“ Genre: Television - The Detectives / Theatrical Release: 1993 / Parental Guidance / Director: Ed Bye / Actors: Jasper Carrott, Robert Powell, George Sewell, Frank Windsor, Tony Selby ... / DVD released 2006-09-04 at Cinema Club / Features of the DVD: Full Screen, PAL „
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The Detectives was a satire of the police dramas which used to be very popular. Instead of following the best, it followed two of the Met Police's worst members, Briggs and Louis. The two clueless cops are played by Jasper Carrott, the stand up comic, and Robert Powell a classical actor, and the pairing works surprisingly well.
This is a no frills, budget DVD, with no extra features, and just a basic menu with Play All and Episode Select buttons. The picture quality and sound is good.
It contains six episodes, each half and hour long:
Collared - The two try to arrest East End villians to get back in their super's good books after being suspended.
Witness - Witness protection duty is difficult when the witness is a monk under a vow of silence, and since no one else wants the job...
Never without Protection - Acting as bodyguards for a duchess with a reputation for flirting (and assigned on the grounds they are utterly unappealing).
Dutch Cops - Doing Customs and Excise duty, are these two really the right people to investigate diamond smuggling?
Sparring Partners - Undercover at a gym to investigate steroid rumours.
Rear Window - A wonderful spoof of the Alfred Hitchock thriller.
In total, the DVD runs for 180 minutes. It is PG rated, so should be suitable for all.
Although I like the Detectives as a show, this is not my favourite series. In some ways it feel as though it hasn't quite hit its stride. There is more slapstick than satire, and the humour seems forced, rather than natural. It picks up towards the end, with the last two episodes, Sparring Partners and Rear Window (a spoof of Alfred Hitchcock) as easily the strongest.
The problem for me is that The Detectives works best as an ensemble show, with an excellent supporting cast including George Sewell as their long suffering superintendent. The later episodes play to this, but in the earlier episodes of this series, Briggs and Louis are left to carry the humour entirely themselves, with supporting actors who are not part of the main cast, and it just doesn't quite work. This might be because the show was still outgrowing its roots from the original short sketches, which were done as part of Carrott's standup comedy TV show, and naturally revolved purely around the pair.
It is still funny, but lacks the laugh-out-loud moments and inspired genius of some of the later series. If you haven't seen the show before it isn't one I would suggest as an introduction to The Detectives. If you're a fan, it might be worth it if you enjoy slapstick humour, or on budget for those two later episodes.
Detectives Bob Louis and David Briggs are probably the most incompetent police officers in existence. Everything they touch seems to turn to the opposite of gold and their boss, Superintendent Cottam, is always looking for ways to get rid of them. Yet somehow, they always manage to fall on their feet and keep their jobs. In this second series, they are tasked with looking after a Duchess, a monk and a group of boxers, plus they have an eventful trip to Amsterdam, even though they think they're in Venice! But will their run of good luck continue, or are they doomed to retirement from the police?
Louis and Briggs are played by Jasper Carrott and Robert Powell - the whole idea for the show stemmed from a sketch on Jasper Carrott's stand-up show, called Canned Carrot. That perhaps explains why the characters aren't all that well developed - at least not in this second series. I like Carrott's stand-up very much, but I have to admit that I didn't think all that much of his performance in this series. Louis is an incompetent detective and that's about as far as it goes. There is a vague suggestion of a romance in the last episode, but that is all the background to the character that we get. And unfortunately, Carrott doesn't have all that much in the way of comic lines to deliver - much of his comedy is based on face-pulling and slapstick behaviour. I've come to expect more of Carrott from his stand-up shows, but he just doesn't really deliver here. This is a shame, because he created the show - I expected more from him.
Robert Powell as David Briggs isn't really much better. I'm not used to seeing Robert Powell in comic roles, and indeed, I think that this is his only foray into comedy - I'm more used to seeing him in The Thirty Nine Steps and Holby City. As a comic actor, he doesn't really cut it - he looks like he's having fun, but still realises that he's doing something that doesn't come naturally to him at the same time. Again, there is no character development, so we don't really have anything to latch on to, and his comic lines are weak. There is a vague attempt to make him the vainer of the pair, despite the fact that he never seems to be able to pull, but it just isn't enough to make a character out of him.
Superintendent Cottam, really the only other core character, is played by George Sewell. The character is apparently based on a character from The Sweeney - personally, he reminded me a lot of Charles Dreyfuss from the Pink Panther movies, but wasn't as funny. I think he did the best he could with the role, but it just wasn't really enough. There are occasionally guest stars in the show - Rula Lenska plays the rather tarty Duchess in the third episode for example - and she does a reasonable job within the confines of the show.
When I think of police comedies, The Thin Blue Line is the one that always comes to mind. I have watched that show time after time and still laugh all the way through it. It has great characters who deliver fabulous lines. The Detectives just didn't come anywhere close. At the same time, it isn't total dross - I did laugh occasionally at the antics of Louis and Briggs - just not quite as often as I would have liked. I just can't believe that the show went on for another three series after this one. Maybe it improved, but I just can't imagine it. I really don't mind the odd bit of slapstick, but I do prefer to have a good screenplay to complement it - this one just flopped.
There are six half hour episodes in this series, all of which were televised in 1994. They all follow a very similar format. Louis and Briggs become involved in a case, sometimes unintentionally, they botch it up, but then somehow manage to pull it off - often thanks to 'helpers' who then disappear. That's fine for the first couple of episodes, but after the fourth one, I began to get incredibly bored of it. Perhaps this is a show that is best to watch no more than once a week - watching back to back episodes really doesn't work. Even so, I doubt very much that anyone is going to find any particular episode here memorable.
One advantage of the show is that it is very family friendly. There is really very little here that is going to offend - no swearing, very little sexual innuendo, just abject silliness. It may well appeal to children more than it does to adults. There is a rating of PG though, so it is probably worth parents doing their homework before deciding whether to let children watch or not.
There are absolutely no extras with the DVD, something that frankly I was incredibly pleased about, because I really don't think I could have stomached them. The six episodes were more than enough.
I really wanted to enjoy this series. I like both Jasper Carrott (or at least Jasper Carrott of old and not the dreadful version on Golden Balls!!) and Robert Lindsay. I just don't think they worked well as a comedy duo and I was really disappointed with Jasper Carrott's writing - I really think he could have done a lot better. It is probably worth a look at the odd episode if it comes on UK Gold or ITV3, but I really wouldn't recommend buying the DVD - it just isn't worth it. Sorry Jasper. Two stars out of five.
The DVD (if you must) is available from play.com for £5.99.
Running time: 168 minutes