Imagine French and Saunders, in collaboration with Miranda Hart, taking over the Dick Wolf Law and Order franchise, and you get a peripheral idea of what the British series NO OFFENCE (now available in its entire three series on DVD from Acorn/RLJ Entertainment/Fremantle/Abbott Vision LLP) is all about.
Yep, it’s a Manchester-based female-fueled police precinct, and one of the freshest (and I mean that in every sense of the word) takes on the TV crime genre that you’ll ever witness. For one thing, the women on the show be real – not the phony-baloney L.A.’s Finest kinda crap we get here. These ladies don’t use words like “poop” and “boobs” to show they’re street-tough; they say (with great frequency), “Get the fuck out of here!” Of course, this has prompted much criticism (mostly from the conservative right) on how women, especially those on view for millions of impressionable girls, should act. To which the show’s characters would undoubtedly reiterate, “Get the fuck out of here!”
So, yes, they’re funny (and filthy) as hell. I love them all, and confess am partial to…But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The key four ladies who populate NO OFFENCE comprise DI Vivienne Deering, a no-nonsense, snarky alpha who, as the saying goes, gives as good as she gets. Prone to a fault for speaking her mind (and fuck all if ya don’t like it), Deering is played with panache by Joanna Scanlan. Second in command is DC Dinah Kowalska (Elaine Cassidy), a single-mom, family-oriented homebody whose loving demeanor is counterbalanced by her penchant for popping you in the mouth. In contrast, there’s DS Joy Freers (Alexandra Roach), a demure up-and-comer whom Viv and Dinah are rigorously teaching the ropes (causing her to override Kowalska in her DS promotion; again, unlike most police shows, this doesn’t cause antagonism, as these femmes are all pals, and musketeers to the end). Finally, there’s PC Tegan Thompson (Saira Choudhry), the lower rung in-the-field copper, who unabashedly enjoys a quick shag in the locker room to start the day. This assuredly does get the juices flowing – and without the caffeine. Okay, Dinah’s my fave, and Tegan’s a goddess.
The girls, when not solving crimes, love to talk trash; their conference room of choice (for personal and professional use) is the precinct Ladies WC, where much of the show (dare I say) unloads. Of course, there are males on the force, and, once more (unlike their standard television cookie-cutter versions), they are not the usual suspects. Randolph Miller (Paul Ritter) is a sardonic forensic expert (and recovering alcoholic work-in-progress) who adores his superiors as much as they cherish him (as one astute female implies, “he’s even bitchier than us.”). DC Spike Tanner (Will Mellor), the macho dude who usually comprises the “I don’t take orders from women!” asshole, is a veteran detective who sees the women’s genius in their approach to criminology and sleuthing and is with them 110%, especially telling in one subplot where he goes undercover to dethrone a misogynist replacement DCI (Nigel Lindsay), straight out of the 1950s.
When stick-up-their-bum women do arrive to lead the charge, Deering does her damnedest to bend that rod, much in the same way she does to the law (“Just when I had her trained,” spouts Viv, when a newbie superior is transferred).
The series isn’t all fun and games (although it’s consistently terrific entertainment). The three cases covered in this batch (one per series) are as shocking, violent, controversial and even horrific as anything else out there.
The brainchild behind NO OFFENCE is Paul Abbott, who created and cowrites the show (for his Abbott Vision production company). Abbott is also the scribe responsible for such major UK hits as the original Shameless, Cracker, State of Play, Touching Evil and the previously reviewed Alibi: https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2019/03/12/logans-run/. That he and Hans Rosenfeldt, creator/writer of Marcella (https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2019/01/15/killer-cop/) and The Bridge, have dually given contemporary TV audiences the current best roles for actresses proves that some of us (meaning “guys”) do get women (it should be noted that their behind-the-scenes colleagues on individual episodes do comprise female scripters and directors).
Each one of the three series is excellent, and demands discussion. In SERIES ONE (8 episodes on 3 discs), we are introduced to the team as they are faced with perhaps their most unsavory case. A serial killer is targeting women with Down syndrome. When one victim (Charlie May-Clark) is spared (not a Down sufferer, but someone simply perennially wasted), she is taken in by Dinah, and joins her quasi-dysfunctional family. Viv, meanwhile, can’t figure out how the killer is always one step ahead, and takes refuge in the enjoyment of her “down” time with loving husband Laurie (Risteard Cooper), who moonlights as the head of a rock band, a hobby which seems to be getting some serious attention. The conclusion is unlike anything you’re apt to see on TV or the big screen. There’s nothing like it. You’ll never see it coming. SERIES ONE is the disturbing concoction of creator Abbott, Paul Tomalin, Jack Lothian, Jimmy Dowdall, Mark Greig, and codirected in macabre, yet cynical (bordering on hilarious) fashion by Catherine Morshead, David Kerr, Misha Manson-Smith, and Harry Bradbeer.
SERIES TWO has the squad battling rival mob factions: an age-old scumbag contingent and a modern, more organized (but equally violent) organization, ruled by a black woman, Nora Attah (who seems to occasionally channel an evil version of Viv). While ostensibly appearing to use her ill-gotten gains to do good for the community, Attah (played regally by Rakie Ayola) sees her faux philanthropy go to shit when it’s discovered that she’s behind a child trafficking cartel. The ladies don’t like that. This powerhouse installment (7 episodes on 2 discs) comes from the minds of Tomalin, Greig and Dowdall (working under the auspices of Abbott), and was co-helmed by Morshead, Sarah O’Gorman, Samira Radsi and Robert Quinn).
The final series (at least to date) demonstrates how world politics (meaning us with a side trip to France) has an effect on not only international negotiations, but on global mainstream broadcasting. In this blistering (but nonetheless wickedly acerbic) series, Deering & Co. take on a rising politician (Lisa McGrillis) with ties to white supremacists. That the head Mayoral candidate is a woman initially provides a kumbaya moment for the coppers – until her ulterior motives are revealed. Then, the fun begins, as they concurrently plot her demise, along with the racists. A breathless opening where a longtime regular becomes a victim will leave you gasping, and redefines the adage “hell hath no fury…” to additionally accommodate “like women lied to, vehemently fucked with and who were out to take you down with a vengeance anyway.” The twists and turns here are so numerous, that multiple screenings is practically mandatory (although you’ll want to keep this series on your re-watch list anyway). It says something that the most crazed character is not the skank politico, but a major force in the bigot brigade (Tamara Lawrance), who not only is a woman, but a woman of color. This jaw-dropper (6 episodes on 2 discs) was conceived by Abbott, Tomalin, Tom Grieves, and Julie Rutterford and directed by Morshead, Manson-Smith and Quinn.
The Acorn Media DVDs are, as usual, top-notch, with the anamorphic widescreen presentations as sharp as the cast and with just as much color (superbly capturing the cold Manchester locations). Big nod to David Marsh, Tony Coldwell, Jamie Cairney, Mark Garrett and Kieran McGuigan for their cinematography. The music to NO OFFENCE is simply wonderful, utilizing a banjo-folk vibe and an exuberant main title theme. Kudos to Vince Pope. Each set, BTW, comes nicely packaged in its own nifty slipcover.
Different, funny, thrilling and relentlessly addictive, NO OFFENCE ably demonstrates how real women approach home/workplace problems (admittedly, some, if not most, out of the norm), with authenticity, humor and determination and (ultimately and importantly) “get it done.”
NO OFFENCE: All color and widescreen [1.78:1]; 5.0 stereo-surround. Acorn Media/RJL Entertainment/ Fremantle/Abbott Vision LLP. SRP: $49.99@
SERIES ONE: CAT # AMP-2671.
SERIES TWO: CAT # AMP-2672.
SERIES THREE: CAT# AMP-2613.