Yesterday, if you asked me to name something starring Idris Elba that I was excited about, I'd have said Legacy. I don't really watch that much TV, and with the exception of the truly superlative (The Wire, The Shield, the new Battlestar Galactica - all shows that have ended, by the way) or the competently silly (Ugly Betty, Primeval) there's not really much on that I even like that much. So: the Beeb's new crime drama Luther. I watch it for Elba, and I'm already planning out in my head a negative review about how I wanted to like it, but...
So first of all, I see a lot of TV shows that try really hard to be cinematic and flashy and good looking. And pretty much all of them fail, and look all the worse for even trying. Except Luther, which, while it did occasionally manhandle me with the odd jump cut, is consistently beautiful, with wonderfully evocative photography of London streets.
Right, score one for Luther. Pretty. That's a plus. But none too bright, maybe? Well, maybe a bit. The plotting isn't as drum-tight as in, say, The Shield, but it works, and it does at least feed into its real strength: its characterisation, and its acting - especially Elba as the unstable, violent, brilliant, vulnerable and eponymous lead. In places where I wanted to doubt the show, Elba damn-well made me suspend my disbelief with his strong performance.
And when I wasn't doubting it, Luther felt fresh and dynamic. I was worried that this was going to be a formulaic detective show, firmly retreading old ground, a safe vehicle for its star, but it's actually more of a twisted take on the inverted detective story (as the writer explains here), where catching the criminal and solving the crime are less important than seeing the suspect enter a battle of wits with Luther.
Will episode 2 smooth the edges and maintain its stride? Well, I really bloody hope so. I'm always waiting and hoping for a British TV show to sweep me off my feet, and if I wanted to like Luther before, I really, really want to like it now.