JAN MOIR: It's not just Line Of Duty that lost the plot

JAN MOIR: It's not just Line Of Duty that lost the plot

May 6, 2021

JAN MOIR: It’s not just Line Of Duty that lost the plot – TV dramas are starting to buckle under the weight of political correctness

Line Of Duty is over, but it is not over. Series six might have ended but the nation fumes on, blazing away in a bonfire of plot-point furies.

When it was revealed that it was dimbulb Buckells who was the fourth man, there were howls of outrage. Viewers felt emotionally swindled; cheated of their investment of time and passion in a television series that began nine long years ago. But what did they want?

Many would not have been happy unless Chief Superintendent Patricia Carmichael had been chased around the Palisades Shopping Centre by a brace of helicopter gunships while Fleming ran off with Davidson to live and love for ever in Chocolate Box Cottage in the beautiful village of Witness Protection.

When it was revealed that it was dimbulb Buckells who was the fourth man, there were howls of outrage

Meanwhile, Tedists such as me were just grateful that it wasn’t Supt Ted Hastings who turned out to be the villain. And also that his shrivelled mojo seems to have been reinflated to previous levels of righteous vigour as he now fights his enforced retirement — and his right to star in a future series, hurrah.

But yes, I understand the anger. And there were certainly disappointments aplenty in a series where the high point turned out not to be the big reveal, but the wee donkey.

Yet the force of the reaction asks bigger questions about what we desire and expect from a television drama — and are we asking too much?

How could Line Of Duty, set in an anonymous small town, stuck fast within the limitations of its deliberate claustrophobia, continue to sustain such sizzling levels of corruption? 

There are only so many car chases, convoys gone wrong, in-cell murders, red herrings and bodies stacking up like smoking kippers that any series can sustain without descending into total farce.

There were certainly disappointments aplenty in a series where the high point turned out not to be the big reveal, but the wee donkey

Many accept all this as part of the fun and that LOD is at heart a pantomime, or at least it has become one.

However, the more serious problem is that this show — and too many other dramas like it — are starting to buckle under the weight of their own self-punishing commitment to all forms of political correctness, with the cares of drama swept away by an indulgent desire by creatives to club us over our heads with their political beliefs.

They see this as their duty, and I rather wish they did not.

On social media this week, LOD writer Jed Mercurio responded to the criticism and defended his work.

‘We knew attempting to explore the real nature of corruption in our society wouldn’t appeal to everyone,’ he wrote.

Get him. That rather condescending justification underlines much of what has gone wrong with so much drama — too many see it as an opportunity for agitprop, the chance to educate rather than entertain, to shove a banquet of dogma down the throats of viewers and hope they won’t mind.

There are only so many car chases, convoys gone wrong, in-cell murders, red herrings and bodies stacking up like smoking kippers that any series can sustain without descending into total farce

But we do mind. We know what corruption is, thanks all the same. We know what it looks and smells like, we recognise it in all forms from playground bullies onwards, we understand who practises it and who does not. We don’t need Dot Cottan to die in a hail of bullets and Mercurio to kill off half a dozen high-ranking stale, pale, male police officers to ram the point home.

More from Jan Moir for the Daily Mail…

He is not alone. Last year, David Hare’s political thriller Roadkill (BBC One) was unwatchable, Tory-bashing, leftist propaganda. Meanwhile, The Crown on Netflix paints the Royal Family as hateful Let-Them-Eat-Cakers without a single redeeming feature to their name.

Hasn’t anyone learned from Jodie Whittaker’s reign as the first female Doctor Who, when her storylines addressing issues such as the ecological crisis, racism, civil rights — and larded with plenty of negative allusions to Brexit — resulted in an exodus of exhausted viewers.

Elsewhere, I don’t mind race-blind casting in period drama — in fact, I welcome it as a hugely positive step forward.

Nevertheless, LOD has many strengths, but a weakness for its own virtue and a tendency to become freighted with issues. In this series, the blending of real-life crime cases with fictional ones was uncomfortable — it is unclear what point was being made with allusions to Jimmy Savile and to Daniel Morgan, the real-life private investigator who was murdered in 1987 while investigating police corruption. Apart from the obvious, which is uncomfortably obvious.

On social media this week, LOD writer Jed Mercurio responded to the criticism and defended his work

In recent years, new criteria for Oscar nominees demands a wider commitment by creatives to embrace diversity, equality, LBGT groups, those with disabilities and storylines that must follow a prescribed pattern.

If you don’t write pre-approved scripts featuring acceptable characters triumphing over adversity, then your work will not be considered Oscar-worthy.

The notion that you can’t make the art that you want, only the art that is socially approved, is bleeding out everywhere.

Buckells representing the dangers of incompetence decaying into corruption, along with perhaps the banality of evil? Well, we get that — but we could have done without some of the rest.

As a nation of crossword puzzlers, problem solvers and armchair detectives, we could see that Buckells wasn’t the criminal mastermind, it was that most of the other criminal masterminds had been killed, right?

Anyway, he cannot be the criminal mastermind, because which criminal mastermind ordered the crooked lawyer to be killed in Buckells’ cell in HMP Blackthorn to frighten him? ‘Watch what happens to a rat,’ said gangster Lee Banks, as he strangled Lakewell in front of Buckells’ terrified, bulging eyes. It is not over yet.

Think about that, as you carry the fire. As you were.

A YouTube battle royal, so who’ll take the crown?

In the past Prince William has warned of the dangers of social media, but has now bowed to the inevitable. A royal YouTube channel has been launched, featuring candid camera scenes of his family in the latest skirmish of The Cambridges v The Sussexes war.

Who will win the hearts and minds of the world in this battle of bliss? In the blue corner we have deliriously adorable footage of the Cambridge children running around in cosy woollies, toasting marshmallows on some wind-blasted Norfolk beach, all looking as cute as buttons. William and Kate also released film of themselves being spontaneous on a couch, but not in the way you think.

A royal YouTube channel has been launched, featuring candid camera scenes of Prince William’s family in the latest skirmish of The Cambridges v The Sussexes war.

In the red corner, the Sussexes in California continue with their mission to save the planet at all costs, preferably yours and not theirs. Meghan has written a children’s book about the delights of well-made garden furniture, while Harry has uploaded footage of his appearance at an event to urge world powers to distribute their Covid vaccines among poorer nations. He made a plea for ‘shared humanity’, which is pretty much what he said to his dad when he begged for more money.

The Cambridges v The Sussexes on a streaming platform near you? My YouTube is bigger than your YouTube? Where will it all end? Perhaps in a Netflix showdown with both sides of the family making simultaneous nature documentaries about the decline of an endangered species — themselves.

Wolf Hall author Hilary Mantel has been criticised for declaring that the monarchy is unlikely to outlast Prince William — but hasn’t she got a point? At the moment it is hard to see how such an anachronism can stagger on long term in a world where privilege and all who hold it are increasingly despised.

This obsession with fuzz is the pits 

Emily Ross started growing her armpit hair three years ago to prove — oh God, I don’t know what, to prove something or other about being an oppressed minority, a feminist, someone not conforming to standardised beauty demands, someone embracing her natural being but perhaps, most of all, someone succumbing to the unceasing human desire, both magnificent and tragic, to be known as something more than we are.

‘I wanted to explore my feelings about it,’ she said of her armpit hair.

Emily Ross started growing her armpit hair three years ago to prove — oh God, I don’t know what

The 30-year-old yoga teacher, who lives in Oxford, had forgotten to take her razor on a trip and was ‘forced’ to let it grow.

Now, she dyes it blue and loves it; a little baby troll in each pit, nestled there for the duration.

To be honest, I have mixed feelings. It takes a special kind of person to be fascinated by one’s own armpit hair, no matter how noble your political motivation. It takes a certain resilience of ego.

However, Emily is now upset that her stance has attracted the unwanted attentions of online male fetishists, who are attracted to her underarm fluffiness like shy woodland creatures racing for the comfort of the shrubbery.

That is the terrible thing, Emily. No matter how inventive or brave you are with your armpit hair, some freak out there will still think you have done it just for him. 

Melinda and Bill Gates are to divorce. I don’t know why this seems so shocking, but it does. If the fourth richest man in the world and his wife can’t make it work, who can?

With three children, mountains of cash and all those properties and joint philanthroping, one wonders why the Gateses could not simply continue being married, but living separate lives? They are multi-mansioned, mild-mannered, heavy with yacht and seem to have little or no deep religious beliefs, although Melinda was born a Catholic. ‘I don’t have any evidence on that,’ Bill Gates once replied, when asked about the divinity of the human soul.

He also stated that he had ‘more efficient’ ways of spending a Sunday morning than going to church.

Yet here we are, rending asunder like billy-o. Perhaps a reminder that money does not cushion every blow, especially the hurt feelings of a husband or wife replaced in affections by someone or something else.

Livia is eco-queen of the green salad

Time to recycle your socks and talk pants again — for it is the return of Livia Firth, the eco-activist and former wife of actor Colin Firth. Livia is one of the most annoying women on the eco-planet, and not just because she married our Colin and then dumped him.

Livia Firth is one of the most annoying women on the eco-planet, and not just because she married our Colin and then dumped him

‘Italians have always done things in a more old-fashioned way, eating seasonal food and taking care of clothes,’ she chirps in an interview this week. ‘I remember the first time I came to London my friends were, like, “What do you mean you put away your winter clothes? Where do you put them?”‘ 

Readers, I am afraid there is more. ‘But for Italians, every single wool sweater gets washed, put in a little bag and put away for the summer. You’d get it out in the winter and it was a ceremony: “Oh, I forgot I had this sweater!” You’d be rediscovering your wardrobe seasonally.’

Aren’t Italians marvellous! How very clever of them to put away winter clothes — in a bag! — and eat tomatoes when they’re ripe. Whoever would have thought of such things. Livia, permesso? We also store our clothes and eat salads in season. It ain’t rocket science.

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