Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Thursday, March 20, 2008

It's A Fair Cop

I'm currently following with great interest two "police procedurals" which could hardly be more different.

Firstly Dixon of Dock Green on BBC Radio 4. This is a radio adaptation of the first scripts (by Ted willis) for what would become a national institution on television. back in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It was on just after the news, early on Saturday evenings (and so shortly after Dr Who when that first appeared) and made a household name of Jack Warner as PC George Dixon. The series was a spin-off from the feature film The Blue Lamp, although George Dixon was unceremoniously offed in he film by the villain (a very young Dirk Bogarde). By the time I came to watch the programme in the early 1960s, George's sidekick and foil (and indeed son-in-law) was Detective Sergeant Andy Crawford. Back in the first episodes in the radio, Andy is still a humble Police Constable, and has only just (episode 2) moved in with George Dixon and his daughter Mary as their lodger. So part of the fun is in knowing what stretches out ahead for the characters. Much of it, though, is in the sheer 1950s naivete, where gangs of young hoodlums steal potatoes from vegetable stalls along with a bottle of barbiturates which the stall-holder was hoping to sell illegally. The beauty of the plotline is that the kid who stole the pills (probably) had no idea what they were, whereas nowadays the average big city 11-year-old knows more about drugs than most non-specialist policemen. So it's like stepping back into the lost innocence of my youth. Oh, and PC Andy Crawford is played by one David Tennant. Talented young chap, it would seem. Could go far. (Actually, I was amused to read about his early TV success as an unctuous cleric in a Trollope adaptation. Now who else might have made his big TV break in a similar role?)

The other programme which has me hooked is on ITV, and is Dexter, based on the novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay. It could hardly be more different from the world of Dock Green: set in Miami, it stars Michael C. Hall (of Six Feet Under) as Dexter Morgan, a blood-spatter analyst with the Miami Police Department. Oh, and he moonlights as a serial killer, specifically of bad guys who have escaped justice on technicalities. When I first read a description of the series I thought "Oh, wow, another far-fetched gimmick for a cop show" but in fact the character of Dexter is extremely well-developed, for which we must thank not only Jeff Lindsay and the hugely believable Michael C Hall but also James Manos Jr. who made the (apparently very faithhful) TV adaptation. Dexter is damaged and disturbed, but has his own peculiar morality, a legacy from his policeman adoptive father who recognised the boy's murderous urges and persuaded him to channel them into what Dexter terms "taking out the trash".

Whatever would George Dixon have said?


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