Spitting, assaults and office affairs are all in a day’s work for the tortured Brighton coppers in Cuffs

BBC1’s new drama starring Ashley Walters, Amanda Abbington and Shaun Dooley made a promising start by the sea

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Cuffs, BBC1 would like us to believe, is what modern policing is like. And on the evidence of episode one it’s pretty thankless even down in sunny, carefree Brighton.

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In just one hour of drama covering one day of policing, our East Sussex coppers were spat at, shouted at and forced to deal with druggies, a racist stabbing, a child abduction and quite a bit more besides.

It’s probably not what you expect from this trendy and relatively affluent part of southern England. But this series is alive to the perils of modern policing, not least the lack of manpower besetting Britain’s thin blue line (all thoroughly researched from chats with real life plods, the production assures us).

But is this more than just another cop show? In such a crowded genre it’s hard to be massively original. One obvious selling point of Cuffs appears to be the way its time is split pretty evenly between the private and professional lives of coppers, a trope which of course has been done before.

Here it is a divide which was blurred form the off when the boss man (Peter Sullivan’s Chief Superintendent Robert Vickers) was seen giving a leg-up to his newly-qualified copper son Jake (Jacob Ifan) in the first scene.

It was a classic set up, with the newcomer announcing his sexuality (“I’m gay, 22, single…”), starting work, taking the viewer into this new world and introducing us to the other characters, not all of whom are pleased to welcome him in.

Most disgusted with the whole set-up was Ashley Walters’ PC Ryan Draper who was allotted the job of nannying Jake through the streets of Brighton.

Shaun Dooley played office wise-cracker DC Carl Hawkins with Amanda Abbington his tortured sidekick DS Jo Moffat, a lonely woman who is having an affair with the Chief Inspector but whose best friend appears to be her dog. 

She’s clearly quite a prickly character, and audience sympathy is not going to be exactly enhanced with the knowledge that her lover’s wife is suffering from cancer.

Paul Ready played DI Felix Kane, perhaps the smartest man in the nick, a tortured weirdo whose visit to a brothel before going home to his wife and kids told us that he will be another angst-ridden presence on Wednesday nights BBC1. But at least his bit of quick-thinking helped get the abducted girl back. 

Perhaps the most intriguing character, though, is Ryan Draper, ably played by Walters. Young but nevertheless worldly-wise and weather–beaten, Walters deftly hinted at the skeletons and tragedy that clearly lurk beneath the gruff and grumpy exterior.

He’s uptight but also quite engaging and interestingly moral. When he berated his son for hanging around the city centre (and not attending school) we saw that he clearly wants more from life for his children than he has been dealt.

It also looked pretty good – lots of sweeping shots of Brighton, a bright summery vibe to it which was cleverly offset with all the day-to-day awfulness the police had to clean up.

God knows what will happen on day two but I think I’ll be tuning in.

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Cuffs continues on BBC1 on Wednesday nights at 8pm