“Babylon is about everyone watching you and waiting for you to make a mistake,” says the show’s executive producer, Robert Jones. The “you” in question is London’s Metropolitan Police Service, which is put under the spotlight by a production dream team of Jones, best known for films including The Usual Suspects and The Constant Gardener, Trainspotting director Danny Boyle and Peep Show writers Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong.
The show follows different members of the force played by an all-star cast. They include an American social media PR guru (played by Brit Marling) parachuted in to clean up the Met’s public image, a gluten-intolerant police commissioner (James Nesbitt) and frontline officers who are the subject of a documentary on modern policing. Scriptwriters Bain and Armstrong’s background in Channel 4 sitcoms such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat might suggest this is a laugh-a-minute series, but Armstrong says Babylon is more “a drama-comedy than a comedy-drama”. It therefore, marks a departure from the prolific pair’s previous work.
“It’s not pro- or anti-police, but it is from their point of view,” says Bain. “That’s the idea – to get into the shoes of someone doing good or bad things in the police force.”
The Channel 4 show went out as a 1x90mins pilot directed by Boyle earlier this year and won 1.6 million viewers. A six-part series is forthcoming. Plots came through reading police blogs, books by frontline officers and memoirs of retired chiefs, and speaking with “loads of people of all ranks”, Armstrong reveals.
The producer: Nightjack
The distributor: DRG
The broadcaster: Channel 4 (UK)