give a title to a BBC4 quiz – Only Connect. It's not a bad one, as it happens, with a genuinely novel framework in which the contestants have to establish the link between wildly disparate bits of information, which are revealed one at a time by the presenter, Victoria Coren. Connection between The Treachery of Images and French Fries? No idea? What if I add the Saxophone? Still not there? Well, maybe Tintin will finally prod you towards Belgium. It's a kind of epistemological strip-tease really, and once you've persuaded yourself that you've caught a flash of nipple it's all but impossible not to wait for the full reveal. You can try it out online, but I warn you that it's very moreish.

twitter.com/tds153

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat

Arts and Entertainment
A sketch of Van Gogh has been discovered in the archives of Kunsthalle Bremen in Germany
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
Arts and Entertainment
Fake Banksy stencil given to artist Alex Jakob-Whitworth

art

Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
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.

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee