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Series / Between the Lines

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Between the Lines was a Police Procedural shown by The BBC in 1992-1994. It was created by writer J C Wilsher and Executive Producer Tony Garnett. Almost uniquely among TV police series, it was a sympathetic depiction of the Complaints Investigation Bureau, the Metropolitan Police's Internal Affairs section, accepting the necessity for investigation into police corruption and brutality while retaining some cynicism about the motivation and effectiveness of it.

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The first of the three seasons began with the central character Chief Inspector Tony Clark being press-ganged into CIB as part of an investigation into corruption at the police station where he was based, and meeting his subordinates Mo Connell and Harry Naylor and boss John Deakin. A series of Mystery of the Week episodes also have elements dealing with a Story Arc involving a gangland murder that exposes large-scale corruption. A number of high-ranking officers are suspected but it turns out that the main Big Bad is in fact Deakin himself.

The second series shows Clark's and Naylor's careers both running into trouble as they investigate a series of loosely-linked cases that share the theme of the dubious overlap between the police and more secretive and sinister state security services. It ends with Clark and Naylor both sacked by the police and unwillingly joining up again with Deakin, who is now working as a private detective.

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The final series, subsequently lamented by executive producer Tony Garnett as an example of Franchise Zombie-ism, made a Genre Shift into political thriller territory, and ended with Clark and Naylor apparently being killed in an explosion while trying to stop an arms deal between Ulster Loyalist paramilitaries and European neo-Nazi extremists.

The show won the 1994 BAFTA award for Best Drama Series.

See also the show's 2010s Spiritual Successor, Line of Duty.

(For the webcomic about transgender teens, see Between the Lines. For the Black Comedy newspaper strip, see Between the Lines.)

And we are sorry if you made the horrible mistake of confusing this with Between the Lions.


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This show provides examples of:

  • The Big Board: Complete with red tape connecting up the network of corruption
  • Black and Grey Morality: Pretty heavily.
  • Broken Pedestal
  • The Casanova: Clark
  • Domestic Abuse: A memorable episode in the second season has a cop who murders his wife and uses his knowledge of the law and police procedure to get away with a manslaughter charge.
  • Downer Ending: Many of the individual episodes in the second and third seasons, and the show as a whole.
  • Driven to Suicide
  • Fair Cop: Jenny Dean in the first season, and Clark himself became famously popular with the female viewers.
  • Fanservice: So many sex scenes that it picked up the Fan Nickname of Between The Sheets.
  • Got Volunteered: The end of the first episode reveals where Clark is being promoted to; CIB, to his horror. It's pointed out that if he had wanted the job, it would make him unsuitable to do it (because every Dirty Cop would have an interest in being inside the bureau).
  • He Knows Too Much: Jenny Dean
  • Innocent Swearing: In a possibly-unintentional moment of humour, at one point a bad guy collides with a group of schoolchildren, one of whom is clearly heard to shout "You dirty bastard".
  • Internal Affairs: The whole point of the show is to present Internal Affairs' (or rather CIB's) side of the story, in contrast to the loathing and contempt with which even relatively morally ambiguous cop shows usually portray them.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Deconstructed. In the first season Clark meets and has an affair with one of these, only for her to stab him in the back to get a story.
  • Old-Fashioned Copper: Harry. Many episodes suggest that if he wasn't in CIB he'd be on the other end of an investigation.
  • Police Brutality: A common subject of the episodes, with an attempt to understand why it sometimes happens without condoning it.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Many of the cases-of-the-week. Also the subplot about Mo dating a woman senior police officer was heavily influenced by the much-reported real life case of a woman senior police officer who sued her force for sex discrimination and was falsely rumoured (probably a deliberate smear by her enemies) to be gay.
  • Shoot Him! He Has a... Wallet: One of the first season episodes involves an investigation into a bad shooting where an electric drill was mistaken for a pistol.
  • Smug Snake: Clarke's rival Inspector Graves.
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