Sunday, September 02, 2007

Shut it! (Sorry, I've been watching British Cop Shows)

CD in Play: The Beatles, Revolver.

"We're The Sweeney, son, and we haven't had any dinner. You've kept us waiting, so unless you want a kicking you tell us where those photographs are." from the episode, Ringer.

I don't have credit cards. This makes life a tad difficult in some respects, not the least being that it is hard to find a place that will let me rent DVDs. I finally found a place on Commercial Drive, Black Dog video, which has a really interesting selection of films and television series. Just had to pay a deposit and show my driver's license. They have many films and series in stock that I had been thinking I would have to buy should I ever wish to watch them. Case in point, The Sweeney from 1975.
I had heard of The Sweeney before, but had no clue what it was like or what it was all about until my friend Gavin explained what he knew about the show. (some of it wrong - he thought it was supposed to be set in either Glasgow or Manchester, for instance) The show is about "The Flying Squad", later re-named the Central Robbery Squad, of London's Metropolitan Police force. It was ground-breaking at the time for its gritty and often unflattering depiction of the members of the flying squad. The Sweeney looked at the effect the job had on the officers home and family lives, and had episodes where the members of the Sweeney flagrantly bend and or break the law in order to achieve a conviction.
Just being a little kid at the time, I could not tell you how real or how fake an American show like Baretta was, (both shows ran concurrently across the Pond) but it seems to me that the cop shows of the 70's that ran here in North America lacked the same degree of grit and realism. The main character, Jack Regan, is often set up by his superiors as a fall guy. In one episode a well known bank robber, Lyon, walks out of court a free man, costing one of Regan's superiors a promotion. Regan's superior gives him carte blanche to take down Lyon anyway he sees fit. Regan baldly breaks the law in one case and unwittingly manipulates the death of an individual in Lyon's gang leaving the man's pregnant wife a widow. Another of Regan's superior's expresses concerns about how this fiasco could tarnish their chances at promotion, but his superior re-iterates that Regan will take the flack for anything that the press may find out.
I think I can see just how The Sweeney had an impact on shows like Hill Street Blues, where there was an attempt to try and depict the reality of serving in a Police Force. Life on Mars obviously owes its existence to The Sweeney, in the way it compares and contrasts the way Police work was conducted in 1972 as opposed to Police work and attitudes in 2006.


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