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GenrePolice procedural
Created byJimmy Nail
Ian La Frenais
Written byJimmy Nail
Ian La Frenais
Kenneth Ladd
Val McLane
Directed byMary McMurray
Roger Bamford
StarringJimmy Nail
Sammy Johnson
Berwick Kaler
Denise Welch
Tony McAnaney
Paul Greenwood
Peter Guinness
Theme music composerTony McAnaney
ComposerTony McAnaney
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of series3
No. of episodes21 (list of episodes)
ProducersMartin McKeand
Paul Raphaël
Peter McAleese
CinematographyNigel Walters
EditorMartin Sharpe
Running time50 minutes
Production companyBig Boy Productions
Original release
Release8 January 1991 (1991-01-08) –
29 December 1993 (1993-12-29)

Spender is a British television police procedural drama, created by Ian La Frenais and Jimmy Nail, that first broadcast on 8 January 1991 on BBC1.[1] The series, which also starred Nail as the titular character, ran for three series between 1991 and 1993, finishing with a feature-length special, The French Collection, broadcast on 29 December 1993. A total of twenty-one episodes were produced. The first and second series were produced by Martin McKeand, while the third and final series was produced by Paul Raphaël and Peter McAleese.

The series, set in Newcastle upon Tyne, focuses on the life and exploits of Detective Sergeant Freddie Spender, who was often chosen to carry out more daring police cases. With his criminal sidekick Stick (Sammy Johnson), Spender was regarded as one of the more remarkable TV detectives of the 1990s. The series featured an extensive back story for the main characters, with a number of episodes dealing with Spender's domestic life, his family and circumstances. Some of the storylines were however seen as somewhat dark; one episode featured the death of Spender's wife at the hands of a ruthless gangster, another on the kidnap of one of his daughters.[2]

Guest stars in the series included Amanda Redman, Rodney Bewes, Frances Tomelty, Julie Peasgood, Jan Graveson, Geoffrey Hughes, Bobby Pattinson, Tom Bell and Ian McElhinney. The series was broadcast on Tuesday evenings in the peak time slot that followed the BBC's flagship Nine O'Clock News. No further series were produced following the feature-length special, despite the popularity of the show, and it being a smash hit for the BBC in terms of ratings with the show regularly pulling in 14 million viewers, and each episode costing upwards of £350,000 to produce. In 1992, a novelisation of the series, written by Nail, was published.[3] The series has never been released on DVD.


Jimmy Nail initially mentioned the idea of a cop show to writer Ian La Frenais, with whom he'd worked on Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, in 1987. The BBC subsequently commissioned a pilot script, written by the latter, which was enthusiastically received; however La Frenais was too busy to work on further episodes. A producer suggested that Nail should try writing a script, which was also positively received by the BBC. Subsequently, a series of eight episodes was commissioned by the network. Not confident he could repeat the formula for remaining episodes in the series on his own, Nail moved to Los Angeles in 1989 to be closer to La Frenais as he worked on material for the series.[citation needed]

The second and third series were produced by Initial.

Ford provided a new Ford Sierra Sapphire RS Cosworth for each series, which served as Spender's car. Stick drove a Volkswagen Beetle. A number of Ford, Vauxhall, BMW and Range Rover cars were also featured in the series.[4]



Series 1 (1991)[edit]

Episode Title Written by Directed by Original airdate
1"Homecoming"Ian La FrenaisMary McMurray8 January 1991 (1991-01-08)
After an undercover operation goes wrong in London, Spender's partner is injured. It is felt that Spender should lie low for a while. He is reluctantly sent back to his native Newcastle for what he thinks is a one-off assignment to try and get evidence against a local businessman, Spender also catches up with his ex wife and kids and also his old mate an ex building society robber 'Stick' who will become his side-kick to help him in his investigations into the murky criminal world.
2"Half a Ton of Heartaches"Jimmy NailRoger Bamford15 January 1991 (1991-01-15)
Spender goes undercover on an oil rig as a fitters mate after a worker is murdered and his body washed up on the shore. As Spender gets near the truth he finds the bad guys closing in on him, once he has discovered the death is to do with drug smuggling. Spender also finds out that his youngest daughter has been seriously injured in his flat while he was away on the oil rig.
3"Double Jeopardy"Ian La FrenaisMary McMurray22 January 1991 (1991-01-22)
A group of criminals from the south have come north to team up with some local well-known muscle to pull off an armed raid. Meanwhile, Spender finds out that his best mate Keith is struggling to come to terms with his illness.
4"The Candidate"Jimmy NailRichard Standeven29 January 1991 (1991-01-29)
Spender is put in charge of the security of a female politician during an election because she has been receiving some death threats and poison pen letters. Spender finds that his own life is on the line trying to keep the politician alive, as someone close to her is trying to kill her.
5"Iced"Ian La FrenaisRoger Bamford5 February 1991 (1991-02-05)
A young student is killed in a motorbike accident. Spender is the godfather to the girlfriend of the dead young man. Meanwhile a known drug courier is arrested coming back into the country. Spender poses as an old friend from the army days of the courier, now turned informer. With the help of Booney, a female detective, they set about trying to find where and how the drugs are shifted around the North East. Spender finds out that the death of the young student is linked with a drug called 'ice', which is being distributed around the North East by their target.
6"Dance Girl Dance"John HarveyRichard Standeven12 February 1991 (1991-02-12)
Young girls, recruited by a local nightclub for dancing work overseas, have been disappearing. Spender poses as a potential owner and, with Stick's help, sets up a rival club. Spender enlists the help of the sister of one of the missing girls to find out what happened to them.
7"Tough"Jimmy NailMary McMurray19 February 1991 (1991-02-19)
Spender tries to find a way to help a reluctant fist-fighter escape from the clutches of his unscrupulous promoter.
8"Well, Well, Well"Jimmy NailMary McMurray26 February 1991 (1991-02-26)
Spender tries to help when Stick gets involved in a dodgy deal involving stolen jewellery, and the man he was dealing with is murdered.

Series 2 (1992)[edit]

Episode Title Written by Directed by Original airdate
1"Here We Go Again"Jimmy NailAlan Grint7 January 1992 (1992-01-07)
Spender is involved in a close protection operation involving members of the government. Meanwhile, Stick and former cellmate Spud get involved in a local vendetta, while Frances has a new man in her life.
2"Fly By Night"Ian La FrenaisAlan Grint14 January 1992 (1992-01-14)
Spender goes under cover at a glass factory to check out a suspect for a security van robbery. Meanwhile, Keith's friend Blakey is involved in a war between illegal fly posting outfits.
3"Fee"Jimmy NailIan Knox21 January 1992 (1992-01-21)
Spender sets out to help a couple who are in trouble with a local drug dealer, and uncovers corruption in the drugs squad.
4"Family Business"Ian La FrenaisIan Knox28 January 1992 (1992-01-28)
Spender's aunt asks him to find her son, who has been missing for eight months, and has spent most of his life in trouble.
5"The Golden Striker"Kenneth LaddRoger Bamford4 February 1992 (1992-02-04)
Spender is assigned to track down a footballer who has gone missing shortly after arriving home from Italy.
6"At the End of the Day"Jimmy NailRager Bamford11 February 1992 (1992-02-11)
Gillespie puts pressure on Spender to arrest his criminal friends. Frances is on jury duty and is being pressured into giving a not guilty verdict. Spender investigates a series of ram-raids.

Series 3 (1993)[edit]

Episode Title Written by Directed by Original airdate
1"The More Things Change"Jimmy NailIan Knox5 January 1993 (1993-01-05)
Spender is assigned to investigate attacks on women in a local park, and investigates a small record bootlegging operation. Stick gets involved with some hot jewellery. Meanwhile, Spender, Stick and Keith all have new women in their lives, and Frances plans to remarry.
2"Kid"Val McLaneIan Knox12 January 1993 (1993-01-12)
Spender investigates the attempted murder of a runaway teenage boy after his daughters see him fall from a clifftop.
3"Puck"Jimmy NailSuri Krishnamma19 January 1993 (1993-01-19)
Spender investigates a local villain and discovers he is blackmailing a local ice hockey star.
4"Bad Company"Stan HeySuri Krishnamma26 January 1993 (1993-01-26)
Spender is under investigation by CID as he continues his affair with the wife of a local villain. Gillespie is kidnapped.
5"Best Friends"Niall LeonardIan Knox2 February 1993 (1993-02-02)
Spender and Boyd investigate a series of car thefts, but Boyd is caught by the gang. Stick opens a jewellery shop, but it is robbed on its first day. Spender discovers that Keith’s girlfriend Emily is only fifteen.
6"Retreat"Stan HeyIan Knox9 February 1993 (1993-02-09)
Spender goes undercover as a prisoner to investigate the murder of a key witness. Stick flees Newcastle when he falls behind with his rent.
7"The French Collection"Jimmy NailMatt Forrest29 December 1993 (1993-12-29)
Spender is sent to Marseilles to escort Tommy Thornton back to the UK.


  1. ^ "How to Choose Stereo AV Receiver".
  2. ^ "Spender". epguides.com.
  3. ^ Nail, Jimmy (1992). Spender: The Novel. ISBN 978-0553405026. ASIN 0553405020.
  4. ^ Barnard, Peter (8 January 1992). "Unlikely but likeable". The Times.

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