Idris Elba. That, in my opinion, is what “Luther” is about — because frankly, the show does not seem to do much else to set it apart from other police procedurals. Rogue police officer? Been there, done that. Cop with personal problems? Call me when you have something new. A man of the law in a duel of wits with a diabolical criminal? Stale, at this point. We can talk all we want about camera angles, or the fact the show reveals the villain within the first 20 minutes of the first episode — but frankly, why bother?
Yet “Luther” is not a lost cause. Of the two shows we watched Monday, I liked it much more than “Blackpool,” which I absolutely did not expect. I wanted more camp, more fun from “Blackpool,” and the show did not deliver — the songs were few and far between, and the characters seemed like they were made of lead. On the other hand, I am not a cop-show guy. I don’t watch “CSI” or any of the “Law & Orders” as I want a drawn out story, nothing episodic. “Luther” seemed exactly like the type of show which would bore me, 50-something minutes spent on a criminal case, and then, bam, done. Maybe that is what drew me in to “Luther” upon watching it — the promise of something more, but really, I think it was Idris Elba.
Star power is sometimes the x-factor in pulling what normally would be an ordinary show out of mediocrity, and some times, actors or actresses put their stamp on a show in such a defining way, you could not imagine anyone else in the role. “Luther” is a perfect example, as the title role is the most important aspect of the show. Whereas a period piece like “Downton Abbey” is predominantly about the costumes and scenery and “Sherlock” is more dialogue/plot-driven, “Luther” is essentially a one-man show — as if the title didn’t give that fact away.
For this reason, I think of all the shows we have seen this semester, “Luther” could make the transition to American to television with the most ease — but in a way, it would be presented with the biggest hurdle. “Blackpool” did not transition well to American television, and it is hard to imagine something like “Downton Abbey” or “Sherlock” doing the same without major changes, because both of those shows are just so British. But “Luther” is not defined by its “British-ness,” but its star power. The concept of the show is very American, because it is a textbook procedural. The challenge, unfortunately, would be finding someone who can define the role of Luther as Elba does, which is no small task.
Therefore, you and I can complain all we want about the fact the show isn’t very innovative — that is not the point. Idris Elba is a force portraying Luther, and you just can’t look away when he is on the screen — which thankfully, is not very often.