“Luther,” or “The Idris Elba Show”

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.

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4 Responses to “Luther,” or “The Idris Elba Show”

  1. Grace says:

    I definitely agree that Idris Elba’s performance makes the show what it is. What we haven’t discussed is how the the supporting cast managed to hit their marks just as effectively. Zoe (his wife) and Alice stand out as two characters that kept me entertained and on the edge of my seat. I agree that a show like this could have the easiest transition to our neck of the woods. Although this is coming from someone who similarly does not watch procedurals…I felt that it is injected with the right amount of British-ness that might allow for it to succeed on American television as is. The different accents and locations allow it to stand apart from the CSI’s and NCIS’s that already have made their all too familiar mark on our programming. Elba and crew provide quality acting overlayed with a slightly British feel that might entice procedural fanatics and new viewers alike.

  2. elizabeth graham says:

    I wonder why it is procedurals seem to be so hated in our class, or at least that is what I gathered from our discussions this past week. While I would not say procedurals are not for niche audiences, in fact quite the opposite, I do wonder why it is the people who study television seem to avoid the procedural genre? Along with that thought, are procedurals a hit in the UK? The masses? The critics? And, more specifically, is “Luther” a success in the UK? I would imagine it is a success, maybe for the reason I cannot help but have a special place in my heart for the one episode crime shows. They hook you in, it may be very difficult to watch the first episode and then drop the series. The show has a way of bringing out the curiosity in everyone, and for that i begrudgingly applaud Luther.

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