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TV review: Sky1's A Touch of Cloth
John Hannah and Suranne Jones - Image. Sky
Charlie Brooker is the latest big-name to sign to Sky and produce a comedy. He gives the swollen cop-show genre a long-overdue lampooning in A Touch of Cloth.
Watching the detectives retch at a gory crime-scene. The camera pans back to reveal the cause of the vomiting; it's a picture of Piers Morgan.
The police chief's running jokes were a bit tiresome. But you can't win them all...
If the government maintain their blitzkrieg on public spending, pretty soon there'll be more fictional police officers in Britain than actual ones.
The TV schedule is jam-packed with troubled detectives, so if any genre is ripe for a damn-good spoofing, it's the police procedural.
"The TV schedule is jam-packed with troubled detectives"
We're all familiar with the catalogue of clichés such dramas relentlessly throw at us: detectives with pasts that make a Leonard Cohen album seem cheerful; people in trench coats walking at the camera; conversations conducted almost entirely of accronyms and hammy interrogation scenes in which unhinged coppers lose it with a sneering villain.
Charlie Brooker picks them off one by one in this new Sky1 satire.
A touch of laughter
The unhinged copper in question is DI Jack Cloth (John Hannah) who has a standard issue drink problem and an arbitrary tragic past.
He and his new partner Anne Oldman (Suranne Jones) - whose name isn't pronounced like Gary Oldman's, but rather old man, as in a pensioner - soon find themselves at Rundowne Estate, investigating the murder of an old man ("He's never been found dead before so this is out of character").
It soon becomes clear that their murderer is a serial killer and as the bodies pile-up, the jokes start to fly.
The humour is gloriously silly and although some gags fall flat, they come so thick and fast, the duds are quickly forgotten.
"Suranne Jones is excellent as Cloth's sidekick"
Suranne Jones is excellent as Cloth's sidekick. In effect, the Scott and Bailey star is technically spoofing herself here. That definitely adds to the fun.
Her character also has a dysfunctional home life. As such, her lesbian partner bemoans the "three people in their relationship" while standing beside a poster of Fruits Other Than Oranges. Hah!
Meanwhile, police chief Tom Boss is telling his officers to get over to crime scenes "during the ad break".
This is Airplane humour at its best and the writers have more material to play with than a comedian riffing on John Terry.
The programme's title itself is a great gag, although some people didn't get the joke ("what were Sky thinking?! How disgusting..." etc), but the real beauty of this comedy is the way it makes you realise just how mind-numbingly generic most cop shows are.
There are countless tropes to satirise and the drawn out, despair-addled scene in which parents identify their child shows that even high-brow offerings like The Killing haven't escaped unscathed.
The script may be unsubtle, but there are also some hidden gems worked into the set for those with sharp eyes.
Casualties are taken to 'City of Town Hospital' in 'Placefordshire' and Oldman's ID card confirms her to be "all tits and ambition". If you've Sky plussed it, you'll be having a field day.
- Verdict: daft, merciless and rather funny.
TV quotes of the week: A Touch of Cloth
"Shoot me and I'll bleed in your face." -Bet the villain wasn't expecting to hear that.
"Who's the talking shape?" - Sexism is alive and well in the police force.
"Tell my laptop not to wait up." - It's a lonely job being in the police...
"I don't believe in computers." - Cloth is an old-fashioned copper.
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