Forget Line of Duty — Unforgotten is the best police drama on TV

Mark Worgan
5 min readMar 31, 2021

Almost a decade into the streaming revolution it’s remarkable that almost 10 million people interrupted their (admittedly locked down) Sunday evenings to settle in to watch the latest series of Jed Mercurio’s police corruption drama Line of Duty — more than double those who tuned into the once unsurpassable Christmas Day soap specials. It’s a testament both to Mercurio’s skill in crafting twist-laden event TV and the perennial appeal of the police procedural.

Why do we love cop shows so much? There’s the appeal of the macabre. Rubbernecking at a real crime scene may be frowned upon — but poring over livor mortis, strangulation marks, and puncture wounds from your sitting room is significantly less uncouth.

A less grisly way of putting it though is that the stakes are always high — often as high as they could be in a drama that aspires to realism. Mistakes in Line Duty have the most brutal consequences — but for people who, unlike international gangsters or superheroes, look relatively like us.

Then there’s the thrill of the whodunnit, or its close cousin, the whydunnit, something central to Line of Duty — which has strung out the puzzle of the identity of ‘H’ — a high-level corrupt officer or official — for several seasons now.