In the annals of British TV police series, few shows have been as influential or as important as The Sweeney. Starring John Thaw – the future Inspector Morse – as DI Jack Regan and Dennis Waterman – the future Minder – as DS George Carter of the Metropolitan Police’s ‘Flying Squad’, the show spawned imitators (Special Branch), homages (Life on Mars) and movies (The Sweeney), and even influenced the then-new Flying Squad themselves, showing them how to be the Flying Squad.
What’s not as well known is that The Sweeney actually started as one of Thames TV’s Armchair Cinema season, the continuation of ITV’s Armchair Theatre play series. It was written by Ian Kennedy Martin – the brother of Z-Cars (and The Italian Job and Edge of Darkness) writer Troy Kennedy Martin – with John Thaw in mind, Kennedy Martin having been script editor on 60s show Redcap, of which Thaw was the star.
Most of the essential elements of The Sweeney are here, so see below how the show started, in today’s Wednesday Play.