Paul Abbott’s police procedural series with guts, heart and a killer sense of humour is back on Channel 4 for round two. Mickey Noonan couldn’t be more chuffed.
“You think you cheated the odds getting this far? News for you, Lady Fuzz, we all did.”
No Offence, series one, episode one: DI Viv Deering, no-nonsense copper with a nose that can smell bullshit at 100 paces, is talking to her two top constables – both women and one of whom has just been promoted to sergeant. Because it’s the women that get things done in Paul Abbott’s pacy, punchy police drama set in Manchester. That’s right: women AND northerners. Fuck me, is it Christmas again?
The cold opener of No Offence sets out the series’ stall, as a suspect being chased down by DC Kowalska (Elaine Cassidy) trips in the road and gets his head graphically and audibly crushed under a coach. Splat. In case you missed it, it’s later re-enacted by Jambo from Hollyoaks* using a fist and a jam doughnut. Grotesque? Sure. Funny? Yes Ma’am.
Subtlety isn’t really a weapon in Paul Abbott’s arsenal, which means, like Shameless and Clocking Off, No Offence is packed with incident and all the better for it – as long as you can keep up.
In season one, the main plot follows Deering’s unit at the Friday Street cop shop’s hunt for a serial killer targeting women with Down’s syndrome. Subplots are just as thrilling, though, including a cookhouse churning out fatal drugs, a child murderer’s new identity being revealed, and slavery.
The pace never falters and the first season finale involved a post-spew Coca-Cola rinse, a nurse on coke, a snapped arm and death by expandable foam. Season two, which started last Wednesday, gets off to an equally explosive start that’s not for the squeamish.
There’s no doubt the action is present and correct, but, as with all of Abbott’s creations, the characters are what make No Offence something special.
Joanna Scanlan is the dog’s solid gold, diamond-encrusted bollocks as Deering. She’s fearless, she’s unorthodox, she’s whip-smart, she’s got a huge heart, she’s unabashedly sexual and she’s flawed. In short, she’s magnificently human. I’d like to kiss her feet, but she’d have no time for that nonsense and I’d probably receive a swift heeled boot to the chin and be told to get the fuck on with something useful.
Deering couldn’t be gobbier if you made her every orifice into a mouth. She snaffles a Nazi cupcake from a white power wedding where her team have just arrested the groom. It’s a move caught on camera and put on Twitter. Is she cowed? Not a jot. “Tell ’em it tasted so damn good, Mary Berry would have gobbled it down and done the goose step.” Sweet baby cheeses, she’s a deliciously salty broad.
And she’s not on her own. No Offence is brimming with excellent women with lots to do.
Gutsy and loyal as they come, DC Dinah Kowalska is superb at her job at the cost of her family. She’s a single mum and she’s drowning. And surely it’s only a matter of time before that impulsive nature gets her into… oh, there y’go.
DS Joy Freers (Alexandra Roach) starts off timid, knowing the sergeant’s job should have been Dinah’s, but throws herself into her new role. Watching Joy become the mouse that roared is, well, a joy.
PC Tegan Thompson (Saira Choudhry) is exactly the kind of character usually played by a bloke: she shags whoever she chooses, whenever she chooses, with absolutely no apologies.
“There’s poetry to the speech patterns Abbott puts into the mouths of his fast-talking Mancs, a John Cooper Clarke rhythm with lines to make the most skilled standups green.”
There’s more. The doctor – Peep – who’s an ace at profiling? Woman. Head honcho at the mental institute? Woman. One of Manchester’s most feared criminal families’ leader? Woman. Deering’s boss? Fair dos, Superintendent Maclaren in the first series is a chap, but in No Offence’s return, Sarah Solemani is big boss DCI Christine Lickberg. Huzzah!
I mean, the blokes are smashing, too. Well done men.
And OK, less flippantly, masses of kudos to Abbott who’s created another brilliant slice of must-watch TV. Those first two series of Shameless still stand up as some of the best telly I’ve ever seen. As a writer, Abbott tightropes the line between rude and crude, drama and the blackest of comedy, tapping into details and human frailties to create a world that may be larger than life but is still very much life as we know it.
There’s poetry to the speech patterns Abbott puts into the mouths of his fast-talking Mancs, a John Cooper Clarke rhythm with lines to make the most skilled standups green. “Something’s rotten in the state of Primark,” quips forensics expert Miller (Paul Ritter, wonderful, just wonderful, and my second favourite character), as he inspects a woman, dead from a botched black market kidney harvesting, undertaken in a bid to clear debts.
There’s a team of writers at work here, but Abbott’s distinctive voice runs through every scene. Like its central character, this is a series with heart. Police procedural series are ten-a-penny, and there’s little the genre can throw at us to surprise. We’ve seen it all before.
And yet No Offence brings something new to the cop-shop party: warmth. And those women: tough, funny, filthy minded, sharp, smart, sexy and believable.
Sod the boys in blue; the broads in blue have got our back.
*Will Mellor has become a fine actor and is excellent as DC Spike Tanner, but he will ALWAYS be Jambo from Hollyoaks.
No Offence is on Wednesdays, 9pm, Channel 4.
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Aged five, Mickey Noonan shoved an apple pip up her nose to see what happened. Older, wiser but sadly without a nose-tree, Standard Issue's editor remains curious about the world. Likes running, jumping and static trapeze.