In 1966 the BBC gave us a spin off from Z Cars. Softly Softly turned out to be just as popular as it’s parent show and would eventually evolve into a different series called Softly, Softly: Task Force.
At the time Z Cars was taking a break and series creator Troy Kennedy Martin took two of it’s popular characters Detective Chief Inspector Charles Barlow and Detective Inspector John Watt and sent them to the town of Wyvern in Bristol heading up their own regional crime squad.
Key characters besides Barlow and Watt included Detective Sergeant Harry Hawkins (later promoted to Inspector for Task Force), ex Z-Cars member Bob Blackitt, Detective Constable Ben Box and Assistant Chief Constable Austin Gilbert.
After five series the BBC planned to bring the series to an end and give Barlow and Watt a new series called Task Force as part of BBC One’s move to all colour production. However the corporation were also keen not to lose the successful Softly, Softly brand and compromised with calling the new series Softly Softly: Task Force. The premise saw Barlow being given promotion to Detective Chief Superintendent and charged with setting up his own task-force. He took Watt and Hawkins with him. There was no break in the scheduling between the two shows. The final episode of Softly Softly aired 13 November 1969 and the first episode of Task Force aired the following week on the 20 November.
Sadly very episodes of Softly, Softly remain in existence but every episode of Task Force is luckily in the BBC archive. The title is actually part of the proverb Softly, softly catchee monkey which at the time was the motto of the Lancashire Constabulary Training School.
See separate entry for Task Force as well as the separate spin off from that series Barlow At Large.
UK / BBC One / 120×50 minute episodes / Broadcast 5 January 1966 – 13 November 1969
Creator: Troy Kennedy Martin / Producers: David E. Rose (Series 1-2, ), Leonard Lewis (Series 3-5)
Stratford Johns as DCS Charlie Barlow
Frank Windsor as DI and then DCI John Watt
Robert Keegan as Bob Blackitt
Norman Bowler as DS Harry Hawkins
John Welsh as ACC Bill Calderwood
John Barron as ACC Austin Gilbert
Gilbert Wynne as DC Reg Dwyer
Garfield Morgan as DCI Gwyn Lewis
Cavan Kendall as PC Greenly
Dan Meaden as DC Ben Box
Eric McCaine as Insp and then Chief Insp Andy Laird
David Quilter as PC Tanner
Philip Brack as DI Jim Cook
Peggy Sinclair as DS Barbara Allin
Gavin Campbell as PC and then DC William Digby
Howell Evans as DC Davie Morgan