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Customer Review

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compulsive, 20 Feb. 2011
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This review is from: Between The Lines : Complete BBC Series 3 [1992] [DVD] (DVD)
I just wanted to chime in to say how much I enjoyed this series, in case anyone is put off by the notion that it's inferior to the previous two series. In my opinion it's just as good: don't hesitate.

It is fair to say, though, that the first couple of episodes here are discouraging--one set in Tunisia, one in a hotel--two very unsuitable locations for "Between the Lines" plots. After that, however, the series, like the previous one, gains momentum superbly, building up several intertwining narrative strands that hold you to the end.

Yes, you could say that private detective work doing deniable operations through John Deakin is a less plausible world than that of the complaints division of the police. But this series has two pluses that compensate, in my opinion. First there's the return of the potent John Deakin character, who'd been largely replaced in the second series by CS Graves, a rather superficial character, woodenly acted, now cut. Secondly, there's the presence of the superb actress Sylvestra Le Touzel as Sarah Teale--a much more believable paramour for Clark than that of the second series, the annoying Mrs Berridge. Add these two characters to the incomparable trio of Clark, Naylor, and Connell, and you have a five-handed ensemble to die for.

The plausibility issue need only be a worry if you take "Between the Lines" as a realistic drama: I don't. It is, in my opinion, a systematic investigation of the politics of law and order in British society--each plot placing the microscope over a different spot. The writers, who include the excellent playwright Dusty Hughes, move from one relevant issue to another, exposing the impossibility of any true justice when it comes to, as Deakin once put it, "big boys' rules". In my view, our three heroes are everyman characters, caught between the lines of natural morality and institutional immorality.

The series is prevented from becoming schematic, however, by the detailed humanisation of the three central characters. Their personal lives are wound convincingly into the plots and develop from one episode to another as if in a novel--sometimes gut-wrenchingly moving, often comedic (oneliners come and go as if this was "Minder"). The human and comic details are sparingly touched in without turning the show into a soap opera or a comic crime caper. The editing is deft, imparting compulsive pace throughout. The only notable flaw, for me, as in most television crime series, is the lack of sufficient budget to mount convincing crowd scenes.
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