The brilliant-but-troubled detective/cop-with-something-extra procedural has crept over the TV listings like so much kudzu, or, to be more local, bougainvillea — lovely to look at in many places but increasingly familiar in form and hue. And we all know what familiarity breeds.
But if there were room for one more rule-breaking, relationship-sacrificing, more than slightly obsessive and possibly unhinged anti-hero, it would have to be "Luther," premiering Sunday on BBC America. There's nothing here that we haven't seen before — creepy sociopaths, justice perpetually threatened by over-regulation, a celebration of psycho-deductive powers — but it's rendered with such depth and complex humanity to make the old seem new again.
It doesn't hurt that DCI James Luther is played by Idris Elba, an actor of such elastic talent that his credits include "The Wire" (possibly even more idolized in the U.K. than it is in the States), "The Office" and the upcoming "Thor." Able to identify a killer at 10 paces (in the pilot, the tell is the absence of a yawn), Luther has suffered a mental breakdown brought on by a fatal decision he makes while chasing down a pedophile.
He returns to work months later, now separated from his wife Zoe (played by the always radiant Indira Varna, who can also now be seen on Fox's "The Human Target"). Meanwhile, he's been cleared of any wrongdoing, but is still considered "nitroglycerin" by the ambitious higher-ups. Fortunately for Luther, and Elba, he has the support of longtime colleague DCI Ian Reed ("Criminal Justice's Steven Mackintosh), immediate boss Superintendent Ruth Teller (Saskia Reeves) and his admiring new partner, DS Justin Ripley (Warren Brown). After the first episode, he also has the full attention of comely astrophysicist/psychopath Alice Morgan ( Ruth Wilson), who sees in Luther a worthy opponent.