Friday, 26 July 2013

The Sweeney TV Series (& Films)

For the last month or so we've been watching The Sweeney at night before bed. Mr Click has the complete series on DVD so it's been become a routine to sit in bed with my laptop between us and watch each episode.

Picture from Wikipedia
I have to admit to falling asleep on the previous two attempts to watch the pilot episode, Regan. In my defence we were watching it at a time when I was having eighteen hour days, wasn't very well and was pretty damn tired. It also wasn't really my kind of thing.

I was slightly skeptical when Mr Click decided that we'd be watching The Sweeney next, our previous viewing material had been my choice (Scrubs) as was my teatime viewing (ER), so it was only fair that he got to pick this time. I figured that I could always just sit and read if it wasn't quite my cup of tea, so I was kind of surprised at how much I got into it.

It focuses on Jack Regan, played by John Thaw, and George Carter, played by Dennis Waterman, who are two members of the Metropolitan Police's Flying Squad. The title comes from the rhyming slang for this division, Sweeney Todd. They deal with serious crimes, everything from bank robberies to kidnappings and various other things in between. Oh, and it's pretty violent. Most episodes have at least one gun fight, car chase, someone beating up someone else, or some combination of the three.

In a way it's quite different to modern police dramas, which is funny because it probably paved the way for the likes of Waking the Dead and Silent Witness. I've grown up watching CSI and Without a Trace so I'm used to the typical 48-minute mark crimes; that is when you're watching it on TV with the adverts by the time you hit the 48-minute mark you know who did it and all that's left is to wrap up the baddie of the week.

What stood out for me in The Sweeney is just how often the bad guys got away. Lots of episodes seem to end right before what would be the final act in a modern crime drama. While they do quite often get the bad guys, more often than not you realise that it doesn't end with catching them and putting them away, that it's just the tip of the iceberg. Once I got used to that format it was kind of refreshing.

My favourite episode, without a doubt, comes at the end of the fourth (and final) series, featuring a cameo from Morcambe and Wise (of all people)! It was so bizarre to see them in an episode of The Sweeney and yet in a way it was quite perfect. The Sweeney is obviously a serious TV series dealing with things that at the time were obviously hot topics; it was also not shy about mentioning things like race, class and homosexuality which I wasn't really expecting given the time period it was made. But there is a bit of humour in there as well which is probably why Morecambe and Wise fitted into the story so well (it was also funny to watch Dennis Waterman trying to keep a straight face in their scenes).

There were so many celebrities in the TV series, I couldn't even begin to list them all here. It was good fun spotting various members of The Bill, both incarnations of James Herriot's wife (plus once again in one of the films), Harry Potter's uncle, and Gimli. Some of the episodes had an introduction at the beginning from one of the guest stars who would explain about how they got the part, what filming was like, little stories about John Thaw and Dennis Waterman and other random facts. I'm also fairly certain that there's an orange campervan which crops up in almost every episode too. It was a bit like playing Where's Wally trying to spot it!

We just watched the films last weekend (out of order from when they were made in relation to the TV series). They were quite a bit more violent than the TV series but still pretty true to the series. They felt more like feature-length episodes and I enjoyed that they gave you more time to find out about the criminals which was something that sometimes seemed to be lacking in the series.

We also watched the recent 2012 film of The Sweeney as well last Saturday (after taking a break from the earlier ones with some ER lest we become all Sweeney-ed out). Mr Click picked it up on DVD cheaply from the local supermarket a while back but we held off watching it until we'd finished the series and watched the original films.

I'd had my reservations about it, but it wasn't really that bad. At times it kind of felt like they were over-doing some of the catchphrases and things from the TV series, just to kind of hammer home that it was the same idea as the original TV series. It felt a little bit like they were trying to make London seem like a big American city which made it quite interesting from a visual perspective; everything was very silver and white. But I think that on the whole it was probably a good way to update the story.

I've enjoyed watching this series and the films as well. Next up Mr Click has selected The Professionals which I think will be a good follow-on from The Sweeney. Now seems like a good time to watch this since I did get quite in to The Sweeney. Look out for my thoughts on that in the future.


  1. SHUT IT!


    Got to love The Sweeney, but I'm still undecided by the recent movie. As a stand alone piece it's rather good, but I can't really believe this is Regan and Carter. Ray Winstone's far too old to be Regan (Thaw was in his 30s when he played the role, Winstone's in his 50s)and Plan B/Ben Drew spoke his lines in an often unintelligible manner! Plus I was physically sick at watching Winstone slobber all over Hayley Attwel. I believe the original idea was to remake the first Sweeney film (which would have been interesting given it was rather politically relevant) but that fell by the wayside.

    Hope you enjoy The Professionals, another favourite :)

    1. I know what you mean. In a way they could have called them something else and perhaps had a nod back to Regan and Carter so that instead of being the same characters they were new people in the same squad.

      I'm enjoying The Professionals, it's a little bit less serious than The Sweeney and the DVDs have got some interesting facts about production of the episodes as well, rather than the introductions like the ones at the start of some of The Sweeney episodes.

    2. That's a very valid point. It would have worked better as a kind of Sweeney: The Next Generation thing because frankly some of the stuff they were doing to hark back to the original was a bit laughable, I'm especially thinking of them breaking up blags with bats and clubs - it was the done thing back in the 70s because the police didn't have the firepower or the batons that modern day policing has, but to see them use that and guns was somewhat stupid.

      There's a great book out there, though I think it's out of print now, that reviews every ep of both The Sweeney and The Professionals and in a very tongue in cheek manner (everytime Martin Shaw does something a bit classy and sensitive in an ep they highlight it under the title 'Doyle throws a bit of pasta at the wall')

      I thoroughly recommend the two skits from The Comic Strip Presents, The Bullshitters (which spoofs The Professionals) and Detectives On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown (which does The Sweeney and The Professionals as well as other cop shows too)


Let me know what you think. :-)