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|Index||11 reviews in total|
In the first episode we follow a police complaints division investigation into brutality accusations at a police station. The drama is shown from the point of view of Amy, a young female officer who's 'collar' is murdered in an interview room. As she tries to clear her name during the 'lock-down' no-one can be trusted, and the division between right and wrong blurs remarkably. This is a well made TV drama that shows off the talents of Elaine Cassidy well. My only gripe is that the makers had the chance to break the mould for this kind of drama and chose not to do so. Too many drama series produced today make use of the narrative style of showing things from the viewpoint of a single central character; it has become a writers cliché. The obvious conclusion of the first episode was that Amy was going to join the undercover squad after showing her mettle; she gave such a strong performance right from the outset that it became a foregone conclusion. How much more intriguing (and difficult) it would have been had they used the tension created during an internal investigation by showing it from the point of view of the people it affected, moving on to a new investigation and new central character each week.
'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.
I really enjoyed this 8 part series, largely due to the lead
character's convincing evolution from episode to episode. It is not
light stuff, and the good cop bad cop plots tackle serious issues of
law enforcement ethics and the slippery morality of undercover
"internal affairs" cops. Though the lead good cop, played by Elaine
Cassidy, succeeds in most of her missions, the result is rarely
satisfying to the character or the audience, as tragically flawed cops
get caught in traps and slippery career-minded superiors operate behind
the scenes. Cassidy is quite good, creating a character who progresses
from gung-ho righteousness to grim determination; she is both
manipulated and manipulating.
In some ways, the blurry morality and internal affairs theme reminds me of The Shield. For an American who doesn't watch a whole lot of British cop TV, it also provided an interesting insight into police work on that side of the pond. Unfortunately, the photography and editing can be distractingly bad, and yet the excellent acting and thought provoking perspective on police ethics more than make up for technical shortcomings. Kudos especially to Cassidy, who has proved herself an astonishingly versatile actress in recent years.
I started watching this show on youtube.com after becoming a fan of
Elaine Cassidy. I fell in love with the show right away. I was looking
around for the DVD, but it isn't available in region 1 as far as I can
tell. It looks like you can preorder the 10 disc DVD from Amazon.co.uk
(region 2), although some sites will tell you that it isn't going to be
made available on DVD. Anyway, I am a fan of the show and was really
sad to learn that it had been cancelled after only one season. I think
that the producers gave up on it way too soon. I think they should have
waited to see if more people became familiar with it come the second
season. I am certain that the ratings would have improved had people
actually watched it. I live in the US and liken their cancellation of
the show to the cancellation of Alias or 24 after only the first
season. I would most definitely watch it if it were to return to TV. I
just think the producers should know what viewers think and so I am
sharing my 2 cents.
I'm somewhat ambivalent towards police dramas these days. But this is a great mix of 24-style camera-work, psychological drama, internal politics, and a really good grasp of emotional interplay and game-play - seems to be written by blokes as well, which I found surprising - you look at similar BBC affairs in recent years, and they are remarkably two-dimensional. Here, you care about the core characters, because they care. Anyway, give it a try - if you like intelligently scripted, cat-and-mouse, but psychologically gripping and intellectually fulfilling drama, you can't go wrong here. I found it a bit disturbing that such a squad DID exist, but no longer does because it wasn't appreciated internally. That's sort of the point, surely. Still - only going by the tag-line - sure the reality is as duplicitously complex as the series!
I was a bit disappointed with this series (I haven't seen the last two
episodes though). Most stories were simply too smug relying on the
obvious dilemma the theme suggests... and the cinematic means as well
as the narrative were always quite pretentious without being
convincing, leaving loose ends all around. The distracting look of it,
jump cuts and hand-held, "different" to a fault, could not hide the
lack of quality in the storytelling.
The acting was quite good though - and that made the episodes worthwhile, above all those less "spectacular" subject-wise -, Elaine Cassidy being a standout as usual. I think she is internationally one of the finest actresses around.
I think this has been, in the main, a good series if a little patchy
and uneven. At times, it has shown the police service in an
unflattering light (casual racism, corruption, violence), but also I
think has tried to be even handed by showing what a challenging, and
often thankless job, modern policing is. 'Ghost Squad' has managed to
avoid some of the clichés of the usual cop shows by showing the darker
side of policing, the embittered front line officers etc, and how hard
it is to maintain one's poise/dignity in the face of unrelenting
hostility and how hard it is to do good often in the face of opposition
& cynicism from one's own colleagues.
I thought the series was at its best when the cases were less sensational, the third episode in particular where Amy investigated a typical gruff front line officer possibly involved in the disappearance of a young girl. As through most of the series, the plots twisted and turned, played with your expectations with Amy discovering the information at the same time as the audience so that often, we, like her, were no nearer the truth than she was. I expect that's why the POV of the series was mostly through her character.
I enjoyed the final feature length episode though I agree with the last comment that after all the twists and turns it really did not merit a feature length. I felt uncomfortable with Amy's revelation to Gus, the officer under investigation that she was working undercover and how her handler, Mackay did not seem at all interested in her welfare but in the outcome of the case. I feel this is where fiction parted company from reality. More interesting was how Pete, her colleague, and in love with Amy himself, tried to fabricate evidence after listening to Amy & Gus making love.
The final episode disappointed slightly with its ending - though it did avoid a pat ending and left us in doubt about Gus. Credit to C4 though. Even if 'Ghost Squad' was flawed, it was nonetheless an interesting variant on cop clichés. Earlier, I watched Jack Rosenthal's reworking of 'Ready When You are Mr McGill', the work of a fine writer for TV, but also an indictment of modern TV and TV drama. Sometimes it's better to fail with an interesting experiment than peddle the same tired old rope. Writers like Dennis Potter didn't always succeed, but at least they were given the opportunity.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I was fortunate enough to see THE GHOST SQUAD when it debuted in the UK
on Channel 4 in 2005. In the first episode, uniformed police officer
Amy Harris (played by Irish actress Elaine Cassidy, subsequently the
female lead in American slasher series HARPER'S ISLAND) arrests a local
scumbag and repeat offender for a minor crime. However, the man is
subsequently beaten to death in the cells, and the police station is
locked down as the UK equivalent of Internal Affairs arrive to question
everyone. Harris realises that she's being framed for the murder by
whoever amongst her colleagues is actually responsible, and the
remainder of the episode is a tense race-against-time as she rushes
around the building, trying to keep one step ahead of both the
investigators and her co-workers, while desperately attempting to clear
herself. Realising that Pete Maitland, a detective recently assigned to
the station (a pre-ROBIN HOOD Jonas Armstrong) is an undercover mole,
Harris exposes him to buy herself more time, and eventually uncovers
the true killers. The episode ends with Harris quitting the police,
knowing that because she handed in her colleagues, nobody in the force
will trust her or work with her again. She's promptly recruited by 'the
Ghost Squad', an officially non-existent unit of undercover officers
who investigate reports of corruption within the police. Harris leaves
behind all traces of her old life, is given a new identity and forced
to adopt a rootless, friendless, nomadic existence, going wherever each
assignment takes her and living in cheap and temporary rented
accommodation. Her only contact is Maitland, who's appointed as her
partner/handler, with both of them reporting exclusively to Detective
Superintendent Carole McKay (Emma Fielding, a talented actress whom we
don't see enough of on our screens), the secretive head of the Squad.
Channel 4 spent a lot of money on THE GHOST SQUAD, and each episode boasted some familiar guest stars, such as Lloyd Owen and Adrian Lester. Jason Flemyng was a particular standout in one instalment, playing a veteran Ghost Squad operative who was cracking up under the strain, giving Harris a glimpse of her potential future. However, due to it's adult content - language, violence, sex scenes and full frontal nudity - the series was shown at 23:00 on weeknights and seems to be have overlooked as a result. Critics ignored it and most people appear never to have heard of the show (I'm always met with blank looks whenever I mention it in company). It only lasted one series, and has never been released on DVD in the UK.
I have fond memories of THE GHOST SQUAD and consider it to be one of the best police dramas I've ever seen. It's a shame that it's one of those TV shows that has slipped through the cracks and been forgotten about.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is the first really gritty police drama I've seen for a long time.
I am a big fan of CSI, Law and Order SVU, Without A Trace. But unlike
those shows, that have the shine of Hollywood on them, this really
feels dirty. It's portraying police work as it is. No false glamour,
just real people, doing a job that most people wouldn't have the
I loved the first episode of this, when Amy got into the 'Ghost Squad'. She was forced to turn on her friends, and although she didn't like it, she did it. It was a great introduction to the series, and to Amy's character.
The second episode was far less straightforward. In fact, for most of it I was confused as to who was undercover, who was undercover with the people who were undercover, and who were the straightforward bad guys (although it's possibly my fault, for not giving the program my absolute full attention during the first half). However, I equate this confusion with a good programme. It made me think, and many TV shows are scared to challenge their audiences in this way.
Lots of swearing, but that's to be expected in real life, so that's what you get here. I'm always amazed that Jack Bauer gets through each of his horrible days, swearing so little.
Anyway, to sum up, this is a brilliant new drama, full of promise. I hope it lives up to it's first couple of episodes, and from what I've seen so far, I'm sure it will.
It was one of the best series I have watched in a while. It is of such
a compelling high standard but with an interesting twist in the last
episode, which brings in the human element. The story line was quite
different and shown a different part of policing otherwise never seen
before. Dramas from the UK always impress me with the great scenery,
even if it is in the middle of London. The cast of Elaine Cassidy as
Detective Amy Harris,
Emma Fielding Detective Superintendent, Jonas Armstrong as the support detective was well cast and scripted, however I felt that the casting of 'Amy' as such a young detective may be unrealistic, but maybe thats part of the cover.
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