There’s no doubt that Paul Abbott is one of the country’s best writers, and he’s had previous when it’s come to crime drama. He created the exceptional State Of Play (still one of the very best after all this time), US series Touching Evil and the transgender hitman series Hit & Miss. But he’s perhaps best known for the long-running Shameless, which showcased all his best-known characteristics – warmth, vibrancy, bawdy, rough humour and Hadron-amounts of kinetic energy. His new series, No Offence, managed to meld together everything he’s ever done before.
It started off in furious fashion. We were introduced to DC Dinah Kowalska (the superb Elaine Cassidy, making a welcome return to crime drama (anyone remember Low Winter Sun?) after her forays into period drama with Mr Selfridge), who was in the back of a black cab with a man who was moaning that she never takes him back to hers. As soon as she uttered the phrase “I’d rather go home and have a wank” and ushered him and his crutch (he had an injured leg) out of the cab, she saw a man on the street she recognised – the prime suspect in a murder case. She kicked off her heels, flashed her badge at the cabbie, told him to pull over and gave chase through the streets. As she was gaining on him, he tripped into the middle of the road, fell flat on his face and was run over by a coach, his neck and back snapping like a stick of rock.
As opening scenes went it was pretty extraordinary. Everything about it was pure Abbott – the tone of humour, the hyper-realism, the energy and the watch-through-your-hands horror.
Kowalska was the archetypal Abbott female character (he writes female characters very well). Brimming with fire and passion, she cared deeply not only about her job but about the people around her, sometimes too much. We were about to meet another archetypal female character – DI Vivienne Deering (the excellent Jo Scanlon). A larger than life, big-haired, big-heeled boss who didn’t mince her words, she reminded me of one of those DCIs who you find in cop shows of the 1970s and 80s. One of her first lines? Referring to a (male) rival in another part of the building she said he “couldn’t find a clit without a search engine”. That was him told.
From the very off, it was obvious that Deering inspired both fear and loyalty within her team. She was big, ballsy, and wore her heart on her sleeve. She chose not to muck about, and she was about to read the riot act to Kowalska – after her suspect was crushed underneath the coach, CCTV spotted her run away from the scene. It cost her a promotion.
Keen to make amends, Kowalska happened upon two young Down’s syndrome women in the files, who were apparently drowned. A third, another (apparently) young Down’s syndrome woman, was missing and her instincts told her that these deaths and the new woman at large were linked. She just had to convince Deering, who, in turn, had to convince her superior (by walking into the male toilets and haranguing him while he was taking a pee). Deering provided us with a peek into another side of her personality – she was fiercely loyal and even though she had reprimanded her young, head-strong charge, she was backing her on her hunch with so much gusto her superior could hardly say no to her forceful requests for a full investigation, despite the sensitivity of the case. Deering is the type of character you fall in love with.
The final scene saw the team converge on a warehouse in the Manchester’s dock area, and rescuing the missing woman from a moon-dappled viaduct. Kowalska was vindicated.
It was breathless stuff, the 100mph dialogue taking time to tap into, the plot taking time to form but as the episode developed it snowballed into something with huge force and an unstoppable momentum. Yes, the humour was there but the emotional clout – Deering’s matriarchal support of her team, Kowalska’s fire and the sensitive nature of the case itself. Making sure these plates were kept spinning took some skill, and, once again, Abbott got the balance just right.
Abbott specialises in the family dynamic. He did it in Shameless, and with its strong ensemble feel he’s done it again with No Offence. It’s just that this time the family unit happens to be a team of police men and women. They fight, they shout at each other, they rip the piss and they love each other. Humour and heart, in spades.
For our interview with Paul Abbott, go here
a body in the mortuary had a stomach filled with dog semen
Ready your bones for the other side of midnight in Manchester