Christopher Eccleston Walks The Shadow Line

With economic and political scandals dominating the headlines, public confidence in the powers that be has ebbed to an all-time low. As such Hugo Blick the writer, producer and director of the The Shadow Line (Thursday, 9pm on BBC2) couldn't have dreamt of a better climate in which to launch his new seven-part conspiracy thriller. But is it any good?

The series follows the police--led by Chiwetel Ejiofor--who are shadowed (see what they did there?) by a drugs gang fronted by former Tardis resident Christopher Eccleston. They’re investigating the killing of a criminal kingpin who’s just been handed a get out of jail free card.

Like all good conspiracy thrillers it's a disarmingly simple whodunnit which, over the course of the series, promises to drag us into a shadowy world of paranoia and government cover-ups. Nevertheless, whilst the drama aims high--presumably in an attempt to follow in the footsteps of some of the genre's more iconic offerings--its opening episode leaves much to be desired. It’s no Edge Of Darkness or State of Play.

The occasional high points of the show serve mostly as punctuation. Any promise The Shadow Line has is repeatedly undone by its own stupidity, chief amongst which are its characters. Aside from Eccleston, the assembled players in this sprawling cast are largely forgettable. The worst culprit in this collection of walking stereotypes is Rafe Small's part as the deceased man’s nephew; a pantomime villain with all the depth of a cardboard cut out. His absurdity is only eclipsed by the grieving parents of Ejiofor's dead partner; a pair of caricatures who make the cast of The Only Way Is Essex look like Shakespearian actors.

It’s unfair to blame the actors, who after all didn’t have much to work with. The script doesn't so much as set the scene as repeatedly smash you round the head with it, while the preposterously over-the-top soundtrack that left us clawing for the mute button on more than one occasion. Whilst the rest of the series may well improve it’s hard to find reasons to invest past the first instalment, that despite the involvement of the formidable Christopher Eccleston. Will you be tuning in?

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