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Having Line of Duty withdrawal symptoms? Channel 4's new drama The Virtues may plug the gap

PUBLISHED: 16:55 09 May 2019 | UPDATED: 17:08 09 May 2019

Joseph (Stephen Graham) (C) Channel 4

Joseph (Stephen Graham) (C) Channel 4

(Channel 4 images must not be altered or manipulated in any way) This picture may be used solely for Channel 4 programme publici

Everything you need to know about Channel 4's unlikely love story The Virtues which is written by the master of gritty drama, Shane Meadows, and stars Stephen Graham, fresh from his role as John Corbett in Line of Duty.

Stephen Graham and Shea Michael Shaw (C) Channel 4Stephen Graham and Shea Michael Shaw (C) Channel 4

The country's television schedule has a vacancy and a handful of contenders ready to step forwards and fill it.

Line of Duty came and took the nation by storm once more. H-related conspiracy theories swamped social media, Ted Hastings-inspired "bent coppers" rap tracks graced the internet bandwidths. For six Sundays, it left the nation compelled and captivated.

Then it ended, meaning a great load of us need something new to watch or the ability to find an hour's worth of extra conversation once a week with our loved ones (imagine).

So, could it be Chernobyl? Sky Atlantic's new five-part miniseries which tells the true story of the devastating 1986 disaster? What about Amazon Prime's adaptation of Neil Gaiman's fantasy novel, Good Omens, starring David Tennant and Michael Sheen?

Helen Behan and Stephen Graham (C) Channel 4Helen Behan and Stephen Graham (C) Channel 4

But what if subscription channels aren't an option - what if you need to rely on the terrestrial channels?

Russell T Davies (Doctor Who, A Very English Scandal) has scripted a BBC series that will take an ordinary family through the next 15 years of their life, Years and Years, which looks set to keep audiences rooted to their seats which begins on BBC1 at 9pm on Tuesday but the series that may well end up dominating the Twittersphere and becoming the water cooler topic of choice will reunites us with one of the stars of Line of Duty itself.

Having shocked the nation as kind-of-bent-copper John Corbett, Stephen Graham is returning to the small screen on Wednesday at 9pm. He is returning in "one of the best things" that he's ever worked on, according to the man himself, in the shape of Channel 4's new four-part series, The Virtues.

OK, I can already hear the scepticism: a show's own lead star hypes up said show before it airs? What else are they going to do? But dig into it and The Virtues seems to have all the makings of something very impressive. So, what's it all about?

Stephen Graham, Frank Laverty, Zach Humston, Niamh Algar, Helen Behan (C) Channel 4Stephen Graham, Frank Laverty, Zach Humston, Niamh Algar, Helen Behan (C) Channel 4

Graham plays Joseph, whose ex-wife and son are leaving Liverpool and their past for a brand new start in Australia.

Considering Joseph is just about keeping on the wagon as he seeks to overcome alcohol addition, it's a devastating turn of events - having struggled for many years with repressed memories about his tough childhood, Joseph used to turn to drugs and drink to rid him of the dark thoughts about what happened to him.

As he tries to clean up his act, he's left facing the truth and is haunted by flashbacks that he's spent many years trying to cloak and, left with many questions, he boards a boat to Ireland to confront his past and the horror that he left behind.

He reunites with sister, Anna - having not seen her since childhood - and we discover that she'd assumed he was dead. After recovering from the shock, convinces her wary husband, Michael, to let him stay and give him work, leading Joseph on a collision course with the demons of his past.

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Revenge, redemption and repressed memory are all on the menu.

However, rather luckily, it appears all will be delivered by an impressive cast and an all-too-capable writing duo.

Graham, obviously, is the lead - he's been nominated for a BAFTA, he's been impressive in Line of Duty, he's been impressive in Save Me: it's pretty hard, really, to find a Stephen Graham performance that's not superb.

Graham is joined by Helen Behan (This Is England '88 & '90) as Anna, his estranged sister, while Frank Laverty (Michael Collins) plays her husband. Elsewhere, Niam Algar of The Bisexual stars as Michael's sister, Dinah, who we've been told Joseph is "immediately drawn to" while Mark O'Halloran, who popped up in the Brendan Gleeson film, Calvary, plays Craigy - a shadowy figure plagued by dark rumours, someone that won't leave Joseph alone.

That's the cast and by all accounts, early buzz suggests there is some impressive performances among them - not least from Graham. But, who's telling the story?

The Virtues marks This Is England's Shane Meadows return to Channel 4, joined once more by his This Is England co-writer, Jack Thorne. Thorne has picked up five BAFTAs including for best mini-series (This Is England '88), best drama series (The Fades) and best original series (National Treasure, starring Robbie Coltrane). Meadows won a BAFTA for Best British Film with This Is England in 2008 and will also be on directorial duties.

The series has been inspired by Meadows' on-and-off anxiety and depression: "I'd suffered on-and-off with anxiety and depression for a lot of my adult life. In the late 80s and early 90s I'd tried to keep it at bay by going out clubbing, doing things you shouldn't be doing," he said.

"But the anxiety and depression stayed with me and I realised the root of all this was something in my past that I hadn't really acknowledged, let alone properly dealt with. So, the essence of Joe's journey was borne out of me discovering that things that happen to you as a kid can be so traumatic that you can completely push them out of your mind as some kind of survival mechanism.

"About four or five years ago I started seeing someone professionally and was able to at least get to the bottom of what was causing my issues, but came out of it fairly angry because my life had been so affected by this one traumatic event."

He adds that Joseph faces a choice in The Virtues: to reap revenge or forgive.

A deeply affecting drama, starring one of the best UK actors working on the small screen today, dealing with plenty of lofty themes and unfolding over the course of four, bite-sized parts?

It sounds a recipe for success and an antidote to a lack of Line of Duty…

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