Hauling Like A Brooligan

Stephen Gallagher

Playing in Starsky’s World

According to Variety, Fox Searchlight has arrested production on Brit cop thriller “The Sweeney” following concerns about its international prospects.

Well into pre-production and only weeks away from shooting, the project’s been put on hold and the team stood down. Wow. I’ve been there, I know exactly what that feels like. Mostly in features but a couple of times in TV as well. In a business where managing disappointment is an essential survival skill, there’s no greater test of nerve, no torture more exquisite.

DNA reps said Fox execs are believed to have had doubts the $16 million pic, while looking a sure-fire hit in Blighty because it’s based on a cult 1970s TV series, would sell elsewhere without a major star.

I wish them well but I wonder whether there isn’t a better way to go; the French make their theatrical-quality policiers with no American component at all. And eight million quid is a low budget.

The TV show was deeply British in a way that could only be achieved with no eye for the US market, and it succeeded here for exactly that reason. My mother was working as a switchboard operator for the Manchester police around the time it was going out; she said that all the coppers loved The Sweeney and most of them never missed an episode. It didn’t show them as they were, but as they liked to think they were.

The Sweeney‘s fantasised take on ’70s London crime and rule-bending hard-man policing was an obvious springboard for Life on Mars. Gene Hunt presents us with an appalling/attractive picture of what a real-world Jack Regan might be like. The continuous tension between life and art was one of the show’s great joys.

I suspect that the reason for the struggle to perfect a US version of the show may lie in an attempt to reference the actual 1970s, rather than a shared cultural memory of them. I’ve seen the first pilot, the one that got leaked onto the internet, and I thought it wasn’t half bad. Well-crafted, well-shot. And the clothes and cars reminded me of the ’70s, well enough. But it fell short of the original in that it didn’t recreate any of the feel of ’70s TV.

I wasn’t really looking for history. I was hoping to see our guy in Starsky’s world.


5 responses to “Playing in Starsky’s World”

  1. Only $16m? Don Simpson would’ve snorted more than that during an entire weekend.

    I do think it would have helped if Jason Statham did sign on as “Carter” (considering his current bankability within the US) but Ray Winstone as “Regan” is an inspired move.

    Fox obviously have a short-sighted view of the modern US audience, and how classic Brit TV is avidly watched over the Pond.

  2. It’s ironic that if you tried to pitch a SWEENY type tv series now you’d be met with blank stares.

    What, no time travel? No multi platform?

  3. Talking of iconic 70s British cop shows, re-watching an episode of The Professionals this week made me wonder whether ITV should consider bringing it back… it definitely stood up to the test of time.