The Detectives, BBC2 - TV review: A brilliantly bleak tale of blank-faced detectives in stark urban settings

These are horrifying crimes, but the whole is elevated to art by director James Newton's camerawork and Richard Spiller's spine-tingling score

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The Independent Culture

Manchester police documentary The Detectives is set in the same world as the currently airing Paul Abbott dramedy No Offence, but it's not funny like that show, nor even as wryly amusing as the similar series 24 Hours In Police Custody occasionally is – and that's no criticism. The Detectives is brilliant in its bleakness.

The second episode of three (they're airing over consecutive days this week) continued the story of the investigation of Manchester DJ Ray Teret, known to the tabloids as "Jimmy Savile's chauffeur". The officers had now reached the "interrogation" stage, as we were informed by a title on a screen, which meant they'd be interviewing their suspect and, eventually, confronting him with their evidence. This involved a detective called Rod (all the detectives are referred to by their first names) reeling off a long list of rape and sexual assault charges throughout the Sixties and Seventies, while Teret reacted with exaggerated bafflement.

In the wake of Operation Yewtree this is a familiar tale and not just for these specialist police officers. Greater Manchester's Serious Sexual Offences Unit was set up in response to the explosion in reports of sex crimes that's taken place all over the country in recent years, and not all the perpetrators are Seventies DJs.

This hour also followed the case of a stammering 17-year-old accused of statutory rape, who appeared less and less sympathetic as his story unravelled. Most disturbing was a recording of a frantic 999 call made by a victim, just before she was dragged from the street by a stranger, violently assaulted and raped.

These are horrifying crimes, investigated in stark urban settings by blank-faced detectives, but the whole is elevated to art by director James Newton's camerawork and Richard Spiller's spine-tingling score. The officers' grim focus on the task at hand is also something admirable for viewers to hang on to. After the CPS gave authority to charge Teret with 32 offences, the triumphant mood in the station was soon replaced by one of disgust. "Y'know, with all these historic sexual abuse enquiries that have been going on, you here this comment time and time again," said Rod. "'It was a different time'. It was a different time, but raping schoolgirls is still raping schoolgirls."

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