After an early episode of Line of Duty I received a breathless text from a friend. She was exhausted, she couldn’t bear to watch another episode yet she couldn’t wait to watch another episode, and what would she do when it was all over?
Ah yes, that old, old question, the cri de coeur of telly-lovers everywhere. What do we do when our favourite television shows end. What do you do? Cry in the bath? Howl into a pillow? Punch your blameless childhood teddybear?
Line of Duty, Jed Mercurio’s thrilling thriller, ends on BBC2 tonight and I bet that tomorrow morning there’ll be an awful lot of anguished conversations in the tea-queue at work that begin with those delightful words “did you see…..?” because we all know that about three quarters of the fun of real-time telly watching are the post-mortems as we cut open the plot and haul out its still-throbbing heart and soul.
Then will come the inevitable coda “but what are we going to watch now it’s finished?” It’s an atavistic wail that anyone who’s grown up avidly watching telly can never shrug off. I remember being very upset when the torrid 1976 psycho-sexual drama Bouquet of Barbed Wire ended, mainly because it was on on Friday nights and I had a Saturday job working alongside lots of other women in a shop and we couldn’t stop talking about it.
I’ve loved it all. Never mind The Ring Cycle, Line of Duty has been The Wring Cycle where my brain has been spun and hung out to dry. I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do without it, either. Shall we all gather together for a group hug? Come on, you know you want to.
And I’ll miss people sidling up to me, crab-like, in corridors as if they’re about to mutter they’ve been done for shoplifting but really they want to know if I can give them any clues. Well, no, I can’t of course, thanks to the Sacred Code of the Critic, the omerta carved on our flinty hearts: “We must not blab before transmission.”
Or, people want to know, do I think Keeley Hawes’s character, Det Insp Lindsay Denton, is a vengeful woman who’s plotted a spectacular and murderous conspiracy? Or is she a hapless cop just doing her job who’s been swept into a mudbath of evil that’s not of her making? And wasn’t that 17 minute interview scene in last week’s episode just the best thing you’ll see all year? (Yes, it was).
Actually, our hearts have been broken quite a lot during the past couple of years thanks to a purple patch of extraordinary, gripping dramas. Oh, we sobbed, what will we do when Broadchurch/The Returned/Top of the Lake/The Bridge/The Fall is finished? Will the fun be over forever? Will we have to live in a tent in a mountainside with only a goat for company because there’s no point in sitting in front of the telly ever again?
No, of course not, because something just as brilliant will come our way, you can be sure of it. Endeavour is coming back to ITV soon, the BBC1 has the WW1 drama The Crimson Field, More4 has brought us a new Scandi drama, Mammon, and Game of Thrones and Mad Men are returning (to Sky Atlantic). Though Mad Men will finish forever. Oh what will we do when it’s over…