New BBC drama about a corrupt detective trying to go straight

Bad cop, good cop? If you like Line Of Duty, you’ll love new BBC drama Better, about a corrupt detective trying to go straight

  • New BBC police drama Better follows Detective Inspector Lou Stack 
  • READ MORE: Happy Valley’s James Norton admits he has empathy for ‘incredibly damaged’ Tommy Lee Royce while 1 in 5 fans confess they ‘pity’ the villain 

Corrupt coppers tend to get their comeuppance in TV dramas, not least on Line Of Duty, where a steady stream of them have come to a violently sticky end. They’ve also hit the headlines in real life recently, with the new Met Police commissioner Sir Mark Rowley making it his priority to root out the bad apples in the force. 

So Detective Inspector Lou Slack is a breath of fresh air in BBC1’s fast-paced and timely new five-part drama Better – a bent copper who embarks on the bumpy path to redemption. 

To the public and her colleagues on the mean streets of Leeds, Lou (Leila Farzad) is a brilliant policewoman who’s risen effortlessly through the ranks over the past 20 years. But there’s a dark side to her life, reveals Leila, best known to viewers as Suzie Pickles’s manager Naomi in Billie Piper’s I Hate Suzie. 

‘Lou is in the pay of drugs baron Col McHugh,’ she explains. ‘He feeds her information which boosts her career, and she makes sure his criminal activities go unhindered. 

New police drama Better follows Detective Inspector Lou Stack (Leila Farzad) who is a bent copper embarking on the bumpy path to redemption

‘She has normalised her behaviour, she thinks it’s for the greater good. It’s certainly improved the lives of her and her family, who were living in impoverished circumstances when she struck up a relationship with McHugh years ago after her husband’s business ran into trouble.’ 

It’s when her teenage son Owen is struck down with meningitis, and there’s a very real possibility he might die, that Lou starts to re-assess her life. ‘He’s terribly ill in hospital, and she has a moment in the prayer room there when she believes her son’s illness is her punishment for being corrupt. 

‘She says to herself then that she’s prepared to do anything to save him. When Owen starts to recover, it convinces her that she needs to start pulling away from McHugh.’ 

But can she escape the clutches of such a powerful influence, or is it a case of once a bent copper always a bent copper… and what will McHugh do to thwart her plans? 

He’s played by Broadchurch star Andrew Buchan, who’s focused on playing real-life people more recently. He portrayed Andrew Parker Bowles in The Crown and then Matt Hancock in Sky’s Covid drama This England. 

And in a strange kind of way, he says, he’s bringing another real-life character to the screen in Better. 

‘I was in a pub with a friend not long before the audition,’ he recalls. ‘This guy came in, smartly dressed, very smiley and confident, oozing charm and power, and he sat at the same table as us. 

Leila Farzad as Lou and Andrew Buchan as Col. The show is the brainchild of Jonathan Brackley and Sam Vincent, who wrote episodes of Spooks and the hit Channel 4 series Humans about rebellious robots

‘I thought, “He’s obviously someone.” Then another guy joined the table and we all ended up having drinks. 

‘When the first man left, the second one said, “You do realise who that was? He’s the head of such-and-such crime family.” 

‘So when I met the director of Better at the audition I said I didn’t think I could play Col as a hard-edged thug, but I could play the man I met in the pub – charming but clearly ruthless!’ 

The show is the brainchild of Jonathan Brackley and Sam Vincent, who wrote episodes of Spooks and the hit Channel 4 series Humans about rebellious robots. To research their subject, they had discreet meetings with former police officers who’d witnessed corrupt behaviour within the force. 

‘They provided us with anecdotes about what they’d seen, which was extremely useful background for us, although nothing they told us matched what Lou Slack does,’ says Sam. ‘Her conduct is specific to our drama.’ 

Leila hopes viewers will have some level of sympathy for Lou, but admits she’s flawed. So flawed in fact that Leila’s research focused on iconic policewomen with traits that make them far from perfect. 

‘Helen Mirren as Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect was one – a great detective but a terrible alcoholic,’ she says. 

‘Catherine Cawood in Happy Valley is another. A brilliant cop, yet she allows too much of her personal agenda into her work.’ 

But she insists Lou is very much her own woman, rather than a pale imitation of female policewomen who have gone before her. ‘Whether she can extricate herself from the situation she finds herself in, though, only time will tell.’

  • Better, Monday, 9pm, BBC1; all episodes on BBC iPlayer 

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