“Calm, methodical, Sunday fucking best”
There’s no two ways about it, Paul Abbott’s latest TV series has been an absolute triumph. Channel 4’s No Offence has kept me properly gripped over the last eight weeks and I’m delighted that a second series has already been commissioned as its enthralling mixture of comedy drama and police procedural has been irresistible from its opening five minutes with all its squashed-head shenanigans through to its thrilling finale which kept us on tenterhooks right til its final minutes.
Whence such success? A perfect storm of inspired casting and pin-sharp writing from Abbott and his team. Joanna Scanlan’s DI Viv Deering reinvigorates the stereotypical police boss to create a career-best character for Scanlan, her fierce loyalty played straight but her dry one-liners making the most of her comic genius. Elaine Cassidy’s DC Dinah Kowalska, the eager young copper on whom the focus settles most often, Alexandra Roach’s earnest but quick-learning DS Joy Freer completing the leads.
That they’re all women shouldn’t need to be mentioned but equally it should be celebrated, beautifully written characters played by brilliant actors all and so casually done, why shouldn’t this office be dominated by women like so many others are in real life. And surrounded by a cracking ensemble of richly realised colleagues like Paul Ritter’s oddball forensics guy Randolph and Tom Varey and Saira Choudhry’s flirty PCs, you could quite happily just to listen to these guys banter in the office for an entire episode, so perfectly calibrated is the conversational gist of the writing.
And as ever, a theatrical recognisable supporting cast and guest-star-rota brings its own special pleasures to each episode. Kate O’Flynn is magnificent (and surely must return next series) as the supremely matter-of-fact resident psych expert Dr Peep, Philip McGinley brings an oafish charm to Dinah’s would-be lover Bob, and Lauren O’Neil, Peter McDonald and Sacha Dhawan all make vivid ‘suspects of the week’.
Spread over eight weeks, the show balanced these episode-contained cases with a series-long chase after a serial killer targeting Downs Syndrome women and has achieved that beautifully. The only criticism would come with [mild spoiler alert] the way in which the key story unraveled to suggest internal corruption and then severely affect one of the main characters, a trope which feels a little derivative (c.f. The Bridge et al) but No Offence is still one of the best things I’ve seen on TV this year – go watch on All4 now.