The Thin Blue Line (TV series)

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The Thin Blue Line
The Thin Blue Line.png
Created by Ben Elton
Written by Ben Elton
Directed by John Birkin
Starring Rowan Atkinson
James Dreyfus
Mina Anwar
Rudolph Walker
Serena Evans
David Haig
Kevin Allen (series 1)
Mark Addy (series 2)
Lucy Robinson (series 2)
Joy Brook (series 1)
Composer(s) Howard Goodall
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 2
No. of episodes 14 (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s) Peter Bennett-Jones
Producer(s) Geoffrey Perkins
Ben Elton
Editor(s) Graham Hutchings (Series 1)
Steve Tempia (Series 2)
Charlie Fawcett (Series 2)
Running time 30 minutes
Production company(s) Tiger Aspect Productions
Distributor Endemol UK
Broadcast
Original channel BBC1
Original run 13 November 1995 (1995-11-13)  – 23 December 1996 (1996-12-23)

The Thin Blue Line is a British sitcom starring Rowan Atkinson set in a police station that ran for two series on the BBC from 1995 to 1996. It was written by Ben Elton.

Cast[edit]

Many notable actors made guest appearances, and these include the writer Ben Elton, Stephen Fry, Stephen Moore, Melvyn Hayes, Trevor Peacock, Colin McFarlane, Alan Cox, Alexander Armstrong, Nicola Stapleton, Perry Fenwick, and Rupert Vansittart.

Plot and characters[edit]

The Thin Blue Line was set in the police station of the fictional English town of Gasforth near London, although Constable Goody wears a North Yorkshire Police[2] helmet plate. One of the main themes was the rivalry between the uniformed squad led by Inspector Fowler (a sort of protagonist figure) and the CID led by Detective Inspector Grim (often Fowler's antagonist, though they were on the same side of the law). Episodes frequently saw the uniformed branch and CID locking horns over similar, or even the same, issues while having conflicting views or methods of operation. Generally the uniformed section triumphed over the detectives, although not without their own foibles. DI Grim provided much of the humour through his misuse of the English language.

The other comedic plotlines centred around the characters below and their peculiarities, although other PCs and staff were usually visible in the background and at meetings. (The ancillary staff are more visible in the first series. In both series they generally have no speaking parts).

Inspector Raymond C. Fowler, Fowler wears the ribbons of the Police Long Service and Good Conduct Medal and Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal. Fowler is an old-fashioned policeman whose lack of interest in sex annoys his live-in girlfriend of 10 years, Sergeant Dawkins. He was previously married, and his college-age son Bill appears in one episode. His former wife Susan is alluded to but never featured. Inspector Fowler has a strong devotion to duty and takes his job seriously, sometimes showing a lack of contemporary social awareness that amuses Habib and annoys Grim. He occasionally (usually unwittingly) performs very courageous acts in the line of duty. Among the cast, he most closely characterises the "stiff upper lip" English official, at least while on duty. He is a member of the local drama society and fancies himself an actor. His hobbies include reading Biggles and building miniature models. He is patriotic and occasionally makes disparaging remarks about other nationalities; but he's clearly not racist and frequently demonstrates his support of ethnic minorities. Despite his strong faith in the law, he is willing to bend the rules in an unjust situation, such as blackmailing a skinhead's mother into dropping charges against Constable Goody, or blackmailing Inspector Grim into dropping charges against Habib for withholding drug evidence. In the second series, Fowler breaks the fourth wall by beginning each episode by briefly addressing the audience directly, in the style of Jack Warner in Dixon of Dock Green.

Sergeant Patricia Dawkins is Inspector Fowler's domestic partner of 10 years. She is forever on a quest for more sexual attention from Fowler, who is usually reluctant to oblige. Despite her frustration and anger, she loves Fowler devotedly and dreams of marrying him and having their child. Dawkins gets extremely jealous if Fowler talks alone with other women and often jumps to conclusions as a result. This occasionally places her at odds with the younger WPC Maggie Habib, but the two always resume their friendship. She is also concerned about her health and appearance, perhaps as a result of Fowler's lukewarm sexual attentions. At the police station she is most often shown as the desk sergeant.

Detective Inspector Derek Grim is the head of the CID unit at Gasforth Police Station. His attitude is that CID are superior to the uniformed police and proclaims that the uniformed officers are "extinct...like the 'doo-doo'" [sic]. Grim harbours a poorly-contained desire for promotion, preferably away from unexciting Gasforth. Sometimes oblivious to subtleties, Grim is far more ignorant than he is willing to admit, which he regularly displays through his butchery of English phraseology (e.g. "You seem to forget, Kray, it's my arse on the line--so you'd better pull your finger out!") and his ill-conceived ideas. He is buffoonish and insecure in his own professional status and social standing. He has been married for 20 years to Tina (unseen) with whom he shares an intense love-hate relationship; he often complains about their marriage and her, but he occasionally reveals that he does love her. Their son Darren was arrested in one episode. His rants (often against "fannying about", which he himself plainly does) are the source of numerous comedic lines. Despite his flaws, at least one episode reveals that Grim is fundamentally a good man, as he was greatly conflicted by D.C. Boyle's plan of planting evidence on drug-dealer Harry the Spike.

Constable Kevin Goody is perhaps the least complex of the show's characters. Unintelligent and oblivious to the obvious, he has very little idea of what being a police officer entails; he has admitted that "wearing a nice uniform" was one reason he joined the force. Easily confused, his ineptitude amazes Fowler, who once exclaimed, "Your head is just something you keep your hat on, isn't it?". Goody is always on an unsuccessful quest to win the heart of WPC Habib despite his obvious camp behavior; almost every episode shows him trying to impress her. He lives with his mother, of whom he is terrified ("...she'll come down here, and do her raving Nah-Nah...") and Habib has learned to threaten to inform her when he becomes too annoying. He once struck a prisoner in anger when the young thug made a racist remark against Habib, for which he was nearly charged by Fowler.

Constable Maggie Habib is a female officer of South Asian descent and is generally the "straight man" in Fowler's uniformed branch. Highly intelligent, she often approaches issues wisely and methodically. Fowler has commented that she is a fine officer and that she has a good career ahead of her. She always tries to deflect Goody's attentions, but deep down she is sympathetic to him and argued against Goody being charged when he punched the skinhead who verbally abused her. Habib is pro-immigration and vocally progressive in her socio-political views. She has a study-freak-turned-drug-addict sister, Nazia, whom she protects by withholding evidence during a vice operation in one episode. She was nearly charged by Grim until Fowler blackmailed him by threatening criminal charges for a minor "crime" that Grim himself had committed. She was also citizen arrested by local villain "Terry the Tank" after Grim tried to use her as a "honey-trap". Habib often stifles her laughter at Inspector Fowler's unintentional double-entendres.

Constable Frank Gladstone is an older PC, presumably near retirement, who was born in Trinidad. He has been a PC all his life, as was his father, and is enjoying his career winding down. He often contributes to situations by making irrelevant tangential comments, usually silly and sometimes sexist in nature. This sexism provides an amusing foil (opposite) to Constable Goody's overt camp behaviour. He is fond of Gloria Hunniford. With the possible exception of Goody, Gladstone is the most out-of-touch-with-reality of the characters. He once claimed to have an interesting case in which a woman complained that her neighbour had trimmed his hedge into the shape of a bottom.

Detective Constable Robert Kray is an officer in Grim's CID unit for the entire of Series 1. Presumably having been promoted beyond the regular uniformed service, he is a very 'laddish' cop. Intelligent, cynical, and pragmatic, his motivation for joining the force was the 'perks of the job' such as pushing to the front of queues, and sometimes using his police status to his own ends. He is frequently eating or ordering food via telephone while on duty. Despite being at Grim's beck and call, he has little respect for his superior and often chuckles at his misfortunes. He provides a comic supporting role similar to PC Gladstone, although his interjections are usually brief "one-liner" stabs. He is paired with female DC Crockett in several scenes (she eventually disappears from the series). Kray is replaced in Series 2 by DC Gary Boyle. Both Kray and Boyle served as intelligent "straight man" characters to the bumbling Grim, not unlike PC Habib's relationship with Fowler.

Detective Constable Gary Boyle is Kray's replacement in Series 2. He too is very 'laddish' and likes being a police officer for the associated perks. Like Kray, he is intelligent, cynical, and pragmatic although he is more respectful to the uniformed branch and is a more dedicated officer. He sees no reason for police officers to refrain from taking liberties like staging pub lock-ins, using the car siren when late for lunch, or even planting evidence on clever criminals to get a conviction. Arguably more aggressive than Kray, Boyle sometimes covers up for Grim's mistakes or steers him in the right direction, while being generally unimpressed with his superior. The second series is a bit more serious in this regard and shows CID as more involved than the first series. Boyle has several spots in this and his character is more developed than Kray's but perhaps proportionally less comical.

Detective Constable Crockett is Kray's CID partner in Series 1; she appears in every episode, but speaks only in "The Queen's Birthday Present", "Rag Week", "Fire and Terror", and "Yuletide Spirit" in minor supporting situations.

Ben Elton[edit]

The writer, Ben Elton, is a self-confessed fan of Dad's Army,[citation needed] and as such many of the characters were influenced by the show. Fowler's relationship with Grim is very similar to that of Captain Mainwaring to Warden Hodges, in that they are both on the same side yet enemies. Also, Constable Goody is rather like Private Pike in being a 'stupid boy' who irritates Fowler. Constable Gladstone's habit of interrupting a briefing with a story about life in Trinidad is similar to Lance Corporal Jones's penchant for reminiscing about Sudan during Captain Mainwaring's speeches. Other references include in the episode Rag Week, when Fowler is briefly seen walking out of a shop called "Mainwaring's".

Ben Elton has appeared in the programme himself. In the first series the "WANTED" poster behind Fowler's desk in the briefing room is an E-FIT of Elton. He even takes a cameo role in the Christmas special episode, Yuletide Spirit.

Episodes[edit]

The following is a summary of episodes for the British sit-com The Thin Blue Line, which first aired on 13 November 1995 and ended on 23 December 1996. It has broadcast two series with seven episodes each, including a Christmas special at the end of series 1 on 26 December 1995.

Series Episodes Originally Broadcast Complete Series DVD Release Date
Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
Series 1 7 13 November 1995 – 26 December 1995 15 June 2004 17 September 2001 7 November 2002
Series 2 7 14 November 1996 – 23 December 1996

Critical reception[edit]

Despite its popularity with viewers, the show suffered in critical reviews due to "inconsistent character development" and an "overly broad plotline". However the show has a 7.8 rating on IMDb.

DVD releases[edit]

Both series have been released on DVD in the UK (Region 2) by Vision Video Ltd. Episodes in the first series were not in broadcast order on the DVD. The Thin Blue Line is available in Region 1 (North America), having been released by BBC Warner.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Fowler wears the ribbons of the Police Long Service and Good Conduct Medal and Queen's Police Medal.
  2. ^ "North Yorkshire Constabulary" is clearly visible in the close-up of PC Goody's custodian helmet plate in the first series' intro sequence.

External links[edit]