THE new crime drama In The Dark (BBC1, Tuesday) gives us a female cop who’s a bit rough, a bit worn out, a bit disenchanted and who speaks with a Northern English accent.

These are the key indicators that she’s a maverick. Had she been a male then she’d be divorced and in possession of a sulky teenager, and would wind down in the evenings with some booze.

We all recognise TV’s maverick coppers, and so the only way to freshen up the cop drama would be to have a detective in a wheelchair (it’s been done), or maybe one who enjoys refinement and classical music (done) or perhaps one who lives in a pretty village instead of the cruel city (done, done, done!).

So if the maverick cop has been done endlessly on TV, how can you make them interesting? The answer lay with BBC1’s Happy Valley: get Sarah Lancashire and make her weary, gruff and cynical. The answer wasn’t to be found in the music your copper likes, or where she lives, or what he drives and drinks, it was purely in the evocation of character. Lancashire made Catherine Cawood live, and no great theatrics or incredible plotlines were required. Cawood was the ultimate maverick cop even when she was slumped at her cluttered kitchen table with a lukewarm cup of tea.

The National:

And so here’s a new kid on the block. In The Dark offers a female detective who has similarities to Cawood but who’s then yanked back into the land of the bland copper by having the old TV tropes of returning to her old home town, and being plagued by a mysterious horror from her past. The writer gives to poor Helen Weeks (MyAnna Buring) with one hand, and then takes with the other.

But there is promise here, and it comes from Helen’s sardonic face and her occasional humour. She speaks very bluntly and is able to mock herself, and this might shift the drama away from being yet another forgettable crime show. The character of the cop might just be able to rise above the clichés.

There were two programmes this week about disaster and fear, although neither were about Brexit.

Epidemic: When Britain Fought Aids (C4, Sunday) was a very “Channel 4” documentary in that it took us back to the public health panic of the 1980s, and dark talk of “the gay plague”, but still managed to include some zing and spirit.

This could easily have been a dour and forbidding watch, but by reminding us of the neon-bright pop culture of the era, having chirpy Julie Walters as narrator, and by including feisty contributors like Paul O’Grady, the show had an air of courage and humorous defiance.

The National:

We looked back to the Tory government agonising over a suitable public health campaign. Some were wary of openly discussing gay lifestyles in a health campaign, as if kids across Britain who were struggling with their sexuality would suddenly burst out of the closet just because Maggie got some leaflets published.

Perhaps some of the warm spirit from this show came from seeing how far we’ve come, both in terms of Aids treatment and in society’s acceptance of gay people.

The other show was Decoding Disaster: A Timewatch Guide (BBC4, Thursday), where we looked through TV archives to see how the media have reported on disasters.

I might be very morbid, but I assumed and had hoped it would be man-made disasters like Aberfan or Hillsborough: things which are recent and painful and where the media, racing to the scene with cameras and phones, have a huge role to play both in reporting the news and in shaping public reaction to it, and engagement with it. I was a bit disappointed, then, to see we were looking at natural disasters, and it was those which stretched far back into time, such as Pompeii, and also those which stretched reality, such as Atlantis.

The main question was of how well TV keeps up with the science of these disasters. The answer seemed to be that they don’t do it very well. Perhaps the need to titillate the viewers with wild theories is often too tempting.

The Crystal Maze (C4, Thursday) has become a one-man show, but thankfully the man in question is Richard Ayoade, so it hardly matters that the contestants each week are giggling, incoherent “celebrities”, vaguely recognisable and intensely annoying, and that their presence is an insult to this great old show’s reputation.

I’ve stopped trying to find the awkward charm which used to be brought to the show by members of the public as they scrambled around in wooden boats, panicked in medieval prisons, or tried to clack together giant wooden jigsaws. That’s all gone. Now we have clowns who’ve done time in Hollyoaks and want to make sure you know it.

So ignore them and look to the presenter. There’s enough sarcasm, wit and deadpan mockery in Richard Ayoade to get us through. I’m watching it now for him and his metallic hand. When he extends this each week to a celebrity you sigh with delighted relief: the nasty celebrities shall not touch him! There’ll be no hugging and high-fiving, and there’ll be no saying “Yay!”. There’s only the extension of a lifeless, metal hand as Ayoade guides them through the zones with gloriously hygienic disdain!