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This is the third and latest series of the BBC Radio 4 "comedy drama" focusing on the career of 1950s Brighton police inspector Steine (Michael Fenton Stevens) written by Lynne Truss. The stories focus on the misadventures of four resident employees of Brighton police station. Steine is an old school policeman who completely buys into the idea that Brighton is a virtual crime-free haven and is uninterested in the new advances in crime detection and prevention. Steine is oblivious and in denial over the large undetected crime in his area. Narration for this series is taken by the eager and alert young Constable Twitten (Matt Green) through the regular reports he sends to his father. Between Steine and Twitten is the frustrated adventurer Sergeant Brunswick (John Ramm). The fourth part of the police station contingent is the charlady, Mrs Groynes (Samantha Spiro). Unbeknown to Brunswick and Steine, despite the best efforts of Twitten, Mrs Groynes is actually a criminal mastermind and responsible for most of the undetected crime in Brighton.
Beginning with an episode where Twitten tries to cheer up Brunswick with an interview with his favourite crime journalist, a series of events are set in motion over the next five episodes that will see the team encounter a multitude of dangers. Brunswick will end up working undercover in a bid to keep him away from Steine only to be matched with a psychopathic unknown criminal entity and later with the lost love of his life. Meanwhile Steine is being stalked by a person with murderous intent and Twitten and Mrs Groynes will form something of grudgingly respectful regard for each other, especially with the presence of Mrs Groynes's arch-nemesis. All of this will happen within the midst of a beauty pageant, the annual police versus villains cricket match and a road safety demonstration....
Apart from catching a single episode of this series, this is my first encounter with Inspector Steine and on the whole I have to say it was an enjoyable one. Not having heard the previous two series did not impact at all on my listening experience, which is curious given that the last episode finishes on a cliff-hanger and every episode is strongly linked to the point that I would define it as a six-part serial.
The series is described as a "comedy drama". However, I am not convinced that it ever steps over into anything that really resembles drama. Unfortunately it didn't move me to laugh much either. This isn't to say it is not enjoyable, but more of a gentle passing of the time experience. I am a fan of the '50s and '60s silver age of UK comedy, so it interested me to see how a retrospective attempt might fair. Truss appears to have tried hard to keep to the rules of the era, although there is still a fair bit of intended dramatic irony, which is especially reflected by Twitten who tries to employ futuristic policing methods.
I had a long car journey and despite a backlog of excellent podcasts to get through, opted to listen to the whole series and was compelled no to touch the dial until I was back home. Although there is plenty of daring-do thrills and spills with murder plots, gangster meetings and the like, they are unlikely to keep you on the edge of your seat. It is like Steine's desire to impress upon everyone that there is no crime in Brighton washes over the whole show and although characters are likeable you don't invest any emotion into their fates. If Truss wanted to help recreate a feeling of faux nostalgia that would bring more a smile to a person's face than a guffaw to their belly then she has succeeded. Likewise if it is intended to be something of a latent subtle satire of "Dixon of Dock Green" - a television show starting in the 1950s that painted a happy picture of policemen dealing with low level crime and regular routines in a suburban environment - then it also succeeds and is actually quite clever.