"Get your trousers on - you're nicked"
Long before John Thaw got posh, moved to Oxford and became Inspector Morse, there was a geezer named Jack Regan, who hunted down villains, foiled blags and got right up the nose of his Flying Squad superiors. The Sweeney was the first ever TV series on British TV that moved away from the comfortable portrayals of the police of the likes of Dixon of Dock green and Z Cars, to a more realistic portrayal of down-to-earth coppers fighting crime on the streets. Regan and Carter of the Sweeney drank heavily, slept with women, argued with their bosses and sometimes, they didn’t even catch the villain! The Sweeney was a superb TV series and well ahead of its time, by British TV standards anyway, and I absolutely loved it! So, let’s take a trip down TV memory lane and find out ten things that you probably didn’t know about the Sweeney.
1. “Sweeney” is Cockney rhyming slang
If you are old enough to remember to Sweeney then you will know this anyway, but just in case you don’t; The Sweeney, is short for “Sweeney Todd”, which rhymes with “Flying Squad”, which is the official name for the police department that Regan and Carter were working for. Cockney Rhyming slang, ain’t it? Me old mucker.
2. The real Flying Squad was having a hard time when the Sweeney was being broadcast
Compared to the real Flying Squad of the time, Jack Regan and George Carter where saints. Whilst the Sweeney was being broadcast, The Flying Squad was under investigation for corruption and bribery and the commander of the squad, Kenneth Drury, was imprisoned for eight years.
3. Regan and Carter got the wobbles in Season 4
In season four of The Sweeney, the opening titles were a kaleidoscope effect of action sequences. For some strange reason, in the scenes were Regan and Carter each get out of a car and freeze, while their names appear on screen, freeze-frame wasn’t used, the actor just tried to stand still. If you watch carefully, you can still them wobble!
4. The staring and mysterious case of the red fiat
There is a red Fiat car that seems to make many guest appearances in various episodes of the Sweeney. It has the registration UJB 92G and, Sweeney legend has it, that it was the car of one of the crew who tried to get it in as any episodes as he possibly could.
5. Why the villains loved their Jags
If you ever wondered why the villains in The Sweeny all seemed to love S type Jags, it was because the stunt drivers on the show felt that they were the safest cars to be sitting in, during a car crash scene. The Jags were often recycled, resprayed and used over and over again.
6. The ambulance was always the same one
Whenever an ambulance was called to the scene in The Sweeney it was always the same one. The registration on the vehicle was SJA 374R, or SJA374S, the last letter being changed to reflect the year of the series. The SJA, by the way, stands for St John’s Ambulance.
In the very last episode of the Sweeney, "Hearts and Minds", Morecombe and Wise featured, playing themselves. This was as a part of a deal done between the BCC and Thames Television, so that the Sweeney characters could appear on the Morecombe and Wise show.
8. John Thaw was only 32 years old when The Sweeney was first aired
Although Jack Regan appeared to be some years senior to George Crater, John Thaw was only 32 years old when the Sweeney was first broadcast and Dennis Waterman was 28.
9. Regan’s Office was a real office
The interior shots of the Flying Squads offices were shot at the real offices of the production company responsible for the Sweeney, Euston Films. Their offices were at Colet Court, in Hammersmith, and most of the outdoor shots were filmed in Hammersmith and the surrounding areas of Acton, Shepherds Bush and Chiswick.
10. It was Thaw and Waterman, who brought the show to an end
By the time that The Sweeney had reached series four, many people felt that it was running out of steam, including the actors John Thaw and Dennis Waterman. It was their decision to quit the show that brought the end to the Sweeney. After all, how could you have a Sweeney without the original Jack Regan and George Carter? The 2012 reboot film starring Ray Winstone and Ben Drew proved that!