Much has been written about The Sweeney over the last forty years – and all of it is true – it’s a rip-roaring detective drama, with fantastic characters, great scripts and spot-on acting.
Creator Ian Kennedy Martin based The Sweeney on the real-life exploits of The Flying Squad (FYI: Sweeney Todd is Cockney rhyming slang for Flying Squad) at a time when the old method of catching criminals was on its way out and bureaucracy was taking over the police force. Kennedy Martin created a lived-in world, and the show ditched the usual studio setting to shoot on location, something which added gritty realism to The Sweeney.
The star of The Sweeney is undoubtedly John Thaw’s Regan, a tough as nails, member of The Flying Squad. Thaw has the right amount of menace and exasperation for the role, creating a character that will catch the villain at any cost, at times bending the law to do so. It’s a credit to Thaw’s charisma and acting skill that Regan is even likeable, in lesser hands Regan could have been little more than a one-note character, a caricature copper. However, Thaw makes Regan a great character with depth, one which has become iconic over time.
Dennis Waterman stars as Carter, Regan’s younger partner and although he has less to do in this first series, he still has great chemistry with Thaw, and it’s this chemistry which makes The Sweeney so good. The plots are also top notch, giving as much screen time to the villains as the police on their tail – something which gives the show a balanced feel, making each episode feel more like a mini-movie than a television show.
I could praise The Sweeney all day long, but the best thing that I can say is that it’s compelling viewing and it still holds up today.
Get your trousers on and buy it!
The Sweeney features extras ported over from the 2002 DVD release, and while there may not be anything new for owners of the original discs, newcomers will be impressed with the commentaries and interviews which add extra detail to most episodes. The HD transfer is also impressive, much better than the prints which are currently doing the rounds on television.