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Haven't we had enough of crime drama clichés like Safe House?

“If television dramas were interior design, then Safe House would be anaglypta, magnolia paint and sisal matting,” says TV editor Alison Graham

Published: Thursday, 21st September 2017 at 12:00 pm

Once, just once in my life, I’d like to thump a steering wheel. It’s not something I’ve ever done, but it somehow seems important that I tick it off my To Do list. So I’m in the driving seat and I’m annoyed? Bash!


I would also love the chance to try to open a locked door, which, when it refuses to yield, I’d hammer with my bare hands in impotent fury. I’ve never done that either. Honestly, what have I been doing with my life?

While we’re on the subject of outbursts, I would also like to clear a desk (not mine, obviously, because it’s far too tidy and I know where everything is) in one sweep of my arm. Ideally this would be after I’ve walked angrily down a corridor, lashing out at the wall.

Also – and this is particularly important – I would dearly love to chat to Someone Important in their office, persuade them to leave the room and then download A Big Secret File from their computer in just minutes, while I anxiously scan the door for their imminent return. (I would, if I knew how to download something from someone else’s computer. I can barely do it from my own without resorting to hand signals, threats and shouting.)

The big problem with all of this is that I’m a fairly well balanced person and not a Haunted Maverick Cop With a Secret like Tom in Safe House (continuing this Thursday on ITV).

Safe House is a drama about a former police officer, Tom, who runs a remote safe house for witnesses in peril. He’s aided by his partner, Sam (Zoë Tapper), who wears a baggy jumper, a sure sign of moral rectitude and good character.

If television dramas were interior design, then Safe House would be anaglypta, magnolia paint and sisal matting. Things that are as hard-wearing as they are ubiquitous. And dull. And unsurprising. And unimaginative. Characters in Safe House thump steering wheels and locked doors, and in Thursday’s penultimate episode someone does that downloading thing. Happily the password isn’t a problem. Yay!

I mention all of this because a producer friend told me recently that television channels are on the lookout for new twists on old themes. No one wants standard-template dramas any more, crime or otherwise, he said. They want the new and the bold.

Really? Where does Safe House (and also mundane fare like In the Dark) fit into this brave new world? So brave and so new that it features an imperilled, abducted, helpless woman in her shortie black silk slip, weeping, gagged and tied to a chair in one of those TV crime-drama deserted warehouses.

The actual story involves a copycat killer, so we get the Silence of the Lambs scene where the cops interview the real killer in prison to see if he can give them any clues. And the cops are spineless and pathetic and can see the light only when haunted maverick Tom (the impassive Stephen Moyer) guides them. Oh, and there’s some sort of conspiracy at the very highest levels of the police force… Oh dear, I’ve nodded off.

For all I know, stuff like Safe House is produced as a means of forcing into exile television critics like me who can’t bear to watch another second of this run-of-the-mill wallpaper. If so, fine, I’ll go and live by the sea and eat cheese. But I’ll still be watching. You can’t get rid of me that easily.

By Alison Graham


Safe House is on Thursdays at 9pm on ITV


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