Jed Mercurio reveals BBC One initially turned down Line of Duty

The gripping cases of AC-12 were almost passed up entirely.

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Line of Duty creator Jed Mercurio has revealed that BBC One turned down his initial pitch for the hugely popular crime drama.

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The series follows the officers of Anti-Corruption Unit 12 (AC-12), as they investigate the activities of high-ranking members of the police force, who are believed to be crooked.

Martin Compston, Vicky McClure and Adrian Dunbar take the lead roles, with a prolific guest star added to the cast each series to portray the questionable cop – but surprisingly, Line of Duty didn’t have an easy path to the screen.

In an interview with this week’s Radio Times, Mercurio recalled how his pitch of the series was rejected by BBC One, which is what led to its eventual home on BBC Two.

He said: “Maybe there were reservations that something about police corruption might be problematic for a mainstream audience. That was something that was passed on to me by the drama department, attempting to be constructive about it and therefore giving us hope that BBC Two might be a better home for us.”

Mercurio did not reveal the name of the person he is referring to, but went on to explain that they faced no repercussions for overlooking Line of Duty.

“The fact is that the controllers aren’t accountable,” he continued. “That particular controller never had to justify her decision. It didn’t affect her career that she turned down something that went on to be the biggest BBC One drama currently returning.

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“There’s selective amnesia about things like that… Every TV commissioner or TV executive who was involved in rejecting Line of Duty now pretends that it didn’t happen.”

Line of Duty eventually moved to BBC One at the start of its fourth series, in response to high ratings and widespread critical acclaim, while the first series will be aired on the channel for the first time starting next week.

Mercurio has since worked on other projects for the broadcaster, creating another hit drama in the form of Bodyguard, while also adapting DH Lawrence novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover in 2015.

He added: “I’m very grateful for the support I get from some people within the BBC. I feel a certain sense of loyalty towards them and I enjoy collaborating with them, but there are plenty of people within the BBC who aren’t fans of my work, and people I wouldn’t take material to.”

The upcoming sixth series of Line of Duty has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with filming halted just four weeks into production.

Read the full interview with Jed Mercurio in this week’s Radio Times, out Tuesday.

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Line of Duty is available to stream on Netflix. Looking for something else to watch? Check out our guide to the best series on Netflix and best movies on Netflix, or visit our TV Guide.