Z Cars Collection One DVD REVIEW

DVD: ★★★½


THERE IS HUGE affection for Z Cars, the BBC cop show that ran from 1962 to 1978. It was a series that tried to shift the emphasis away from the Dixon of Dock Green, paternalistic depiction of the force by injecting some social realism into the genre. In the British Film Institute’s 2000 poll of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes, Z Cars came 63rd.

Here, the boys in blue along with their CID colleagues were not always angels and did not always get on with each other. The show made small-screen stars of the predominantly male leading cast, including James Ellis (who was Sgt Lynch throughout the whole run), Frank Windsor (DS Watt), Brian Blessed (PC Smith), Colin Welland (PC Graham) and John Slater (DS Stone).

First collection on DVD

This is the first batch of the series to find its way onto DVD and features the early colour episodes from 1972. The two-disc collection features six half-hour episodes – Loyalties, Breakage, Relative Values, Connor, Not Good Enough and Team.

So, what are they like? They are dated, obviously, coming before the era of fast jump cuts, explosions and spectacular car chases. The stories are about small crimes, shady types selling knock-off fags, for instance, and they include those jarring cuts between scenes filmed outdoors on film to those studio moments on video, complete with
booms appearing and wobbly walls.

Woodbines, Cortinas and butterfly collars

But for all that, the stories work because of the quality of the writing and acting, with characters that are distinctive and interesting. And this release is a fascinating glimpse into a lost world of coppering before paperwork took over – Lynch even finds work for the wife of a criminal he puts away – along with a view of Britain in its 70s glory, all Woodbines, Cortinas, butterfly collars and office typewriters.

One thing this era of Z Cars lacked, however, was the original drum and whistles arrangement of the great theme tune, which by this time had been replaced by a horrible orchestral version.

Z Cars Collection One, released 2 September 2013; running time 292 minutes; RRP £19.99

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