Opening title logo
|Created by||Troy Kennedy Martin
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of episodes||799 + 1 un-broadcast|
|Running time||25 minutes & 45 minutes|
|Original run||2 January 1962 – 20 September 1978|
|Related shows||Softly, Softly
Softly, Softly: Taskforce
Barlow at Large/Barlow
Jack the Ripper
Z-Cars (pronounced "Zed Cars", sometimes written as Z Cars) is a British television drama series centred on the work of mobile uniformed police in the fictional town of Newtown, based on Kirkby in the outskirts of Liverpool. Produced by the BBC, it debuted in January 1962 and ran until September 1978.
The song in Spiegl's arrangement is also used as the anthem for English football club Everton and is played at every home match as they walk onto the pitch at Goodison Park. It is also occasionally used by their local rivals Tranmere Rovers for their home games at Prenton Park stadium, a short distance away from Everton's ground. The tune is also used as the march-on anthem at Watford F.C. home games, a Vicarage Road tradition dating back to the 1963-4 season.
In a 2000 poll to find the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes of the 20th century conducted by the British Film Institute, Z-Cars was voted 63rd. It was also included in the 40 greatest TV shows published in Radio Times in August 2003.
The title, contrary to popular belief, does not come from the cars used, as in Ford Zephyr and Ford Zodiac. In fact, the Zodiac was never used by British police, whereas the Zephyr was the standard patrol traffic car (not the same as "crime car") used by Lancashire and other police forces. The term comes from the radio call signs allocated by Lancashire Constabulary; Lancashire police divisions were lettered from north to the south, "A" Division (based in Ulverston) was the detached part of Lancashire at the time around Barrow-in-Furness, "B" Division was Lancaster, and so on. Letters further into the alphabet were in the south around the Manchester and Liverpool areas. The TV series took the non-existent signs Z-Victor 1 and Z-Victor 2.
The stories revolve around pairs of officers patrolling that week. Riding on changing social attitudes and television, the social realism, with interesting stories, garnered popularity. It was initially less popular with real-life police, who disliked the sometimes unsympathetic characterisation of officers. Being set in the North of England helped give it a regional flavour when most BBC dramas were set in the south.
The one character present throughout the entire run was Bert Lynch, played by James Ellis (though John Phillips as Det. Chief Supt. Robins would reappear sporadically during the show's run – by the end of the series he had become Chief Constable). Other characters in the early days were Stratford Johns (Inspector Barlow), Frank Windsor (Det.Sgt Watt), Robert Keegan (Sgt Blackitt), Joseph Brady (PC "Jock" Weir) and Brian Blessed ("Fancy" Smith). Also in 1960s episodes as David Graham was Colin Welland who won more fame as a screenwriter. Other British actors who played regular roles in the early years included John Thaw and Leonard Rossiter.
Z-Cars ran for 799 episodes.
The original run ended in 1965; Barlow, Watt and Blackitt were spun off into a new series Softly, Softly. It was revived in March 1967 with only James Ellis and Joseph Brady from the original show. The revival was produced by the serials department of the BBC in a twice-weekly soap opera format of 25-minute episodes. It ran until April 1971 (in colour from early 1970), then returned to a regular season pattern of 50-minute episodes for its final years.
Z-Cars is incomplete in the archives. 1962-5 is reasonably well represented, though with big gaps. With the 1967 revival, material becomes more patchy. 1967, 1969 and 1970 each have small numbers of surviving episodes. The years 1968 and 1971, when the series was shown almost every week, have no surviving episodes. Around half of the total episodes survive.
The original series was one of the last British television dramas screened live regularly – already rare by the time the programme began in 1962. It was felt that this helped immediacy and pace, and episodes were live as late as 1965, despite cameras appearing in shot. Most were videotaped for repeat, but the BBC regularly wiped tapes after programmes exceeded their usefulness, agreements with unions meaning they could only be shown a limited number of times. The space needed to store large videotapes, as well as the expense when they could be re-used, were factors.
However, most episodes were "telerecorded". This was a fairly primitive (by today's standards) way of preserving a transmission by filming it (to 16 mm film) from a television screen. Telerecordings could be used for repeats and overseas sales. Although foreign buyers were supposed to return, destroy or forward telerecordings, many were archived and have slowly filtered back to the BBC.
The telerecording of the first ever episode was returned to writer Allan Prior in the 1980s by an engineer who had taken it home to preserve it because his children had enjoyed the programme and he could not bring himself to destroy it. Other early episodes have been returned by broadcasters from countries such as Cyprus and the search for lost episodes of sister BBC programme Doctor Who has also occasionally turned up lost Z-Cars episodes (according to the documentary Doctor Who: The Missing Years, included on the BBC Video DVD release Doctor Who: Lost in Time). Two episodes were returned in 2004 after turning up in a private collection. Colour episodes from the early-1970s are less likely to be recovered, as they were never telerecorded for export.
All episodes from the 1975-1978 period are preserved in the archives.
The spin-off, Softly, Softly focused on the regional crime squad, and ran until 1969, when it was again revised and became Softly, Softly: Taskforce, running until 1976. The character of Barlow (Stratford Johns) was one of the best-known figures in British television in the 1960s and 1970s, and was given several seasons of his own "solo" series, Barlow at Large (later just Barlow) between 1971-75. He also joined Watt (Frank Windsor) to re-investigate the Jack the Ripper murders for a six-part series in 1973. This led to another spin-off, Second Verdict in which Barlow and Watt looked into unsolved cases and unsafe convictions.
Frank Windsor made a final appearance as Watt in the last episode of Z-Cars, "Pressure", in September 1978, with Robins (John Phillips), the Detective Chief Superintendent from the original series who had risen to chief constable. Jeremy Kemp, Brian Blessed, Joseph Brady and Colin Welland also made guest appearances in the episode, but not as their original characters.
In 1961 the BBC broadcast "Jacks and Knaves" as a single series of four episodes. Set in Liverpool and including Leonard Williams (Sgt. Twentyman in Z-Cars), and written by Colin Morris. Although a humorous police procedural, Jacks and Knaves paved the way for Z-Cars as a regional drama about policing.
(1962–1965 & 1967-1978 / 12 Series / 799 episodes)
||This article needs additional citations for verification. (August 2010)|
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