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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

What is the future of the cop drama?

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This series is more nuanced than Justified, not necessarily telling viewers that what Winslet’s character did was, indeed, justified. It operates in a moral grey area often necessary for interesting drama. Other shows draw an ethical divide between police figures by contrasting good and bad behaviour, and honing in on subjects such as corruption and malfeasance – creating unflattering impressions of the police force.

In recent years these more sobering series have included Line of Duty, which follows a self-professed “proper copper” (Martin Compston), along with Vicky McClure’s DI Fleming and Adrian Dunbar’s tough-talking quip machine Superintendent Hastings who take a moral stand against their colleagues in their work on the anti-corruption unit. In The Shield, the “bad cop” is the principal character: a dirty, in-your-face loudmouth (Michael Chiklis) who partakes in all sorts of unethical behaviour, including beating a suspect in an interview room with a telephone book. 

A more cynical future?

Lamb predicts that, going forward, we are likely to see more in this already popular trend of cynical productions. He says that “at no other time” have cop dramas from both sides of the pond been “overwhelmingly invested in police corruption and going to great lengths to uncover why things are not as they first seem. To me this seems indicative of a time when faith in political leaders has been more sectarian than ever, and public trust is at an all-time low.”

On the question of what else is in store for the future of the TV cop drama, like television more broadly the genre will almost certainly produce fewer shows anchored by white men. More will join a growing list of female-led procedurals, that includes Top of the Lake, Happy Valley, The Fall and Mare of Easttown. This modern twist on the genre however is not without its own challenges. Jenner, for instance, notes that female police characters often suffer more than male characters: “the outcome is always that the worst things that can happen to a person happen to them in the end,” she says.

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