The Sweeney is a British police procedural television drama series created by Ian Kennedy Martin and produced by Euston Films and Thames Television about two members of the Flying Squad, a branch of the Metropolitan Police specialising in tackling armed robbery and violent crime in London.
The series aired in the UK on ITV from 2 January, 1975 to 28 December, 1978. There are 53 hour-long episodes in four seasons.
The Sweeney premiered in South Africa on TopTV's Fox Retro channel on Friday 28 January 2011, at 20h30. See "Seasons" below for seasonal broadcast dates and times.
Season 3 premiered on Fox Retro on Friday 29 July 2011, at 20h30. New episodes broadcast weekly. There are 13 episodes in the third season.
The arrival of The Sweeney completely overhauled TV police drama. The slightly cosy world of Z Cars, once held up as an exemplar of TV realism, and the moribund musings of Sergeant Dixon from Dixon of Dock Green, suddenly looked like they belonged to a different age.
The fictional Dock Green and Newtown beats and their generally harmless petty criminals were replaced by the real streets of West London and 'villains' - hard men with shooters pitched against even harder coppers.
The series started life as a single drama, Regan (ITV), in the Armchair Theatre slot. The play was essentially about a Flying Squad investigation into a savage gangland killing, but the real star was the equally brutal central character, Detective Inspector Jack Regan, played by John Thaw.
Regan was unlike any previous small screen police officer - his temper might have matched Z Cars' firebrand, Detective Inspector Barlow (Stratford Johns), but even at his most bellicose Newtown's hard man never resorted to Regan's level of undiluted violence.
Regan attracted an audience of over 7 million, enough to trigger a series based around the play's central character. The Sweeney (derived from the cockney rhyming slang - 'Sweeney Todd/Flying Squad') quickly followed, and at its peak drew 19 million viewers.
Regan's congenial sidekick, Detective Sgt George Carter, played by Dennis Waterman, shared many of his guvnor's basic traits but despite their willingness to hit first and ask questions later the pair were portrayed as flawed but basically honest police officers, doing a dirty job against the odds, an image greatly helped by excellent performances from the two leads.
Dialogue was as important to The Sweeney as action and many of Regan's best lines, often delivered through gritted teeth, have become famous.
"Get your trousers on, you're nicked" and "Shut it!" have both passed into popular usage, while quotes such as "We're the Sweeney, son, and we've haven't had any dinner yet, so unless you want a kickin'..." and "I am utterly and abjectly pissed off" demonstrate how the show blended humour into the action.
While the writers worked on the dialogue the show embraced action with gusto...guns, punch-ups and car chases round the streets of London in Ford Granadas made the show a must watch for a generation of boys.
The Sweeney was more than just a hugely successful TV series - it also acted as a catalyst for change across the entire police genre. With the arrival of Regan and Carter the innocent world of Dixon was no longer believable.
Series exclusive to Fox Retro
Season 1 (13 episodes)
Premiere: 28 January 2011 | Finale: 22 April 2011 | Fridays, 20h30
Season 2 (13 episodes)
Premiere: 29 April 2011 | Finale: 22 July 2011 | Fridays, 20h30
Season 3 (13 episodes)
Premiere: 29 July 2011 | Finale: 21 October 2011 | Fridays, 20h30
Season 4 (14 episodes)
Premiere: 15 March 2012 | Finale: 14 June 2012 | Thursdays, 20h30