TV Review: Cuffs Episodes 1-4

“All we can do is hang on”

Rather incredibly, given the number of crime dramas there are, Cuffs is actually the BBC’s first police procedural since 2007’s Holby Blue (according to Wikipedia at least), but a rather good one it is too. Creator Julie Gearey has set the show in Brighton and its environs, the territory of the South Sussex Police service, and the first four episodes (which entertained me on a train journey back from Amsterdam) started Cuffs off so strongly that I wanted to recommend it now whilst you can still catch them all on the iPlayer.

The opening episodes are jam-packed with incident, the first part alone crammed child abduction, stolen JCBs, stabbings and a racist released from prison to give a strong sense of the relentless pace of life in the force but the writing has been particularly strong in demonstrating the peculiar demands of modern policing. Traditional boundaries of respect have been torn down so we see the police punched, spat on, and kicked in the face and also having to deal with rubberneckers filming accident scenes on their phone, and members of the public chancing their arm with harassment claims.

Not only that, much is made of the social worker role that the police often find themselves forced into – dealing with tricky issues like unreported domestic violence, and the impossibility of dealing with homeless people with nowhere to go. It’s all intelligently and interestingly done and Gearey balances the seriousness well with sprinkles of light humour (often around petty criminals and their mishaps) and delving into the personal lives of the police officers, particularly rookie PC Jake Vickers who has just joined the force and is struggling to adjust to working life on the beat.

The somewhat appealing Jacob Ifan plays Vickers, who just happens to be the son of the Chief Superintendent, bristling under the mentorship of Ashley Walter’s brusque tutor constable and still learning his own limitations. These include balancing his personal life with the job as an ill-judged gay-clubbing-on-a-school-night jaunt with dishy solicitor Simon (Andrew Hawley) proves. And the writing has reflected Brighton’s uniqueness well thus far, its plurality of sexualities and a neatly judged moment with a trans character standing out, plus a funny jab at beach hut prices. 

Throw in a pulsing indie-pop-flecked soundtrack (Bat for Lashes, Daughter, even Björk’s epic ‘Black Lake’ being used memorably to score an S&M scene with Paul Ready’s brilliantly skewed DI Kane) and some classy direction, the series looks set to be a good ‘un. And with a hugely talented cast doing great work – Amanda Abbington’s conflicted DS, Eleanor Matsuura and Alex Carter’s PC double act, Peter Sullivan’s cheating senior bod and Clare Burt’s cancer-wracked mother as Jake’s parents, I can’t wait for the next four episodes and a hoped-for renewal to establish this for series to come.

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