CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: These young coppers do make me feel old but they’re doing a fine job
Night Coppers (C4)
A Taste Of The Country (C5)
This is a plot. It’s a conspiracy to make us all feel ancient. Everyone knows it’s a sign of age when bobbies start looking younger, so Brighton police are recruiting adolescents.
PC Matt on Night Coppers (C4) looks just about ready to do his GCSEs. His patrol car partner PC Will, with a wisp of beard on his chin, might be his big brother, about to start at uni.
In fact, Will is 22, and has been an officer for more than two years. That makes me feel so superannuated, I imagine Chelsea Pensioners will soon be standing up to offer me a seat on the Tube.
PC Sophie said: ‘It’s not too dissimilar from babysitting,’ in Night Coppers
Matt is 20 but has completed basic training — he did it over Zoom, during the pandemic.
‘He’s so young, he doesn’t know what a DVD player is,’ says his colleague PC Steve, who’s in his 30s. That’s probably old enough for retirement in today’s force.
Even retired police are deceptively youthful, as PC Will discovered when he stopped a middle-aged woman driver to breathalyse her. She said she was pulling over to let him pass. He said she was swerving erratically.
The first inkling that this wasn’t a soft-haired church lady on her way home from the knitting circle came when PC Will asked her to wait in his car while the breath test was prepared. The woman remarked calmly that this wasn’t necessary. While Will was looking flummoxed, she added that she used to be in the police herself. For 30 years.
In fact, she’d just retired as a Detective Inspector in the Safeguarding Investigations Unit [SIU].
PC Will’s prime suspect was the real-life version of Jane Tennison, Helen Mirren’s character in Prime Suspect.
‘That was awkward,’ he muttered, as he sent her on his way. Ah well, with a bit more experience, he’ll learn to spot an old copper at a glance.
At 26, PC Sophie is already a veteran. She’s developed a technique for calming down Friday night drunks at chucking out time: she listens to them brag.
She laughs at his jokes, he tells her how his mates reckon he’s a legend, and within a couple of minutes he’s forgotten all about wanting to hit someone.
PC Sophie might think she’s invented the trick, but sadly wives have been doing this with drunken husbands for centuries. ‘It’s not too dissimilar from babysitting,’ she said.
But make no mistake, these young officers are doing a tough job. Some adrenaline charged call-outs mirrored scenes in The Responder, Martin Freeman’s BBC1 drama about a patrolling copper on night duty.
Like his character, they’re mostly coping with crime rather than preventing it. A few of the incidents we saw in this first episode did end in an arrest, but none led to prosecution.
Former Chef Julius has a smallholding in Dorset
Farmers are looking younger all the time, too, if former chef Julius Roberts and his brothers are any indication, in A Taste Of The Country (C5).
This half-hour series mixes rural dishes and tales from life on Julius’s smallholding in Dorset. Aged 25, he has a small flock of sheep and a distressingly offhand attitude to tradition.
It didn’t seem to bother him that, after shearing, he had little use for the fleeces: ‘These days, wool has little to no financial value,’ he grinned.
Julius was proud of the dinner party diaries left to him by his late grandmother, recording her favourite recipes.
He showed us a photo of her and told us she was ‘a really special lady’, but didn’t think to mention her name. She was just ‘Granny’.
The very young tend to forget that older generations are real people, too.
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