The Sweeney at 40: a BFI celebration

The BFI Southbank was the venue on Thursday of a celebration of that iconic cop show of the 1970s, ‘The Sweeney’ which ran for 52 episodes between 1975 and 1978, preceded by an Armchair Cinema pilot called ‘Regan’, and two feature films at the end of the series run.

The series starred John Thaw as DI Regan and Dennis Waterman as DS Carter, and Waterman was present in the Q&A at this event alongside producer Ted Childs and director Tom Clegg (and facilitator Dick Fiddy) to talk about the series, the cast, the crew, and why the mix of action, realistic violence, character interplay, and humour made a successful mixture which kept the series high in the ratings.

Waterman seemed very much ‘on image’ with quips about always meeting people in pubs, annoying his then wife by boozing with the crew after a long day’s shoot, and speaking fondly about his first time working with Thaw in the 1960s.  Childs and Clegg were also entertaining and frank about the problems they encountered in making car chases through the London Docklands, and dealing with the demanding agents of cast members (‘they asked for more money so he said ‘kill her”).

An interesting set of clips as well, including the dinner party gatecrashed by Regan and Carter by mistake, presided over by a dignified ‘JR Hartley’, a chilling sequence where a family is taken hostage and the man of the house is gunned down at the door, and a drunken song and dance routine (lifted from the Sinatra/Durante film ‘It Happened In Brooklyn’) featuring the two leads in a moment of lightness.

This was a crowd-pleasing event at which even some of the cars were present (although outside, naturally).  A worthy celebration of an archive television classic.