Review: The Detail 1×1 (Canada: CTV; UK: Channel 5)

A female police procedural that's as dull as the male ones, despite some top Brits

The Detail

In Canada: Sundays, 9pm ET, CTV
In the UK: Acquired by Channel 5

Sometimes a name just leaps out at you. Sometimes a name leaps out at you as being particularly British.

The Detail at first looks like a completely ordinary – some might even say paralysingly ordinary – female police procedural. I shouldn’t need to specify ‘female’ since

  1. There should be plenty of women in police procedurals anyway
  2. There shouldn’t be a difference between procedurals that feature mainly men and those that feature mainly women.

Yet as we know from the likes of Women’s Murder Club and Rizzoli & Isles, female police procedurals are usually 50% about a desperately uninteresting and mundane crime and about 50% about their police’s great friendships and relationships with their usually cheating boyfriends and/or alcohol. They also don’t really follow police procedure at all – although that’s true of a lot of police procedurals, to be fair.

The Detail

The Devil

Here, Shenae Grimes-Beech (Degrassi High) stars as ‘street smart’ Detective Jacqueline ‘Jack’ Cooper, who has keen investigative skills, but a messy personal life. That means she drinks a lot and has accidentally been dating a married man (Rookie Blue‘s Ben Bass) for a year, and doesn’t find out until she’s about to move in with him and he dumps her (pre-title sequence). Some detective, hey, something she herself points out as if the script hopes that the audience will give that stupidity a pass if it points it out itself.

Meanwhile, Angela Griffin (off that Coronation Street no less) stars as Detective Stevie Hall, a sharp quick-witted interrogator who is Jack’s mentor, who has to balance the demands of work and her complicated family life, as well as the arrival of her ex (of 15 years previously) David Cubbitt on the scene.

Lastly, Wendy Crewson (Frankie Drake Mysteries) plays the homicide unit’s boss, ‘who works overtime to secure justice, no matter what the cost’. You know, I’d quite like to have a cop show where everyone works regular hours for a change.

All of which is pretty dull to start with and only gets duller as we investigate our initial crime. Has a doctor murdered his wife, who appears to have committed suicide? He was having an affair with a nurse, after all.

Cue Grimes-Beech over-identifying with the nurse, getting overly involved in the case, Griffin warning her, Crewson telling her to stick to the rules, etc. That’s when she’s not abusing her police powers to track down Bass’s home and wife.

I mean, sure, it manages to integrate the relationships and the investigations better than Women’s Murder Club and its ‘magic Oprah door’. But ‘yawn’ all the same.

The Detail
Shenae Grimes-Beech as Jack Cooper and Angela Griffin as Stevie Hall in The Detail

No redemption

So what was the British name that leapt out at me and made me spare a second thought for The Detail, you might be wondering? Well, a fact little mentioned in all the publicity but mentioned in the titles is that despite the showrunner and show developer being Ley Lukins (Lost Girl, Rookie Blue, Saving Hope), the first episode is ‘based on a script by’ Sally Wainwright, who’s also a producer on the show.

‘Sally Wainwright’, hey? Pretty English, hey? That’s why it leapt out me. But someone who watches UK TV more than me, particularly female-centric police dramas, might have recognised her immediately as the creator of Happy Valley, Last Tango in Halifax and Scott & Bailey. Not inconsequential dramas – some, in fact, highly regarded.

On top of that, as well as in front of the camera with Griffin, look behind the camera and you’ll see vast hordes of top Brits, including noted producer and long-time Russell T Davies collaborator Nicola Shindler, who also worked with Wainwright on Happy Valley et al.

So how come, despite all this female talent and this being just the right #MeToo moment to launch a female-centric police procedural, The Detail is just so generic, so bland, so totally unremarkable and indistinguishable from all the shows that have gone before it?

Maybe they’ve used up all their ideas for the genre on the proceeding shows. Maybe it’s because Lukins’ previous shows were pretty generic, too, and her development of Wainwright’s script rendered it equally soporific. Maybe it’s because it’s CTV, which doesn’t have a stellar drama track record and something got lost in the translation. Maybe it’s because it’s Canadian TV, where sometimes people forget that while assembling a diverse cast is a good thing, you still need to equip them with decent scripts.

Or maybe it’s because female police procedurals are simply converging with male police procedurals – to become as dull as each other.

Whatever the reason, unless I plan on catching up on my sleep soon, I don’t think I’ll be paying attention to The Detail.

UPDATE: It turns out that it really is an adaptation of Scott & Bailey!