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Tuesday 6 December 2016

TV Review: The Interceptor may have finished off a whole genre

OT Fagbenle as the permanently harried hero Ash in the ludicrous cop show The Interceptor
OT Fagbenle as the permanently harried hero Ash in the ludicrous cop show The Interceptor

THE Interceptor is over, done, dusted and gone, most probably never to be seen again — not unless the BBC’s head of drama has suddenly developed a weird masochistic taste for being beaten senseless with a meat mallet and then meekly asking his attacker if he’d mind using a sledgehammer next time.

Last night’s final episode of the misfiring thriller didn’t exactly go out quietly. Oh no. There were punch-ups, shootings, chases, explosions and a knife-wielding Trevor Eve, who played the chief villain, overpowering and almost killing our hero Ash, played by OT Fagbenle, who’s 30 years younger and probably twice as fit.

Short of David Jason beating the living crap out of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, it was hard to imagine a more mismatched fight scene.

And let’s not forget all that running around. Ash has been running around for eight weeks solid — except for those moments when The Interceptor slipped into not-so-cool-any-more slow motion — and must be a very tired young man indeed.

The closing episode featured one of those ‘there’s more criminals out there to be caught, so I’ll see you back here tomorrow morning’ kind of speeches, followed by a tantalising sequel-pitching final shot that came across like a desperate plea for a second bite at the cherry.

I think it’s more likely The Interceptor will drift away into that black night of cancellation, unloved, unwanted and increasingly unwatched (the audience by the end was about half of the bare minimum BBC1 was hoping for), and with descriptions like “dire” and “limp” ringing in its ears. These, by the way, were the kinder ones.

WRONG

So what went wrong? The short, glib answer would be — everything. As it happens, the longer, not at all glib answer is also — everything.

The Interceptor seemed confused about whether it wanted to be an action-packed head-cracker in the tradition of 1970s series like The Sweeney, Target and The Professionals, or a sort of British version of The Wire.

It ended up looking like something dreamt up by a 14-year-old, hormonally-charged boy with a fondness for shoot-’em-up games.

The plot was hackneyed, the characters so wafer-thin they belonged either side of a slice of vanilla ice-cream, and the humourless performances pitched at ham overdrive. The presence of a number of familiar ex-soap faces — Lee Boardman from Coronation Street, Jo Joyner and Gary Beadle from EastEnders — gave the series a distinctly low-rent sharply at odds with its flashy, empty visuals.

The BBC is currently under threat from Cameron’s Tories, who basically want to cut its heart out and eat it, while dancing naked around a life-sized solid gold statue of Rupert Murdoch. But the Beeb’s record of making quality drama is something it can always cite as a defence against more funding cuts.

The Interceptor, which clearly cost a bit of money to make and is being talked about in the same breath as past disasters like Bonekickers and Outcasts, doesn’t help the cause any, though, and will leave the BBC bruised.

It may even have killed off a whole genre at which the broadcaster had become particularly adept: the slick, high-octane action thriller.

Spooks ran for 10 series, spawned a feature film this year and was exported around the world. It proved America wasn’t the only country that could make smart, stylish thrillers on a large scale.

Thanks to the failure of The Interceptor, there’s a gap left in TV drama that might never be filled so well again.

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