Why Line of Duty makes great TV, acronyms and all - Anthony Clavane

Who killed Gail Vella? Who is H? Who is telling the truth and who is lying? And, most importantly of all, who is responsible for inventing all those acronyms?

Adrian Dunbar and Vicky McClure on the set of the sixth series of Line of Duty last autumn. (PA).

To quote the great man himself: “Sweet mother of God!”

The great man, as every Line of Duty fan knows, is Adrian Dunbar’s Superintendent Ted Hastings Or Ted, as we devotees prefer to call him. There’s only one thing the head of AC-12 is interested in, and that’s (all together now): “Catching bent coppers.”

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Personally, I think there should be another thing he gets interested in. And pretty sharpish, fella. Namely, writing a Line of Duty dictionary explaining all those confusing abbreviations.

Here is an example from the BBC One show’s opening episode.

“Either you’re our CHIS or you’re embedded as a UCO,” Steve Arnott tells Kate Fleming. “We can keep it on the DL only if we’ve got a CHIS inside MIT.”

By the time I’d worked out what all these seemingly-obscure initialisms stood for, there had been another plot twist, followed by a red herring and a conspiratorial shenanigan.

So why is Line of Duty one of the biggest shows on TV? Why did millions of viewers tune in last Sunday for Jed Mercurio’s police drama? Why am I so obsessed with the twisty police thriller, now into its sixth series?

Why, indeed, am I obsessed with the podcast Obsessed with Line of Duty? Strangely, it’s partly to do with the baffling, jargonistic police-speak.

Working out the acronyms – and having a laugh about them with mates and on Twitter – is definitely part of the attraction.

Mercurio makes the audience work for their entertainment. It’s like solving a crossword puzzle.

It feels great when you finally work out Arnott is actually telling Fleming that she can either be the unit’s Covert Human Intelligence Source (informant) in the

Murder Investigation Team or its Undercover Officer – and that they can keep it on the Down Low (under the radar).

Line of Duty fever has also swept the country, once again, because we all love a good Ted-ism.

Dunbar plays the highly-principled paragon of virtue – or is he? – as a down-to-earth, blunt-speaking, curmudgeonly Irishman with a penchant for amusingly-sarcastic phrases.

Never mind all the “fellas” “bent coppers” and “mother of Gods”. How about Hastings proclaiming: “Now we’re sucking diesel.”

Or asking Arnott: “What are you waiting for, a puff of white smoke?” Or the following astute observation: “That convoy is going like the clappers, you’d do well to spot a pipe band in there.”

Another reason for its popularity, I think, are the stellar guest stars.

As the latest addition to the team – Kelly MacDonald (DCI Joanne Davidson) – said recently: “Being in Line of Duty is like having a role in a Bond film.”

Perhaps she means a Bond villain? Does that mean she is a bent copper? Who knows?

This is another of the great joys of the blockbuster series. Will MacDonald follow in the footsteps of Keeley Hawes, Thandie Newton and Lennie James?

Or will she be more like Daniel Mays, Jason Watkins and Stephen Graham? Those who know what I’m talking about, know what I’m talking about.

Ultimately, the big draw, for me, is that I was one of 9.6 million people glued to the box last Sunday at 9pm – the biggest audience in the show’s history – and I will again be part of

the shared national experience this Sunday at 9pm. And for the following four Sundays at 9pm.

Rather than binge-watching the series in one sitting on iPlayer – as I have admittedly done with numerous shows of late – the Beeb have wisely insisted we watch it week by week.

This notion of “savouring every bite” might be old-fashioned, but it is surely preferable to the “all-you-can-eat” approach to TV consumption.

Line of Duty is Event Telly, and we need a month or two to absorb all its nuances, twists and dodgy goings-on.

It is over a year since it last graced our screens, and it appears to be well worth the wait.

Buckle up for the ride. This is going to be a long six weeks.