Theme music composer Harry South
Original language(s) English
First episode date 2 January 1975
Created by Ian Kennedy Martin
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of series 4
|Starring John ThawDennis WatermanGarfield Morgan|
Cast John Thaw, Dennis Waterman, Garfield Morgan, John Alkin, Warren Mitchell
The sweeney 1975 1978 opening and closing theme
The Sweeney is a 1970s British television police drama focusing on two members of the Flying Squad, a branch of the Metropolitan Police specialising in tackling armed robbery and violent crime in London. The programme's title derives from Sweeney Todd, which is Cockney rhyming slang for "Flying Squad".
- The sweeney 1975 1978 opening and closing theme
- The sweeney must see tv pt 1 of 2
- Main characters
- Jack Regan
- George Carter
- Frank Haskins
- The Squad
- Guest stars
- Filming locations
- Series 1
- Series 2
- Series 3
- Series 4
- Film adaptations
- Popular culture
- Detectives on the edge of a nervous breakdown
- TV ad
- DVD and CD releases
- Soundtrack album
- High definition Blu ray
The programme was shot on 16mm film by Thames Television's film division, Euston Films. It originally broadcast on ITV between the 2nd January 1975 and the 28th December 1978 at 21:00–22:00 weekday (usually Monday), with repeated screenings at the same time until the early 1980s. It starred John Thaw as Detective Inspector Jack Regan, and Dennis Waterman as his partner, Detective Sergeant George Carter. Such was its popularity in the UK, it spawned two cinema released feature film length spin-offs, Sweeney! and Sweeney 2.
The sweeney must see tv pt 1 of 2
The series was created by writer Ian Kennedy Martin, brother of the better-known Troy Kennedy Martin who wrote several of the episodes and co-wrote the second film. It was born from a one-off TV drama, entitled Regan, a 90-minute made-for-TV movie which Ian Kennedy Martin wrote for Thames Television's Armchair Cinema series in 1974. The part of Regan was specifically written for Thaw, who was by this time a friend of Kennedy Martin, with whom he'd worked on the TV drama series Redcap in the 1960s.
From the very beginning, the show was seen as having series potential. After Regan scored highly in the ratings, work began on the development of the series proper. Ian Kennedy Martin's idea was for the series to be mainly studio-based, with more dialogue and less action, but producer Ted Childs disagreed, and in consequence Ian Kennedy Martin parted company with the project. Childs produced it on film, not videotape, so making it possible to shoot it almost entirely on location using 16 mm film (which gave it a startling degree of realism), and to use film editing techniques, enabling him to give the show a heavy bias toward action sequences.
The writers were given strict guidelines to follow: "Each show will have an overall screen time (minus titles) of 48 minutes 40 seconds. Each film will open with a teaser of up to 3 minutes, which will be followed by the opening titles. The story will be played across three acts, each being no more than 19 minutes and no less than 8 minutes in length. Regan will appear in every episode, Carter in approximately 10 out of 13 episodes. In addition to these main characters, scripts should be based around three major speaking parts, with up to ten minor speaking parts."
The Sweeney was the first really modern police procedural-based series on British television. Previously, most dramas featuring the police had shied away from showing them as fallible. The police in The Sweeney were far removed from the cosy BBC world of Dixon of Dock Green, or even the BBC's slightly more realistic Z-Cars (which itself had been co-created by Troy Kennedy-Martin). Officers were brutal and violent in dealing with London's hardened criminals, and prone to cutting corners and bending laws. The series showed a somewhat more realistic side of the police, often depicting a disregard for authority, rules and the "system", so long it got the job done. Until The Sweeney, this had been a subject largely ignored by British television. The series' own awareness of breaking new ground is evident in episodes such as the second series "Trojan Bus", where Regan briefly whistles the theme-tune to Dixon of Dock Green after a particularly elementary piece of detective work.
It was a fast-paced edge-of-your-seat action series, depicting the Squad's relentless battle against armed robbery; but it nevertheless included a substantial degree of humour. For the time, it had a high degree of graphic on-screen violence and the episodes tended to have a high body-count, i.e. many deaths per episode.
The series reflected the fact that it was made during a dark period for the real-life Flying Squad, which in the late 1970s had been publicly censured for being involved in bribery, police corruption and excessively close links with the criminal fraternity. The actual commander of the Flying Squad, Detective Chief Superintendent Kenneth Drury, was convicted of five counts of corruption and imprisoned for eight years on 7 July 1977 (an incident which formed a plot element in the 1978 movie, Sweeney 2). An internal investigation, called Operation Countryman, was then launched to stamp out corruption.
The main two characters were Detective Inspector Jack Regan and Detective Sergeant George Carter. Their superior officer was DCI Frank Haskins. However, occasionally other superior officers took charge of the Flying Squad when DCI Haskins was seconded to other duties or investigations.
John Thaw starred as Detective Inspector John "Jack" Regan, a tough police officer, often frustrated by Scotland Yard's red tape. Originally from Manchester (like Thaw himself), he has been in London for several years, so his accent has modified, but traces of his northern origins are still evident. He also refers to his northern roots every now and again (his poor upbringing, his father's work on the Manchester Ship Canal), which brings banter from George Carter, a Londoner, such as humming "The Red Flag". A heavy drinker and smoker (comically, he is sometimes seen stealing other people's cigarettes), Regan has some success with the ladies – although not as much as Carter, or in one episode, DCI Haskins. He can be seen as quick with his fists. He has an ex-wife, Kate, and daughter, Susie, and in the last episode of the first series, "Abduction", Susie is kidnapped.
Regan helps out an ex-informer whose son is kidnapped in "Feet of Clay" (Series 4); and his sympathetic pushing enables his boss Haskins to ask for help when his wife goes missing after a breakdown, in "Victims" (Series 4); it's Regan who finds her. Regan can bend the rules in order to achieve the desired result: for example, fabricating evidence and arranging for a criminal to be kidnapped in "Queen's Pawn", and illegally entering private properties and threatening to lie about being attacked by a prisoner in order to get information in Regan. Despite this, he's unwilling to cheat for personal gain: he delivers a sharp put-down to a corrupt copper in "Bad Apple", and refuses to take a bribe in "Golden Fleece".
In the Squad, informality was everything. Everyone called DCI Haskins simply "Haskins" (except to his face), though Regan would occasionally call him by his first name, Frank. No one ever called Regan "Mister" - except the villains, or sometimes Carter when talking to Haskins. To the Squad, he was always simply "the Guv'nor", or just "Guv". In turn, he invariably called Carter and the other Squad members by their first names. But off-duty he and George Carter were friends and drinking buddies, so in private Carter called him Jack. This is all in accordance with widespread police convention.
Regan was driven around in a Ford Consul Granada MK1 GT, which was one of the most recognisable sights on television during the 1970s and still had cult status some 35 years later. Although he is seen driving various cars himself in the series, he always has a driver - usually 'Bill' (an uncredited role played by Tony Allen) - when using the Consul Granada (and the similar Ford Granada models used in later stories), which served as a Squad car: when the Squad travelled they always went "mob handed" (in considerable numbers). Regan did have his own car outside of the squad, in the series.
Dennis Waterman plays Detective Sergeant George Carter who comes from south London; and Regan seeks him out in the pilot episode because of his knowledge of the south London area. His age is given in the episode "Hit and Run" as 26. In the series' timeline, we learn that George had previously been in the Squad, but had quit for family reasons (cf. Regan and "Jigsaw"). George was married to Alison Carter, a schoolteacher, but is widowed in the episode "Hit and Run" when Alison is murdered by mistake by a gang of diamond smugglers. He's a former amateur boxer, as we see from the pilot Regan, and is described as having professional boxing potential in the episode "Chalk and Cheese". Like his superior, he likes a drink (though less so than Regan), and appreciates football, and after the death of his wife - pretty girls. Carter isn't as violent or aggressive as Regan and usually plays the good cop. In the episode "Latin Lady", he introduces himself to Christobel Delgado (Meg Davies) as George Hamilton Carter.
Garfield Morgan plays Detective Chief Inspector Frank Haskins, married with three children at boarding schools and is Regan's immediate superior. Prior to the series timeline, the character had done "National Service in the Signals Corps in a minor intelligence role" (as revealed in the episode "Stay Lucky, Eh?"). He is frequently seen at odds with Regan, preferring more conventional 'by the book' policing methods.
The main 'Haskins episodes' are "Golden Fleece", where he is set up to be the victim of a corruption enquiry, and "Victims", where his wife suffers a mental breakdown due to memories of a miscarriage. Although he appeared in the opening titles of every episode of the first three series, he did not appear in all of them.
The character was not present at the start of the fourth, final series, and his role was taken by other superiors such as Detective Chief Inspector Anderson, played by Richard Wilson and Detective Chief Superintendent Braithwaite, played by Benjamin Whitrow. Haskins returned a few episodes into the fourth series. There are two versions of the fourth series opening credits - with and without Haskins.
In the early episodes, the team has a variety of drivers including Len (Jack McKenzie) (the first two episodes) and Fred (in the episode "Jigsaw"). However, the episode "The Placer" in the first series introduces the character of Bill the driver (played by Tony Allen, who subsequently worked as wardrobe manager for many of John Thaw's later projects), and he remains a constant throughout the series, although he plays a peripheral, non-speaking role in most episodes.
Detective Sergeant Tom Daniels (John Alkin) is the most prominent member of the supporting Squad. Other members include Sergeant Kent, Detective Constable Thorpe and DS Matthews in the first series, DC Jerry Burtonshaw (Nick Brimble) (Series 1-2, 4) and DC Jellyneck (Series 4). Detective Chief Superintendent Maynon (Morris Perry) appears occasionally as a superior officer, and is seen as being more willing than Haskins to bend the rules in order to get a result in the episode "Queen's Pawn". With Haskins absent, a semi-regular superior officer named DCS Braithwaite (Benjamin Whitrow) appears in Series 4.
Other main characters include the close family of the three leads.
Regan's ex-wife Kate appears in the episode "Abduction", after previously featuring in the pilot; and his daughter Susie (Jennifer Thanisch) appears in several episodes, most notably, "Abduction".
Carter's wife Alison (Stephanie Turner) is seen attempting to prise him away from the Squad in the episode "Jigsaw", while her hostility toward Regan is apparent in the episode "Abduction". She is murdered in a case of mistaken identity in the episode "Hit and Run". In the DVD commentary for "Abduction", it is mentioned that the reason for this was that the actress (Stephanie Turner) was asking for too much money to continue to appear in the series. Her death was convenient for the show, releasing Carter to play a more freewheeling role, 'on the pull' - and allowing his banter with Regan, which had become a very popular part of the show, to develop further. Stephanie Turner went on to appear in Juliet Bravo, also devised and part-written by Ian Kennedy Martin.
Doreen Haskins plays a minor role in some episodes, although the penultimate episode "Victims" deals with her deteriorating mental health and returns to the theme of the job's impact on family life. One of Haskins' three children, Richard, also appears in that episode.
The shows guest stars included:
Many up and coming actors also appeared in the show during its run, such as:
The filming of each episode normally took ten working days, shooting about five minutes of edited screen time per day. Due to this, the number of different filming locations had to be restricted to 10, i.e. one location per day. At the Euston Films production office in Colet Court, there was a standing set of the Flying Squad offices, which provided an alternative option should the weather restrict a day's filming. Two days would normally be spent filming on the set, equalling 10 minutes of any episode being set in the offices. Shooting took place through the Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter months so, exterior night shooting was expensive and was limited to three minutes of external night material in any episode.
Each episode had an eight and a half week production schedule: two weeks' pre-production (for casting, finding locations etc.), two weeks shooting, four weeks picture editing (the first two weeks of which overlapped with the shoot), two weeks sound editing, and two-and-a-half days dubbing.
Most of the locations used for filming The Sweeney were around the west London area - in particular, Acton, Chiswick, Shepherd's Bush, Hammersmith (where the Flying Squad's offices were based - referred to as 'The Factory' by the characters), Fulham, Earl's Court, Kensington & Chelsea and Notting Hill districts, close to the Euston Films HQ at Colet Court in Hammersmith. Most notable is the filming of location sequences in (at the time) London`s Docklands, which had become derelict and were ideal for filming. Today the Docklands have been completely redeveloped and bear no resemblance to what it was. The opening titles were filmed in Colet Gardens. However, other notable locations in London, the South East of England and further afield were also used for filming the show's episodes and included:
A pilot episode, "Regan", was made as part of the Armchair Cinema series and shown in 1974. In all, four series were made with Series One being broadcast between January and March 1975 and Series Two following between September and December of the same year. Series Three was broadcast between September and December 1976, with the final series being shown two years later in 1978. Two 90-minute feature films, Sweeney! and Sweeney 2, were released in 1977 and 1978 respectively, between the third and fourth series.
The promotional episode shown to the press was "Thin Ice", which featured a relatively lightweight and somewhat humorous story, some comedy, and international locations.
Episodes from the first series included "Ringer", where the team were attempting to prevent a criminal being sprung from prison, "Jackpot", "Stoppo Driver", and "Abduction" (in which Regan's daughter Susie was kidnapped), focusing on the strains which the job caused to family life. "Night Out" subtly illustrated the backgrounds and family lives of Regan and Carter; parallels are drawn between the unhappy situation of the main villain's family and Regan's own domestic situation.
The early episodes feature a great degree of hostility and mistrust between Regan and his superior, Haskins, who in one episode ("Ringer") attempts to separate Carter from Regan in order to help Carter's career.
The episode "Queen's Pawn" is a display of how Regan is willing to bend the rules in order to get a result, as he fabricates evidence, illegally opens private mail, and even arranges the kidnapping of one of the criminals in order to get the desired result.
All episodes were broadcast in 1975 on ITV, Thursdays at 21:00.
- Ringer - broadcast 2 January
- Jackpot - broadcast 9 January
- Thin Ice - broadcast 16 January
- Queen's Pawn - broadcast 23 January
- Jigsaw - broadcast 30 January
- Night Out - broadcast 6 February
- The Placer - broadcast 13 February
- Cover Story - broadcast 20 February
- Golden Boy - broadcast 27 February
- Stoppo Driver - broadcast 6 March
- Big Spender - broadcast 13 March
- Contact Breaker - broadcast 20 March
- Abduction - broadcast 27 March
All Series 1 episodes were shot in 1974.
The episodes "Faces" and "Thou Shalt Not Kill" were broadcast during the second series. In the former a Communist group (which appears to be German-based, with echoes of the then-contemporary West German Communist terrorist group The Baader-Meinhof gang) is staging heists to raise funds for its cause. However, the group has been infiltrated by British Secret Service MI5, leading to inter-departmental politics between the police and the security services. "Thou Shalt Not Kill" features a tense hostage situation inside a bank, with Haskins faced with the dilemma of whether to risk the hostages' lives by shooting the criminals.
Other highlights included a pair of tongue-in-cheek episodes, "Golden Fleece" and "Trojan Bus", featuring two cocky but likeable Australian villains, played by British actors Patrick Mower and George Layton; and the more serious episode "Hit and Run", in which Carter's wife Alison is murdered.
All episodes were broadcast in 1975 on ITV, Mondays at 21:00.
- Chalk and Cheese - broadcast 1 September
- Faces - broadcast 8 September
- Supersnout - broadcast 15 September
- Big Brother - broadcast 22 September
- Hit and Run - broadcast 29 September
- Trap - broadcast 6 October
- Golden Fleece - broadcast 13 October
- Poppy - broadcast 20 October
- Stay Lucky, Eh? - broadcast 27 October
- Trojan Bus - broadcast 3 November
- I Want the Man! - broadcast 10 November
- Country Boy - broadcast 17 November
- Thou Shalt Not Kill - broadcast 24 November
All Series 2 episodes were shot in 1975.
The episode "Taste of Fear" introduced violent psychopathic criminal Tim Cook (George Sweeney), an army deserter whose experiences in Northern Ireland had left him embittered. Cook also appeared in the later episode "On the Run".
Other episodes explored different themes: "Tomorrow Man" focused on the clash between traditional policing methods and newer more technological ways of solving crime, methods which, in the modern world, have made crimes such as those depicted in The Sweeney - of villains in stocking masks carrying out wages snatches - seem old fashioned. "Bad Apple" dealt with police corruption, and here, Regan, despite being seen to bend the rules in other episodes in order to achieve convictions (i.e. for legitimate motives), will not bend them for his own profit, and is shown to hold the deepest contempt for the corrupt officers. Finally "Sweet Smell of Succession" features one of the final screen appearances of Peter Dyneley, the voice of Jeff Tracy in the popular Gerry Anderson created series "Thunderbirds".
All episodes were broadcast in 1976 on ITV, Mondays at 21:00.
- Selected Target - broadcast 6 September
- In from the Cold - broadcast 13 September
- Visiting Fireman - broadcast 20 September
- Tomorrow Man - broadcast 27 September
- Taste of Fear - broadcast 4 October
- Bad Apple - broadcast 11 October
- May * broadcast 25 October
- Sweet Smell of Succession - broadcast 8 November
- Down to You, Brother! - broadcast 22 November
- Pay Off - broadcast 29 November
- Loving Arms - broadcast 6 December
- Lady Luck - broadcast 13 December
- On The Run - broadcast 20 December
The following episodes were shot in 1975: Tomorrow Man, Visiting Fireman, Taste of Fear, Sweet Smell of Succession, Loving Arms and Lady Luck.
The following episodes were shot in 1976: Selected Target, In from the Cold, Taste of Fear, Bad Apple, May, Down to You, Brother!, Payoff and On the Run.
There was a two-year gap between the third and fourth series while the team made two full length feature films (Sweeney! and Sweeney 2) to cash-in on the show's popularity.
For the fourth series, the title sequence was changed, and other changes including DCI Haskins being absent from a number of episodes. The final series has been criticised as the weakest. This decline in quality led John Thaw and Dennis Waterman to the realisation that the show was in danger of running out of steam, and to take the decision to end it while it was still at the peak of its popularity.
Notable episodes include "Nightmare", which features a slightly experimental dream sequence as part of the plot. This is also the episode with the highest deaths, and features another then-contemporary plot of two ex-IRA men committing a major crime in order to buy their way back into the organisation. "Bait" featured a performance by George Sewell, who had starred in The Sweeney's Euston Films forerunner series, Special Branch, as well as in the film Get Carter!, which was a major influence on The Sweeney, and whose main character, Jack Carter, may have been the inspiration for the names of the two main Sweeney characters.
"Hearts and Minds", the last episode to be filmed, featured the popular comedians Morecambe and Wise, and was a quid pro quo for the appearance of Waterman and Thaw in a sketch in the 1976 Morecambe and Wise Christmas show on the BBC.
The final broadcast episode, "Jack or Knave?", which aired on 28 December 1978, saw an ambiguous ending, with the main character, Jack Regan, temporarily locked up after being implicated in a corruption scandal, of which he is finally exonerated. He then announces that he's had it with the Squad, and the series ends with him resigning in disgust.
All episodes were broadcast in 1978 on ITV, Thursdays at 21:00.
- Messenger of the Gods - broadcast 7 September
- Hard Men - broadcast 14 September
- Drag Act - broadcast 21 September
- Trust Red - broadcast 28 September
- Nightmare - broadcast 5 October
- Money, Money, Money - broadcast 12 October
- Bait - broadcast 19 October
- The Bigger They Are - broadcast 26 October
- Feet of Clay - broadcast 2 November
- One of Your Own - broadcast 9 November
- Hearts and Minds - broadcast 23 November
- Latin Lady - broadcast 30 November
- Victims - broadcast 14 December
- Jack or Knave? - broadcast 28 December
The following episodes were shot in 1977: Messenger of The Gods, Drag Act, Trust Red, Money, Money, Money, Feet of Clay, One of Your Own and Jack or Knave?.
The following episodes were shot in 1978: Hard Men, Nightmare, Bait, The Bigger They Are, Hearts and Minds, Latin Lady and Victims.
Like many successful British TV series of the time, such as Dad's Army, Are You Being Served?, Porridge and Rising Damp, cinema versions of The Sweeney were made, featuring the same actors and characters. The two films were even grittier than the TV series, featuring levels of violence, sex and nudity that would not have been possible on television at the time.
In Sweeney! (1977), Regan and Carter get involved in a plot based on the Profumo Affair. British actor Barry Foster guest-stars as an Americanised, and more deadly, version of Stephen Ward. Made in 1976, the film appears to be set in the then near-future, indicated by the line "The same damned speech you made in 1978."; also visible on a wall in the scene where the OPEC delegates meet is a logo displaying "1979".
In Sweeney 2 (1978), George and Jack eventually find themselves going to the island of Malta in order to track down a group of particularly violent armed robbers who have been committing bank and payroll robberies all over London and kill anybody that gets in their way, even members of their own gang, Jack & George were assigned the case by their recently convicted chief inspector as his last order, as he is about to be charged with corruption.
A total of nine books were written and released in 1977 published by Futura Publications Ltd.
The first three books were authored by Ian Kennedy Martin, the rest by Joe Balham. The plots of the books are not taken from any of the television episodes; overall, the tone of the books differs somewhat from the television series in that Regan is usually depicted as working alone, and his relationship with Carter is distinctly unfriendly.
Detectives on the edge of a nervous breakdown
The 1993 Comic Strip film Detectives on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown features a character introduced as "Shouting George from The Weeny" (played by Jim Broadbent). Despite the character's name, he is in fact a direct yet affectionate parody of Jack Regan.
In 1977 and 1978, publishers Brown Watson (who specialised in annuals based on TV series') published two editions of 'The Sweeney Annual' featuring a mix of comic strips (some with art by Brian Lewis) and illustrated text stories, interspersed with occasional features on the TV series, articles about policing, puzzles and (in the 1978 annual) an interview with John Thaw and Dennis Waterman.
In the early 1980s, the comic Jackpot featured a strip called "The Teeny Sweeney" which was originally drawn by J. Edward Oliver. A trio of schoolboys played at being plain-clothes policemen, with two of them looking like little versions of Regan and Carter. They even had "Flying Squad" written on the side of their cartie. Their attempts at being helpful, however, almost always ended in disaster.
A TV ad for the Nissan Almera car in the late 1990s had two characters similar to Carter and Regan racing through London to deal with a "bank job". A suspicious group of men have entered a bank dressed as painters. As 'Carter' races the car through the streets, 'Regan' keeps bellowing at him and others to "Shut it!"
At one stage, 'Regan' shouts "Mark it!", which is slang for following a suspect, but in this case, means "market" as 'Carter' drives erratically through a market place. 'Carter' tells 'Regan' to stop shouting, to which 'Regan' barks the reply "I can't!".
When they burst into the bank, it turns out that the men are genuine painters and that 'Regan', their guv (or boss), is there to tell them that they have the wrong sort of white paint(!) 'Carter' says, "Think we'd better go back to the yard, guv, and get some more." "Shut up!"
One of the painters talks in a squeaky-like voice and is called "Squealer", which is slang for informant.
(This ad was the follow-up to a hugely popular one spoofing The Professionals a year or so previously.)
DVD and CD releases
The complete series of The Sweeney was released by Network on 16 DVDs in 2005. The pilot episode "Regan" was also released on DVD in November 2005. Both films, Sweeney! and Sweeney 2 have also been released on DVD.
The 2007 18-disc Network release contains all four series, the pilot and both of the spin-off films. Along with all this, the box-set contains exclusive extras.
Below is a list of all the extras of the boxset:
Commentary with Dennis Waterman, producer Ted Childs and director Tom Clegg.
Commentaries with Dennis Waterman, Garfield Morgan, producer Ted Childs, writers Trevor Preston and Troy Kennedy-Martin, directors Tom Clegg and David Wickes and editor Chris Burt.
'Sweeney!' and 'Sweeney 2':
All four series one are now available as Region 1 (North America) DVDs.
A soundtrack album Shut it! The Music of The Sweeney was released in 2001 and features much of the incidental music used in the programme as well as many classic pieces of dialogue from various episodes. It also featured the main title theme from the first Big Screen version, "SWEENEY!",
High definition Blu-ray
In 2012 the first series was released on high definition Blu-ray discs, after the original film negatives were scanned in HD and comprehensively restored by BBC Studios and Post Production. Fans are eagerly awaiting the remainder series issued on Blu-ray by Network Distributing.