Does a parody make the police procedural a thing of the past?
When I first heard the words ‘spoof’ and ‘parody,’ in relation to Sky One’s new series ‘A Touch of Cloth‘ my immediate reaction was one of trepidation. Lets be honest, there isn’t that many “hilarious spoofs” out there as they claim on the DVD’s and billboards. After seeing some of the clips, although I was highly intrigued because they were so funny, I was still cautious. Like most clips shown my first thought was “it’s probably the best bits and the rest will be rubbish”, but for once the hype easily lives up to its claim with its absurdity and gumption of not being afraid to use the well over-used police procedural format and put it under the microscope and blow it apart for laughs. And laugh you will.
We open with spate of murders beginning with a pensioner not long after being harassed by some teenage youths (you may have spotted Theo Barklem-Biggs aka ‘Silk‘s junior clerk Jake as the leader); called in to investigate is DCI Jack Cloth (John Hannah) a beleaguered alcoholic maverick who is haunted by the strange death of his wife, not to mention her ghost popping up to remind him. He’s accompanied by his side-kick DC Anne Oldman (Suranne Jones) pronounced “An Old Man” if you didn’t get it after the hundredth time. While Julian Rhind-Tutt plays ACC Tom Boss the man who wants results – like yesterday, but manages to fit in several cloth jokes as well as fooling me for most of the episode into thinking it was Shaun Evans (That wasn’t intentional viewers, eye test for me on that one).
The script is full of visual gags, a play on words, sexual innuendo and about every farcical conversation you could imagine all played straight by the cast; the first victims cat is called K9; more than once there is a scene of revulsion at the crime scene but not over the grisly bodies, but over a Piers Morgan picture, then there’s WPC Cardboard Cut-out and just in case you missed Oldman had a lesbian lover her ringtone was KD Lang’s ‘Constant Craving’. So you see the tone and level of the gags presented.
Writer Charlie Brooker has said it’s very in the vein of Naked Gun and that was certainly what came across as well as the ‘Airplane’ movies being my first impression. With the supporting cast all-encompassing different clichés of the police formula, including the sexy nonchalant pathologist, three of the cast from the cast of 90’s comedy Teachers (Navin Chowdhry, Adrian Bower and the excellent Raquel Cassidy) who act as exposition, aka the audience explainers who point out the obvious. Raquel Cassidy has the awkward moment of wincing in silence, while we all wait on bated breath for her to reveal a name, which Raquel does brilliantly without becoming irritating.
The jokes are childishly puerile, the mortuary scene uncomfortable, and the incident room completely daft, but that’s what its meant to be and it does it extremely well.
Jones and Hannah are no strangers to playing serious police procedurals, with Suranne Jones known of course for the highly successful ‘Scott and Bailey’ which may be quite hard to watch now without seeing her parody role, while John Hannah has appeared in ‘McCallum,’ ‘Rebus’ and ‘Miss Marple’ to name a few. John admitted in a recent show promo video he took the part because he, like the viewer is fed up with the amount of police shows on TV.
The two-parter is hilarious, a real gem that really does have the power to kill the genre – at least for now, as the likelihood of watching future police shows without seeing the format (if you hadn’t already worked it out) is going to be pretty slim. Although the writers say the idea is not born out of hate, it is born out of a need for change.