The Thin Blue Line is a British sitcom starring Rowan Atkinson and written by Ben Elton. It aired on the BBC from 1995 to 1996.
The Thin Blue Line is set in the police station of the fictional English town of Gasforth; situated somewhere within the North Yorkshire Police jurisdiction.
One of the main themes shows the uniformed squad led by Inspector Fowler and the CID led by Detective Inspector Grim locking horns over similar, or even the same, issues while having conflicting views or methods of operation. Generally the uniformed section triumphs over the detectives, although not without their own foibles.
Although other PCs and staff than the main characters are visible in the background and at meetings they generally have no speaking parts.
Cast and characters
- Rowan Atkinson as Inspector Raymond Fowler: Fowler is an old-fashioned policeman whose lack of interest in sex annoys his live-in girlfriend of 10 years, Sergeant Dawkins. He was previously married, and his college-age son Bill appears in one episode. His former wife Susan is alluded to but never featured. Inspector Fowler has a strong devotion to duty and takes his job seriously, sometimes showing a lack of contemporary social awareness that amuses Habib and annoys Grim. He occasionally (usually unwittingly) performs very courageous acts in the line of duty. Among the cast, he most closely characterises the "stiff upper lip" English official, at least while on duty. He is a member of the local drama society and fancies himself an actor. His hobbies include reading Biggles and building miniature models. He is patriotic and occasionally makes disparaging remarks about other nationalities (particularly the French) but frequently demonstrates his support of ethnic minorities, chiefly through his enjoyment and preference for Indian food (although this is probably more to do with Dawkins' lack of cooking skills). Despite his strong faith in the law, he is willing to bend the rules in an unjust situation, such as blackmailing a skinhead's mother into dropping assault charges against Constable Goody, or blackmailing Inspector Grim into dropping charges against Constable Habib for concealing drug evidence. Fowler breaks the fourth wall in the second series, beginning each episode by briefly addressing the audience directly, in the style of Jack Warner in Dixon of Dock Green. Fowler wears the ribbons of the Police Long Service and Good Conduct Medal and Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal.
- Serena Evans as Sergeant Patricia Dawkins: Desk sergeant Dawkins is Inspector Fowler's long-suffering live-in girlfriend of 10 years. She is forever on a quest for more sexual attention from Fowler, who is usually reluctant to oblige. Despite her frustration and anger, she loves Fowler devotedly and dreams of marrying him and having their child. Dawkins gets extremely jealous if Fowler talks alone with other women and often jumps to conclusions as a result. This drives her to maintain a one-sided rivalry with Dame Christabelle Wickham and occasionally places her at odds with the younger Maggie Habib, but the two always resume their friendship. She is also (perhaps as a result of Fowler's lukewarm sexual attentions) concerned about her health and appearance, and is so terrible a cook that on one occasion she made gravy as coffee.
- David Haig as Detective Inspector Derek Grim: The head of the CID unit at Gasforth Police Station. His attitude is that CID are superior to the uniformed police and proclaims that the uniformed officers are "extinct...like the 'doo-doo'" [sic]. Grim harbours a poorly-contained desire for promotion, preferably away from unexciting Gasforth. Sometimes oblivious to subtleties, Grim is far more ignorant than he is willing to admit, which he regularly displays through his butchery of English phraseology (e.g. "You seem to forget, Kray, it's my arse on the line — so you'd better pull your finger out!") and his ill-conceived ideas. He is buffoonish and insecure in his own professional status and social standing. He has been married for 20 years to Tina (unseen) with whom he has an intense love-hate relationship; he often complains about their marriage and her, but occasionally reveals that he does love her. Their son Darren was arrested in one episode. His rants (often against "fannying about", which he himself plainly does) are the source of numerous comedic lines. Despite his flaws, at least one episode reveals that Grim is fundamentally a good man, as he was greatly conflicted by DC Boyle's plan of planting evidence on drug-dealer Harry the Spike.
- James Dreyfus as Constable Kevin Goody: Goody is perhaps the least complex of the show's characters. Profoundly unintelligent and oblivious to the obvious, he has very little idea of what being a police officer entails; he has admitted that "wearing a nice uniform" was one reason he joined the force. Easily confused, his ineptitude amazes Fowler, who once exclaimed, "Your head is just something you keep your hat on, isn't it?". Goody is known to keep a chocolate bar (usually a Curly Wurly or Mars bar) in the truncheon pocket of his uniform trousers, and is always on an unsuccessful quest to win the heart of Habib despite his obvious camp behaviour; almost every episode shows him trying to impress her. He lives with his mother, of whom he is terrified ("...she'll come down here, and do her raving Nah-Nah...") and Habib has learned to threaten to inform her when he becomes too annoying. He once struck a prisoner in anger when the young thug made a racist remark to Habib, for which he was nearly charged by Fowler.
- Mina Anwar as Constable Maggie Habib: A female officer of South Asian (possibly Indian or Pakistani) descent who was raised in Accrington, Habib is generally the "straight man" in Fowler's uniformed branch. Highly intelligent, she often approaches issues wisely and methodically, although she is also capable of making a fool of herself, such as in "Fire and Terror" when she throws herself at a fireman only to discover that he is sexually attracted to Goody rather than to her. Fowler has commented that she is a fine officer and that she has a good career ahead of her. For her part, Habib appears to respect Fowler's integrity while being amused and occasionally irritated by his old-fashioned views. She always tries to deflect Goody's attentions, but deep down she is sympathetic to him and argued against Goody being charged when he punched the skinhead who verbally abused her. Habib is pro-immigration and vocally progressive in her socio-political views. She has a study-freak turned drug-user sister, Nazia (Archie Panjabi), whom she protects in one episode by concealing evidence during a vice operation. She was nearly charged by Grim until Fowler blackmailed him by threatening criminal charges for a minor "crime" that Grim himself had committed. She was also citizen arrested and handcuffed with her own cuffs by local villain "Terry the Tank" after Grim tried to use her as a "honey trap". Habib often stifles her laughter at Inspector Fowler's unintentional double entendres.
- Rudolph Walker as Constable Frank Gladstone: A Trinidadian-origin constable near retirement, Gladstone has been a PC all his adult life, as was his father, and is enjoying his career winding down. He often contributes to situations by making irrelevant tangential stories and comments, usually silly (he once claimed to have been a would-be child soprano for Radio Trinidad) and sometimes sexist in nature. This sexism provides an amusing foil to Constable Goody's overt camp behaviour. He is obsessed with Gloria Hunniford. With the possible exception of Goody, Gladstone is the most out-of-touch-with-reality of the characters.
- Kevin Allen as Detective Constable Robert Kray (Series 1): An officer in Grim's CID unit for the entire Series 1. He is a very "laddish" cop, intelligent, cynical, and pragmatic. His motivation for joining the force was the 'perks of the job' such as pushing to the front of queues, and sometimes using his police status to his own ends. He is frequently eating or ordering food via telephone while on duty. Despite being at Grim's beck and call, he has little respect for his superior and often chuckles at his misfortunes. He provides a comic supporting role similar to PC Gladstone, although his interjections are usually brief "one-liner" stabs. He is paired with female DC Crockett in several scenes (she eventually disappears from the series). Kray was replaced in Series 2 by DC Gary Boyle. Both Kray and Boyle served as intelligent "straight man" characters to the bumbling Grim, not unlike Habib's relationship with Fowler.
- Mark Addy as Detective Constable Gary Boyle (Series 2): Kray's replacement in the second series. Like Kray, he is intelligent, cynical, pragmatic, very laddish and likes being a police officer for the associated perks, although he is more respectful to the uniformed branch and is a more dedicated officer. He sees no reason for police officers to refrain from taking liberties like staging pub lock-ins, using the car siren when late for dinner, or even planting evidence on clever criminals to get a conviction. Arguably more aggressive than Kray, Boyle sometimes covers up for Grim's mistakes or steers him in the right direction, while being generally unimpressed with his superior. The second series is a bit more serious in this regard and shows CID as more involved than the first series. Boyle has several spots in this and his character is more developed than Kray's but perhaps proportionally less comical.
- Joy Brook as Detective Constable Crockett: Kray's CID partner in Series 1; she appears in every episode, but speaks only in "The Queen's Birthday Present", "Rag Week", "Fire and Terror", and "Yuletide Spirit" in minor supporting situations.
- Lucy Robinson as Dame Christabelle Wickham QC: The Mayoress of Gasforth in Series 2 and a former schoolmate/crush of Inspector Fowler's. She occasionally exploits Fowler's crush by teasing him should she need a favour, such as providing diplomatic security or seeking out and arresting an illegal immigrant. Usually though the police tend to accidentally ruin these assignments, such as when as Fowler's officers once accidentally arrested an entire football team, causing a business deal of hers to collapse horribly (though the team had engaged in unethical activities that warranted an arrest). Furthermore, Fowler also once accidentally arrested the European Commissioner for Human Rights, mistaking him for an illegal immigrant, causing Wickham further anger. Wickham is also a QC barrister and defends a drug dealer in court in one episode. She is often dismissive of Sergeant Dawkins, who has a one-sided rivalry with her for what she perceives as Fowler's residual affections. Fowler and the Mayoress also sometimes accidentally cause situations that lead Dawkins to believe they are having an affair.
Many notable actors made guest appearances, and these include the writer Ben Elton, Stephen Fry, Stephen Moore, Melvyn Hayes, Trevor Peacock, Owen Teale, Colin McFarlane, Alan Cox, Alexander Armstrong, Nicola Stapleton, Perry Fenwick and Rupert Vansittart.
The writer, Ben Elton, is a fan of Dad's Army, and as such many of the characters were influenced by the show. Fowler's relationship with Grim is very similar to that of Captain Mainwaring to Warden Hodges, in that they are both on the same side yet enemies. Also, Constable Goody is rather like Private Pike in being a 'stupid boy' who irritates Fowler. Constable Gladstone's habit of interrupting a briefing with a story about life in Trinidad is similar to Lance Corporal Jones's penchant for reminiscing about Sudan during Captain Mainwaring's speeches. Other references include in the episode Rag Week, when Fowler is briefly seen walking out of a shop called "Mainwaring's". Ben Elton has appeared in the programme himself. In the first series the "WANTED" poster behind Fowler's desk in the briefing room is an E-FIT of Elton. He had a cameo role in the Christmas special episode, "Yuletide Spirit".
The following is a summary of episodes for the British sit com The Thin Blue Line, which first aired on 13 November 1995 and ended on 23 December 1996. It has broadcast two series with seven episodes each, including a Christmas special at the end of series 1 on 26 December 1995.
||Complete series DVD release date
||13 November 1995 – 26 December 1995
||15 June 2004
||17 September 2001
||7 November 2002
||14 November 1996 – 23 December 1996
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. (January 2020)
The sitcom was popular with viewers, though it suffered in critical reviews due to "inconsistent character development" and an "overly broad plotline". It was ranked number 34 in a poll for Britain's Best Sitcom.
Both series have been released on DVD in the United Kingdom (Region 2) by Vision Video Ltd. The Thin Blue Line is available in Region 1 (North America), having been released by BBC Warner. Episodes in the first series were not in broadcast order on both Region 1 and 2 DVDs. The Series 2 episodes in the Region 1 DVD are cut to fit about 30 minute runtime. For example, the biggest cut is from the S2E7 "The Green Eyed Monster" episode, which is cut from 40:45 UK/R2 runtime to 30:05 Region 1 runtime. The Region 1 release has English closed captions. The UK Region 2 does not have any subtitles.
- Mark Lewisohn, "Radio Times Guide to TV Comedy", BBC Worldwide Ltd, 2003