The Sweeney

Season 1 Episode 1


Aired Thursday 9:00 PM Jan 02, 1975 on ITV
out of 10
User Rating
12 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

Regan's girlfriend's motor is nicked. Unfortunately it contains most of the evidence from Regan's current surveillance of gangster Frankie Kemble, and it doesn't take long for the evidence to find its way into the hands of Kemble.

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  • Regan is staking out crime baron Frank Kemble, but a couple of chancers steal Regan's girlfriend's car, which contains the incriminating photos of Kemble and his men. Although an awkwardly handed plot, a decent start to the series proper...moreless

    Coming after the Armchair Theatre 'Regan' pilot, 'Ringer' is the first episode of 'The Sweeney' proper. And while it has its faults, for the most part it's a good 'un; and more pleasing than 'Regan'.

    I wasn't born until 1978, the same year 'The Sweeney' finished, but it was re-run many times in the 1980s; when we bought our first video recorder, my father recorded many episodes and sometimes would let me watch the less violent ones with him. As I grew slightly older and my bed-time was gradually pushed back(!), I was allowed to stay up to watch later repeats of the series if I was good!

    Since then, the series has bounced around many satellite and Freeview channels, and nowadays resides on ITV4, which run the episodes ad nausea in a heavily chopped up manner, to remove the language, the violence, and to make time for the now standard third advertisement break ('Minder' and 'The Professionals' suffer the same fate). To any "serious" fans of the series, I urge you to invest in the DVD sets if you see them for a reasonable price, to enjoy the episodes in their intended state.

    Either way, I have seen the episodes many, many times (this first one particularly), but never tire of them.

    Anyway... With the arrival of the series proper, after the rather strained relationship in 'Regan', here Carter seems to have much more respect of his "Guv". The classic Regan / Carter banter, which would become the highlight of some future episodes, is quickly evolving with this story.

    As also seen in 'Regan', Haskins is not at all fond of Regan, and would like to get rid of him (here he also requests, unsuccessfully, that Carter be paired with another offer, considering Regan a bad influence). Although this would remain throughout the series to a certain degree, it is far harsher here than it would end up by the end of the show's run, where Haskins seemed to have developed more respect for Regan.

    Also of note is Harry South's excellent theme ('Regan' had a different theme), one of the best theme tunes that British TV has ever produced in my opinion. I love how it is reworked as a more sombre, reflective version for the closing credits. (I remember when I was first allowed to stay up and watch 'The Sweeney' as a boy; when this theme would play, and I'd think to myself "Aww... it's all over for another week"). The in-episode score, while decidedly "1970s", is also very good; I much prefer it over the rather dull, lifeless scoring of most TV shows around nowadays.

    The plot of 'Ringer' is a reasonable one, but at the same time I find it to be badly handled in many respects. The opening teaser (as in, the scene before the opening credits) is slightly confusing – we see the fake ambulance, with guns in the back, suggesting some kind of impending hold-up, but we do not really find out much about this until relatively late in the episode. Soon, the plot of Regan's girlfriend's car being stolen takes over, with the slightly brainier of the two thieves taking the contents to Kemble. But again, just what happens to the two chancer thieves is pretty much forgotten by mid-episode, and late on the original plot of the hold-up with the ambulance reappears.

    I can't help but feel that the whole 'planned hold-up' (to spring a jailed prisoner) should have been more evenly built up through the course of the episode, to develop tension which the story seems to lack for the most part.

    The beginning and the end of the story are good, but sag in the middle (other than Kimble's men terrorising information out of Regan's girlfriend Jill, very little of note really happens at all in the second act).

    Things pick up towards the end for a classic 'Sweeney' countermove to stop the villains, but I can't help but wish that the whole thing had been built up a bit better in earlier stages of the story.

    Brian Blessed puts in a decent performance as crime lord Frankie Kemble; interesting that Blessed should appear in the first episode of 'Sweeney' considering he was a star of the BBC's more straight-laced 'Z-Cars' in the '60s. His hulking henchman treads a fine line between being loyal sidekick and comedy caricature, but I do like the background how the pair were friends as children, and how Kemble never forgot him when he made it "big". (SPOILER) The resolution of the story, with him accidentally shooting Kemble, is almost Shakespearean in its tragedy.

    It definitely has its flaws on the plot front, but for a first regular episode, 'Ringer' serves its purpose well. I like it enough to give it 9/10.moreless
Ian Hendry

Ian Hendry

Dave Brooker

Guest Star

Brian Blessed

Brian Blessed

Frank Kemble

Guest Star

Jill Townsend

Jill Townsend

Jenny Peters

Guest Star

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions