By Any Means BBC1, with Warren Brown, Gina McKee, Shelley Conn PREVIEW

Thomas Tomkins (ANDREW-LEE POTTS), Jack Quinn (WARREN BROWN), Jessica Jones (SHELLEY CONN)
Andrew-Lee Potts, Warren Brown and Shelley Conn in By Any Means. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★½

BBC1: starts Sunday, 22 September, 9pm

Story: A clandestine team of cops, led by Jack Quinn, is brought on board by their mysterious handler Helen Barlow when infamously crooked businessman Nicholas Mason is acquitted of robbery and the murder of an innocent man, due to lack of evidence.

THE PREMISE sounds terrific – undercover cops sorting out elusive, elite criminals by any means. It’s also got Warren Brown, and he too was terrific in the recent hard-hitting BBC series Good Cop.

But hard-hitting By Any Means certainly is not. It’s a fun drama, a bit larky, very much like Hustle but with ‘maverick’ cops instead of conmen targeting evil-doers.

That’s not to say By Any Means is no good. It’s fine, in the same mould as Jonathan Creek, New Tricks or Murder on the Home Front. It’s just unlikely to be the standout show on Warren Brown’s CV.

Warren Brown plays Jack Quinn

What it has got is snappy storytelling, a funky soundtrack and some laugh-out loud dialogue.

Nicholas Mason (KEITH ALLEN) in BBC1's By Any Means
You won’t like him when he’s angry – Keith Allen

Brown plays Jack Quinn, who heads a secret team that is directed by cloak-and-dagger handler Helen Barlow (Gina McKee) to take out criminals who have evaded justice.

‘I want him off the streets – by any means,’ she tells Quinn of his latest mark, that portrayer of pantomime baddies Keith Allen, known here as Nick Mason, who is so bad he’s funny.

Quinn is assisted by other mavericks in the shape of Shelley Conn as Jessica ‘Sassy’ Jones and Andrew-Lee Potts as Thomas ‘techie’ Tomkins, who look less like hardened cops experienced in burglary and undercover work than, well, pleasant young actors.

‘It’s a grey area’

Stan Bond (JOHN HENSHAW) in BBC1's By Any Means
Big shot – Jon Henshaw is Stan

Mason has been acquitted of robbery and the murder of an innocent father, and that is why he is in the sights of Quinn’s team of cops-but-not-cops – as Quinn himself says several times of their status, ‘It’s a grey area’, which will surely be the show’s catchphrase.

There’s a lot of tech ju-ju thrown at the audience – CCTV mainframes, hacking, a ‘burglar-alarm app’ – during which Quinn’s squad executes its Hustle-style scam on Nick, which involves conning him into thinking his dollybird is having an affair so he will hot-headedly make a mistake.

By Any Means has some nice gags in it, it moves along at a stonking pace, and it’s a fairly inoffensive way to while away an hour. But you do wonder what Warren Brown will do next…

Cast: Warren Brown Jack Quinn, Gina McKee Helen Barlow, Shelley Conn Jessica Jones, Keith Allen Nicholas Mason, Elliot Knight Charlie O’Brien, Jon Henshaw Stan Bond, Jessica Ellerby Karen Mason, Richard Lumsden Raymond Nash, Ben Cartwright Chris Henney, James Norton Michael Prence, Andrew-Lee Potts Thomas Tomkins, Martin Jarvis Paul Hollander

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