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Old-fashioned cop drama hidden by techno babble

I've yet to see Irish actor Aidan Gillen's performance as ambitious politician Tommy Carcetti in The Wire. Gillen doesn't show up until series three and I'm still working my way through series two. But if he's even half as great as everything else about David Simon's Baltimore epic -- aka The Greatest TV Series Ever Made (TM) -- then I'll be happy.

In the meantime, however, am I the only one who finds Gillen's screen presence in some of the other TV stuff he's done a little bit, well, peculiar? More weird than Wired?

Last summer's BBC2 drama Freefall, about the disastrous fate of a young couple blindsided into buying a useless sub-prime mortgage, was superb -- yet Gillen, who played a strutting Master of the Universe type, gave what can only be described as a masterclass in irritating tics and twitches.

On top of that, by the end of the film his accent seemed to have taken a round trip from Dublin to LA, with a couple of days' stopover in London.

I didn't see enough of him in the groundbreaking Queer as Folk to make a judgement (not, mind you, that there wasn't more than enough of him to see in that famously bare-bummed drama), but latest incarnation, in ITV's new six-part thriller series Identity, might well be his oddest yet.

This is British television's latest attempt to make a high-gloss, high-concept cop show in the manner of the Americans.

Keeley Hawes is DCI Martha Lawson, the head of a unit dedicated to fighting the burgeoning crime of identity theft. Hawes, last seen exiting purgatory through a the door of a pub in the Ashes to Ashes finale, is stuck with the dull end of the stick here, essentially playing Jane Tennyson-lite.

The flash, dash and panache is provided by Gillen, as obligatory maverick DI John Bloom, who, we're told early on, has spent several years working undercover as "a Dublin money launderer". At least his accent stays put this time.

For an undercover cop, Bloom stands out in a crowd. For a start, there's his hair: a spectacular, sweeping pompadour of curls and gel that's so top-heavy you fear it will topple the slender Gillen at any moment.

For a finish, there's the fact that he swaggers around in a pair of skinny jeans -- which is something no man over 40, unless he's one of The Ramones, should ever contemplate -- while spitting out gnomic dialogue like, "He doesn't want this guy's identity, he wants his SOUL!"

The soul-stealer, incidentally, was a 24-year-old man (improbably posing as a 16-year-old schoolboy) who was running around stealing the identities of unfaithful husbands and wives, and then framing them for heinous crimes.

Identity is an old-fashioned blend of murder mystery and police procedural, but writer Ed Whitmore has dressed it up in so much technological flim-flam and keeps things moving so fast that you barely notice you're watching highly polished hokum.

There is no way, though, that you can avoid noticing Aidan Gillen.

Duck and cover! Deirdre Barlow, the ageing Coronation Street sex bomb who's been ticking and tocking away since the end of the Vietnam War, is ready to explode yet again.

Eyeing up suave gigolo Lewis while having a fag break from a sexually charged dinner at her place, she rasped through a haze of smoke: "Ooo, if I 'ad to pay for the services of you or Ken, I know which one I'd choose!"

Are they romantic violins we hear in the background? No, chuck, that'll be Lewis nuzzling Deirdre's neck and making her tendons twang like guitar strings.

STACEY'S STARS

Identity **

Coronation Street ***


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