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Tired of the Troubles on TV? New crime drama Hope Street will be right up your street

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Marlene Pettigrew (Kerri Quinn) clashes with Leila Hussain (Amara Karan) in Hope Street. Credit: BBC/Long Story TV/Christopher Barr

Marlene Pettigrew (Kerri Quinn) clashes with Leila Hussain (Amara Karan) in Hope Street. Credit: BBC/Long Story TV/Christopher Barr

BBC/Long Story TV/Christopher Ba

Marlene Pettigrew (Kerri Quinn) clashes with Leila Hussain (Amara Karan) in Hope Street. Credit: BBC/Long Story TV/Christopher Barr

When it was announced new BBC crime drama Hope Street was to be shot here, the immediate assumption was it would be based in Belfast and the storyline would be Troubles-linked.

However, it is actually far removed from the usual concrete jungle of the city, instead being set in the Co Down coastal town of Donaghadee, renamed Port Devine.

The first episode of the 10-part series aired on Wednesday night, opening with some stunning panoramic footage of the area, including the lighthouse and shoreline.

This small town setting means the show is more like Midsomer Murders than the grittier The Fall or Line Of Duty, both filmed in Belfast.

There are no police car chases or seedy organised crime gangs, instead there is some counterfeit vodka smuggled in on a quaint little fishing boat and some nosy neighbours acting suspiciously.

While it’s endearing to hear local accents, it seems unlikely Hope Street’s characters will be uttering familiar catchphrases such as: “Now we’re suckin’ diesel.”

The series focuses on a very different police department than AC-12, and on the comings and goings of the people of this fictional small town.

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While each episode features a self-contained crime story, there are underlying themes and plotlines throughout to draw the viewer back for more.

Belfast-born co-creator Paul Marquees, who previously worked on The Bill, was adamant this new drama would avoid any mention of “the Northern Irish stereotype”, and instead focus on injecting hope to the global vision of our troubled past, capturing the “warmth, good humour and resilience of people from Northern Ireland”.

But can this be achieved when an English police officer comes to town to solve crimes?

And, in trying to distance itself completely from the Troubles, has it instead removed the seriousness of the show compared to other locally shot hard-hitting crime dramas?

Episode one sees the mysterious arrival of Detective Constable Leila Hussain (Amara Karan), the first Muslim cop in the town’s history.

She is introduced amid the backdrop of a colourful festival before meeting Inspector Finn O’Hare, played by Fermanagh man Ciaran McMenamin, who wins a sea swimming race.

This wholesome image of a cosy little town celebrating is underpinned by the mystery surrounding her presence, shifting the comfortable atmosphere somewhat to the real story behind Hope Street.

Inspector O’Hare seems to be the only one who knows the real reason she has travelled from Nottingham to Port Devine — the main plotline driving this series.

While not explicitly mentioning the Troubles, there are hints and curious remarks throughout, a “them and us” suspicion over Hussain’s sudden arrival, as well as continuous references to “how things are done here”.

The acting, it has to be said, is second to none.

Standout performers include Kerri Quinn as disgruntled Sergeant Marlene Pettigrew; Niall Wright as bumbling Pc Callum McCarthy, and barmaid Niamh McGrady as Nicole Devine, whose great-great-great-grandfather gave the fictional town its name.

The setting certainly welcomes viewers in, with characters you can liken to people you know.

Hope Street will no doubt become a favourite, but can the underlying political, religious and social divide permeating many films and dramas set here really be removed completely?


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