Why are most TV cops dysfunctional?

Why are most TV cops dysfunctional? Paddy Considine stars BBC1 Informer

It’s seems almost obligatory these days for TV cops to be dysfunctional in their personal lives, even deranged at times. Defenders may say it’s gritty realism, accusers may call it destructive nihilism.

I’ve been following Informer on BBC1, Tuesday  nights, and the main policeman, Gabe, played  with nuance by the versatile Paddy Considine, is certainly a troubled soul and morally ambiguous in the extreme. He handles informers in counter terrorism operations, often leaning heavily on vulnerable minor offenders to get them to ‘snitch’.

But his own undercover past is catching up with him, and it seems he had infiltrated a white supremacist group in the past and gets drawn back into this world.

There was a disturbing scene in last week’s episode where he treated an Asian pizza delivery man like dirt just to keep his street cred  with his racist ‘friends’. An acquaintance from this ugly world was trying to rehabilitate with the help of a Christian community centre, but Gabe, treated him with contempt and pushed him over the edge, dismissively tossing his Bible at him and leaving him drink though he knows the guy is trying to stay off it.

The storyline is intriguing, cleverly worked around flashbacks after a mass shooting and the acting especially good, but the whole thing leaves a sour taste.

Thinking I might get back to more innocent times (ha!) I watched an older crime drama Murder in Suburbia (2004), now getting a re-run on Virgin Media 3, Wednesday evenings.

The plot featured charity fraud, wife swapping, adultery and a lesbian relationship – at 7 pm in the evening, despite the watershed. Parents beware! Admittedly the language wasn’t even close to being as rough as in Informer, and there was nothing graphic, apart from the stabbing in the opening scene – when a crime drama starts with a woman walking through a deserted park at night you know it’s not going to end well. The acting is rather ropey, except for Lisa Faulkner and Caroline Catz, who went on to make a bigger impression in DCI Banks and Doc Martin.


Also making an impression was Helena Connolly, guest on last Friday night’s Leap of Faith on RTÉ Radio 1. Helena has just launched what sounds like an attractive book, Prayerful Ireland, a combination of her photographs of prayerful places around Ireland combined with extracts from Scripture.

She’s had a varied career so far, working with the dioceses of Clogher and Kerry in youth and liturgy ministries.  Growing up in a Catholic family in the border area, she had a strong identity as a Catholic though she did admit to falling away somewhat from the Faith when she was studying music in Queens University.  Now she was passionate for the Word of God to be heard.

Music is a major part of her life – from gigging with bands in the past to writing spiritual songs and being involved in liturgical music.

She sang live, a touching song ‘Where You Lead’, inspired by her grandparents and drawn from her CD ‘The Reason Why’. She had important messages about religion and young people – she found them attracted to pilgrimage (e.g. to Taizé and Lourdes) and to the idea of faith linked to service. She found them drawn to social justice and to being with other young people in faith.  All in all it was a relaxing, easy-going and positive interview.

The second item on the show also featured an artistic woman, Ciara Ní Cheallacháin, the creative person behind the art installation currently in St Patrick’s Cathedral – a stunning display of 36,000 paper leaves, each one representing an Irish life lost in the First World War.

I was glad the focus was on what the Very Rev. Dr. William Morton, Dean of the Cathedral, called “the sheer magnitude of loss”, and the ongoing need for reconciliation and healing.  He hoped the installation would inspire visitors to constantly pray for peace.

And as if we needed any confirmation of this need, there was last week’s mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, California. News reports emphasised relatives of victims saying, “no more thoughts and prayers, we want gun control!” I can understand the frustration, but how about thoughts, prayers and gun control? Or prayers for gun control, allied to political action? But then, if more effective regulation didn’t happen after the Sandy Hook massacre of schoolchildren what could possibly be a game changer?


Pick of the week
EWTN, Saturday, November 18, 9 am

‘United in Love: The Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Catholic Church’ at the Napa Institute 2018 Conference in Napa, CA.

EWTN, Saturday, November 17, 2pm and Sunday (night) 3 am

Helen M. Alvaré ‘On Sex and Marriage: The Dizzying Contemporary Gap, and a Reasoned Catholic Response’ at the Napa Institute 2018 Conference in Napa, CA.

RTÉ2, Sunday, November 18, 8 pm

‘Conformity 1933/34’ – an intimate and revealing portrait of the German people under Hitler.