96. Gunpower

Tapehead no 95

“It should have been a quiet summer in Omaha,” begins the narrator of Gunpower USA. At which point we immediately know what’s coming.

Sure enough, we cut to some very poor rap music and the dismal sight of three witless whitey gang-bangers in baggy shorts and goatees, showing yet another TV crew how they plan their drive-bys while listening to very bad rap music.

According to Gunpower USA, the Benson Mafia Gangsters are emblematic of Omaha’s demise, the latest proof that “America’s love affair with the gun has some gone sour.”

This summer, an Omaha policeman was shot dead – the first for 20 years – but not by the BMG. The thing about white kids in gangs is that, even with guns, they just aren’t scary. (All the heavyweight crimes featured in this programme are committed by black gangs, not Wiggaz Wit Attitude.)

Omaha’s citizens are fighting back, as more and more kids get shot (kids like the improbably named Zachary Cardisco, shot through the chest by his best friend). Vigilante organisations like the Badass Mommas and the Mad Dads are out every night to stop or educate the youth. But nothing can penetrate the spectacular stupidity of kids like the ones in the BMG.

“I’ll let his house have it,” one of them brags about a rival. (Ooooh.)

“They talk to us like we’re murderers !” they complain about the vigilantes.

“We’re not looking for trouble.” (They are in fact, cruising around for a house to shoot up and possibly murder someone – deliberately or otherwise.)

Gun shop owner, Chuck Emig fights for their right to party, upset about growing anti-gun feelings.

“I’ll call ’em what they are,” he growls about the campaigners. “Liberals. You can’t blame a piece of mechanism,” he complains, magnificently missing the point about guns (not their ‘mechanism’).

One of his bumper-stickers declares: “FIGHT CRIME: SHOOT BACK” and another: “AN ARMED SOCIETY IS A POLITE SOCIETY.”

Possibly hard to argue with…

He heads off for A Mad Minute – where gun fetishists go safely crazy with machine-guns for one mad minute.

Quote of the programme though comes from the improbably named Bill Gentleman.

“Somebody’s gonna get hurt. Let it happen while I’m out there, ‘cos that’s who I wanna work on. If that’s all there was – shooting – I’d love it.”

If that’s what the paramedics are like in Omaha, God help the rest of them.

Law Women fares little better, following one of the UK’s leading female police officers, Detective Superintendent Sue Hill as she investigates a rape case in Hounslow.

The rape victim was initially found by three soldiers.

“Ooooh, are you my soldier ?” Hill trills down the phone. “I’ve always wanted a man in uniform. I’m D.I. Hill – that’s Hill, as in over the…”

OK. A rather wacky sense of humour for a rape case…

For the next 50 minutes, the irrationally jovial detective never stops wittering.

We even see her accosting small children in Mothercare, haranguing them for a natter.

It’s a genuine relief when the credits roll and she finally shuts up. 

Needless to say, the programme fails to address the central issue: why do the police talk like football managers when they review a case ?

(“So he’s come in, gone up the stairs, into the bedroom, and he’s seen the chance and he’s taken it.”)

Episodes 1003 and 1004 of The Bill prove far more revealing and realistic.

The episode named, poetically, Tarts’ Cards features the estimable Sergeant Boyden dealing with a case of malicious phone-calls against two women who look like svelte extras from A Bouquet Of Barbed Wire.

Then in Born Again, an elderly man is viciously assaulted, and a local prostitute implicated. (Alexandra Gilbreath giving an exemplary lesson in how to pronounce the word ‘punter’ without either of the ‘t’s.)

D.I. Deakin shows us what real police work is all about: 

“If you know,” he tells the key witness sternly, “you must tell us.”

Of course, that does the trick.


Gunpower USA: Weds, 9pm, C4

Law Women: Tues, 9.30pm, BBC1

The Bill: Thurs & Fri, 8pm, ITV