Being a writer on a TV cop show must be a difficult job these days.
There are more than 50 years of police dramas in viewers’ memory banks, from Z Cars and Dixon of Dock Green, through The Sweeney and on to Bergerac, Morse, Lewis and lots of other TV ’tecs known only by their surnames.
So what’s a writer to do? Every conceivable police storyline has been written, probably many times over, from bent coppers to maverick coppers to alcoholic coppers to female coppers to coppers who are coppers to the other coppers.
It seems the only way to go is to be more inventive in the ways your killer kills people, and Neil Cross, the creator and writer of Luther (BBC1, Tuesdays, 9pm), is very inventive indeed.
In the first 20 minutes alone, a woman is butchered in her home and her heart is eaten, a man is left rotting in a dentist’s chair, a second man has been dissolved in a bath and an inquisitive copper has been blown up by an exploding fridge.
All the while, mean, moody DCI John Luther (Idris Elba) has been brooding atop the white cliffs, pining for Alice, the love of his life, who just happens to be a serial killer.
This two-parter, which concludes on Tuesday, is likely to be end of Luther, which is a shame, as Elba has a great presence on screen and actually makes a lot of overblown plot make sense by downplaying everything. When he walks into another bizarre murder scene, you get the sense he’s seen it all before.
The series has also provided some genuinely creepy moments, with one in particular from the last series still lingering. Put it this way, I never get into bed now without checking underneath it first.
However, it’s not really a detective series. It’s definitely straying down the horror road, such is the gore present in these murders, and the overbearing murk of the photography.
You can certainly trace it’s lineage back to Brad Pitt’s Se7en, and it would be no surprise if one of the main character’s heads turned up in a cardboard box.
Heaven knows what George Dixon would have made of it.