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Cop-com too clever for own good

I have a funny feeling that the BBC, having commissioned three episodes of comedy cops show Vexed, hasn't the slightest clue what to do with it or how to market it.

Maybe that's why it's ended up being shoehorned into BBC2 on Sunday night, in a timeslot usually reserved for facile celebrity travelogues or dull, stuffy period dramas.

For a start, Vexed is difficult to describe, let alone categorise. If you were to give it a shot, though, you'd have to say it's a kind of irreverent variation on Moonlighting, laced with the kind of pitch-black, politically incorrect humour that would have made even Bruce Willis lose the smug grin and raise an eyebrow.

Toby Stephens, who was a perfect Mr Rochester in Jane Eyre a few years ago and a woefully miscast Bond villain in the ridiculous Die Another Day, plays Jack Armstrong, a trench-coated police detective who is to tact and diplomacy what a bull is to a china shop.

Spying a large woman cleaning a window in a Priory-style rehab clinic, he says to the psychiatrist showing him around the place: "Let me guess -- obesity and OCD, right?"

Jack doesn't so much blunder as bulldoze his way through cases, for the most part cluelessly. In short, he's a supercilious git, a bit of an idiot and seems to have left half his brain at the door, along with his self-awareness. But he's also very funny and likeable.

Being obnoxious, slightly dim and charming all at the same time is a difficult trick to pull off for an actor, but Stephens does it brilliantly. It's a wonderful performance in a great part.

He's so good that it's not difficult to see why his long-suffering partner in crime-solving, Kate Bishop (Lucy Punch), whose marriage happens to be on the rocks, not only puts up with him, but fancies him a little as well.

Like Stephens, Punch has wonderful charm and comic timing, and the marriage counselling sessions involving her and her end-of-his-tether husband are among the funniest things in Vexed.

"You can't take a sh*t in someone's house without sending them a card," he screeches at her in front of a mortified counsellor. "And why do you have to boil a whole kettle of water for one cup of tea?"

The relationship between Jack and Kate is the only credible thing about Vexed, and that's the point, really.

The supposed plots (last night's was some nonsense about a depressed banker being targeted by a hitman) are almost farcically negligible. It's all about will they, won't they, and if so, when and how?

I have another funny feeling about Vexed: that it's not going to last beyond these three episodes.

It's too offbeat, too oddball -- too good, maybe -- and the BBC seems intent on strangling it at birth by sticking it on at the weekend, when it would be better served by a weeknight slot.

I hope it does last, though, because there's nothing else quite like it on at the moment.

I met Paddy O'Gorman in a pub a few years ago. It was a Sunday afternoon and I was trying to watch a football match when Paddy -- who was accompanied by his young son -- strolled over, sat down beside me and started talking, even though he didn't know me from Adam.

He's a great talker, is Paddy. Thankfully, he's also a great listener -- which is not something you can say about most TV interviewers -- and he's back doing what he does best with O'Gorman, which finds him and his little dog visiting towns around Ireland. Last night he was in Gort, in Co Galway.

There's absolutely nothing, aside from the location, to distinguish this series of O'Gorman from Paddy's previous television outings. He simply talks and listens as people talk back to him, willing to share intimate details about their lives.

I don't know the secret of how he gets people to be so open, but the results are quietly mesmerising.


Vexed ****

O'Gorman ****