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TV: Z is for...

Z Cars

Frank puts up with more of Brian's cantCOLOSSUS OF small screen blue light institutions, dreamed up by the great TROY KENNEDY MARTIN as a response to “tame” [cref 2495 DIXON OF DOCK GREEN], only to see it drag on right through to, incredibly, a post-[cref 3206 SWEENEY] late 70s graveyard. Early years the best, with crazy “live” transmission policy meaning tense, rough and ready edge to scenes and dialogue, plus plentiful reliance on the old “out the rear window” back projections. DCI Charlie Barlow, aka STRATFORD JOHNS, was number one bad bastard cop, aided by “nice” FRANK WINDSOR (DS John Watt) and BRIAN BLESSED (PC William “Fancy” Smith), with PCs John Weir (JOSEPH BRADY) and Herbert Lynch (JAMES ELLIS) completing unique titular patrol combo. Much acclaimed depiction of force as “real people”, i.e. drunks, gamblers, wife-beaters, but inevitably tame compared with later decade displays of rank-filled vice and corruption. Switched from 50 minute eps to twice weekly 25 minute doses in 1967, when Johns and Windsor left for [cref 8161 SOFTLY SOFTLY] and were replaced by JOHN BARRIE (DI Sam Hudson) and JOHN SLATER (DS Stone). Proto-soap format didn’t work, however, so it was back to the 50 minute affairs from ’71. Passing through Newtown Station over the years were COLIN WELLAND (PC Graham), STEPHEN YARDLEY (PC May), GEOFFREY WHITEHEAD (DS Miller), ALISON STEADMAN (WPC Bayliss), GEORGE SEWELL (DI Brogan), JUNE WATSON (WP Cameron), JOSS ACKLAND (DI Todd) and several constabularies’ worth of extras. JOHN THAW was a trainee copper; JUDI DENCH a teenage runaway; TERENCE EDMOND drowned while saving a young boy; LEONARD ROSSITER was a foul-mouthed temporary boss; KENNETH COPE and IAIN GREGORY hammed it up as “the notorious Hancock brothers”; PATRICK TROUGHTON served as a local councillor; PAUL DARROW thieved and PATSY KENSIT blubbed. All crowned with peerless whistle-along theme “Johnny Todd” by Johnny Keating.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Glenn Aylett

    June 14, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    The fictional location of Newtown was Kirkby in Merseyside. One episode was also filmed at Aintree racecourse when it wasn’t used for racing.

  2. Arthur Nibble

    August 3, 2009 at 12:19 am

    Brian Blessed? Fancy!

  3. diz

    September 17, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    The theme still gets a fortnightly (on average) run out at Goodison Park, of course

  4. The Haj

    August 6, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    I seem to remember that, at one point, Liz Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith) did a stint in ‘Z Cars’. Perhaps, it was the police box experience that swung the interview for her with Lord Barry Letts and Sir Terrance Dicks for the Doctor Who gig…..

  5. Joanne Gray

    March 2, 2017 at 7:00 pm

    Geoffrey from Rainbow was in it for a while as well playing a CID officer.

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