The Shadow Line, BBC2’s latest contribution to the conspiracy thriller genre, ended last week.
In my view it was a triumph. Yes it had flaws, it was over stylised, some of the dialogue was a little patchy but overall it worked.
It had a cast you could only dream of. Stephen Rea, Christopher Ecclestone, Chiwetel Eijofor, Sir Anthony Sher were all on top form.
The characters matched the cast too. In Gatehouse, you had a character which made Keyser Soze look like a Sunday School teacher.
Rafe Spall’s terrifying Jay Wratten was as convincing a psychopath as you’ll ever see, intelligent and with a capacity for violence which would make Tarantino smile.
Eijofor’s policeman was heroic, Ecclestone’s dealer was strangely noble. In all I found the show intelligent, powerful, dramatic and in places a little scary. The ending – without giving anything away – was also a perception-skewingly unsettling.
Some viewers have said it ranks alongside Edge of Darkness in the conspiracy stakes. Yet some critics are rating it as a failure because of its flaws, and because it lost ratings.
Apparently the series initial episode debuted with 3m and then steadily lost viewers until it had just 1.3m for last week’s denouement.
If this programme had featured on a commercial network (I’m looking at you ITV) it would have been rescheduled the moment it started losing viewers.
The BBC is funded by the license payer – precisely so it can provide programming like this.
The viewers that stayed with it, loved it. Yes it had its faults but it was still better than the standard drama dross that is usually served up by the networks.
And for that the BBC and the show’s creator Hugo Blick deserves huge credit. Or perhaps a salute…