A Touch of Cloth is a British comedy series which spoofs dark, overwrought British Police Procedurals, created and written by Charlie Brooker and Daniel Maier for Sky1. The first two-parter was broadcast in August 2012, with two additional two-parts being broadcasted in 2013 and 2014. Imagine The Naked Gun or Airplane!, but instead aimed at dark crime dramas like Luther or Messiah (along with most crime shows on TV) and you are heading very much in the right direction. Very silly and very funny.
Detective Inspector Jack Cloth (John Hannah), who quit his profession after his wife was murdered, is called back in to investigate a series of grisly murders in the City of Town and is assigned a new partner, DC Anne Oldman (Suranne Jones). With their Chief Constable, Tom Boss (Julian Rhind-Tutt) breathing down their neck for an unrealistically quick resolution to the case, Cloth and Oldman uncover clues that imply that the case might be quite a bit more complicated than they first thought.
In the second series, Cloth goes undercover to uncover a criminal conspiracy involving the theft of a nuclear device and the charity telethon "Help a Blameless Child". The third series, centres around the murder of Cloth's brother, Terry, with Cloth eventually realizing that the culprit is closer to home than he first thought.
This work contains examples of the following, which it generally spoofs mercilessly:
- Abandoned Warehouse: Both Todd's hideout and the "eerie Stock Footage and prop warehouse".
- Action Girl: Anne when she chases down a suspect in the first series (though played for laughs).
- And This Is for...: Done by Macratty to Jack.Macratty: This one's for Tumbler. *POW* This one's for Bullock—
Tom Boss: Actually, you shot Bullock.
Macratty: Do you want me to shoot you again?
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:Asap: If they find out you're police, they'll shoot you in the head.
Cloth: So what?
Hairihan: Or cut your throat open and pull your tongue through the hole so it flops around like a necktie.
Cloth: Nothing I can't handle.
Asap: Or drive you to Swanage and just leave you there.
Cloth: I love Swanage!
- Audible Sharpness
- Audience Surrogate: Invoked. "Can you explain it like I'm some kind of viewer, guv?"
- Beard of Sorrow: Cloth's Perma-Stubble becomes a full-on Beard of Sorrow in the second series.
- Brick Joke:Jack Cloth: I haven't laughed since my wife died.
Anne Oldman: Why did you laugh when your wife died?
- Later, Jack is shown in a flashback holding his dead wife's body, and laughs at a recording of a Cymbal-Banging Monkey.
- Bury Your Gays: At the end of Season 2, Hope Goodgirl gets crushed to death, and Anne didn't have much of a happy ending either. Jack, on the other hand...
- Captain Obvious: In spades, especially from Asap. "Never been found dead before, so this is out of character".
- Cat Scare:
- In Series 1, there's a crime scene where Jack is startled by a cat...jumping out of a corpse.
- In Series 3, one of the soon-to-be-victims is startled by her own cat approaching her in a man's shoes.
- Chekhov's Gun: Towards the start of Series 2, before Jack even gets involved in the case, Tom Boss briefly mentions a pound of heroin that's gone missing from the police station. Jack is later seen giving it to Macratty to gain his trust, and when the obvious Plot Hole of how he obtained it is brought up, Jack insists that he doesn't need to follow the laws of continuity...and to prove it, his beard briefly disappears then reappears in the next shot.
- Clean Pretty Reliable:
- Oldman tries this on Cloth. He recovers instantly.
- Cloth does it to Tom Boss in the season 2 finale. Setting up the odd ending.
- Climbing Climax: At Dénouement Heights, no less.
- Comforting the Widow: Parodied. After Jack's wife died he had sex with The Coroner Natasha... with his wife's body laying next to them.
- The Coroner: Like many crime drama tropes, parodied. Natasha is a female coroner whose every line dialogue consists of her aggressively flirting with Jack Cloth, she has an incredibly dry sense of humor related to death, and at one point dissected a cat because she thought it would be amusing.
- Cowboy Cop: Invoked, and actually discussed by some bystanders as Cloth arrives at the crime scene.Youth 1: This guy looks uncompromising, innit?Youth 3: Looks like the type of guy don't trust his new partner yet.
- As seen in Series 2, Jack doesn't even obey the laws of continuity.
- Crucified Hero Shot: Tom Boss pulls a villainous version.
- Cymbal-Banging Monkey: Played for laughs with Jack Cloth's intentionally Narmy flashback to his wife's tragic death by murder, which has a random shot of a cymbal-banging monkey thrown in.
- Cypher Language: Spoofed with Upside-Down Writing. Thankfully Anne has the requisite training to decipher it.
- Darker and Edgier: Series 3, despite still being as zany as the rest of the show, has a more oppressive atmosphere to it. Partially due to things getting more personal to Jack.
- Dead Person Conversation: Jack's wife appears to give him guidance. And nag him about the state of the bathroom cabinet.
- Disposable Sex Worker: Katia.
- Disney Villain Death: Subverted by Boss not actually dying.
- Discriminate and Switch:
- Cloth asks a black kid on a bike where to find Crossbo, and the kid answers in what appears to be heavily accented, broken English: "Dat dere yute club." Then it turns out that the name of the place he directed Cloth to is literally "Datdere Yute Club". note
- Similarly, a discussion between a bunch of chavvy-looking thugs speaking in exaggerated inner-city tones touches on the excellence of Stephen Fry, QI, and harpsichord practice.
- Double Entendre: The show is absolutely bursting at the seams with them.Jack Cloth: Be warned, this is going to take every ounce of spunk you can muster, Des. If you come, I'll expect you to cover my back, and I mean completely cover it.Des Hairihan: Had yoghurt for breakfast, Guv.
- Dude, Not Funny!: In-universe, Boss has this reaction to the jury laughing at his hilariously innuendo-laden testimony.
- Dying Clue: Todd Carty writes Macratty's name in his own blood before dying, but ran out of room and had to scrunch the last few letters up. He also did some doodling and wrote "FIND JACK CLOTH" on a piece of cloth.
- Eagleland Osmosis: The detectives and most uniformed officers with the City of Town police all seem to carry sidearms, whereas in real life only specialist Authorised Firearms Officers (AFO's) can do so in the UK.
- Extreme Graphical Representation: Parodied when DC Asap Qureshi shows Jack and Anne a ridiculously graphical supercomputer hologram display in the computer lab, which he describes as "the most melodramatic operating system in the world".
- Faux Horrific: At a crime scene, both Oldman and Cloth nearly throw up when they see a framed photograph of Piers Morgan.
- Fan Disservice: A total snub to those hoping to see Suranne Jones in the nude. When Oldman gets out of bed in Series 2, her body double below the shoulders is a blatantly overweight and hairy man.
- Flashback: "I remember it like it were 'appenin' now... in flashback..."
- Flashback-Montage Realization: Parodied when DC Anne Oldman realizes that Chief Constable Tom Boss is the Serial Killer they're looking for. We get a series of flashbacks showing him asking her to make sure he's kept aware of all developments on the case, followed by two we haven't seen: one of him asking him to help lick the blood off his sword, and another of him flat-out telling her what he's doing and why. And then writing it on her hand.Oldman: I just didn't put it together until now!
- Further parodied in Series 2 when Jack Cloth realises that the "Big Man" that Michael Macratty is working for is also Chief Constable Boss, and a series of flashbacks occurs that once again ends in a clip we didn't see the first time. It's then subverted when Cloth learns that Boss is actually innocent this time, and the Big Man is actually Hope Goodgirl.
- When Tumbler discovers Jack meeting with Oldman when he is undercover, Jack tries to cover himself by saying "Its not what you think, I'm my twin brother!". In Season 3, it is revealed he does have a twin, Terry Cloth, who is killed in the pre titles opening sequence.
- When Jack and Anne are chased into the construction site by Tumbler, there's a danger sign warning of "Danger of death at end of scene". Guess what happens at the end of the scene?
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: All over the damn place. Even parodied: see Take That, Audience! below.
- Funny Background Event: Multitudes of silly sight gags and things things going on around the characters.
- Gag Penis
- We first see Jack Cloth passed out in bed, with the sheet propped up at least foot high by his erection.
- In a flashback, we see that Jack's comedic size is genetic. Kerry Newblood found out that she was his daughter, when his twin brother Terry saw her in jogging pants with a similar huge erection.
- Good-Guy Bar: The Copper Kettle.
- Gilligan Cut: "Then let's just cut to you driving the car!"
- Gratuitous Foreign Language: Boss is fond of this.
- Homage: It's no secret that Charlie Brooker is a fan of the original Police Squad!, and it shows.
- Hurricane of Puns: Especially "Cloth" puns."Touching, Cloth."
- Identifying the Body: Parodied. The parents of a murdered teenage girl go to visit their daughter's corpse in the morgue, with the usual uber-dramatic music and slow-mo crying. It turns out that the ethereal music is being performed by a choir boy and a keyboard player standing to the side. Then they suddenly shifts to Bow Chicka Wow Wow music, and unspeakable things happen.
- If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten!: To get Jack to prove he isn't a cop, Macratty gives him a gun and tells him to shoot Twitch. Jack pulls the trigger, but the gun isn't loaded. Macratty's is, however.
- I Like My X Like I Like My Y: "I like my men like I like my coffee. Bitter, and not half-eaten by cats".
- I Love the Dead: Played for laughs. In the requisite "parents visit their daughter's corpse" melodrama scene, the choir boy in the scene who's singing the somber piece suddenly switches to "Je T'Aime" as the father starts to do... things... with his daughter's body.
- Innocent Innuendo: Boss and his court testimony.
- Insane Troll Logic: The motivation for the serial killer is variously thought to be working his way through the Apostles, the Twelve Days of Christmas, hits of The '80s and favourite Mr. Men. A Freeze-Frame Bonus of The Big Board reveals they've already tried deadly sins, Shakespeare deaths, wonders of the world, books of The Bible, films of Cary Grant, egg dishes, Grand National winners, Martin Clunes vehicles, endangered species, plagues of Egypt and types of spoons.
- Insistent Terminology: Oldman always refers to the rest of the police force as "the boys down the station" (even while standing in said station).
- Karma Houdini: Assistant Chief Constable Tom Boss avoids a lengthy prison sentence and is able to resume work after brutally murdering members of a jury in the first season.ACC Tom Boss: "There was a full inquiry, I apologised, and I went on a rehabilitation course, so as far as everyone is concerned, that is the end of the matter."
- Killed Mid-Sentence: Macratty. Well...shot mid-sentence...it takes another 30 seconds or so before he actually kicks the bucket.
- Killer Cop: Tom Boss. Not your usual lowly detective or uniform officer, but the Assistant Chief Constable...
- Lampshaded Double Entendre: Dr. Natasha Sachet talks almost entirely in these. "This isn't the first time I've stood in this room holding a dripping pussy, is it, Jack?"
- Last Breath Bullet: Tom Boss, lying gravely wounded on the floor, manages to shoot Hope Goodgirl in the shoulder before she can kill Jack. He's then shot again by Macratty, but he gets better.
- Left the Background Music On: They like this gag. The first episode alone has the music during a chase scene performed by a local band, and the ethereal music during a scene where two distraught parents are brought in to see their daughter's corpse revealed to be sung by a choir boy accompanied by a keyboard player. Another time: "You are listening to Radio 3. And now, 'Requiem For An Unsuspecting Victim' ".
- Limited Advancement Opportunities: It turns out this is why Boss killed Cloth's wife, so that Cloth would fall off the wagon and wouldn't be promoted ahead of him.
- Line-of-Sight Alias: Unfortunately for Jack, he's in a scrap metal dealership, and as names for a undercover policeman go "Copper" is a pretty poor one. He gets away with it by insisting it be pronounced "Copére". When he gets Des to join him on the team later, he also chooses a painfully obvious one for an undercover cop; "Sargeant".
- Literal-Minded: When people aren't Breaking the Fourth Wall or Comically Missing the Point, they're this.Jack Cloth: I haven't laughed since my wife died.
Anne Oldman: Why did you laugh when your wife died?
- Happens again in the second season when Mike Macratty is going over the security movements for the museum heist.Mike Macratty: 20:04, bends down to pick up a discarded bag. Now that's when you come in.
Jack Cloth: We'll never fit into that bag.
- And again in the third season when Des and Kerry arrive at her flat after a date.Kerry Newblood: Normally I'd invite you upstairs, but...
Des Hairihan: It's alright, I understand. This car hasn't got an upstairs.
- Happens again in the second season when Mike Macratty is going over the security movements for the museum heist.
- Ludicrous Gibs: Hope Goodgirl explosively decompresses after being crushed by a rather lightweight falling pillar. This being A Touch of Cloth, the gibs truly are ludicrous.
- Also when Tumbler is killed.
- Making Love in All the Wrong Places: Spoofed when one of the jurors in Series 1 recalls the steamy sex she had with her lover at the jury room — right there on the desk in front of everyone.
- The Man Behind the Man: Macratty is in fact taking orders from a boss known as "the Big Man". It turns out to be Hope Goodgirl.
- Meaningful Echo: "Owls die."
- Medium Awareness: Every single character exhibits it, even minor characters.
- Meta Casting: John Hannah has played brooding detectives before, most notably John Rebus of Rebus. And Suranne Jones is better known as DS Rachel Bailey in the police procedural Scott & Bailey.
- "Mister Sandman" Sequence: Parodied when a woman who's being interrogated unveils information about the killer's background to the detectives for something that happened in 1996, but the screen actually shows a litany of pop culture, fashion, events, and people iconic to the 1980s much to the confusion of the cops. It turns out she was watching a nostalgia program on the telly during her flashback.
- Mr. Exposition: Asap's raison d'etre is to be the character that infodumps the details of the crime whenever Cloth arrives on the scene.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Aiden Hawkchurch, a foul mouthed celebrity chef who is murdered in the first season, is an obvious parody of Gordon Ramsay.
- No Communities Were Harmed:
- The series takes place in the City of Town and surrounding areas in the also fictitious county of Placefordshire.
- The bank that Macratty's gang rob in Season 2 is called "Banklays", an obvious parody of Barclays.
- No Fourth Wall: One character comments that they've been told to make their way to a crime scene during the ad break. They don't entirely know what that means. We then go to an ad break.
- Noodle Incident: Amongst others, the other four times when Cloth's action resulted in the deaths of everyone in an entire building.
- Nordic Noir: What the busload of Danish tourists in the Funtcuck pub are said to be visiting the UK to get away from. Of course it doesn't go well when DI Cloth enters and causes a scene, throwing people to the ground and eventually drawing his sidearm.
- Normally, I Would Be Dead Now: Tom Boss gets shot twice by Macratty, then three more times. He lives, while other characters are killed with a single bullet.
- Obviously Evil: Played with in Flashback with Boss asking Oldman to help lick the blood off his sword and explaining the motive for his killing spree.
- Offscreen Teleportation: Spoofed when Jack Cloth is working undercover and the boss of the criminal operation calls him up to get over there and explain himself. Cloth says that he'll "be there right away", then immediately walks through the door when the shot switches locations again.
- One-Woman Wail: In "Undercover Cloth" as Todd Carty is shot during the bank robbery.
- On the Next: Parodied. The "next episode" montages feature completely non-existent plots. For instance, the one for the third series had an Alien Invasion and ghost banshees (in a show that spoofs gritty cop dramas).
- Parrot Exposition: Most gratuitously with Hairihan endlessly repeating himself when talking over the phone about what type of weapon the killer is using. Includes heavy-handed Lampshading - "They were going to have a scene explaining this but it got cut" - and looking straight at the audience when asking "Have you got that?" at the end of his recap.
- Perma-Stubble: Despite constantly shaving, Cloth always has stubble.
- Perp Sweating: Of the feed-the-blood-of-the-victim-to-the-suspect variety.
- Pocket Protector: Cloth's portable electric razor.#
- Police Are Useless: After realising the police department is compromised, Jack and Anne rush to the safehouse to evacuate the jurors before they are killed. However they end up arriving too late, as they stopped at Nandos on the way there.
- Police Brutality: Apparently they were able to raise money for charity through a Sponsored Brutalithon.Tom Boss: We threw a suspect down the stairs for seven hours.
- Psycho Lesbian: Hope Goodgirl.
- Punny Name: Pretty much every character in the show. Especially Cloth, Oldman, and Boss is often used to set up puns.
- Pun-Based Title: A parody of A Touch of Frost that alludes to "touching cloth", a euphemism for desperately needing a toilet, to the point of almost soiling oneself.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Parodied in Touch of Cloth III when Jack gives Oldman a deconstructing speech until he's literally just frothing spit in her face.
- Redemption in the Rain: Combined with a Rousing Speech as spoken by Captain Obvious which results in Cloth Firing in the Air a Lot.
- Red Herring:
- In the Season 2 finale, Tom Boss is set up as the "Big Man", complete with flashbacks á la Season 1...turns out he really was just looking for the toilet.
- In the Season 3 finale it is strongly suggested that DC Asap Qureshi is the killer, as he is seen putting on the same biker gear the culprit is seen wearing. It is later revealed to simply be his uniform for his second job: delivering pizzas on a motorbike.
- Revealing Continuity Lapse: Parodied in series 2 when a supporting character points out a Plot Hole, namely that there was no reason for Cloth to have stolen the pound of heroin from the evidence room when he didn't even know at that point that he would need it later. Cloth rants that he doesn't obey any laws, including the laws of continuity, and grows and ungrows a full beard in between shots to prove his point.
- Rhetorical Question Blunder: At the first murder scene:Cloth: (to a dead body) What happened to you, Albert Stafford?
Anne: He can't tell you. He's dead, sir.
- Hilariously subverted in Season 2:Anne: They shot Todd, too.
Cloth: Don't tell me he's dead?! [beat] Is he dead?
[Anne nods sadly]
Cloth: Argh! I said don't tell me!
- Hilariously subverted in Season 2:
- Rhymes on a Dime: Jemima Symes, Rhyming Times:Jemima Symes: Were the victims gored, with a type of sword?
Jack Cloth: Well, that's one line of enquiry... which you can put in your diary.
- Rule of Funny: The entirety of this.
- Running Gag:
- Oldman's ringtones are all lesbian-related songs and/or performed by lesbian artists, like "I Kissed a Girl", "Constant Craving", and "All the Things She Said".
- "Guv? I think you might want to see this..." [Cue the cops looking at something like a woman undressing in front of a window or a pile of porn mags in the corner of the room] "Keep looking."
- Cloth has a once per-episode habit of dramatically ramming his gun into his neck and threatening to kill himself, usually due to some mundane revelation or other. This is extensively lampshaded in Season 3, when it's revealed that he's passed the habit on to his daughter, amongst other people.
- Oldman constantly refers to other officers as "the boys down the station". Even when she's in the station.
- Various cops retching after seeing a photo of Piers Morgan.
- Tom Boss dressing down Cloth, Cloth interjecting, and Boss repeating the last sentence, followed by "Cloth." Invariably the end of the statement and "cloth" form a phrase like "table cloth" or "cheese cloth". (Boss occasionally changes it up with "Jack" instead, with exactly the same results.)
- Series Continuity Error: A deliberate one, at that. The pound of heroin that Jack uses to gain Macratty's trust went missing from the vice squad tuck shop before Jack was ever involved in the case, so him having it, as Asap points out, violates all rules of continuity. Jack promptly rants that he doesn't obey laws, not even the laws of continuity...and to prove it, his beard briefly disappears then reappears when the camera angle changes.
- She-Fu: Anne has this in spades.
- Shout-Out: The ice-cream van that plays the theme tune to The Sweeney.
- Source Music: Averted; the tense drumbeats during a chase scene are actually provided by a handy percussion group who happen to be nearby. They even take dramatic pauses at suspiciously apropos moments.
- Take Me Instead: Jack says this after Katia dies.
- Take That!: In the first episode Anne is fine at a comically violent murder scene, but starts retching immediately after seeing a photo of Piers Morgan.
- Take That, Audience!: A brief shot of a hospital sign reveals a ward for "Pause Button OCD".
- Another one in Season 2: a poster in the police station that reads, "Keep Watching and Stop Pausing".
- There Is No Kill like Overkill: Throughout the second part of Season 2. First Tumbler is crushed by a bulldozer, then Twitch is shot twelve times by Macratty, then to top it all off, Hope Goodgirl is crushed by a falling piece of the telethon set and explodes into Ludicrous Gibs.
- Token Minority: DC Asap Qureshi
- Unresolved Sexual Tension: Cloth and Oldman are seen holding a case file called "Sexual Tension". It's stamped "Unresolved".
- Viewers Are Geniuses: Boss refers to a suspect that he insists on having locked up "as innocent as Derek Bentley". Bentley, one of the last people to be hanged in the United Kingdom, was famously convicted under "Joint Enterprise" for the murder of a police officer since the person who actually pulled the trigger was a minor and therefore couldn't be punished.
- Visual Pun: Whenever Des says "You might want to take a look at this" in a serious tone, he is usually just looking at something sexual and completely unrelated to the investigation.
- Voiceover Letter: Parodied/subverted when Anne comes home to find a letter written by her girlfriend telling her that she's leaving because Anne is always so focused on work. Turns out she was simply standing offscreen.
- Vomiting Cop: Although the gagging is due to pictures of Piers Morgan. This is a Shout-Out to a very similar gag in Police Squad!.
- Walk and Talk: Spoofed in A Touch Of Cloth III where a sequence of walking-and-talking is constantly lampshaded by the characters as only being to make this fairly boring Exposition scene look more exciting and they aren't actually going anywhere. Also, as they walk through the police station, it actually loops. In a later scene, posters on the walls even display images fitting what they're talking about as they go past them.
- Watching Cloth approach the scene of the crime, bystanders comment that they bet "he'll do a little skip", and Cloth does. In the DVD Extras, it's pointed out that this sometimes happens in walk-and-talks as a result of actors realising they've more ground to cover in order to hit their mark than they have dialogue to cover the walking.
- Waxing Lyrical: This exchange, consisting of Neil Young lyrics:Cloth: Oldman, look at my life!
Oldman: I'm a lot like you were!
- Who Murdered the Asshole: Parodied with the first episode's second murder victim, 'sushi despot' Aiden Hawkchurch. This walking turd was so despised that his featured magazine covers had headlines like "Enemymaker" and "Someone kill him already!". Even random radio broadcasters celebrate his death right after the protagonists muse that there must be a million suspects.
- Who's on First?: Relentlessly, with Anne Oldman and the murder victim, an old man.
- World of Pun: For beginners, or those reading this page upside downnote , lots of fun is had with Cloth and Oldman's last names.
- Would Hurt a Child: In the spoof "Next episode..." segment, we see Cloth attempting to strangle Arthur Killer... a 10-year-old serial killer.