A Touch of Cloth

Is Charlie Brooker’s new two-part detective spoof a touch too much?

Having become somewhat of a household name with his pessimistic sneering outlook on television, video games and various other facets of pop culture, Charlie Brooker now puts the British detective drama into his satirical crosshairs with A Touch of Cloth. This two-parter quasi-spoof is actually based on a story by Messiah author Boris Starling but don’t let that fool you, as all those memories of detective dramas your mum watched after Corrie will come flooding back in a TV show that has more in common with Police Squad! than with Taggart.

John Hannah stars as DCI Jack Cloth, a detective who has sought solace from the bottom of a bottle ever since the unresolved murder of his wife. Paired up with a new partner, DC Anne Oldman (Suranne Jones) and forced to work a seemingly open-and-shut case by his superior, ACC Tom Boss, in order to help the murder stats, Cloth finds himself reopening an old case that was supposedly solved almost twenty years ago.

The show is filled with all the old cliches you’d expect from a police drama. From the tough-as-boots boss demanding quick results instead of thorough police work to the difficult love lives of the main characters, and even a flutter of romance between the two main characters, no detective drama is spared from parody. The gags range from subtle homages to detective shows such as Taggart, A Touch of Frost and even The Wire, to all out silliness much more in line with Police Squad. Some of these are slightly overused and by the second episode, there are times you just wish they’d let it go (such as the “Oldman/Old Man” gag anytime the character is introduced). However, with plenty of source material under scrutiny the puns do come thick and fast, with even some of the more suspenseful moments resulting in a laugh, rather than a revelation, particularly the “You might want to have a look at this guv,” moments from DC Des Hairihan (Adrian Bower), as well as the sudden inclusion of ex-Eastender Todd Carty.

Surprisingly, the show maintains its thriller quality in spite of all the gags and there are plenty of red herrings during the first episode to have the audience guessing until the end. The second episode severely narrows down the list of suspects to the point where the big reveal is pretty obvious long before the end, but with violent murders and bloody crime scenes, it’s good to see that the core of what makes a detective drama isn’t lost.

A Touch of Cloth isn’t as clever as your typical Charlie Brooker affair. Fans of Dead Set or Black Mirror will probably find themselves wincing in horror at some of the bad puns that crop up throughout the first episode. However, take the show for what it is, a parody of your Taggart, Morse and Frost detective shows and by the end of the two-parter you’ll understand that buried beneath all that cynicism, that Charlie Brooker is a prankster at heart and A Touch of Cloth is actually a bit of relief, from the usual politically charged, morally outraged television output that made the misanthropic journalist famous to begin with.

Leigh Forgie

Updated: Sep 09, 2012

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