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BBC's brilliant Line of Duty is top of the cops by a mile

THE BBC made an awful lot of people very happy this week by announcing there will be a third and fourth series of the brilliant Line of Duty. It isn't often that the BBC green lights two series of anything, yet Jed Mercurio's riveting six-parter is fully deserving of the faith being placed in it.

It has been one of the outstanding drama series of the year so far, and proved that not everything has to originate in America or Scandinavia to become watercooler television. Line of Duty also marked a significant leap forward in the evolution of British cop shows, which have tended to lag behind their US counterparts.

It may have been about corrosive power and corruption, but at heart it was still a story – an unusually complex one – of the good guys trying to bring down the bad guys, even though most of the time it was hard to tell the difference between them.

The 1970s is generally regarded as the golden age of the cop show, particularly on American TV.

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The likes of Kojak, Columbo, The Rockford Files and, a little later in the decade, Starsky and Hutch reigned supreme on 4:3 TV screens the world over.

The real king of the cop show, however, wasn't a character but a producer: the legendary Quinn Martin, whose company was behind series including The Untouchables, The Streets of San Francisco, The FBI, Dan August, Cannon and Barnaby Jones as well as a host of lesser-known detective/ private eye series and non-cop show classics The Fugitive and The Invaders.

Yet the schedules for the coming week reveal that the cop show – whether it features detectives with badges, professional private eyes or amateur dabblers – is as popular as ever.

Tonight sees the finale of True Detective on Sky Atlantic. BBC4 has the last installment of Inspector De Luca and TG4 has another episode of the terrific Justified, starring Timothy Olyphant as deputy US Marshal Raylan Givens.

Endeavour is on the case on UTV/ITV tomorrow, while Sky 1 has Hawaii Five-0. Monday is a crime-free night, but on Tuesday BBC1 has the gloomy and overcast Shetland, RTE1 has The Mentalist (okay, so he's not really a cop, but he works for the cops) and UTV/ITV has some more Midsomer Murders for those who like a chocolate digestive with their death.

Blue Bloods, starring Tom Selleck, who in a previous moustache was Magnum PI, is on RTE2 on Wednesday, while the Law & Order UK team are back on the murder beat on UTV/ITV the same night.

Holding the fort on Thursday is Jonny Lee Miller's Sherlock Holmes in Elementary on RTE2. On Friday, Lewis (UTV/ITV) rounds off the week with some civilised murder in the shadow of Oxford's dreaming spires.

This is just the tip of the crimeberg. Law & Order, CSI and NCIS are scattered across the satellite channels throughout the week, and let's not forget Alibi, which shows nothing but old cop shows.

Apart from True Detective and Justified, none of the above can match the quality of Line of Duty, but any of them will always be more welcome in my house than dedicated doctors, simpering nurses, grouchy country vets or posh bloody midwives.

WELCOME DISTRACTION: Christina Hendricks (left), star of Mad Men, which is back on Sky Atlantic on Wednesday for its final season, recounted to chat show host Conan O'Brien this week how a man on a bicycle couldn't take his eyes off her. "The guy just hit the kerb and flew off his bike," she said.

Come on. Are you seriously telling me she's so gorgeous that a man could injure himself just by look . . . AAARGH! Jesus, that hurt!

A STEP TOO FAR: Television has always plundered the movies for ideas. However, while you can see how the upcoming small-screen spin-off of the Coen brothers' classic Fargo might work, the news that Paramount is planning a TV series based on The Truman Show is just depressing.

Writer Andrew Niccol and director Peter Weir's 1998 film, starring Jim Carrey as a man who gradually realises his entire life is nothing more than an elaborately constructed TV show in which everyone else is an actor, was a brilliantly prescient satire about the extremes of reality television.

But how, 16 years on, can you satirise reality TV when the reality is now more bizarre and grotesque than anything in the film? The answer is you can't. So leave Truman and our glowing memories of him alone. The man has suffered enough already.

GO AWAY, PLEASE: Gavin Murray (above), a finalist on The Voice of Ireland (I never watch it, so I'd never heard of him), has been expressing his sympathy for convicted drugs mule Michaela McCollum Connolly, who's serving a six-year stretch in a Peruvian jail.

Seems they lived in the same complex in Ibiza last summer, and it was "awful, really awful trying to survive" on little money.

"She wasn't famous then," he added.

No, Gav, and she's not famous now. She's just an idiot. Sounds like you might be an idiot too. And hopefully you'll never be famous either.


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