Why BBC’s Black Ops should be your next box set
Ivan Radford | On 07, May 2023
What exactly does a police community support officer do? That’s one of the starting points for Black Ops, BBC Two’s hilarious new comedy. That it also sharply dissects institutional racism and throws a gripping thriller into the mix makes it a contender for one of the best shows of 2023.
The series follows two community officers – Dom (Gbemisola Ikumelo) and Kay (Hammed Animashaun) – who can’t work out whether they’re being given a golden opportunity or a poisoned chalice when they’re asked to take on an undercover job and infiltrate a gang of drug dealers. But the offer of “actual police work” is too enticing to refuse. The fact that neither of them could pass for a drug dealer for even a second didn’t occur to any of their seniors.
And so the stage is set for a hysterically inept operation, which never misses an opportunity to send up expectations, often to pointed effect. Hammed Animashaun, who stole the show in A Midsummer Night’s Dream recently and has impressed in The Wheel of Time and Pls Like, is brilliantly naive as Kay, who was once in the air cadets and currently runs a prayer group at his church. From struggling with telling lies to telling drug buyers to “take care” so that they come back again for repeat business, he constantly surprises with every line delivery, while also establishing Kay as an endearing figure. Famalan’s Gbemisola Ikumelo, meanwhile, is at once lazy, indifferent and wonderfully short and impatient with everyone around her, while also being confident that she can blend in with criminals despite the fact that her dad is a well-off paediatrician.
Balancing all these elements with a twisting plot is no easy feat, but the script gets a signature dose of fast-paced thrills from Lloyd Woolf and Joe Tucker, the duo behind BBC Three’s darkly funny Witless, who co-write with both Ikumelo and Famalam creator Akemnji Ndifornyen. The result is breakneck and bursting with tiny details and precision slapstick. Throw in bit parts from a game ensemble that includes Joanna Scanlan, Rufus Jones and Kerry Howard and you have a star-studded farce that pulls off the impossible – finding humour in the same sentence as the Met police – and gives a deserved platform to two British stars who are well on their way to being household names for generations of comedy fans.
All 6 episodes of Black Ops are on BBC iPlayer.