The Thin Blue Line

Police sitcom about fastidious Inspector Raymond Fowler, his array of uniformed officers, and the oafish CID Inspector Grim

1995 - 1996  (BBC One)
14 (2 series)
Rowan Atkinson, David Haig, Serena Evans, James Dreyfus, Mina Anwar, Rudolph Walker, Kevin Allen, Mark Addy, Lucy Robinson, Joy Brook
Ben Elton
Tiger Aspect Productions

Police Inspector Raymond Fowler is in charge of the uniformed police officers at Gasforth Police Station. They include the very camp Kevin Goody, Constable Gladstone and brainy Constable Habib.

Fowler, who is an old fashioned policeman and does everything by the book, is in an unsatisfactory long-term relationship with Desk Sergeant Dawkins. The yobbish CID, lead by the bitter and constantly complaining Derek Grim, clash constantly with the uniformed officers with whom they must share the station.

Our Review: The Thin Blue Line is one of those sitcoms whose reputation was, at the time, unfairly besmirched by a relentlessly hostile press. Often regarded as writer Ben Elton's attempt to restage his beloved Dad's Army in a contemporary setting, it was warmly received by the public, but as a largely family-friendly comedy with a delightful helping of classic innuendo, critics loathed the series from the go.

We at the British Comedy Guide are firmly in the fan camp. Atkinson's performance, and his contrast to David Haig's DI Grim, are particular delights. The latter is one of the most brilliantly conflicted characters in British sitcom history, whilst Atkinson gets to deliver a number of deliciously withering put-downs as Inspector Fowler.

However, as evidenced in part by its relatively short life, it would be misleading to suggest this sitcom was a runaway success. Some publications and professional critics would have one believe that it was universally loathed, whilst others have speculated as to whether viewers were either unable or unwilling to see Atkinson as any character other than Blackadder or Mr. Bean in the mid-90s; but the public remained enamoured enough with The Thin Blue Line to vote its two short series as the 34th best British sitcom ever produced, in a major poll some 8 years after the show had ended.

As ever, this sitcom proves that the public should pay no heed to TV critics. It may not have been perfect, but in the search for good, silly fun, one need go no further. The Thin Blue Line isn't high-brow stuff, and all the better for it.