A murder is committed in a Blackpool games arcade, and the resulting investigation will tear apart the lives of everyone involved — Ripley Holden (David Morrissey), the bullying, luck-obsessed arcade owner; his shy, insecure trophy wife Natalie (Sarah Parish); the manipulative but charming and sweet-natured investigating detective Peter Carlisle (David Tennant), and Ripley and Natalie's children, the self-destructive and awkward Danny (Thomas Morrison) and spoilt daddy's girl Shyanne (Georgia Taylor). Ripley finds his life gradually self-destructing under the pressure of the investigation, his failing plans to transform Blackpool into a Las Vegas-style gambling mecca, and his daughter's fiance, an old face from his past whose renewed presence in his life awakens long-forgotten demons, whilst his nemesis Carlisle, who has taken an instant dislike to Ripley, finds his plans to secure Ripley's guilt in the murder scuttled when he finds himself falling desperately in love with Natalie.
Sound like an average crime drama? Think again. Not only does Blackpool contain more than a little bit of dark humour and Character Development and complexity, but it's also a Musical; the characters will often spontaneously break into surreal song and dance routines, singing along to the (actual) pop songs that form the soundtrack of the series and reflect the feelings of the characters and events that are occurring on screen; for example, a drug dealer is arrested in a dance routine choreographed to 'The Boy With The Thorn In His Side' by The Smiths.
The original series was broadcast on The BBC in 2004, with a one-off sequel, Viva Blackpool!, shown in 2006 (Viva Blackpool was also the title given to the original series on it's broadcast in the United States).
This show provides examples of:
- Accidental Murder: The crime turns out to be this. Danny merely intervened when the victim was beating up a prostitute and hit him, which resulted in his death.
- Anti-Hero: Both Ripley and Carlisle:
- Ripley initially seems like an unrepentant, corrupt asshole, but he genuinely loves his family and community and most of what he does is for their benefit. He's also entirely innocent of the violent crimes of which he is accused, though certainly not innocent overall.
- Carlisle is charming and likeable, and nominally on the side of the law, although he becomes increasingly fixated on and comfortable with setting up Ripley the deeper he falls in love with Natalie.
- Asshole Victim: The murder victim was cheating on his fiancee while on his stag weekend, and also liked to gamble. He also liked to fight men and hit women. He was beating up a prostitute when Danny intervened and accidentally killed him.
- Big Eater: D.I. Carlisle, unless he's heartbroken at the time. The look of absolute shock on D.C. Blythe's face when Carlisle refuses a doughnut says it all.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Both Ripley and Carlisle possess one of these; Ripley's involves an abusive religious fundamentalist family and suicide attempts, while Carlisle is implied to have had a wild and anti-social childhood before joining the police gave him some structure and purpose in his life.
- Daydream Surprise: An entire musical number, in which Carlisle and Natalie have sexy fun times to the tune of "I Second That Emotion", is revealed to be happening entirely in his head.
- Defective Detective: Carlisle is big eater and a slob with discipline issues. In something of a deconstruction, he isn't even a very good detective — he spends the entire series pursuing the wrong man, and never does figure out who really did it.
- Frame-Up: Carlisle threatens to do this to D.C. Blythe if he doesn't cooperate.
- Framing the Guilty Party: Carlisle tries to do this to Ripley through Hallworth (the protester). Turns out to be a subversion, considering Ripley was actually innocent.
- Grey-and-Grey Morality: Very much so. Ripley Holden, initially a violent, vulgar bully, turns out to be a vulgar bully who hasn't committed any of the violent crimes he's been accused of, and who genuinely loves his family and does what's best for them. Carlisle, on the other hand, tries to do some very questionable things.
- Hypocritical Humour: Ripley reacts very poorly to learning of Natalie's infidelity. When he's sulking about it in the wedding car on the way to Shyanne's wedding, she points out that it's not like he's been able to keep his dick in his pants much since they were married.
- I Kiss Your Foot: Carlisle does this to Natalie on a date. The gesture would seem more romantic if someone didn't put nearly everything in his mouth.
- Inspector Javert: Carlisle becomes increasingly more desperate to prove that Ripley is guilty as the series progresses, even though he is innocent. In the end, Ripley points out that any evidence he provides is now inadmissible, as a result of him sleeping with the suspect's wife.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Ripley decides not to obstruct Natalie's relationship with Carlisle in the end, for this reason.
- Love Makes You Evil: Carlisle has a mild case of this; falling in love with Natalie just makes him more determined to do whatever it takes to bring down her husband.
- Musical World Hypotheses: Given that the musical numbers are surrounded by a gritty police drama, Blackpool, seem to fit with the 'Adaptation Hypothesis' best.
- Oral Fixation: Carlisle and his eating habits
- Parental Marriage Veto: Ripley does not like the fact that his daughter is in love with a schoolmate of his.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: Several times, but the final number of Part 5 revolving around Ripley having a breakdown and setting the flats on fire set to Mary Hopkin's "Knock Knock, Who's There?" is a particularly stunning example.
- Taking the Heat: Danny goes to the police and confesses to the murder, but they don't take long to figure out that he's only confessing to protect his father and let him go with a warning about wasting police time. At the end, after Ripley learns that Danny really did kill the victim, by accident, he takes the heat himself by choosing to let Carlisle go on thinking he did it.
- Visual Pun: In the beginning of the second episode, Natalie sings "You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em" while folding some towels.