Connect with us

TV

Public Eye (ITV Crime Drama, Alfred Burke)

Published

on

Public Eye Season 6

Crime drama series Public Eye, created by Roger Marshall, followed the cases of down market private detective Frank Marker (superbly played by Alfred Burke). It began life on ABC picked up by Thames following the 1968 franchise changeover. Most of the early episodes have long been wiped. Sadly only five from the first three seasons have survived.

Public Eye is a  well remembered series with a great central performance from Alfred Burke. Marker could be mistaken for an early inspiration for Colombo with his dishevelled mac and general down at heel air.

Over the course of its run Frank moved several times, first from London to Birmingham. In a major shock at the end of the third season (possibly because of the franchise uncertainty in 1968) Frank was sent to prison, accused of receiving stolen goods (even though he was completely innocent). When season four began, now being made by Thames, Frank was still in prison but getting ready to make his re-entry into the world. He moved to Brighton to make a fresh start where he lodged with Helen Mortimer (who became a regular for the season and made occasional appearances there after, Helen was played by Pauline Delaney) – it was half way through the season before he began practicing as a private enquiry agent again – forced to take a succession of manual jobs to satisfy his probation officer.

Public Eye’s fifth season saw the biggest change yet – colour for one thing and another move for Frank, this time to Windsor where he met Detective Inspector Percy Firbank (the brilliant Ray Smith) who would become a regular for the next couple of seasons and could be called the closest thing to a friend Marker has during the series. Nell, the young woman who worked in the antiques shop nearby the Frank’s office was also a semi-regular for the season.

Public Eye Season 7

From the classic, moody and jazz tinged opening titles.

When Frank was badly beaten up at the start of season 7 it shook him so much that he contemplated giving up the game altogether. Percy, before moving on himself, persuaded him to join forces with fellow Private Enquiry Agent Ron Gash, the association didn’t last long though as by mid-season Frank had moved on again. This time to Chertsey where he took up residence in an old TV Aerial shop by the train station. Frank never did bother to change the sign above the office from Apollo Aerials.

Frank was very much a loner and he genuinely didn’t like it when people tried to help him. Close friends were few and far between. Helen Mortimer would have liked to have become more than friends with Frank but when their friendship got too close Frank moved on. Percy was a valuable ally and voice of reason even if they did rub each other up the wrong way sometimes. Finally Ron Gash (Peter Childs) genuinely liked Frank and watched out for him even after their partnership ended but Frank never quite saw it the same way.

Alfred Burke was superb in the main role, over the course of the show’s long run he developed quite a few little bits of business that would crop up in most episodes. Fussing over the cups of tea he would endlessly make in the office (Helen gave him a mug with his name on that he carried with him for the rest of the series), the pointed remarks about his not smoking every time someone lit up in his office and his fishing about in his pockets for loose change to pay for his drinks. Always coins hardly ever notes as Frank was never that flush.

Public Eye could very possibly have continued for longer especially as Thames at the time of the final series were moving heavily into the likes of filmed drama series in collaboration Euston Films with shows such as The Sweeney. It was Burke himself who felt the series had run it’s course though and decided to call it a day.

In total Public Eye lasted for 86 hour long episodes and ran from 23 January 1965 until 7 April 1975. The theme tune was by the brilliant Robert Earley (aka Robert Sharples) who also contributed an equally groovy jazz tinged theme to the series Man at the Top.

Frank has a drink with Detective Inspector Percy Firbank (Ray Smith)

Ann Purser in an intelligent and extensive review in The Stage Thursday 4 April 1968 made some interesting points about Marker and the nature of the show, which was then in it’s third season: The down-trodden, shabby private detective, despised by all decent people, is not a new idea. But Frank Marker in ABC’s series Public Eye is English, he operates in and around our big cities, mostly Birmingham, and he is as likely to be… dealing with defaulters on hire purchase agreements as with suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of a respectable alderman. Alfred Burke plays Frank Marker and I can think of no one who could do it better. All the years of being called a “rotten snooper” show in his face. His shoulders stoop, he has the expression of a dog that conies up for a pat and gets a beating instead. His methods are never beyond reproach, he is ruthless and his loyalty to his client is inspired only by the cheque he receives at the end of an investigation. And yet, in Saturday’s instalment Marker ended up with a cheque for five thousand which he cheerfully exchanged for one for £50. The reason? five thousand was to keep him quiet, £50 was bis payment due for the job, and the most important thing about Frank Marker is that he is a small man. His triumphs are small, his payments are small, and his sins are small. It isn’t in him to accept a five thousand pound bribe, and this is what makes his interesting. A non-hero who is one of us, but whose job isolates him in unenviable loneliness.

Public Eye Season 4

Frank smiling as he leaves H.M. Prison Ford after two years inside.

A couple of weeks before the premiere of season four Bernard McElwaine in the Sunday Mirror of 13 Jul 1969, featured the series and carried an interview with Burke, having spoken to him during rehearsals for the series.

Burke: Marker is pretty real to me. He will be different in some ways this time because he has to travel a rough road back – as do most prisoners. I have learned a lot from the real-life experiences of released prisoners about how hard it is for people to start living again after being inside. Perhaps Marker’s adventures will encourage others in the same fix – and I hope the the stories may tell the public, something of the work done by welfare and probation services in the field.

Burke also gave a couple of nice insights into Marker’s make-up saying “Marker is the kind of man people talk to when they can’t afford a psychiatrist.”

McElwaine also asked Burke if there would be a love interest in this season. Of course there wouldn’t be.

Burke: He’s a man not a monk. But because he wants to be his own man and live his own life, he has to pay society’s price – loneliness.

TV Critic Coventry Evening Telegraph, Thurs 28 Aug 1969: At last public eye Frank Marker seems to be getting somewhere. For the first time in his new Thames series I actually felt compelled to see the outcome of his activities. He joined a private investigation agency and was hired by the father of a boy accused of a “for kicks” killing. When Marker found that the father’s cheque book was being used as the prime weapon for the defence he got an attack of morals and tipped off the police. No doubt his probation officer will be pleased.

The Sunday People of 7 Jul 1974 featured a bit of pre-publicity for the seventh season which began on 6 Jan 1975: New look for Frank. Alfred Burke has taken the old raincoat out of the wardrobe for a seventh series of television’s top private investigation Public Eye. Yes, Frank Marker is back … but this time we’ll be seeing a far different Marker. He moves out of his seedy high street office In Eton for plush surroundings in Walton-on-Thames after a traumatic experience in the opening episode of the 13 part series which should be on the screens before Christmas. And there’s a hint of romance in the air as Marker’s former landlady Mrs Mortimer, Pauline Delany, comes back into the cast, and a new main character Detective Sergeant Ronnie Gash, played by Peter Childs.

Notes: Clearly put together from a press release about the upcoming season. Helen Mortimer did make an appearance in the season but there was no romance in the air as far as Frank was concerned. And Ron Gash did play a major part in the early part of the season as the fellow private detective who does his best to help Frank get back in the tec game. He had been a former policeman though.

The Acton Gazette and Post on Thurs 12 May 1977 published a piece called The Truth Behind The ‘Frank Marker Image, it featured an interview with real life Private Detective Roger Nichols: The popular image of the private detective was summed up in the TV series “Public Eye,” with scruffy Frank Marker scratching a living from the work. According to Mr. Nicholls, in real life, things are a little different. ‘Frank Marker charged £6 a day. We charge £6 an hour. That sounds a lot, but then you’re not just paying for the investigator. You’re paying for the organisation behind him.

UK / ITV – ABC (seasons 1-3) Thames (Seasons 4-7) / 86×60 minute episodes / Broadcast 23 January 1965 – 7 April 1975

Creator: Roger Marshall / Executive Producers: Lloyd Shirley, Robert Love

cast
ALFRED BURKE as Frank Marker
PAULINE DELANEY as Mrs Helen Mortimer
RAY SMITH as D.I. Firbank
PETER CHILDS as Ron Gash

THE EPISODES
SEASON ONE 23 Jan – 1 May 1965
1. ALL FOR A COUPLE OF PONIES
2. NOBODY KILLS SANTA CLAUS
3. THEY GO OFF IN THE END – LIKE FRUIT
4. DIG YOU LATER
5. I WENT TO BORROW A PENCIL AND LOOK WHAT I FOUND
6. BUT JONESES NEVER GET LETTERS
7. A HARSH WORLD FOR ZEALOTS
8. “AND A VERY FINE FIDDLE HAS HE”
9. MY LIFE, THAT’S A MARRIAGE
10. YOU THINK IT’LL BE MARVELLOUS – BUT IT’S ALWAYS A RABBIT
11. PROTECTION IS A MAN’S BEST FRIEND
12. THE MORNING WASN’T SO HOT
13. YOU SHOULD HEAR ME EAT SOUP
14. YOU HAVE TO DRAW THE LINE SOMEWHERE
15. HAVE IT ON THE HOUSE

SEASON TWO 2 Jul – 24 Sep 1966
1. ALL THE BLACK DRESSES SHE WANTS
2. DON’T FORGET YOU’RE MINE
3. I COULD SET IT TO MUSIC
4. IT’S A TERRIBLE WAY TO GO
5. YOU CAN KEEP THE MEDAL
6. YOU’RE NOT CINDERELLA, ARE YOU?
7. WORKS WITH CHESS, NOT WITH LIFE
8. IT HAD TO BE A MOUSE
9. TELL ME ABOUT THE CRAB
10. NO, NO, NOTHING LIKE THAT
11. THERE ARE MORE THINGS IN HEAVEN AND EARTH
12. TWENTY POUNDS OF HEART AND MUSCLE
13. WHAT’S THE MATTER? CAN’T YOU TAKE A SICK JOKE?

SEASON THREE 20 Jan – 13 Apr 1968
1. IF THIS IS LUCKY, I’D RATHER BE JONAH…
2. BUT WHAT GOOD WILL THE TRUTH DO?
3. MEMORIES OF MEG
4. HAVE MUD, WILL THROW
5. BUT THEY ALWAYS COME BACK FOR TEA
6. MERCURY IN AN OFF-WHITE MAC
7. STRICTLY PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL
8. HONEST IS THE BEST POLICY – BUT WHO CAN AFFORD THE PREMIUMS
9. THE BROMSGROVE VENUS
10. IT MUST BE THE ARCHITECTURE – CAN’T BE THE CLIMATE
11. IT’S LEARNING ABOUT THE LIES THAT HURTS
12. THERE’S NO FUTURE IN MONKEY BUSINESS
13. CROSS THAT PALM WHEN WE COME TO IT

SEASON FOUR 30 Jul – 10 Sep 1969 (Now made by Thames rather than ABC)
1. WELCOME TO BRIGHTON
2. DIVIDE AND CONQUER
3. PAID IN FULL
4. MY LIFE’S MY OWN
5. CASE FOR THE DEFENCE
6. THE COMEDIAN’S GRAVEYARD
7. A FIXED ADDRESS

SEASON FIVE 7 Jul – 29 Sep 1971
1. A MUG NAMED FRANK
2. WELL – THERE WAS THIS GIRL, YOU SEE…
3. SLIP HOME IN THE DARK
4. I ALWAYS WANTED A SWIMMING POOL
5. THE BEATER AND THE GAME
6. COME INTO THE GARDEN, ROSE
7. AND WHEN YOU’VE PAID THE BILL, YOU’RE NONE THE WISER
8. WHO WANTS TO BE TOLD BAD NEWS?
9. THE MAN WHO DIDN’T EAT SWEETS
10. WARD OF COURT
11. TRANSATLANTIC COUSINS
12. SHADES OF WHITE
13. JOHN VII. VERSE 24

SEASON SIX 8 Nov 1972 – 14 Feb 1973
1. THE BANKRUPT
2. GIRL IN BLUE
3. MANY A SLIP
4. MRS. PODMORE’S CAT
5. THE MAN WHO SAID SORRY
6. HORSE AND CARRIAGE
7. A FAMILY AFFAIR
8. THE GOLDEN BOY
9. THE WINDSOR ROYAL
10. IT’S A WOMAN’S PRIVILEGE
11. HOME AND AWAY
12. EGG AND CRESS SANDWICHES
13. THE TROUBLE WITH JENNY

SEASON SEVEN 6 Jan – 7 Apr 1975
1. NOBODY WANTS TO KNOW
2. HOW ABOUT A CUP OF TEA
3. HOW ABOUT IT, FRANK?
4. THEY ALL SOUND SIMPLE AT FIRST
5. THE FALL GUY
6. WHAT’S TO BECOME OF US
7. HARD TIMES
8. NO ORCHIDS FOR MARKER
9. THE FATTED CALF
10. LIFER
11. TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER
12. FIT OF CONSCIENCE
13. UNLUCKY FOR SOME