Region 0 [UK] Edition

Reviewed by Tim Symonds

Directors Terry Green, Graham Baker, Tom Clegg, Douglas Camfield etc.

Featuring:  John Thaw, Dennis Waterman, Garfield Morgan


The Sweeney is a television series that holds a special place in the heart for those fans of classic TV that are over a certain age. The series ran for fifty-three episodes between 1975 and 1978, introducing viewers who were used to the homely coppering of George Dixon to the hard-nosed style of DI Reagan and DS Carter, two detectives in the elite Flying Squad. Theirs was a world of blags, fags, slags and lorry drags (hijackings), with the policemen as hard and uncompromising as the villains they were out to stop. There are few series that have left such an impression on their particular genre, but The Sweeney remains, almost thirty years later, the benchmark for police drama.

The fourth series of The Sweeney is my first experience of the show on DVD. There are guest appearances from the likes of Diana Dors, Richard Wilson, James Cosmo and, most notably, Morecambe and Wise, in the episode Hearts And Minds. The scripts are sharp and bristle with humour that had me laughing aloud on more than one occasion, reflecting the talents of the writers used on the series, such as Trevor Preston and Troy Kennedy-Martin.



As soon as the menu screen appeared and the familiar theme tune blasted out of the speakers, I knew I was going to enjoy viewing the discs. The menus are somewhat typical of the Network releases I have in my collection, uncluttered and functional but still good to look at. The screen is divided into three sections, with clips from the episodes gradually appearing in the top third, another clip playing in the middle third and the menu options in the bottom third, with the series logo scrolling behind them as the theme tune plays. You are given the option to Play All, Select an Episode or access the Special Features. The episode selection menu gives you a screen playing a looping clip from each episode on the disc. When you select your chosen episode, you’re taken to a text screen, which lists the chapters and an option to Play All, along with the theme for the closing credits. This style is typical of Network’s menus and it’s a very minor irritation for me personally. I would prefer to play the entire episode when I select it and have an option to go to the chapter menu, should I wish to, but this is a minor niggle. The extras menu is also text based and has a brief music cue, the sting for the ad-caps, to accompany it.

Picture and Sound

Due to the age of the original material, I have to confess to thinking that, even with Network behind the release, the quality of the episodes would leave something to be desired. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The episodes themselves are simply stunning to look at and are presented in their original 4:3 aspect ratio.

[There’s a shot or two where the MPEG encoding is struggling a bit, but it’s nowhere near as prevalent as it was on the first two sets. The discs with four episodes on them have an average bit-rate of about 4.56Mb/sec, the three-episode discs have an average bit-rate of about 5.34Mb/sec – JK]

The Thames logo is present and the original ad-caps are intact. Network have gone back to the original elements and re-mastered them for DVD, re-grading and cleaning-up the prints and making the episodes look better than they ever have. The colours are as strong and vibrant as the scripts; never has a pea green shirt and tie, worn with a light blue suit, looked so good. There are sections in some episodes that look a little noisy, particularly during a scene in the flat of a villain’s wife in Messenger of the Gods, but, to my untrained eye, instances where noise pumping is obvious are rare. The remixed Dolby 5.1 soundtrack (at 448kbps) is also impressive, but the original mono option (at 192kbps) is still available for purists and I was surprised by the inclusion of a music only option. These sound options are available from the extras menu. Sadly, there are no subtitles provided, for those that need them.


Disappointingly, there are no commentary tracks on any of the episodes, (there were on some of the earlier episodes), but the extras list is still impressive, with almost an hour of episode introductions and other features.

Disc one contains interviews from The Electric Theatre Show (9m) with John Thaw, Dennis Waterman and producer Ted Childs, from 1978. This has not been cleaned up and dirt and scratches are evident in places, but it still looks very good. There’s also an episode introduction to Hard Men, by supporting actor James Warrior, which runs just short of four minutes. There’s also a photo’ gallery, which features about a hundred photo’s drawn from all four seasons, which play silently for about eight minutes. The gallery includes a mixture of black and white and colour photos, and a good variety of portraits, behind-the-scenes pictures and action images. A few are a bit ropey, but it’s better to have them than not! The gallery also features a couple of more recent portraits of John and Dennis, shot to promote the series’ debut on Channel Five.

The “Series 4 textless titles with dual sound” feature listed on the sleeve is not on the disc. The sleeves were printed before the line-up for the set was finalised, and this didn’t make the final mix.

Disc two has the opening five or six minutes from two editions of This Is Your Life, featuring each of the two stars, an out-take reel (7m) and the trailer for the film Sweeney 2. This is inter-cut with interviews with Ken Hutchinson and James Warrior and then shown in its entirety (total: 9m).

Disc three has introductions by guest actors on three episodes. These are by George Sewell for Bait, which is the shortest introduction at two minutes, Jenny Runacre for The Bigger They Are (3m) and Nick Stringer for One Of Your Own (4m).

Disc four has two episode introductions: Eric’s son Gary Morecambe speaks about John Thaw, and how Morecambe and Wise became involved in Hearts and Minds (five minutes) and Peter Wight reveals which now-famous writer appeared in Victims (four minutes).


Series four of The Sweeney is generally regarded as the patchiest by fans of the show, but I enjoyed watching the episodes very much. Network have invested a lot of time and money in the series, judging by this set of episodes, and their reputation as a producer of classic television on DVD can only be enhanced by releases such as this. My only problem now is working out how to fit the other three boxed sets into my buying schedule.












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