The Sweeney is a 70's coshow and at the time it was apparently seen as being ground breaking as it did not really show the police in the best of lights as they were portrayed as hard drinking womanisers who used violence to get confessions and were not beyond bending the law to get a conviction. So a bit like real life then lol.
The series focused on the London Flying Squad (Sweeney Todd is the rhyming slang from which the series gets its name after all you only use the first word in rhyming slang) and a Detective Inspector by the name of Jack Reagan played by the great John Thaw with his sidekick George being played by Dennis Waterman. They work on the robbery squad targeting the hardest of criminals and for some reason they all seem to be packing guns most of the time on both sides of the law.
Having just watched an episode on ITV4 the one thing you immediately notice is that everyone is smoking and instea of swearing you hear words like "slag (talking about a bloke not a woman)" and the like. The acting is pretty good although everything does look kinda dated now i is still a series which has some pretty good plot lines contained within a one hour format.
What I do like about this show is that it is a bit more like real life than some police shows as the bad guys do not always get caught and sometimes they get clean away with it which helps give the show a more realistic feel to it.
Up until the time "The Sweeney" burst onto TV screens throughout Britain in 1975, the most exciting home-grown UK cop shows that viewers could look forward to were the likes of the limp and insipid "Z-Cars" and "Dixon Of Dock Green" (Evening all!)
The Sweeney dispelled forever the cosy image TV portrayed of the loveable British beat bobby, smacking the viewing public right between the eyes with the harsh and somewhat unpalatable reality of what modern policing had become in an increasingly violent modern society.
The late John Thaw (sorely missed) played the part of Detective Jack Regan of the Flying Squad. (Flying Squad = Sweeney Todd in cockney rhyming slang) Regan was a hard drinking, hard hitting, chain smoking, womanizing cynic with about as much dress sense as a colour blind leprechaun! His partner and sidekick was Detective Sergeant George Carter, played by Dennis Waterman, who was a younger version and practical mirror image of his "guvnor".
Together they formed a formidable team who challenged head on, and with any means at their disposal, the new gun-toting breed of modern gangsters, who were willing to go to practically any lengths to achieve their crooked ends.
Guns were carried almost as a matter of course, and Reagan and Carter weren't adverse to "bending" the law themselves when it came to giving a villain a good kicking in order to extract a confession, or planting the odd bit of evidence in order to obtain a conviction.
The "flying" in Flying Squad was highly appropriate, as Reagan and Carter flew around London in a highly tuned Ford Granada with scant regard for either the traffic laws or public safety.
The show became famous for its catchphrases and witty retorts, such as the one I've used in the title of my review. "You Couldn't Find An Irishman In A Harp Club". Perhaps the two best known were used by Regan. "Shut it" and "Get yer trousers on, you're nicked!" (The strange thing is the second phrase was actually only ever used once by Regan in the very first pilot episode in 1974!)
The Sweeney was set, and almost exclusively shot, in London.
The show lasted from 1975 to 1978, and four series were shot in all, giving a total of 53 episodes. There was also a pilot episode called simply "Regan" which aired as part of ITV's Armchair Theatre series in 1974, on which the series was based.
Two full length feature films were also produced in 1977 and 1978, called appropriately, Sweeney and Sweeney 2.
The Sweeney was the series that really kick started the acting careers of both John Thaw and Dennis Waterman. Thaw went on to starring roles in other highly popular TV series such as "Inspector Morse" and "Kavanagh QC", and Waterman to leading roles in "Minder" and, more recently, the hit police drama series "New Tricks".
The Sweeney was a must watch show for me back when it was first shown in the mid-1970's. It has been repeated many times since on both terrestrial and satellite TV channels, but it's been a while since I last spotted it in the listings.
Alternatively, the complete box set is available on DVD at sites like Amazon or eBay for around £49 Sterling, but, as always, shop around for the best price.
© KenJ January 2008
This was the tv cop show that broke the mould for British police drama. Pre 1975 Dixon of Dock Green set the standard, friendly bobby on the beat who always got his man. The Sweeney was hard hitting, gritty drama starring John Thaw & Dennis Waterman as two members of the Flying Squad. They broke every rule in the book. Their often drunken, womanising characters would ignore the regulations and their commanding officer in persuit of an arrest. They didn't always get their man, they did make mistakes but they showed determination and commitment to the job. The show's violence often drew criticism, it became a regular part of the show, as did the car chases. A great show that lives on with the Granada satellite channel, who suprising show it at the early time of4pm.
The Sweeney was ahead of its time as far as I was concerned. The things I loved, and still do enjoying the re-runs, about it most were: That the villians often got away, or perhaps it was just that the Flying Squad didn't always get to them on time. Regan and Carter were, despite being the worst dressed law enforcement officers ever, cool, calculating, and clever. Thaw and Waterman always seemed to me to be having a fantastic time being whizzed round grubby parts of London looking for Blaggers, Swindlers, and Gangsters, being driven round by their monosyllabic ( probably not in Equity ) driver. Haskins the Boss, his shiny dome gleaming as he would invariably give Jack a bollocking. The bottle of Scotch in Regans desk, poured into the tea every other episode. Do people really do this? The theme tune. Come on everyone remembers and knows it. You do don’t you. I thought I heard you. The violence, and the fantastic ugliness of the criminals. Where did they get all those English jobbing actors with faces for radio from? Sarf London probably….. no offence. Then endings....... always just when you thought it ought to, none of that American happy ending epilogue gush. Just think you could have had chunky knit and winsome smiles of Starsky and Hutch, or the crumpled suit and dodgy neckwear of the Flying Squads finest. I know who I’d want keeping my streets safe. Cheers 'Guv.