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Z Cars lacked, however, was the original drum and whistles arrangement of the great theme tune, which by this time had been replaced by a horrible orchestral version.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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The Honourable Woman, New Tricks, Shetland, Z Cars, Inspector Nardone

Maggie Gyllenhaal has signed to appear in Hugo Blick’s new thriller, The Honourable Woman, for BBC2. Blick was behind the quirky, compelling The Shadow Line, so all-in-all this looks a bit special. Gyllenhaal will play Nessa, whose father was a Zionist arms procurer, and, as a child, she and her brother witnessed his assassination. As an adult, she inherits his business and tries to switch its purpose from arms to laying data cable between the Israel and the West Bank. The Shadow Line was convoluted but full of brilliant verbal sparring, so this new seven-parter with its spies and international setting should be thick with intrigue.

• The tenth series of New Tricks returns on Tuesday, 30 July, at 9pm. This time in the drama following the retired cold-case cops, Brian Lane (Alun Armstrong) is suspended after assaulting an officer he suspects of covering up a death in custody that led to his early retirement. Stalwarts Amanda Redman and Alun Armstrong will be leaving during this series, following the recent departure of James Bolam. However, Tamzin Outhwaite and Nicholas Lyndhurst will be joining Dennis Waterman and new boy Denis Lawson, so the hit drama will be facing a bit of crunch time to see if and how the fresh characters bed in. Meanwhile, the 9th and final series of CSI: NY also launches on Tuesday, 30 July, on C5. But New Tricks, wobbling from all the departures as it may be, should still see off CSI: NY in the ratings with ease.

• Must admit, I couldn’t really understand why the Beeb decided to do another series of Shetland, such was the quiet passing of the first, but they’re certainly throwing the stars at it for the next outing of the Douglas Henshall drama. Brian Cox ( The Bourne Identity) and Julie Graham (Survivors) will be on hand for the next batch of Ann Cleeve‘s stories – Raven Black, Blue Lightning and Dead Water. If the writers manage to breath some life into the characters this time round, I’ll raise a dram to them.

• If you’re an Everton supporter the Z Cars theme tune is never far away, but for the rest of us there will be a chance to renew acquaintances with the music and accompanying series that was so hugely popular and influential during the 60s and 70s. Z Cars Collection One will be released on a two-disc DVD on 2 September. Writer Troy Kennedy Martin believed that the genre needed ‘an injection of energy and bite’ and that’s what Z Cars had in abundance. Making its TV debut on the BBC in 1962, it went on to become one of the longest-running British TV shows, airing until 1978.

• Inspector Montalbano is currently on leave of absence from BBC4. But the Sicilian is not the only Italian crime-fighter on UK telly. Ever heard of Inspector Nardone? If not, that’s probably because he is tucked away on True Movies, one of the lesser known multi-channel networks. It’s a period drama set in post-war Milan and is based on a real person. Nardone (played by Sergio Assisi) is a crusading cop who roots out corruption at the Questura despite opposition from his spineless superiors. Like Montalbano, there a strain of light-heartedness and romance running through the series, and for crime fans who like the era, it’s a fresh take on the continental cop genre. Inspector Nardone returns to True Movies 1 at 1am from Saturday, 17 August, through to Friday, 23 August, and on True Drama at 1am from 12 August through to 17 August.

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