Lunchtable TV Talk: A Touch of Cloth – The John Hannah School of English


Firewall and I have created the imaginary John Hannah School of English to acknowledge Hannah’s brand of exaggerated, overenunciated English as spoken by a Scot – that’s John Hannah! I love it. We love when his voice suddenly comes on in a voiceover. In this show, the voice is matched only by the determined (but intentionally overacted) intensity on Hannah’s face.

In much the same way that Hannah’s way of speaking is a kind of parody of actual English, A Touch of Cloth spoofs procedural police dramas. Virtually every action, every word they say is an inside joke, a reference (“You’re nicked.”) to something else (often within the same genre) or over-the-top parody of the Law & Orders (and other shows like it) that have long saturated the airwaves.

Also, the boss, Tom Boss (of course), looked familiar – finally I realized he is one of the prisoners in the Australian show, Banished.

But what else is there to say except to concede perhaps that the cop investigation and justice system procedural has gone too far, if something like this show is possible? (Indeed, in interviews, Hannah has said as much. He asked his agent to stop sending him cop procedural scripts but changed his mind when he got the Touch of Cloth script. Why wouldn’t he, considering that it blows up the whole genre and laughs at it?)

What is fresh and refreshing about the show is that you could watch it a few times over and catch new things each time. In the first episode, for example, Hannah’s character, DI Jack Cloth, gets irrationally angry and violent (a la Elliot Stabler in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) in the interrogation room with a potential suspect – to the point that even he admits in a worked-up frenzy that he doesn’t know what he is doing. Afterwards, he realizes that the suspect is probably innocent, but his boss forces him to arrest the guy anyway. Cloth goes to the local pub, where his partner (Anne Oldman, pronounced repeatedly as “an old man”) meets him; he complains, “Yeah I always come here when we lock up and innocent man, helps me forget everything.” His partner: “You in here a lot then?” Cloth: “Have no idea.” And the bartender hands Cloth Cloth’s mail. Haha. Then the female partner gets a phone call, and her ring tone is kd lang’s “Constant Craving” – as if to beat us over the head with the “lesbian cop” trope. Here I don’t really mind because that’s the point, right? Every single minute of this show is something equally as ridiculous. If it weren’t quite this ridiculous, it might be offensive. But when it doesn’t hit, it seems stupid but innocuous, and when it does, it’s quite funny – in the same vein of, for example, Airplane!.