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The 50 best TV shows of 2023: No 7 – Blue Lights


“When a major criminal act occurs, there are those who do not want us involved in any way.”

Initially, Blue Lights was often grouped together with Line of Duty due to its similar themes of police officers being hindered by their colleagues, who may be corrupt. However, this comparison did not do justice to the exceptional quality of the show. While Line of Duty had become predictable and lacking in originality, Blue Lights remained a completely new and invigorating drama, showcasing a police officer on a completely different path.

This was an exceedingly nightmarish encounter. It took place in Belfast, a city that was still deeply affected by the Troubles and ongoing sectarian violence. Blue Lights depicted police officers, often referred to as “peelers” by the general public, facing constant harassment. They were subjected to spitting, head-butting, and had bricks and bottles thrown at their vehicles. Physical altercations were commonplace, with officers being punched in the face on a regular basis. Each morning, they would check their cars for potential bombs and remove their name badges before patrolling certain areas to avoid receiving death threats. Additionally, they faced scrutiny whenever they stopped and searched individuals connected to the McIntyre criminal organization.

At the beginning, three new recruits were introduced, each with their own unique qualities that made them easy to connect with. One of them was Annie (Katherine Devlin), who appeared tough enough to breeze through her probation period, if only she could stop showing up to work hungover or drunk. Another was Grace (Siân Brooke), a former social worker who had a strong belief in her ability to make a positive impact on the people of Belfast, even the criminals, and would take daring risks to do so. Finally, there was Tommy (Nathan Braniff), who chose to diverge from his family’s path in academia and instead explore police work through an anthropological lens.

He’ll learn … rookie Tommy Foster (Nathan Braniff) with Gerry Cliff (Richard Dormer) in Blue Lights.

He quickly gains knowledge. Fortunately, Tommy had experienced and tough Gerry as his teammate. “Don’t be a pretentious note-taker, kid,” he advises. “Nobody appreciates that.” Richard Dormer portrayed Gerry, who was one of the most beloved TV personalities in a long time. He was a comical and determined police officer who had always been on foot patrol, refusing to be promoted due to his stubbornness and rebellious nature.

Blue Lights felt at times like a catalogue of horrifying moments: a bad batch of drugs meant near-constant OD cases on one shift; a rookie’s first attempt at CPR went disastrously wrong; a child had an appointment kneecapping that his own parents were in on. But somehow, remarkably, it was leavened with funny moments that broke the tension and always rang true. It even had a burgeoning romance between Grace and her patrol partner, the cynical “mystery man” Stevie (Martin McCann).

Rewritten: Authored by Declan Lawn and Adam Patterson, the creators of The Salisbury Poisonings, along with Fran Harris, this was a six-hour marathon of unfiltered and non-stop television. Each layer unfolded in a gripping manner as our police officers navigated through each terrible situation. At every turn, they faced obstacles as certain people or locations were deemed off-limits, or OOB. And when MI5, also known as “the sneaky beakies,” began racing through the city in their unmarked vehicles, Gerry (inevitably) took it upon himself to uncover the truth behind it all.

The supporting characters were not just background players. For example, there was Happy, an acquaintance of Gerry’s who was constantly seeking to be arrested in order to escape his loneliness at home. In a crucial moment, Happy played a pivotal role in helping Gerry uncover the truth about their inability to maintain law and order on their streets. Another important character in the case was PC Jen, a woman who went to great lengths to avoid active duty and even resorted to sleeping with the weak and easily influenced station boss. At the climactic ending of the show, which featured one of the most devastating TV deaths of the decade, Jen was the first to arrive on the scene – the last person anyone would want there. The words “She went through that gate” carried a heavy weight in that moment.

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When was the last time you watched an entire show with anticipation? Blue Lights was an exhilarating portrayal of everyday bravery and rebellion, shedding light on the fragility of high hopes. Forget Line of Duty; this was reminiscent of a Belfast version of The Wire. And just like in Baltimore, the problems trickled down to those at the bottom. As Stevie puts it, as a police officer, all you can do is be a “bucket man” – take on as much trouble as you can handle, and then try to let it go at the end of each day. What a challenging job.

Source: theguardian.com