The Sweeney - The Complete Third Series


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

It feels like they started it all, the maverick cop double act. They were a team and they had fun and it shows.

When Mel and Danny made Lethal Weapon, did anyone click their fingers and say, "Regan and Carter!" Not many, but they should have.

The Sweeney - Sweeney Todd/Flying Squad - has become iconic in the history of British TV crime series. During the Seventies, they ruled supreme and what did it, as much as anything, was the humour. American cop shows of the period were flashy and slick. The Sweeney was never that. Look at the fight scenes now and they are messy and uncoordinated, like real life. That's their charm.

It's worth buying this affectionate, nostalgic, often outstanding four-disc DVD box set for the sequence in Visiting Fireman, when Regan and Carter, at a knees up in The Turkish Club, perform a song-and-dance number, pissed as newts. Nadim Sawalha, who played the Turkish policeman on a bullion highjack case, recalls his experience of working on the show and is convinced that this scene was unscripted. "They were such a professional team, so close, and always looking for the funny side."

The earlier episodes are grittier and more inconclusive, especially those written by Troy Kennedy Martin, while the later ones have a formulaic shape to them, as if the influence of The Avengers has seeped through the wallpaper.

Regan's personality is more attuned to that of the criminal classes than the bureaucratic networkings of the metropolitan police. He doesn't take to authority easily, in fact ignores and abuses it wherever possible. His immediate boss is called God and his immediate boss's boss is called God-God. The jokes are organic. They grow naturally from ground that has not been disturbed by gag writers.

Having worshipped at the shrine of St Morse during the Nineties, it is a revelation, not to say unmitigated delight, to watch a younger John Thaw at work. He is/was an astonishing actor who, for some reason that is hard to fathom, never successfully made the leap into films.

Dennis Waterman, as Carter, does not have the energy, even the anger, that drives Regan. He's a bit of a softy, almost naive by today's standards. Regan, on the other hand, in Thaw's capable grip, is vividly contemporary. Perhaps, it's the air of battered cynicism and contemptuous individuality that never allows ambition to dictate manners.

Reviewed on: 18 Aug 2004
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The Sweeney - The Complete Third Series packshot
The Flying Squad take a third turn around the block.
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Director: Douglas Camfield, David Wickes, William Brayne, Chris Menaul, Tom Clegg, Terry Green, Mike Vardy

Writer: Troy Kennedy Martin, Tony Hoare, Andrew Wilson, Roger Marshall, Peter Hill, Richard Harris, Peter J Hammond, Robert Wales, Ranald Graham

Starring: John Thaw, Dennis Waterman, Garfield Morgan, John Hurt, Geraldine James, Nadim Sawalha, George Cole, Lee Montague, Ronald Fraser, Maureen Lipman, Norman Eshley, George Sweened, Arthur English, Norman Jones, John Lyons, Carl Howman, Hywel Bennett, Peter Dy

Year: 1976

Runtime: 650 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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