As forgeries go Out of the Blue isn't a bad one - the trademarks are all in the right place - whip-pans, jagged editing, overlapping and elliptical dialogue. But there are details that give the game away and, to be fair, some of these are to the series' credit. It has, for example, a largely home-grown sense of irony. The opening sequence leads you to believe that it's going to be a standard screeching-tyres procedural, detectives racing to respond to an all-points bulletin. But then one of the cars screeches to a halt, a detective leaping out to berate a bemused pedestrian for spitting on the pavement. "When you spit on these streets, you spit on our lives," he rages. "Next time I'm gonna have you." Then he winks to his aggrieved partner as he climbs back into the car. That strain of humour runs through the whole thing - offsetting the decidedly grim cases (a serial killer targeting terminal patients and a woman raped by her 15- year-old son) and distinguishing it pretty clearly from NYPD Blue, which has a tendency to moral earnestness. You can see, too, that the writers are laying the foundations for some durable emotional storylines - office romances, methodological disputes, even that old stalwart, the career- threatening illness that has to be kept secret.
On the other hand "strain" is exactly the right word for some of the humour. Lines like "there are more dabs in there than in the North Sea" and "that security guard couldn't spot himself in a mirror" come with a light glaze of sweat on them. And it would be nice if the plotting was just a little less fanciful - the idea that a killer would target terminal patients allows for some neat paradoxes, but the intuitive leap by which the detective solves the crime - the killer is a cancer patient himself, who shoots his own cancer by proxy - strikes you as insane even after it has been proved to be right.
Meat (BBC2), an admirably cool and unblinking series about our carnivorous habits, ended last night with a programme on genetic engineering. Like its predecessors, it contained some startling sights - viewers now know how to masturbate a pig and also learnt that when you take delivery of your mail-order semen the package includes a complimentary tube of KY Jelly, which is a thoughtful touch. The film also followed Andrew Linzey, who holds a chair in Theology and Animal Welfare, on a fact-finding mission to Israel, where he encountered a scientist working on the featherless chicken, an unfortunate looking bird designed to be reared intensively in hot countries without cooking itself to death. Such instances aren't very ethically complicated, whether you eat meat or not - they look wretched and almost certainly taste wretched.
Other cases are more complicated - in Edinburgh genetic research includes the creation of chickens which, without any particular suffering or indignity, will become medicine-factories, automatically manufacturing essential proteins in their eggs. There is a tougher case still for militant vegetarians, one barely explored by the programme. Genetic engineers aren't very far from creating vegetable meat. But if you can pluck a steak rather than slaughtering, one the fierce ethical conflicts involved would simply become short-circuited. Perhaps animal rights groups should be funding laboratories rather than trying to burn them down.Reuse content