"Who says we have to like each other?" - rewatching Dempsey And Makepeace

Discussion in 'TV Central' started by Mel O'Drama, Mar 8, 2018.

  1. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    It's been quite a few years since I've watched the first two series on DVD, and last time I saw the third would have been one of its TV outings.

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    This show was huge when it first aired. I think there would have been a lot of hype about the premiere, because I can remember the anticipation and excitement of watching. And it ticked all the boxes of being new and thrilling. Michael Brandon's wisecracks; Glynis Barber's hairdo; the sporty cars; the guns; the action sequences; Alan Parker's pulse-pounding theme and dark score. I couldn't get enough of it, which meant I was the one buying the novels and getting D&M themed Christmas presents like the annuals and a set of motorised toy cars which I still have in the attic somewhere.

    The opening ten minutes, showing Dempsey's life as a cop in New York is quite well done. At a guess I'd say all the recognisable NY locations in establishing shots are either second unit or even stock footage with London's docklands and studios doubling for scenes, but the flavour feels spot on and great casting for the "American" stuff. If Chris Cagney had been one of Dempsey's colleagues it wouldn't have felt out of place. Something for the fanfics, perhaps.

    More than anything else this time round, I was immediately struck by Brandon's screen presence. He just oozes with it. The camera loves him and I just can't take my eyes off his eyes. There's more than a hint of Hoffman or Pacino to him. With a dash of Hugh Jackman thrown in for good measure. There was a nice piece of business where Dempsey repeatedly used the wrong name for a suspect. The first time Makepeace corrected him and all the following times he corrected himself. I found myself wondering if it started as a genuine fluff that got saved and worked in to become a character bit. Whatever the case, I like it and it added a bit of naturalism to the show's brand of hyper reality.

    A feature-length premiere felt luxurious then, and it still does. The procedural story is standard fare, but it feels special because of the "origin" story, the introduction to the sexual tension between the two leads and the screwball comedy situations.

    The first scene between the two leads is great fun, with Barber borrowing Jacki Piper's Cockney accent from Carry On At Your Convenience and throwing in some nasel nail technician for good measure.

    Ray Smith's Spikings is a joy. Not to mention incredibly quotable. If times had been different I'd have suspected each of Spikings' lines was written specifically to be meme-friendly. He's post-Cowley Cowley, of course. And a better man for the job I can't think of. In fact I wanted to go with a quote of his for the thread title, but I had second thoughts just in case "Are you offering me a bloody Yank?" caused offence. It does sum up the show's glorious clash of cultures rather well, I think.

    Speaking of which, I suppose there may be a slightly canny marketing ploy behind the Anglo-American casting of the leads. But I'm not going to worry about that when it creates an additional layer of tension. Having recently watched Two's Company for the first time I can see some similarities in the characterisations of the unapologetically brash, straight down the line New Yorker and the proper, upper crust Brit and the clashes it leads to. Dempsey is shown to be the hermetic type, ignorant - even intolerant - of culture and language outside of his home country, shown particularly by his repeated "correction" of Spikings and Harry's pronunciation of the word "Lieutenant". And it's definitely a two-way street, as demonstrated by Spikings' "bloody Yank" quote and Harry's apology-stroke-warning of "he's an American" when introducing Dempsey to her contact in Fortum & Mason. It promises to be a fun ride.
     
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  2. Swami

    Swami Soap Chat Warrior

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    Dempsey and Makepeace will always be one of my all-time favourite shows, I loved watching it when it aired originally and the DVD box-set remains one of my most prized possessions. I think there was at least one - maybe two - more series left in it, it always seemed to me that the show ended rather prematurely.

    On the other hand, the memories of the show are all fantastic. I fancied Glynis Barber something serious at the time (even though I was only 11 or 12), I loved Dempsey's Mercedes convertible, I loved the way Dempsey and Spikings wound each other up. Spikings had more depth to his character than perhaps it seemed, yes he was gruff and no-nonsense, but trusted Dempsey and Makepeace totally to get the job done.

    After Dallas, it is my favourite show.

    Swami
     
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  3. J. R.'s Piece

    J. R.'s Piece Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    Julian Bond used that trick in the first episode of ITC’s rather quirky The Sentimental Agent, where MI5’s steely Major Nelson (Anthony Bushell) kept forgetting the name of the jazz group that he was detaining at Heathrow Airport, “The Arthur Rodgers Modern Jazz Quintet”. He said Artful Dodgers at one point. He got it right once though and Carlos (who was dressed for Ascot) replied, “Well done”. Then Nelson forgot it again, while taking his snuff.

    I sometimes watch Ray Smith as a policeman, DI Firbank, in the later series of Public Eye.
    3D1F75EF-24B6-42E1-A86A-8DF1589CE202.jpeg
     
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  4. Swami

    Swami Soap Chat Warrior

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    Tony Osoba did very well in the show too even though he was somewhat in the background, very very different to his other major role of McLaren in Porridge.

    Swami
     
  5. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Another episode, another of Harry's cars gets it. It's quite sad to see two separate Minis destroyed over two consecutive episodes. First the red Mk III and then the black Mk IV. The red one seemed quite battered anyway, but the black was rather smart. They'd both have been worth a bundle now - especially the Mk III with a bit of restoration. According to IMCDb, the black car somehow survived until 1992. How that happened when it died onscreen I have no idea, but it does ease the blow somewhat.

    Much as I coveted the grey-blue Escort Cabriolet that Harry drives beginning with the following episode, the Mini somehow embodied Harry's Britishness and her aversion to flashy things. Just seeing it explained why her clashes with Jim are inevitable.

    For all the fantasy and frivolity - the rule-breaking shootouts and running round the East Greenwich Gasworks in slow motion - there's an occasional dark brutality that seems exclusive to British shows of the Seventies and Eighties in general and LWT dramas in particular. The treatment of the security couriers locked in the van for The Squeeze's heist (all very Widows-esque) is a great example of this. Particularly unpleasant was the moment where the guard who's in on the job realises he's been betrayed as he's locked in the pitch blackness of the rear of the van. Just hearing that shotgun fire from the point of view of his security colleagues at the front is quite chilling.





    Another series for my viewing bucket list. It would be nice to see Ray Smith in something else as he's my favourite part about D&M so far this time round.

    I remember Chas, but have barely noticed him in the first two episodes. I imagine his low key role means he gets noticed gradually.
     
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  6. Swami

    Swami Soap Chat Warrior

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    Although at the time an Escort XR3i convertible, for that class of car, was quite flashy. Granted not in the same league as Dempsey's Mercedes.

    The Squeeze was actually the first episode filmed, filmed before the feature-length opening episode.

    Swami
     
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  7. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    It's fun to see the familiar faces in these series. Christopher Strauli as a character who was anything but H.A.P.P.Y. And a Pre-Enders Michael Cashman as an enjoyably bombastic barrister. For a moment I thought Eddie Royle had fired the killing shot, but twas not he. Memory tells me he's coming up though, along with the future Wilmott-Brown.


    Oh that's interesting. I don't think I knew that before. Or if I did I've forgotten.
     
  8. Swami

    Swami Soap Chat Warrior

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    Yes, Christopher Strauli's character does seem to be angry all the time.

    As the first series progress, lots of familiar faces pop up including a pre-Bill Christopher Ellison.

    Swami
     
  9. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Yes - he was in the episode I've just finished watching. Except I mistook him for Kenny Beale from EastEnders. I did spot Nicola Stapleton's first TV outing in the same episode though. She looks very young compared to Simon And The Witch, but I suppose two and a bit years is a long time when you're a pre-teen.
     
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  10. Swami

    Swami Soap Chat Warrior

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    And also in that episode, Godfrey James, aka Harry Mowlem in Emmerdale who Matt Skilbeck had a run in with!

    Swami
     
  11. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    I've now watched both these episodes and thoroughly enjoyed them.

    Makepeace, Not War was a favourite episode of mine when I was young, and it's easy to see why. There's something quite exciting and not a little iconic about seeing Harry - wearing her "Make Peace Not War" t-shirt - get deliberately shot by Jim as Spikings and Chas watch on. With the tension ratcheting up further when Jim finds a hole and fresh blood on the t-shirt. It resonated with me when I was a pre-teen and it's still one of the more classic moments of the series.

    I had some of the D&M novels based on the episodes. Makepeace, Not War was the first in the book series, and the first one I read, which added to the experience. I think it's for this reason that I've convinced myself over the years this episode is a double-length one, simply because of the additional detail within the novel. I wonder if I still have it? I remember little about it, other than a sex worker's profane boast to Jim (which I shan't repeat, but let's just say I found informative at the time) and a bizarre scene where Harry watched a guy getting off by smelling his own pee. As I recall, much was made of a fetishist angle in the novel, so William Boyde in drag made a little more sense than it does in the episode where, frankly, it's slightly silly.

    There's much to deride in the episode itself. Not least Spikings making a three act play out of speaking to Harry's father when he could simply have told him what was going on. It's one of those scenes that doesn't make sense in any other context than the writers' vain attempt to get the viewer to question if Harry has, indeed, been killed. But this is a fantasy series and one that is great fun, so perhaps it's best not to think too deeply about these things.

    The London based location scenes look great. Watching today I'm hugely impressed that they managed to show a high speed chase on Tower Bridge or a complicated crane shot of Harry speaking to her informant surrounded by the iconography of Piccadilly Circus and without lots of gawping tourists shattering the illusion.
     
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  12. Swami

    Swami Soap Chat Warrior

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    With the benefit of hindsight there must have been a very hefty budget for the show when you consider some of the action sequences alone.

    Swami
     
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  13. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    The final episode of Series One is my most-watched D&M episode. I recorded it when it first aired - the only episode I remember so doing. It's not the finest hour, but familiarity hasn't bred contempt of it and it's entertaining enough. The latter part of the first series in particular got into a groove of a personal case contributing to the developing relationship between the two leads, and on that level it's highly successful.

    Two episodes into Series Two now, and something's quite different. It feels even bigger than it did before. Subtlety has now gone out of the window and the viewer is not so much asked to suspend their disbelief as to allow it to freefall. Not that it particularly matters with this series. But not matter how many times I see it I do find it hard to swallow the two of them running round waving guns about. And not just pistols now. Harry grabbed an automatic machine gun and blew some random person off the map with complete impunity.

    The worst aspect of Series Two for me so far has been Dempsey. It feels like the powers that be have pushed his obnoxiousness past the limits and there's been a whole lot of gum chewing and grandstanding, reaching a nadir with lengthy scenes of him recklessly driving a Camaro stolen from a police impound lot. The anti-hero, loose cannon stuff has reached sledgehammer proportions and it's to the detriment of the series. None of which would matter if it made things more entertaining. But it doesn't. I hope this aspect gets dialled back a bit as Series Two progresses.

    The good news is that the chemistry between the two leads is as good as ever, and I have particularly enjoyed their squabbling at inopportune times. Long may that continue.


    Yes indeed. Though one can almost always tell when a car is going to be written off by how old it is. Many Seventies classics have bought it during D&M action sequences. Like Harry's Minis and the Mk III Cortina that rolls over in the title sequence.

    I was quite intrigued by the Opel Ascona that was driven into the water at the end of Hors de Combat after Makepeace shot the woman driving it. Cavaliers were everywhere in the UK, but a right hand drive Ascona was quite a rare beast.
     
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  14. Swami

    Swami Soap Chat Warrior

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    If memory serves me right, certainly here in Northern Ireland, there would have been a fair number of Opels about - although more so the Mantas and Monzas (both coupes).

    The Rover SD1 police cars do take a bit of a hammering in the show.

    Swami
     
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  15. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Oh yes - the Manta and Monza were both about in Wales and England. As I recall, there was no Vauxhall equivalent of these by the mid-Eighties after the Cavalier Coupe and Royale were dropped, so the Opels were sold alongside the Vauxhall range throughout the Eighties.

    I do remember the sight of an Opel-badged Ascona was a source of excitement at the time, there were so few about here.

    They do, don't they? But they look good while they're doing it.
     
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  16. Swami

    Swami Soap Chat Warrior

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    The big Daimler limousines don't prove to be too nimble in some of the car-chases, their turning circle is somewhat lengthy!

    Swami
     
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  17. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    The bunny boiling stalker. The armed bank robbers holding customers hostage. The protection racket.

    All three are pretty standard tropes of the genre. They're expected. Obligatory, almost. But this series visiting each one in turn over three consecutive episode proves that when done well (and they were here) they are most effective.

    The stalker episode had a few nice jumps and worked fine. Suzi Quatro was better than I remembered. In some ways the episode seems ahead of the curve - Fatal Attraction was still a year or so away at this point.

    The hostage episode had some genuine tension and a brutally cold kill. It felt like a little effort had been made to flesh out the gunmen a little and give them some character, though they still felt a little too cardboard cutout. The woman with the bad heart and her whiny young daughter pushed my tolerance levels. Harry exchanging places with said woman who had a gun to her head made sense. But then ordering Jim to take the woman outside along with his gun and any small advantage they may have had did not. Dempsey's refusal to play by the rules also irritated. It's one thing to risk his own neck, but jumping on top of the bus was just asking for the gunmen to open fire on their hostages. I suppose I haven't got the art of suspending my disbelief down just yet.

    Having recently watched Milton Johns as Milquetoast neighbour Mr Conrad in Butterflies - and remembering him as Bettabuy manager Brendan Scott - it was a refreshing change to see him as a rather nastier character in Tequila Sunrise protection racket episode. The fact that his character turned out to be equally weak and ineffectual without his henchmen felt very fitting. Tequila Sunrise is probably most notable as the "drunk Harry" episode in which she cut loose at Stringfellows. It was a wonderful mid-Eighties little time capsule of ruffles, tight skirts and big hair.
     
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  18. Swami

    Swami Soap Chat Warrior

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    I agree, those are two of my favourite episodes. With the benefit of hindsight the scene where the hostage is shot outside the bank is brutal for its time. If I remember correctly one of the gunman (Jamie Foreman) turned up not that long ago as Derek Branning in EastEnders.

    Swami
     
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  19. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    The latter part of Series Two continued to be mostly enjoyable. Past Tequila Sunrise there's been little especially memorable, though the obligatory modelling episode was very watchable. Slightly surprising to see Tracey Childs, since the first series of Howards' Way was midway through its run when this aired. I'd be interested to know how the filming schedules worked with these. At a guess I'd say D&M was shot way ahead of time and Tracey went from this to her role as Lynne Howard.

    Much as I enjoy the leads, I've decided that overall I don't enjoy Dempsey-centric episodes quite as much. The final episode of Series Two was an auditory nightmare of loud gum chewing and a harmonica soundtrack.

    That said, Series Three has now commenced and the opening episode - which kind of, sort of, wrapped up the "origin" story from the pilot - was great. Sometimes with this kind of series, a two parter can meander or feel full of padding. It's quite the opposite here. The extra space allowed for a slow burn and some cinematically lengthy scenes. The opening scene set the tone perfectly, with the opening credits superimposed over the atmospheric scene setting at the East Greenwich Gasworks. Almost three minutes of dialogue-free cars arriving and characters just waiting created a nice tension that made the episode feel bigger than a regular one, in scope as well as time.

    Coltrane was played by a different actor, but a nice job was done of making it seem that Bruce Boa was there during the flashbacks to the first episode.

    New cars all round. Spikings' metallic blue Granada 2.8i GL is the most logical of the upgrades. It's exactly the same model and trim as his previous car, but has a completely new feel thanks to the hatchback styling of the Granada Mk III which was quite a radical thing at the time. It still looks good today. Then there's Harry's all-white Escort 1.6i cabriolet. I remember the all-white car fad of the mid-Eighties. Looking back, it's far brasher and cheaper than the car it replaces, helped not a bit by the Essex connotations of the colour scheme. Jim's "new" Mercedes SL is the most curious upgrade of the lot. Even though it bears the same registration number as his white SL, it's actually a much older model from the late Seventies. Even so, the silver-grey colour scheme looks so much better and more timeless than the white (in general I'm not a huge fan of silver cars either. Like white and black they're just too ubiquitous. But this extremely photogenic car is the exception to that rule).

    With the hit on Dempsey now off the table and his reason for coming to the UK out in the open with everyone (not least Harry), the series almost seems to have lost its raison d'être. It deals with this by acknowledging it in some Greek chorus dialogue between Chas and Spikings in which Spikings nods at Jim and Harry and notes that Dempsey still has a good reason to stay. How things will work from here on remains to be seen (damned if I can remember). I'd guess it's going to be business as usual, but I can't help thinking what a great wrap up to the show The Burning would have made.
     
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  20. Swami

    Swami Soap Chat Warrior

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    I'm on season two at the moment, Silver Dollar which is another good episode.

    Swami
     

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