Come on Down? Popular Media Culture in Post-War Britain

By Dominic Strinati; Stephen Wagg | Go to book overview

Chapter 9

‘You’re nicked!’

Television police series and the fictional representation of law and order

Alan Clarke

There has long been a resistance to taking popular culture seriously, first as an object of study and second as a way of spending one’s leisure time. There are still people who will not admit to the secret fetish of watching television soap operas and even more who will watch and analyse one-off television dramas but not watch a series format. In studying the development of the television crime series in Britain it was startling to find just how many of those amazing dramatists had learned their craft writing for George Dixon, Barlow and Regan in the humble series. However, I do not want to argue for taking the series seriously simply because of the quality of the production, although I think I could, but because of the world they create on the small screen for the mass audience. For many people their only contact with a speaking policeman is on the television and this reinforces the aura of reality which police series strive so hard to construct. I also want to focus on the fictional representations rather than the documentary and the news images because historically these have often been overlooked when the influence of the media is being debated.

My interest in the police series began in the 1970’s when their dramatic significance was brought home to me when, in discussion with law students, they could only understand the changes in the police force when I contrasted the avuncular George Dixon’s style of community policing with the then current hero, Jack Regan, in The Sweeney. The discussion of change suddenly came alive and ranged across different types of specialist police squads—Regional Crime Squads (Softly Softly, Task Force), the Bomb Squad, Fraud Squad—and their television referents. In this article I want to try to recreate my

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