Line Of Duty time! Is it ever not? This week's Private Eye has hit the headlines for discovering an unpaid county court judgment against Boris Johnson at his 10 Downing Street address for $545, or what Boris would probably call "lunch". But hidden inside the pages is a much greater conspiracy theory regarding the identity of H in BBC's Line Of Duty by the magazine's regular TV columnist Remote Controller.
Reading between the lines of Line Of Duty was criticism of government, especially the current iteration, from writer Jed Mercurio. With the character of Ted Hastings stating of former DI Buckells "Corruption was mistaken for incompetence" for a man "who failed upwards". The message of the show has come down to corruption, far from being the work of a moustache-twirling villain, as just the way things go, the path of least resistance, a very mundane evil that gets covered up. But Private Eye Magazine has a much more intriguing theory regarding who H is meant to be. Originally the first initial of the corrupt high-ranking policeman in thrall to the organised crime group, it was later reinterpreted as referring to four individuals, H being four dots in morse code, some with a surname beginning with H but that was also a red herring. With Line Of Duty lead character Ted Hastings also constantly under suspicion, the four were eventually believed to be Dot Cottan, Derek Hilton, Gill Biggeloe and Ian Buckells.
Private Eye notes that "the first two series of Line of Duty were commissioned by Janice Hadlow, then controller of BBC2, where the show was a hit, but Mercurio chafed (as show-runners often do) against relatively small budgets."
They also note "The 2016 third series went out during an unhappy period for creatives when BBC2 had no controller, due a messy reorganisation of the corporation by then director-general Tony Hall."
And "that summer a downgraded "channel editor", Patrick Holland, took over BBC2 and soon clashed with Mercurio over a desire for bigger and more expensive plots."
While "Mercurio complained that the bulk of the BBC2 drama budget went on "prestige projects" made by the likes of David Hare. The knighted theatre playwright's Collateral, the channel's prestige project for 2017-18, is said to have privately infuriated Mercurio, a procedural realist who saw Sir Dave get away with a half-cock cop show."
And it was at this point that the codename H was introduced at the end of series 4 of Line of Duty, later revealed to refer to four individuals.
Could the four Hs refer, in Jed Mercurio's mind at least to Hall, Hare, Holland or Hadlow – one of them or all four?