The Sweeney was a groundbreaking British police show of the 1970s that turned John Thaw into a major television star. Created by Ian Kennedy Martin, the series told of Scotland Yard's Flying Squad (roughly the equivalent of the Major Case Squad in New York and other major American cities), nicknamed "The Sweeney" in rhyming slang (Flying Squad/Sweeney Todd) -- the focus of the series was the squad's senior field officer, Detective Inspector Jack Regan, portrayed by John Thaw. A bull of a man who has been known to bend the rules when necessary (or when it suits him), Regan disparages his desk-bound superiors and prefers to stay in the field, often working neck-deep among England's professional and habitual criminals, who are every bit as violent as their American counterparts. Tolerated by his superiors because he gets results, Regan is in a constant struggle to keep his squad ahead of the criminals and free of interference from higher command, the press, or politicians -- with his partner, Detective Sergeant George Carter (Dennis Waterman), Regan and his squad are as tough and ruthless when they have to be as the criminals they pursue.
The series was considered revolutionary in its time on British television for introducing levels of violence and cynicism -- though defenders would call it realism -- that had previously only been seen in American-produced series and movies; the language, the action, the cutting, and the shooting all exuded a gritty, no-nonsense approach to crime-story narrative that was spellbinding. The series started life as part of a series of made-for-television movies produced by Euston Films for its parent company, Thames Television. Regan introduced the character of Jack Regan, and its success got it pegged as the source for a 13-episode series, ultimately titled The Sweeney, starring Thaw and Waterman. That season and the one that followed were immensely popular and yielded a pair of feature-film releases, The Sweeney (1977) and Sweeney 2 (1978). The series shut down after its fourth season, but it is still one of the most talked about series in England a quarter century later. In 2003, the complete series was released on DVD in England, with a brace of bonus materials including commentary tracks, interviews, and special introductions by various guest stars. Seen today, it still comes off as very gritty and violent, and, in many ways, a distant antecedent to the American made-for-cable series The Shield. ~ Rovi
- John Thaw, Dennis Waterman, (more)