No Offence review – like having Paul Abbott hurl body parts at you

You might not have much idea what’s going on in the return of this blackly comic Manchester cop drama, but you’ll have a good time anyway

A funeral, at a crematorium, with a big police presence, headed by DI Viv Deering (Joanna Scanlan). Because the lad who died was son of Nora Attah (Rakie Ayola), matriarch of one of Manchester’s most feared criminal families. Dad is here too, a convicted murderer, no longer married to Nora …

BOOM! Uh-oh, big explosion, in the middle of Amazing Grace. Possibly a gas explosion, more likely a bomb. And Dad’s no longer here, he’s got a Clean It Up no pooing (if you’re a dog) sign buried in his skull. And Nora, who was cuffed to her now-deceased ex for the service, breaks his hand in order to get free. She’s well hard, Mrs Attah.

As is DI Viv. At the station (with all the green tiles, the most unlike-a-police-station police station on television), she’s showering off the debris, and giving herself a thorough from-the-front down-there towelling in front of a new colleague, before getting busy with the case. Good, strong, no-nonsense female characters, as you’d expect from Paul Abbott who created No Offence (Channel 4).

Back at the bomb site and there are bits of person all over the place. Well, in the crater mainly, but these are not people who were killed by the blast. They were buried there already. I know, buried at a crematorium, ironic huh? Randolph Miller (Paul Ritter), the bipolar forensics dude, is excited about trying to put the bits back together.

Ah, and here is the head of Herbie Attah, whose cremation it was, in a bucket. So he wasn’t in the coffin after all, it was just sandbags of approximately Herbie’s weight. The bomb was inside Herbie, meant to go off in the chapel, killing everyone there. But the mother and son crematorium owners have been interring their clients instead of baking them because they are having problems with their gas bills. Have they looked into switching providers, I wonder? I hear it is very easy and quick to do. Oh, they did have the money, only the son blew it on fat prostitutes, according to Mum.

But that, and they, are a sideshow, to the main event. Because there is an actual plot of sorts, slowly emerging from the smoke, the dust. Turf war, rival Manchester gangs, killing each other. I think. I am not going to lie, I was bloody confused a lot of the time, and I did actually check that this really was the first episode of the (second) series, and that I had not missed one that would make things clearer.

It doesn’t really matter, though. I may not have much idea what is going on, but I am having a good time. It’s like being in the stocks and having Abbott hurl stuff at you, on fast forward so there is barely room to breathe, or think, between hits. Body parts, decomposing ones, rude ones, bam, bam, bam. Toilets, mental health, comedy racial stereotypes, go on then. And glorious lines, mainly from Viv: “Don’t kick off but your son’s not much more than a smoothie”, or, “That’ll be faith in my own judgment running down my legs.”

She is a brilliant creation, rude as eff and in your face, but also warm and human, and adored by her team of under-resourced crime-stoppers. Rude and warm, it is a lovely combination.

Here is another head that looks as if it might have something to do with No Offence, but actually it is part of Italy’s Invisible Cities (BBC 1) ... “Some time you find a skeleton with the top of the skull missing, because the heat is so intense that the brain boils and blows the skull apart,” says Professor Andrew Wallace, unable to hide his glee. He is talking about Vesuvius, because the Italian city in this first one is Naples and its surroundings (right now we are in Herculaneum).

“There’s a detail, wow,” says one of the presenters, Alexander Armstrong, I think impressed but trying to show some respect for the poor man or woman, even if they did die nearly 2,000 years ago. Xander and his subterranean exploration partner Dr Michael Scott are delving into the extraordinary and fascinating tunnels – Roman aqueducts, quarries, Bourbon escape routes, the beginnings of a more recent metro that never got finished – which criss-cross under the city, full of ghosts and stories and abandoned scooters. Then techy people flood them with cutting-edge technology – scans and cams, and CGI – to make a 3D map. Of the city’s intestines.

There is something of forensic pathology about it. Except that it’s not a postmortem but a pre-one. Because, up above, Naples is very much alive.


Sam Wollaston

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Vienna Blood review – so much like Sherlock it seems like a spoof
This fin de siècle murder mystery about a maverick detective and his doctor sidekick is laughably Holmesian – but enjoyably absurd

Emine Saner

18, Nov, 2019 @10:30 PM

Article image
Marcella review – Anna Friel thriller doesn't shock like it used to
ITV’s troubled, amnesiac detective is back – deep undercover in Belfast – but the credulity-stretching twists are just too much this time around

Rebecca Nicholson

26, Jan, 2021 @10:55 PM

Article image
Alex review – a pitch-black thriller with a hero so dark it’s hard not to like him
Channel 4’s Scandi noir offering is fairly standard fare, but at its heart is a gripping portrayal of a very bad cop in an impossible bind

Tim Dowling

26, Sep, 2018 @11:05 PM

Article image
Strike: The Silkworm review – necrophilia, cannibalism and literary London
A warm welcome for the return of Robert Galbraith’s lugubrious gumshoe Cormoran Strike, investigating the murder of a failing novelist

Sam Wollaston

11, Sep, 2017 @6:00 AM

Article image
Strike: Lethal White review – daft, dark hokum from JK Rowling
Believability is not the strongest element of the latest adaptation of the author’s private detective series – but when has that ever been a prerequisite of TV crimefighters?

Stuart Jeffries

30, Aug, 2020 @9:00 PM

Article image
Baptiste series two review – a heartstopping whodunnit with The Missing sleuth
Baptiste is back, but can the grieving detective get his mojo back – and get to the bottom of who kidnapped Fiona Shaw’s family in Budapest?

Stuart Jeffries

18, Jul, 2021 @9:00 PM

Article image
Deliver Us review – Danish noir ponders getting away with murder
Would you ever take the law into your own hands? This pleasingly knotty crime drama transcends its small-town setting in asking that question

Rebecca Nicholson

08, Feb, 2021 @6:00 AM

Article image
Barry review – A perfect storm of horror and hilarity as Bill Hader's hitman turns actor
This new show has great actors, convincing characters and plotlines that weave together an unlikely combination of violent crime and comedy

Sam Wollaston

26, Apr, 2018 @10:25 PM

Article image
The Missing review – a reboot with more than one way to keep you lying awake
James Nesbitt may be absent from this series, but Baptiste is back, alongside Keeley Hawes, David Morrissey and trauma across three puzzling time frames

Sam Wollaston

13, Oct, 2016 @6:00 AM

Article image
Broadchurch review: a new case – and new life – for the crime drama
It’s a return to form for the third and final series, as Olivia Colman and David Tennant are joined by Corrie’s Julie Hesmondhalgh. Plus: what really goes on in the House of Lords?

Sam Wollaston

28, Feb, 2017 @7:20 AM