Line of Duty is one of those shows that has to be watched live, not on catch-up

These days, we watch TV – if we watch TV at all, rather than YouTube or TikTok – via catch-up, or streaming services or a box-set binge.

By Phil Cunnington
Friday, 5th April 2019, 2:56 pm
Updated Friday, 5th April 2019, 3:04 pm
Stephen Graham stars as a ruthless gang leader in Line of Duty
Stephen Graham stars as a ruthless gang leader in Line of Duty

All of which suggests we’re slumped, alone, on our sofas, glass in one hand, slice of pizza in the other – consuming TV as a solitary pastime, not a communal joy.

I know, I know, we can’t go back to the days when Den and Angie’s latest booze-fuelled barney at the Queen Vic sparked countless coffee break conversations.

But occasionally, just occasionally, a show comes along that begs to be watched as live, with everyone else. A show to be dissected and discussed the next day, without someone exclaiming “Oh, you can’t talk about it, I haven’t watched it yet!”.

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Well, that show is here, and it’s called Line of Duty (BBC1, Sundays, 9pm).

We’re into series five now, and it’s satisfyingly knotty, although if you’re new to it, you can still watch and not be too mystified. The plot revolves around a police anti-corruption unit – AC-12 –trying to find out who leaked information about £10m worth of drugs being moved from a storage facility to the incinerator to a gang of thieves. Tangled in to this are threads from the previous four series, leading to a first episode ending with a shocking death – something writer Jed Mercurio has made his trademark.

And that’s the point. Put aside the abbreviations Mercurio flings about –OCG, MOPI, UCO – it’s the OMG moments that make you want to watch Line of Duty ‘live’. That make you turn to whoever you’re watching with and vomit out your theories, that make you turn on Twitter and see it trending.

Line of Duty turns TV into a community, a conversation and today, with society divided, that is a rare and precious thing.

Jack the Ripper: The Case Reopened (BBC1, Thursday, 9pm) was a prurient, pointless documentary with a strong theatrical feel. Basically CSI: Whitechapel dressed up as rigorous science.

Another thing on Brexit, but The Brexit Storm: Laura Kuenssberg’s Inside Story (BBC2, Monday, 9pm) showed the contortions of MPs as they try to get to grips with an issue they don’t understand.