Why You Should Watch: BBC America’s Gripping Drama ‘Luther’

Idris Elba in Luther (BBC)

Idris Elba in Luther (BBC)

Our newest feature, “Why You Should Watch,” spotlights shows that can and should fit into any TV viewers’ busy schedule, but may have fallen into their DVR blind spot or been less well-publicized than your average network sitcom or premium-cable drama.

This week, we recommend BBC mini-series drama “Luther,” which features “The Wire”/”The Office” alum Idris Elba as an ethically challenged but often heroic London detective for a beleaguered homicide unit. It’s riveting, original, must-see stuff.

WHY YOU PROBABLY AREN’T WATCHING “LUTHER”: Because it’s on BBC America, and most audiences and critics conveniently overlook the “America” part and start thinking in terms of “Downtown Abbey” and daft, cheeky comedies.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE WATCHING “LUTHER”: There’s nothing like it, really, on either side of the pond. At times, “Luther”—which scored Elba a well-deserved 2011 Emmy nod for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama, and has been accurately praised by the likes of Slant magazine as TV’s “most absurd and enjoyable police show to come along in a while”—will remind you of other dark procedurals and morality plays including “Dexter,” “Breaking Bad” and “Law & Order.” It’s downright dark, sinister and Shakespearean, and more tonally akin to HBO’s “Oz.” Except most of “Luther” unfolds on London streets rather than in jail cells, and has a paranoia all its own that’s informed by centuries of post-Jack the Ripper English killers and urban legends. But it’s also a London anyone can all relate to, a bustling cosmopolitan city with malcontents and weirdos lurking in strategic alleys, dank basements and abandoned factory lots. Elba is massive in this series, and Ruth Wilson is creepy and sexy and fantastic as psychopathic seductress Alice, Luther’s primary foil. “Luther” and its namesake protagonist eschew conventional police procedure, pushing ethical boundaries as each week’s killer raises the stakes. No one is safe in creator Neil Cross’ London, and “Luther” is arguably the most suspenseful, unsettling and essentially rewarding hour of TV drama currently airing.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TO GET STARTED WITH “LUTHER”: Each season is six episodes or less, which is what makes this body of work thus far even more remarkable. So with Season 2 currently at its fourth and final installment and DVR-ready, you only need a handful of hours to go back and whip through Season 1. And we suggest you do. “Luther” executes more dramatic twists and shocking jolts in three installments than most American cable dramas script over as many years. Even better, you can access all nine already aired chapters via XfinityTV. Booyah.

Luther” (BBC America, Wednesdays at 10/9c)

Watch The Latest Episode Of “Luther” Below:


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