Killing Eve, an eight-part TV series made for BBC America, is successful and has been widely praised - even by Peter Hitchens*, who thereby persuaded me to have a look.
But I wonder if it is not obscene.
The 1959 Obscene Publications Act, later updated in the Broadcasting Act 1990 to include broadcast matter, makes the issue one of whether a publication is likely to "deprave and corrupt."
The test was explained - yet not fully clarified - in an 1868 case: "the tendency of the matter charged as obscenity is to deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences, and into whose hands a publication of this sort may fall."
Note that it does not have to have this effect on everyone who accesses the material, merely those who are susceptible.
What concerns me is not only the extreme violence, though there is an incident in the first episode I would pay money to be able to forget entirely. It is the complete lack of empathy and even sadistic joy shown by the murderess, smilingly observing the suffering of her dying victims.
We are a simian species, and "monkey see, monkey do."
Film director Stanley Kubrick withdrew his 1971 film "A Clockwork Orange" from British cinemas in 1973 following a murder in Bletchley that seems to have had some connection. Kubrick denied art's power to influence behaviour: "people cannot be made to do things which are at odds with their natures." But the question remains, can art influence someone who has that potential, to actualise it?
I have read - and perhaps my source, which I can't remember, was wrong - that one purpose of the ancient Games in Rome was to keep encouraging violent tendencies and lack of empathy in the Roman people so that they could continue to be the fearsomely cruel and warlike masters of the known world.
Even a libertarian is likely to draw the line at allowing freedoms that harm others. And if some susceptible person in my neighbourhood watches this kind of material and could be influenced to unleash his demon on me or mine, I have a legitimate interest in questioning the licensing of material likely to deprave.
In the UK case where Lewis Daynes murdered Breck Brednar, a boy he had groomed on the Internet, the boys had spent time playing violent video games online together, and Daynes was also said to have been "obsessed with videos of terrorist beheadings." Not all imagination leads to action, but don't many actions begin in imagination?
The first episode of Killing Eve is supposed to have been seen by over 5 million people in the UK so far (live or streamed afterwards). The wider the audience, the greater the chances that someone on the edge will see it and do - something.
Killing Eve is most skilfully acted and directed, with high production values. But if its effect is obscene, then the better it is made, the worse it offends.
* "I didn't expect or even want to like the new BBC series Killing Eve, starring Jodie Comer, pictured, as a distractingly beautiful embodiment of pure evil.
"The trailers put me off. But the programme itself is an unexpected joy, looking and sounding witty, refusing to treat viewers as idiots, and, actually, a lot better than the overrated Bodyguard."