No Offence (and five of the funniest police dramas)
Throughout much of the 1990s and 2000s, Paul Abbott was one of the most in-demand writers around. Having spent almost a decade as a writer, then a script editor, on Coronation Street, Abbott grew tired of soap writing and decided to try his hand at drama, taking a considerable pay cut in the process.
It proved to be a shrewd move. Abbott spent much of the 90s writing for successful TV series like Cracker and Reckless, but it was towards the end of that decade and into the 2000s that saw him really hit his creative stride, creating and writing a series of acclaimed TV shows including State of Play, Clocking Off and, perhaps most famously, the hit comedy-drama series Shameless.
In recent years, Abbott has been less prolific than in the previous two decades (he left Shameless after the show's fourth series), but of the handful of things he's written since Shameless it's No Offence, the second season of which is due to arrive in stores on Monday (March 20th), that has garnered the most attention.
For anyone who has yet to see Abbott's latest creation, No Offence is essentially a police procedural set in Manchester, but it is also infused with the kind of jet-black humour that Shameless fans will recognise and that has become something of an Abbott trademark. The series stars Joanna Scanlon as the Detective Inspector Vivienne Deering, the brutally funny and hard-as-nails head of a CID department dealing with the rougher end of Manchester's criminal class. Starring alongside Scanlon is a cast that includes Utopia's Alexandra Roach, The Paradise's Elaine Cassidy and Will Mellor, perhaps best known for his roles in Hollyoaks and Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps.
The first season saw the team on the trail of a serial killer targeting girls with Down's Syndrome in the Salford area, only to eventually discover that the killer is closer to home than anyone imagined. The second season, aired over the last few weeks, starts in explosive fashion with the team at the well-attended funeral of Herbie Attah, a member of one Manchester's most notorious crime families, headed by the tyrannical matriarch Nora Attah. When a bomb that explodes in the wrong place and narrowly avoids killing everyone in the church, Deering and her team find themselves battling to contain an escalating gang war that plunges the city into chaos.
If you're new to No Offence, be warned: this is not for the faint-hearted or the easily offended, but if you've enjoyed the gallows humour of shows like Shameless then you'll find plenty to love about Abbott's latest creation. In a genre that has been done to death over the least few decades, No Offence offers something genuinely original and Abbott's skill for finding humour in the bleak truths of everyday life is as razor-sharp as ever here.
You can find the second series in our online store via the link at the top-right of this page and you can also find a trailer for the new series below, beneath that we've picked out five of the best TV series that inject some laughs into the drudgery of life in the police force...
A Touch of Cloth
Much like Nathan Barley, this police procedural send-up from the mind of Charlie Brooker began life as one of the ideas featured on TV Go Home, the website created by Brooker and others (including Brass Eye's Chris Morris) designed as a spoof of Radio Times-style TV listings. The show stars John Hannah as DCI Jack Cloth, who attempts to solve various crimes across the show's three series, assisted by his colleagues Anne Oldman (Suranne Jones), Asap Qureshi (Navin Chowdry) and rookie detective Kerry Newblood (Karen Gillan, all under the watchful eye of Chief Constable Tom Boss (Julian Rhind-Tutt). Brilliantly satirising every cliché in the police procedural genre – and with plenty more gags besides – this is one of the silliest things Charlie Brooker has ever done, but it's very, very funny.
Operation Good Guys
Almost a full four years before Rickey Gervais popularised the mockumentary format with his hit series The Office, this comedy series written by Ray Burdis used the format to follow the activities of an elite police unit and their attempts to capture one of the UK's most notorious crime kingpins, usually with disastrous results. Running for three series on BBC 2 between 1997 and 2000, the show featured several cameos – often from celebrities playing themselves – including Jude Law, Jonny Lee Miller, David Seaman, Martin Kemp and 'Mad' Frankie Fraser, among many others. It's very much of it's time, but there are still plenty of laughs to be had which, more often than not, are at the expense of the police themselves.
Andy Samberg leads the cast of this superbly silly police procedural following the exploits of the New York cops of the NYPD 78th Precinct, who spend almost as much time acting up with childish antics as they do dealing with actual crimes. The cast also includes Terry Crews, Stephanie Beatriz, Joel McKinnon Miller and
Melissa Fumero, but the real star of the show is Andre Brougher as the brilliantly deadpan head of the force, Captain Ray Holt. If you've enjoyed shows like Parks & Recreation or The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, this is well worth a look.
Danny Boyle is, of course, best-known as a film director, but he has dabbled in television on occasion and of all his forays into small-screen territory, the comedy-drama series Babylon is probably the best of the bunch.
Co-created along with an array of writing talent that includes the people behind Peep Show, Four Lions and The Thick Of It, Babylon features a cast that includes James Nesbitt, Brit Marling, Nicola Walker, Jill Halfpenny and Paterson Joseph, among many others. Running for just one series, the show centres around Nesbitt's Police Commissioner Richard Miller and his disastrous decision to hire a new Head of Comminications, the American Liza Garvey (Marling), after watching one of her TED talks online. Probably one of the most overlooked police procedurals in recent years – especially with regard to those with a comedic slant – but you'll struggle to find a more cutting depiction of police ineptitude than this.
Our final pick is, of course, the granddaddy of all police comedies and the series not only spawned the three Naked Gun films, but also served as the inspiration for a host of imitators down the years. Leslie Neilsen stars as the hapless Frank Drebin, alongside his equally inept colleagues Captain Ed Hocken and Officer Norberg. Created by Jerry Zucker, David Zucker and Jim Abraham – the team behind Airplane! - the show only lasted for six episodes before being cancelled for poor viewing figures, but the series has since become a cult classic and has some of the funniest gags you'll ever see in a police procedural.