Wild Bill




When playing the president’s speechwriter in The West Wing, Rob Lowe’s character came up with the idea for a spoof detective show, set 300 years ago, about pilgrim detectives.

“By day they churn butter and worship according to their own beliefs, and by night they solve crimes,” he chortled to his unimpressed boss, Toby Ziegler. 

Who knew that 20 years later someone would be daft enough to commission an idea that is just as bonkers, and Lowe would star in it? Then again, to compare the two ideas’ credibility does a serious disservice to those brave crime fighters in pilgrim hats. 

Here is the deal. Bill Hixon (Lowe) and his 12-year-old daughter Kelsey have come from Miami to Boston, Lincolnshire, where he is to be the new chief constable. A quarter of an hour passed before anyone addressed the immigration law elephant in the room, to wit: what was a Yank doing as a British copper?

Ah, one of the locals was told, a Home Office directive of 2014 opened recruitment of senior officers to citizens of foreign countries. 

Actually, call me Penelope Pedantic from Partick, but I think you will find the idea originated with Labour Home Secretary David Blunkett. But let us not linger there for long as there is so much else to puzzle over in Wild Bill, chief among which is a tone that is all over the shop. 

In the first episode, a beat officer in pursuit of someone nicking satellite dishes (why would you?) comes across a woman’s severed head in a freezer. The same thing also happened in Line of Duty. Lord, does anyone in this country not have body parts in their freezer? Where are all the fish fingers being stored? 

As Hixon, plainly not having enough to do as chief constable, tried to find out what happened the script wandered back and forth between the bleak – informing the victim’s mother – and the light-hearted as Bill and his staff got to know each others’ funny little ways and sayings. The F-bomb was dropped a fair bit just to show how hip and knowing everyone was, and there was a bit of politics thrown, with the pro-Leave town called the “Brexit capital of Britain”. 
Bizarre. It was as if the scripts for Broadchurch, Newsnight, and Mind Your Language had been mixed together in some dreadful photocopying shop error. 
The St Elmo’s Fire and Parks and Recreation star is a serious catch for any British show. He is not the first American star to come over here with his perfect white gnashers and bag a job on British telly.

Richard Gere did it most recently, playing a media mogul in the equally ludicrous MotherFatherSon. At least Lowe has enough experience on the comedy and drama fronts to know what he is doing, which offers some hope that Wild Bill will begin to settle down into something worth taking seriously, but not too seriously. 

Also showing promise are the characters of DC Muriel “I’m not fat, I’m farm stock” Yeardsley (Bronwyn James), and the troubled, old before her time  Kelsey (Aloreia Spencer). 

Even so, it is a devilishly difficult task to blend light and shade and do justice to both. On the evidence of this first episode the writers are not there yet, with too much of the dialogue improbably slick, and the stories half-baked.

The solution in the headless corpse case, for one, made Jonathan Creek look like a BBC4 true crime documentary. 

What Dixon of Dock Green would have made of it all I dread to think.