BBC iPlayer's Blue Lights could be the new Line of Duty

Could the BBC have a Happy Valley-style hit on its hands with its new Belfast cop show?

Blue Lights
(Image credit: BBC)

After the critical and popular success of shows such as Happy Valley and Line of Duty, the best streaming services and their broadcaster proprietors are falling over themselves to commission new police and crime dramas in the hope of making another massive hit. 

That's not always successful – the BBC's recent Granite Harbour was laughably bad and borderline unwatchable, Sky's Gangs of London increasingly resembled a cheese-fuelled fever dream as Season 2 progressed and the BBC's The Responder did its best but felt rather patchy – but it looks like the BBC might just have cracked it this time.

The latest BBC cop drama, Blue Lines, is streaming on iPlayer now and the reviews say it's well worth your time and attention. 

What's Blue Lines on iPlayer about?

The show is set in Belfast and follows three new recruits to the Police Service of Northern Ireland. That setting makes it very different from mainland-based police shows: the PSNI replaced the Royal Ulster Constabulary, RUC, which many Irish and Northern Irish people believed took a particular side in the Troubles, and the police are not universally popular among some communities. My family's from Northern Ireland and it's fair to say that there's a lot of tension in the country that we don't really hear about in the rest of the UK.

That tension can make for great drama, of course, and according to the early reviews Blue Lines uses it really well. The Guardian says that "this makes the policing of the city a fascinating framework for drama. The legacy of sectarian violence lingers. The older and more experienced officers know what it is worth pursuing, and why, and what it is better to leave well alone. In certain areas, the police are on the back foot, unwelcome, unwanted and outnumbered."

Radio Times is impressed too, with James Hibbs writing that "Belfast isn't just the location for the drama, it's its entire reason for being. This show isn't examining policing as a whole – it's examining policing in a specific time and a specific place." He adds: "This is a thoughtful, authentic and emotionally resonant new drama which justifies its existence straight out of the gate."

Den of Geek's Laura Vickers-Green says what many other reviews are saying. "Crime dramas are rarely revolutionary – we often watch them because they’re comfortingly formulaic – but every so often you get a gem that changes the game... Blue Lights is here to make you sit up, stop scrolling and get invested."

Blue Lights is streaming now on iPlayer.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (