We've always loved a good old case of cops and robbers. Be it in books, radio plays or TV, Brits have always got behind the plucky detective trying to unearth the truth and catch the bad guy.
We're not alone in this obcession though, with our cousins across the atlantic the most frquent to fufill the fantasy on tv screens. The Police procedural, alongside the sitcom, is one of the cornerstones of Stateside primetime TV every since Police Story, Columbo and Kojak re-wrote the rule books.
Over the years the genre has grown to astronomical heights, with Law and Order first, the CSI becoming TV giants. But tastes have changed once again, and audiences have come flocking back to the more local flavours of policework.
And for good reason, it's so much better than everything they US is offering.
Gritty, realistic and far closer to real life than the gorgeous officers of the LAPD, the UK procedural offers much more to an audience in love with noir.
Ever since the seventies the case has always been the same. Take The Sweeney and Starsky and Hutch. Both focus of a pair of coppers catching criminals mainly using a combination of driving, shooting and yelling. But that's where the similarities end.
Whereas Starsky's all full of comedy pimps and wacky music, The Sweeney never took itself off serious, showing hardened, violent policemen who were never more than a couple of shades lighter than the bad guys.
The trend continues even to this day. Major US procedurals try to gritty and edgy, but are only ever three moves away from a bad gag or some awful 'playful' music. Even when they try to get serious, shows like NCIS or CSI go completely ridiculous, turning their leads into action superheroes.
BBC's latest The Line Of Duty is a brilliant case against this. Unflashy, down to earth, slow yet even after one episode, incredibly intriguing. It's warts and all approach to London's finest is a breath of fresh air after the flashy cuts and personality lead American shows that still clutter the schedules.
Only time will tell if it can live up to last year's spectacular The Shadow Line in terms of twisting plots and murky characters, but the seeds were definately put in place by Tuesday's opener.
What it clearly shares with the best from Blighty and the Nordic Noir we've all come to love over the last couple of years is that it expects the audience to keep up, a truly admirable trait.
American police shows though have the horrible knack of treating it's audiences like idiots. Spelling out every clue ad-nauseum, co-nstant repetition of plots, terribly predictable mysteries and gurn inducingly stupid characters and dialogue are all part of that magic recipe that the major players love across the pond. And will only stop loving when they stop making money.
They're even getting worse. The remakes of Hawaii Five-O and the LA based spin off of NCIS are truly terrible shows. All style and absolutely zero substance. Established shows like Bones and NCIS aren't any better, too caught up with trying to attach un-needed whimsey and pandering to their star's whims instead of the drama itself.
They're not helped at all by the status quo of the American 'season' structure, making series up to 26 episodes long. Far too long for any attempts at a continuous and interesting narrative, they resort to a simplistic episodic format. Restricted by needing to cram a whole case into a 44 minute structure, they are nearly always anaemic and limp.
This is where the British and Scandanavian style have a hands down advantage. Shorter series and typically longer episodes mean that not only can one, deep drama be held on to, so much more character work can be done.
Of course, there are always exceptions. The Wire, The Shield and the recently, and prematurely, cancelled Awake are all examples of the police show done right. Intriguing, dark and never afraid to leave their audiences guessing, these three are much more like European dramas than their US brethren.
Two of those were also greatly helped by being on premium cable channels, mainly excempt from US TV's demonstrative cencorship board. They, along with a desire from the network runners to not offend anyone ever hold them back as well.
Luther would never be allowed on to the US networks without heavy editing, let alone more the grissly stuff.
Overall, the era of the cheesy US crime drama is over. Long live the new British and Nordic kings.
FemaleFirst Cameron Smith