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A detective who is also a...

Simon Pitt | Television | Sunday 13th June 2010

These days the market is so saturated with crime dramas, that we fickle audiences aren't content for our heroes to simply earn their living from policing, they also have to have some unique feature that differentiates them from their hordes of co-workers.

Consequently, we have Jonathan Creek (A detective who's also a magician), Diagnosis Murder (A detective who's also a doctor), Wycliffe (A detective who's also Cornish), Cracker (A detective who's also a psychologist), Taggart (A detective who's also a Glaswegian), Bergerac (A detective who's also a recovering alcoholic on Jersey), Midsommer Murders (A detective who also lives in the countryside, or a detective who is also 'the guy in Bergerac'), Shoestring (A detective who's also a radio DJ), Poirot (A detective who's also a Belgian), Miss Marple (A detective who's also a little old woman), Lewis (A detective who is also an ex-sidekick of Morse), Wallander (A detective who's also Swedish), Randal and Hopkirk (a detective who's also a ghost), and A Touch of Frost (A detective who's also David Jason).

As all the most obvious ideas have been used, modern screenwriters are left to come up with even more unlikely pairings, giving us Foyle's War (A detective who's also in the second world war), Monk (A detective who's also an OCD sufferer), and Dexter (A detective who's also a serial killer). The cinema, as ever, is even less subtle with Miss Congeniality (A detective who's also a woman who has to wear a bikini), Miss Congeniality 2 (A detective who also still has to wear a bikini), Robocop (A detective who is also half robot) and Kindergarten Cop (A detective who's also Arnold Schwarzenegger).

Now, we have Luther (A detective who's also black). It's a bit embarrassing that it's taken them so long to come up with this, especially since the character of Luther is largely based on Othello. Idris Elba spends most of the time giving out primeval roars as his white wife runs away with Casio, here played by Paul McGann in super foppish mode, and Iago is played by Ruth Wilson.

Now that many of the best ideas have been used up, I thought I'd compile the remaining few and copyright them in preparation for when the BBC or ITV need their next detective drama.

Ideas for Crime Dramas

A detective who's also a quiz show host: as he interviews suspects they have a chance of either winning a holiday to Beirut or going to prison as our hero intersperses general knowledge questions with queries pertinent to his investigation: "What's the capital of Belgium? Who won the Crimean War? Where were you when the murder took place? What's the chemical symbol for Potassium?"

A detective who's also a bus driver: detective bus driver is the best detective in the force. Unfortunately, his full time job is as a bus driver, so he can only solve murders that happen on his bus root. Luckily all of the killers in the area haven't picked up on this yet. The finale of the series involves the tense moment when the police are investigating a body that's not on his route, until essential road maintenance works cause him to make a diversion.

A dodgy detective who's also a bin man: with the recession in full swing it's tough to make ends meet in the public sector, so detective bin man is earning a few extra pounds by working as a dustbin man. (Note, this show is guaranteed to be made because it's about a dodgy detective who doesn't play by the rules.) Each episode Detective Bin Man has a hunch who the killer is, but he can't prove it. So he plants evidence in their dustbins. Provisional title: You've Bin Framed.

A detective who's also gay: I'm not sure the world is ready for this, but staring Gok Wan or Paul O'Grady (whoever's free) as the detective who prances onto the scene with a limp wrested wave and shouts "Coo-ee murderers!". If I'm, honest, Queer Eye for a Guilty Guy or Bent Cop or whatever it'll be called is probably the most likely of all of these; I imagine it written by Russell T Davies, and with frequent and gratuitous sex sequences, since without these how else would we know i) he's gay and ii) just how edgy, groundbreaking and pioneering the show really is.

A detective who's also an interior designer: each episode our hero has to solve the murder and redecorate the crime scene on a budget of only £450 (Provisional title: Crime Scene Redecorate)

A detective who's also an undertaker: "I have some good news and bad news for you; I'm afraid your husband and son have been brutally murdered. However, we have buy one get one free on coffins at the moment".

A detective who's also an impressionist: Starring Jon Culshaw, about a detective who phones up the suspects and tricks them into thinking he's Tom Baker and then admitting to the crime (statistically most murderers are probably Doctor Who fans).

A detective who's also sponsored by Daz: "And you would have got clean away, if it wasn't for that pesky blood stain on your white t-shirt. If only you'd used Daz All Whites on that." With the rise of product placement on TV, this probably isn't as far away as you think.

A detective who's also a newsreader: the central tension explored here is between his desire to boost his dwindling viewing figures and his need to keep operational information secret so as not to endanger the case.

A detective who's also an alcoholic. Not the most original concept (Morse, Bergerac, Jimmy McNulty in The Wire - even Holmes was a drug addict) but the twist here is that he's not a detective at all, just a delusional drunk. "You did it! You killed her!" he screams at a lamppost in the street, waving a bottle around, as onlookers cross over the road to avoid him.

Working title: Britain's Got Murders. About a detective who's also a reality TV judge: starring Simon Cowell who shouts aggressively at his suspects "you're a rubbish suspect! I can see the blood stains on your shoes a mile away!"

A detective who's also an estate agent: after solving the crime he needs to find a new couple to move into the house. Educational as well, he shares tips like: try making bread so the scent of freshly made bread distracts the buyers from the human shaped blood stained mark on the floor.

A detective who's also an antique dealer: while finding the killer he also has to get as much money as possible for the victim's possessions at auction.

A detective who also loves paperwork: most episodes will begin with a fairly minor incident that's resolved in the first minute and the remaining two hours will see him fastidiously filling in the correct paperwork and checking all the files: "I see you've filled in an incident report form, but you've forgot about supplementary question sheet 4B!" (Could be his catch phrase).

And, a topical one here: a detective who's also a footballer. When he finally proves the villain's guilt, he pulls his t-shirt over his head and runs around the interview room shouting "GAOL!". Works better on the script that actually in the final cut that.

Unfortunately, while I was going to joke about a detective who's also a gardener, and a detective who's also a chef, Rosemary and Thyme and Pie in the Sky already got their first.

Of course as well as an additional career, all detective shows have a set of standard features:

There's always a scene where he goes against an armed gunman and refuses to put on a bullet-proof top (as seen in the final episode of Luther). Why this happens in every programme I don't understand, and even the justifications for it are beginning to get a bit weak now. I'm sure there's an episode of a Touch of Frost where he refuses to put on a bullet-proof top because he's in a rush. I'm half imagining seeing an episode where a detective refuses to put on a bullet-proof top because "it makes me look fat".

Our detective also has to be a maverick who doesn't play by the rules.

His relationships with the opposite sex fail because he's too committed to the day job.

I was thinking about a series about a happily married detective, who has an occasional glass of wine with a meal, and who is more than happy to follow the correct procedure for dealing with criminal investigations. I realised then, however, that what I'd reinvented was Midsommer Murders.

Of course, overly aggressive, unemployable detectives who commit acts of gross misconduct every week as they solve once-in-a-lifetime cases wasn't always the trademark of crime dramas. Take the BBC 1955 series Dixon of Dock Green, which revolved around a uniformed police officer, working in a small station solving relatively low level crimes. Ironically, the quest for realism, that started with programmes like Z Cars has rendered police dramas as unrealistic duplicates of each other, that are now based on a knowledge of the police that comes from previous dramas rather than fact.

On the flip side, even old Dixon liked his drink; but then to be fair to him, his life was boring.


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