Classic TV Revisited: The Sweeney

Starring John Thaw, Dennis Waterman

Why was it golden? The relationship between boozy, maverick DI Jack Regan and side-kick George Carter. It was the first TV cop show not to depict the police as whiter-than-white heroes.

How did it all start? It was a spin-off of Troy Kennedy-Martin’s 1974 Armchair Cinema play Regan. It ran for 52 episodes on ITV from 1975 to 1978 and quickly gained a cult popularity. The title came from Sweeney Todd, Cockney rhyming slang for Flying Squad.

Tell me more about the main characters. John Thaw’s Regan was foul-mouthed, violent and promiscuous. No wonder his wife left him. Carter (Dennis Waterman) became increasingly like Regan after his wife died as they lurched from pub to pub and from woman to woman.

Who else was in it? Garfield Morgan was Regan’s sniping boss Haskins and there were guest appearances by Morecambe and Wise appearing as themselves threatened by Arab villains. Other guests included Diana Dors and George Cole.

Didn’t it cause a bit of a stir? TV watchdog Mary Whitehouse hated the sex and bad language and there was great concern about the violence. But to its many fans the only violent aspect was the clash of colours between Regan’s outsize ties and his jackets.

The Sweeney Jackpot

It made a fashion statement then? Not really, although John Thaw kept some kipper ties and jackets as mementoes for a while.

Did it have any other memorable features? The jazzy signature tune is unforgettable. Other catchphrases were “Shut it!” and: “We’re The Sweeney, son and we haven’t had any dinner.”

Why did it end? The show made John Thaw and Dennis Waterman huge stars and after nearly four years and two spin-off films they wanted to do other things.

What were they? You’d have to have lived on another planet not to know that Thaw went on to do Inspector Morse and Kavanagh QC. Waterman made Minder with George Cole and then Staying Lucky, On The Up and Circle Of Deceit.

Could it ever be revived? A less than stellar big screen movie with Ray Winstone wasn’t quite up to muster.

Not to be confused with: The Tweenies, Morse, weenyboppers, Miss Marple.