The Ghost Squad was an undercover unit formed to investigate police corruption. After complaints from police officers it was officially disbanded in 1998 but rumours of its existence continue. See more »
'Between the Lines' was one of the outstanding British television drams of the 1990s, the story of a police investigations unit. 'The Cops' was another excellent series, with its gritty, cinema-verite portrait of life on the force. 'The Ghost Squad', Channel Four's new drama, is an heir to both those series, with a premise similar to the former's, but put together in the style of the latter. And some senses, this is more of a handicap than a blessing, as the police drama is such a staple of the schedules that it's very hard for a program to appear fresh. The hand held camera work, the quick inter-cutting of scenes, the stock characters (most notably, the bitch of a boss who may or may not be trustworthy): it's all been seen before. Additionally, 'The Ghost Squad', whose investigators work undercover, sometimes seems to strain credibility. The requirements placed upon its officers seem immense, and to generate the story lines, they always have to get more personally involved in a case than is altogether desirable (or, more to the point, likely).
But 'The Ghost Squad' does also have some distinguishing characteristics of its own. By focusing on a single officer, it retains a claustrophobic feel throughout: in general, we know what she knows, nothing more. In the lead role, Elaine Cassidy is superb, and in general the acting is good, although both her boss and partner seem a little young for their roles (surely such sensitive missions would be handled by people a little more senior?). Even if at times, the world portrayed seems just that bit more intense than reality ever is, this is still top quality drama, intelligently structured, fast moving, and impeccably executed. It surely deserved better than a late night slot and the minimal publicity it received.
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