‘You’re Nicked!’ The Sweeney and Crime Drama in British Film and Television
Friday 21st September 2012
This one-day symposium celebrates a classic British television crime drama just as the new film adaptation arrives in British cinemas. The Sweeney (2012), directed by British enfant terrible auteur Nick Love, and starring Ray Winstone and Ben Drew (Plan B), demonstrates the enduring nostalgia and cultural appeal of the series, almost four decades after its debut.
The Sweeney (ITV, 1975-78) has long been hailed as a revision and revitalisation of the British television crime drama. Created by Ian Kennedy Martin, and produced by Euston Films (the film arm of Thames Television), the series focused on the London Metropolitan Police’s ‘Flying Squad’. Despite (or perhaps because of) the series’ brutality and violence, Detective Inspector Jack Regan (John Thaw) and Detective Sergeant George Carter (Dennis Waterman) became part of popular 1970s British culture, appearing in four series and two films (Sweeney!, 1977; Sweeney 2, 1978).
Known for its action sequences, extensive location filming, claims to realism, and often brutal portrayal of its central characters, The Sweeney broke away from and responded to safer police procedurals such as Dixon of Dock Green (BBC, 1955-76) and Z-Cars (BBC, 1962-78); while later productions including The Professionals (ITV, 1977-83) and Dempsey and Makepeace (ITV, 1984-86) are a visible response to its success.
Although The Sweeney fell out of fashion during the 80s and 90s, the convergence of lad culture and post-feminism in contemporary Britain has renewed its appeal: catchphrases and behaviour are used and cited well into the 21st century, while series-based merchandise and newer productions such as Life on Mars (BBC, 2006-07) draw on the nostalgic appeal of the central protagonists.
This one-day symposium is the first attempt to celebrate the success of this key television text, assess its legacy, and explore its repeated adventures in cinema, including the new 2012 adaptation.
While this is not an exhaustive list, topics could include:
• The influence of the single-play Regan (ITV, 1974) on the series
• The creation/production of the series, including the role of Euston Films
• ‘I’ll come down on you so hard you’ll have to reach up to tie your shoelaces’: Performing masculinity in The Sweeney
• ‘Get your trousers on, you’re nicked!’ Sex, lies and The Sweeney
• Feminism, the 1970s and The Sweeney / The Sweeney (2012) and Postfeminism
• Nostalgia and The Sweeney (2012)
• ‘Remember, no guns unless they use ‘em’: Morality and The Sweeney
• The impact of The Sweeney on British crime drama
• The mythologisation of London and London locations in The Sweeney
• Translating The Sweeney from TV to cinema: Sweeney!, Sweeney 2 and The Sweeney
• Television stardom: John Thaw and Dennis Waterman
• Selling The Sweeney: merchandising paratexts from the 1970s to modern day
• The Sweeney abroad: selling the show to the world
• Music in The Sweeney: from Dennis Waterman to Plan B
• Parody, pastiche and homage: from the Comic Strip’s Detectives on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown (C4, 1993), and the 1990s Nissan Almeira advert, to Gene Hunt
Abstracts of no more than 250 words should be submitted by Friday 24th August 2012 to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
Dr Sarah Godfrey
School of Film & Television Studies
University of East Anglia
Norwich Research Park
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