Doug Coutts’ TV Preview: Black Work

BLACK WORK | TV One, 9.25 Sunday


By Doug Coutts

It doesn’t start well. We’re in Yorkshire – in the midst of not-so-blissful domesticity. He’s got something to hide – we know that because he’s just hidden it in the linen cupboard – and so has she, which we find out later when she’s chatting to another bloke, in a car while her daughter’s having swimming lessons. 

Oh, and they’re both cops.

Things take a turn for the worse when he turns up dead in a warehouse when he was supposed to be out of town running training sessions.

The grieving widow is unable to grieve because, well, um, say no more, he was on special ops and we have to keep things quiet until we make the bust, says DCI Hepburn, apparently on loan from his other job as DI Jimmy Perez from Shetland. (Shetland is another gritty cop drama, set in Cardiff – just kidding, it’s set in Inverness.) 

One of the bad guys from Shetland turns up here as well, this time playing one of the good guys … so far, because already the twists and turns are knotting up faster than you can say, “He didn’t die in vain, chook”; you get the feeling there’s no one you can trust, especially not the dead guy’s best mate, who just happens to be the ‘other man’ in the swimming pool carpark.

Dark, brooding, threatening and that’s just Sheridan Smith, who plays Jo the grieving widow, troubled stepmother and over-enthusiastic detective who’s determined to find her husband’s killer before anyone else does. Why?

Because her colleagues aren’t moving quickly enough and they wouldn’t dare go alone into that derelict old house in the middle of nowhere, late at night.

Someone has to, otherwise we wouldn’t have a cop murder mystery that’s already piling on the intrigue, dead ends and red herrings to keep everyone watching until the no doubt bitter end.

What other critics said:

“Despite the fine performances, it paled in comparison to other recent gritty cop dramas. It was Line of Duty without the snap and fizzle of its plotting, or Happy Valley without its depth of characterisation.” — The Telegraph.

“The whole drama lacked conviction. Black Work was crying out to be a really good film, or an extended series, and instead it has been chucked away as a bog-standard three-parter. The problem isn’t that it’s bad. It just should be so much better.” — The Daily Mail.

“It’s one of those shows where you manage to enjoy the ride, without ever quite believing in it. I’m also finding it hard to tell one undernourished northern actor in a bad suit and a lanyard from another.” — Daily Express

Doug Coutts has had a career in and around television for close to 40 years. He spent 13 years as a floor manager at Avalon Studios before going freelance and never earning as much again. His writing has spanned TV genres — from Shortland Street dialoguery and quiz shows to documentaries and comedy — while a lengthy stint as TV reviewer in the Auckland Star earned him two mentions in Metro magazine’s Hot List and an angry letter from Jon Gadsby. You can read more of Doug (the satirist) at:

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