Cuffs, TV review: This seaside police drama is trying hard to be The Bill for Generation Instagram

It was pre-watershed on a weekday but the crimes were consciously gritty, pushing the limits of pre-9pm viewing

Sally Newall
Thursday 29 October 2015 00:38
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Arresting: Ashley Walters stars as PC Ryan Draper in the BBC’s new police drama ‘Cuffs’
Arresting: Ashley Walters stars as PC Ryan Draper in the BBC’s new police drama ‘Cuffs’

As a Sussex girl, I was pleased to see that Cuffs, the BBC's new police procedural, is set in Brighton.

The likes of the charred remains of the West Pier, its all-singing neighbour and the seafront arches and beach all made for a fresh-feeling backdrop. The credits were very now, too, like a mashup of a seaside scenster's Instagram feed, with soundtrack to match. But when the rest of ingredients were thrown into the mix, you end up with a bit of an identity crisis.

It was pre-watershed on a weekday – the first new BBC drama commissioned in that slot in eight years (RIP HolbyBlue) – but the crimes were consciously gritty, pushing the limits of pre-9pm viewing. In this we had a self-harming drug addict; a racially-motivated screwdriver attack; child abduction; and suicide.

Upping the ante for depicting modern policing: The cast of Cuffs (BBC)

Alongside all that blood and grit, the characterisation felt a bit soapy. Ashley Walters (of Top Boy – and So Solid Crew – fame) as PC Ryan Draper was charged with looking after rookie recruit PC Jake Vickers (newcomer Jacob Ifan), who also happened to be the son of the force's head honcho. The awkward triangle felt like every other police show we'd seen. There were some nice moments of subtle humour – nudists on the beach, a police dog having swimming lessons– but there were a few too many “Just doing my job, sir” cliches.

Amanda Abbington (Sherlock, Mr Selfridge) was a welcome presence as DS Jo Moffat, but the most interesting character was Paul Ready as introverted DI Felix Kane, who solved a child abduction and saved a man from suicide all without looking anyone in the eye, then headed to see some ladies of the night – a specialist subject for writer Julie Gearey (Secret Diary of a Call Girl).

Is this just The Bill for the Instagram generation? Maybe, but that show ran for 27 years, and this is trying to up the ante for depicting modern policing. Time will tell if it makes the grade.

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