Those who have knocked this series have merely proved that they simply are so unused to being required to look beyond the surface (despite The Simpsons) in a television programme that they are no longer capable of seeing the joke.
This is a surreal world with real world concerns, a joke at the expense not only of English stereotypes, but of the very concept of detective drama. It is never intended that you should believe that the four central characters would, in the real world, be ranking police officers. This is an alternative universe where forensic pathologists hang about in a police caravan (which appears, as if by magic, at the scene of the crime) with detectives and comes up with a detailed analysis without ever entering a lab, and the West Midlands contains a street full of old school friends who speak with thick Lancastrian accents! What this 'unreal' setting does, as is the case in Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels, for example, is to free the writers to use the characters to gently mock those traits which so painfully reflect our own idiosyncrasies (repressed emotion, ebay addiction, our inability to escape those social conventions which we know to be ridiculous, all come in for laser accurate mockery that is nevertheless affectionate and always acknowledges that when a finger is pointed at anyone, there are three more pointing back at us.
The central characters are lovingly crafted by writers and actors, the 'jokes' are subtle and knowing, and the series greatly rewards those prepared to look beyond the focus and read between the lines. It's a work of pure television heaven that sadly may be cast into the outer darkness because it does not appeal to the lazy viewer who, despite its public service credentials, the BBC seems so desperate to attract.
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