The Responder is a five-part BBC series set in Liverpool. The series follows Chris Carson a police officer struggling with psychological and family issues and a deteriorating work situation.
I really didn’t like the start of this series, partly because it was set in Liverpool and it showed a mix of drug dealers, users, and society’s victims, the old, the lonely, the poor and desperate being treated with contempt by a copper. Written by an ex-policeman Tony Schumacher the narrative was to be expected of a good individual in desperate circumstances. The depiction of a ‘rogue’ copper was believable precisely because it is the routine rather than the exception when the police deal with the powerless.
The more the series took the main character away from his role as a police officer, the more human he became. We can all identify with people struggling to hold things together, a marriage, a terminally ill parent, and financial problems.There were some plot holes and character issues, but overall it was a tight well-delivered drama. The fact that it was set in Liverpool became less and less important as it became more of a ‘generic’ portrayal of gangsters and users. It was here that the series suffered more in ‘keystone cop’ depiction of the dealers, chasing but never catching anyone or anything, while the cop Chris Casey ties everything up with a neat manoeuvre.
Things of note for me were a great scene with secondary character Rachel confronting her abusive boyfriend, and a good performance from Martin Freeman including a pretty fair accent. It is probably unfair to criticise the series for not dealing with things outside its remit. But we are constantly shown the effect of society’s ills, in poverty, drug abuse, and violence, but rarely does TV drama point to the causes; a corrupt, abusive government that cuts the living standards of the poor, e.g. 20 pound cut in benefits, while rewarding its mates, 37 billion on test and trace 4.3 billion in unrecovered loans.
Some people have compared it to the groundbreaking US series The Wire. The Wire was groundbreaking because it showed drug dealers as real people, good and bad who were organised, intelligent, sometimes brilliant and sometimes stupid, the opposite of lazy stereotypes. It also pointed to the corruption at the highest level of policing and local government.
The review in the picture above talks about a ‘broken’ system, and how police officers are asked to function in our decaying society, not the fact that government is broken and the main function of the police is to serve the powerful and not the powerless.
Despite the reservations above it was very watchable and well produced.
PS Never heard ‘lad’ so many times in life.
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