Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Good Cop: Not what we expected, but we like it for it

We were pretty indifferent about Good Cop, as it goes: yeah, we'll watch, we thought. Probably enjoy it, too. What we didn't expect was what we got: a brooding essay on the confused morals of a law enforcer taking that law enforcement into his own hands in an act of vengeance and the terrible spiralling consequences therein. You didn't either, no?

There are so many good police-based dramas that the prospect of a new one doesn't always feel that exciting. But shows like Line of Duty, The Bridge and The Killing have been great tv, while long runners like New Tricks and those afternoon nap-accompanying repeats of Midsomer Murders still get an audience - every market is catered for.

But Good Cop feels like something a bit different. Just when you thought it was going to be a slightly run of the mill police yarn following the gritty urban adventures of PC John Paul Rocksavage - or Sav - and his fellow cop Andy Stockwell, Andy gets beaten up and killed while on duty in a targeted attack.

As a result, Sav starts to question his beliefs in right and wrong, and this leads him to shoot dead the assailant, Finch (who Sav had earlier seen threatening a woman), and then going onto to attack one of Finch's accomplices - and all while officially still working as on the case.

You never got that in The Bill.

PC John Paul Rocksavage, played by Warren Brown. The show was originally
going to be called 'Savage'. We're glad they changed it, aren't you
What's also interesting is Sav's own life is in disarray - Sav (played by Warren Brown) lives at home with his sick, bed-bound father (when do you ever see a young-ish male carer on tv?); and has an estranged former partner and daughter he's not allowed to see - so the scenes where he's sobbing on his bed as the pressure gets too much is unusual for a lead character in a cop drama. Y'know - vulnerability and that.

Good Cop seems to be aiming to go beyond the familiar idea of a cop show that's all about procedure or the use of science to track down a killer, and the show's writer, Stephen Butchard, has said as much, too: “I started with the premise of thinking about a police show, and then I thought of a beat cop. I was interested in a more human aspect to policing, the very sharp end and the first man on the scene.

“They make the first early decisions. They bring in other people, and then that’s really it. They’re sent away then.

"He’s done his job and now he’s got to move onto the next crisis. I wanted it to be about the man as a whole, not just about the police man. I very much wanted to go home with him, and see what’s happening there and how private life impacts upon the life in the uniform and vice versa.”

Of course, even though the writer's ambitions stretched further than the usual confines of the more regular cop show, what we get instead is a sort of occupation-based psychological drama - about a man who works as a policeman and the effects of doing that job.

Sav's problems might be nothing a little a bit of pre-emptive job-related counselling and help from social services couldn't have sorted, but given our appetite for good police drama - especially drama that feels and looks as good as this - you can't help but think had this been a show about any other occupation, it might have been a harder sell, although the point, of course, is that this is a man breaking the law he's meant to uphold - and if that make him bad or not.

But if this were a show about an under-pressure postman, say, refusing to deliver anymore bulky packages from Amazon as he's sick of them not fitting in the letterbox, or a show about a put-upon garden centre worker - forced to take the watering of the plants during a hot summer into his own hands and at any cost - the impact wouldn't quite have been the same.

Good Gardener doesn't have quite the same ring to it, does it.

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