The Thin Blue Line (TV series)

The Thin Blue Line (TV series)

infobox television
show_name = The Thin Blue Line

caption = "The Complete Thin Blue Line DVD"
format = Sitcom
runtime = 30 minutes
creator =
starring = Rowan Atkinson
James Dreyfus
Mina Anwar
Serena Evans
Rudolph Walker
David Haig
Kevin Allen
Mark Addy
country = UK
network = BBC
first_aired = 13 November 1995
last_aired = 23 December 1996
num_series = 2
num_episodes = 14
imdb_id = 0112194

"The Thin Blue Line" was a British sitcom starring Rowan Atkinson set in a police station that lasted for two series from 1995 to 1996. It was written by Ben Elton.


*Rowan Atkinson - Inspector Raymond Fowler
*David Haig - Detective Inspector Derek Grim
*Serena Evans - Police Sergeant Patricia Dawkins
*James Dreyfus - Constable Kevin Goody
*Mina Anwar - Constable Maggie Habib
*Rudolph Walker - Constable Frank Gladstone
*Kevin Allen - Detective Constable Robert Kray "(series 1)"
*Mark Addy - Detective Constable Gary Boyle "(series 2)"
*Joy Brook - Detective Constable Crockett "(series 1, 2 episodes)"
*Lucy Robinson - Dame Christabel Wickham, The Mayoress of Gasforth "(series 2, 3 episodes)"

Many notable actors made guest appearances, and these include the writer Ben Elton, Stephen Fry, Melvyn Hayes, Trevor Peacock, Colin McFarlane, Alexander Armstrong, Nicola Stapleton, Perry Fenwick and Rupert Vansittart.

Plot and characters

"The Thin Blue Line" was set in the police station of the fictional town of Gasforth. One of the main themes was the rivalry between the uniformed squad led by Inspector Fowler (a sort of protagonist figure) and the CID led by Detective Inspector Grim (often Fowler's antagonist, though they were on the same side of the law). DI Grim provided much of the humour through his mis-use of the English language. Episodes frequently saw the uniformed branch and CID locking horns over similar, or in some cases the same, issues while having conflicting views or methods of operation. Generally the uniformed section triumphed over the Detectives, although not without their own foibles.
The other comedic plotlines centered around the characters below and their peculiarities, although other PCs and staff were usually visible in the background and at meetings. (These ancillary characters' visibility is more obvious in the first series. In both series they generally have no speaking parts). Inspector Raymond C. Fowler is an old-fashioned policeman, whose lack of interest in sex constantly annoys his live-in girlfriend of ten years Sergeant Dawkins. He was previously married, and his college-age son Bill made one appearance in the series. His former wife Susan is alluded to but never featured. Inspector Fowler has a strong devotion to duty and takes his job very seriously, sometimes showing a lack of contemporary social awareness that amuses Habib and annoys Grim. He has been known to (usually unwittingly) perform very courageous acts in the line of duty. Among the cast, he most closely characterizes the "stiff upper lip" English official, at least while on duty. He is a member of the local drama society and fancies himself an actor. His hobbies include reading Biggles and building miniature models.

Sergeant Patricia Dawkins is Inspector Fowler's partner of 10 years. She is forever on a quest for more sexual attention from Fowler, who is usually reluctant to oblige. Despite her frustration and anger, she loves Fowler devotedly and has but one dream - to marry him and have their child. Dawkins gets extremely jealous if Fowler talks alone with other women and often jumps to conclusions as a result. This occasionally placed her at odds with the younger WPC Maggie Habib, but the two always resume their friendship. She is also concerned about her health and appearance, perhaps as a result of Fowler's lukewarm sexual attentions. At the police station she is most often shown as the desk sergeant.

Detective Inspector Derek Grim is the head of the CID unit at Gasforth Police Station. His attitude is that CID are superior to the uniformed Police and proclaims that the uniformed officers are " the 'doo-doo' ". Grim harbors a poorly contained desire to be promoted, preferably away from unexciting Gasforth. Sometimes oblivious to subtleties, Grim is far more ignorant than he is willing to admit, which he regularly displays through his butchery of English phraseology and his ill-conceived ideas. He can be described as buffoonish, and insecure about his own professional status and social standing. He has been married for 20 years to Tina (unseen) with whom he shares an intense love-hate relationship, as he often complains about their marriage. But he occasionally reveals that he does indeed love his wife. His son, Darren, was arrested by Goody in one episode. His rants (often against "fannying about" which he himself plainly does) are the source of numerous comedic lines. Despite his flaws, at least one episode reveals Grim to be fundamentally good; for example he was greatly conflicted by D.C. Boyle's plan of planting evidence on the drug-dealer Harry the Spike.

Constable Kevin Goody is probably the most complex of the show's characters. Unintelligent and generally oblivious to the obvious, he has very little idea of what being a Police Officer entails, and admitted that "wearing a nice uniform" was one reason he joined the Force. Easily confused, his ineptitude amazes Fowler, who once exclaimed "your head is just something you keep your hat on, isn't it?". Goody is always on an unsuccessful quest to win the heart of WPC Habib despite his obvious camp behaviour. He lives with his mother, of whom he is terrified ("...she'll come down here, and do her raving Nah-Nah...") and Habib has learned to threaten to inform her when he becomes too annoying. He did however once strike a prisoner out of pure rage when the young thug made a racist remark against Habib, for which he was nearly charged by Fowler. Despite Habib's protests, Fowler initiated proceedings against Goody, claiming he had no choice since the victim's mother was pressing the charges. When the mother began loosely slapping her child during the complaint interview, Fowler bargained that if she dropped the charges against Goody, he would overlook her "assaulting" her son, citing an obscure (possibly made up) EU law against such "abuse".

Constable Maggie Habib is a female Officer of South Asian descent and is generally the "straight man" in Fowler's uniformed branch. Amazingly intelligent, she often approached issues with a wise and methodical train of thought. Fowler has commented several times that she is his finest Officer and that she has a good career ahead of her. She always tries to deflect the attentions of Goody, but deep down, she is sympathetic to him and on one occasion does her best to convince Fowler to drop unjust charges against Goody when he punched a skinhead for verbally abusing her. Habib is a feminist and is vocally 'progressive' in her socio-political views. It is revealed in season 2 that she has a study-freak turned drug-addict sister named Nazia, whom she protects by withholding evidence during a vice operation. She was nearly charged by Grim until Fowler blackmailed him by threatening criminal charges for a minor "crime" "he" had committed. She was also citizen arrested by local villain "Terry the Tank" when Grim tried to use her as a "honey-trap" and was accused of entrapment.

Constable Frank Gladstone is an older PC presumably near retirement who was born in Trinidad. He has been a PC all his life (as was his father) and is enjoying his career winding down. He often contributes to situations by making irrelevant (and usually silly) tangental comments, sometimes sexist in nature. This sexism provides an amusing foil (opposite) to Constable Goody's overt camp behaviour. He is particularly fond of Gloria Hunniford. With the possible exception of Goody, Gladstone is the most out-of-touch-with-reality of the characters. He once claimed to have had an interesting case in which a woman complained that her neighbour had trimmed his hedge into the shape of a bottom. He also offered advice to Fowler on how to deal with environmental protesters who had chained themselves to trees, etc., which effectively amounted to "call the police". His character has been criticised as a token ethnic minority one, despite Habib's importance to the series. PC Gladstone nevertheless provided support to a number of funny scenes in the series.

Detective Constable Robert Kray is an Officer in Grim's CID unit for the entire of Series 1. Presumably having been promoted beyond the regular uniformed service, he is a very 'laddish' Cop. Intelligent, but rather cynical and pragmatic, his motivation for joining the Force was the 'perks of the job' such as pushing to the front of queues, and (sometimes) twisting being a Police Officer to his own ends. He is frequently eating or ordering food via telephone whilst on duty. Despite being at Grim's beck and call, he has little respect for his superior and often chuckles at his misfortunes, as does Fowler. He provides a comic supporting role similar to PC Gladstone, although his interjections are usually brief "one-liner" stabs. He is paired with female DC Crockett in several scenes (she eventually disappears from the series). Kray is replaced in Series 2 by DC Gary Boyle. Both Kray and Boyle served as intelligent "straight man" characters to the bumbling Grim, not unlike PC Habib's relationship with Fowler.

Detective Constable Gary Boyle is Kray's replacement in Series 2. He too is very 'laddish' and likes being a Police Officer for the associated perks. Like Kray, he is intelligent, hypocritical, cynical and pragmatic. He sees no reason why Police Officers should not take liberties such as staging pub lock-ins, using the car siren when late for lunch, or even planting evidence on clever criminals if that's what it takes to get a conviction. Arguably more aggressive than Kray, Boyle sometimes covers up for Grim's mistakes or steers him in the right direction, all the while being generally unimpressed with his superior. The second series, with Boyle, is a bit more serious in this regard and shows CID as more involved than the first series. Boyle has several spots in this and as such, his character is more developed than Kray's but perhaps proportionally less comical.

Dame Christabel Wickham QC is a local barrister and Gasforth's Mayoress. She makes several appearances in Series 2. A powerful and overbearing woman, she keeps Fowler on a leash due to his overwhelming sense of duty to authority figures. She also has enough influence to assist Fowler's career and possibly help arrange an MBE - both of which Fowler is acutely aware. It is revealed that Fowler had a crush on her in grammar school, and still does considering that his nose twitches when he is in her presence (a sign that he is sexually attracted to someone), much to the annoyance of Dawkins. Fowler rarely helps the situation by making comments like "she has a fine mind and superb calf muscles". Dawkins dislikes Wickham, and even compares her to a dog in one episode. In the episode "Court In The Act", she takes up the defense of an accused drug dealer. Despite the fact that he had been set up, it was strange that the Mayoress would defend an accused drug dealer, although judging by her personality in later episodes, not entirely out of character. Fowler tips her off with enough information to set the drug dealer free and ruin Boyle's plan of convicting him. Dawkins believes Fowler did it purely out of lust.

Ben Elton

The writer Ben Elton is a self-confessed fan of "Dad's Army",Fact|date=June 2008 and as such many of the characters can be compared with those of "Dad's Army". Fowler's relationship with Grim is very similar to that of Captain Mainwaring to Warden Hodges, in that they are both on the same side yet enemies. Also, Constable Goody is rather like Private Pike in being a 'stupid boy' that irritates Fowler. Constable Gladstone's habit of interrupting a briefing with a story about life in Trinidad is similar to Lance Corporal Jones' penchant for reminiscing about when he was in the Sudan during one of Captain Mainwaring's speeches. Similar comparisons can be drawn from many of the minor characters. In the episode "Rag Week", Fowler is briefly seen walking out of a shop called "Mainwaring's". Stephen Fry's character, Brigadier Blaster-Sump, also had a similarity to Melchett from "Blackadder" (also played by Fry). In the first series the "WANTED" poster behind Fowler's desk in the briefing room is an e-fit of Ben Elton.


eries One (1995)

eries Two (1996)

Critical reception

Although popular, the series was panned by criticswho who cited uneven character development, dated humour and cliched elementsFact|date=April 2008.Nonetheless, the show ranked 34th in the BBC's "Britain's Best Sitcom" poll in 2004.

DVD releases

Both series have been released on DVD in the UK (Region 2) by Vision Video Ltd. Episodes in the first series were not in broadcast order on the DVD. "The Thin Blue Line" is available in Region 1 (North America), having been released by BBC Warner.


*Mark Lewisohn, "Radio Times Guide to TV Comedy", BBC Worldwide Ltd, 2003

External links

* [ "The Thin Blue Line"] at the Internet Movie Database

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