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The Last Hurrah of the British Action Series!
on 6 May 2006
As a spotty teenager I had a few "TV crushes" in the 1980's: Jane Badler (The evil lizard woman from "V"), Debbie Shore (Children's ITV presenter!) and GLYNIS BARBER from DEMPSEY & MAKEPEACE. Now I can re-evaluate this Anglo-American co-production from a more 'mature' perspective *blush*
DEMPSEY & MAKEPEACE was pretty much the end of an era that began decades earlier with classic ITC series such as THE SAINT, DANGER MAN and other such gems (Evolving via THE SWEENEY and THE PROFESSIONALS along the way). Subsequent to this show, attempts to create a similar format were always ruined with the introduction of borderline soap-antics (when the definition of "characterisation" came to mean "boring domestic angst").
I certainly won't insist that DEMSPEY & MAKEPEACE was "quality television", but I will say it was always a lot of fun to watch. Snobby critics hated it of course, but the show was still a huge hit with the viewers. This is mainly thanks to the personalities of the two leads - Michael Brandon slips into the shoes of a NYPD cop with ease - It's a clichéd role that should fall flat, but thanks to Mr. Brandon's performance we do actually find ourselves liking the character.
Glynis Barber is of course the "glam" role, but despite the scripts playing off her (considerable) good looks a little too often (Getting her stripped to her undies or ogled/groped while undercover) she carries it off well. Despite being there "for the lads", it's to her credit that the character is as memorable - When MAKEPEACE has to land a pilotless plane in one episode I actually started to share her panic, so convincing was Glynis' performance!
I have to mention Ray Smith as "Spikings", their chief. Once again a potentially clichéd role is given extra dimension in the hands of a good actor. Gordon Spikings is a "Guv'Nor" for this series in every sense of the word.
This series has pace, excitement and some crazy plot notions, but all of these fit into the old "action thriller" universe with surprising ease (With the exception of the worst female impersonator ever apparently fooling Dempsey in the episode MAKE PEACE NOT WAR!) - It's never meant to be profound or world-changing, just enjoyable and glossy, something television doesn't really do anymore.
If I have to criticise the show it's purely for the fashions. 80's clothes had the uncanny ability to make the most attractive people look amazingly tacky (The normally lovely & classy Catriona MaColl in HORS DE COMBAT looks awful thanks to the clothes she's forced to wear!) but that isn't a complaint specific to this series. Having said that, Glynis Barber transcends her wardrobe and looks stunning in just about anything they put her in (But then I'm biased!)
Apart from this stumbling block, DEMPSEY & MAKEPEACE stands up pretty well and is just as much fun today (More so perhaps, thanks to the lack of anything similar on screens now!).
This boxset is good value, with all ten season 1 episodes on three discs. The quality is a little grainy compared to modern standards of film, but I find that adds to the atmosphere.
There isn't much in the way of extras, but a nice 15 minute interview with the two stars (Still married after 20 years!) demostrates that they both had a lot of fun making it and Glynis Barber still looks great!