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on 18 September 2013
The popular myth goes that 'Dixon of Dock Green' was a cosy anachronism by the early 70s and 'Z Cars' was the grittier upstart that reflected the realities of modern policing. Having recently watched the two 'Dixon' DVD releases, I was taken aback by the bleakness of the storylines and the derelict London locations, all coming as a pleasant surprise. By contrast, this collection of early 70s 'Z Cars' does (as another reviewer pointed out) seem closer to the accusations levelled at 'Dixon'. Not that they're not well-written and generally well-acted stories; the one involving the geriatric safe-cracker is quite a sweet, heart-warming little tale. It's always good to see what kind of wig Anthony Valentine will be wearing, for one thing, a bit of dodgy 'Dr Who'-style CSO never fails to raise a smile, and the sight of Geoffrey from 'Rainbow' as a detective is truly bizarre. But the first eight episodes on this DVD are from the period when the show was effectively a twice-weekly soap, as 'The Bill' became fifteen years later, which might explain why it appears less gritty than the viewer might have expected. Having said that, it's great to have the opportunity to see the series forty years on, as (unlike 'Dixon') 'Z Cars' was not a programme I remember being watched much in our house at the time, even though anyone over 40 will remember the theme tune! Maybe the next 'lost' BBC cop show to get a DVD outing should be 'Softly Softly: Task Force' and we can see how that shapes up in the gritty stakes.
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on 8 September 2013
First and foremost, it's great to see Z Cars - any Z Cars - out on DVD! 51 years after its first transmission and 35 years since it ended, this is long overdue and most welcome.

The packaging acknowledges that there are some quality defects in the original materials, some of which are artistic (some appalling green-screen in Loyalties part 2), others simply due to the aging of the materials, but the discs are well encoded and so are faithfully reproducing the available materials. It's also good to see that there are subtitles (as this is licensed from the BBC) and that they are generally accurate rather than paraphrases of the dialogue.

Which just leaves the episodes themselves. Acorn's recent releases of 70s colour episodes of Dixon of Dock Green seemed to go against the received wisdom that in its later years it lacked edge and remained stuck in the 50s. By contrast, these 1972 episodes of Z Cars are something of a disappointment. Having seen the first three black and white episodes from 1962 on the only previous VHS release, Z Cars seems to have regressed over the following ten years, losing much of its grit, and rather out-Dixoning Dixon! For this reason, much as I can understand Acorn's wish to release colour material (not least for impulse sales reasons), I'm not sure this selection represents the best introduction/re-introduction to the series. It's also puzzling that, whilst the packaging makes no claim to these episodes being anything more specific than 'our first collection' (indeed the packaging gives no indication of the titles or even number of episodes), they do not represent the earliest surviving complete colour episodes. Hence they're neither the 'best' episodes nor the earliest extant, but simply six consecutive stories from July, August and September 1972.

Nonetheless I hope this release will not be the last as, despite my reservations, this series remains entertaining with some powerful half hours of drama still in the archive.
22 comments40 of 41 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
Between 1962 and 1978 Z Cars clocked up just over 800 episodes. And although like most programmes of the era it suffered from archive purges, there are still around 400 episodes in existence.

For this first DVD release Acorn have chosen a series of consecutive episodes from 1972. These aren't the earliest surviving colour episodes, indeed they aren't even the earliest surviving episodes from 1972, but it's a solid collection of episodes and therefore a good place to start.

The original run of Z Cars lasted until 1965. It was then revived in 1967 as a twice-weekly series with episodes running for 25 minutes and it continued like that until until August 1972. It was then re-formatted back into a 50 minute series. This DVD contains 10 episodes, the first eight are the last in the 25 minute format.

Details are as follows -

Disc One

1. Loyalties - Parts 1 and 2: Broadcast 31st July 1972 and 1st August 1972
2. Relative Values - Parts 1 and 2: Broadcast 7th and 8th August 1972
3. Not Good Enough - Parts 1 and 2: Broadcast 14th and 15th August 1972

Disc Two

1. Breakage - Parts 1 and 2: Broadcast 21st and 22nd August 1972
2. Connor: Broadcast 11th September 1972
3. Team: Broadcast 18th September 1972

Highlights of the set include the appearance of Anthony Valentine as a manipulative villain and the episode Breakage, written by P.J. Hammond (creator of Sapphire & Steel). Breakage features guest appearances by Fulton Mackay and Terry Scully and has an unexpected and jarring ending.

The DVD concludes with Team by Allan Prior (a virtual re-write of an episode he wrote for Softly, Softly, but a good story nonetheless). It's notable for an early appearance in uniform of Stephanie Turner who would go on to play Inspector Jean Darbley in Juliet Bravo.

Whilst it would be good to see Acorn release some of the early 60's episodes in due course, if we get a second release I'd be more than happy to have another run of episodes from this era - as although this period of Z Cars isn't as well remembered as the classic line up from the 60's it's still very watchable.
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on 18 September 2013
Dear old Z-cars, how we loved it. The characters seemed realistic, compared with, say, Dixon of Dock Green; the plots were good too and often dealt with genuine contemporary issues. For Ulster viewers it had the added attraction of a real Ulster actor using his correct local accent - a first for TV. Thank you, Jimmy Ellis.
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on 30 November 2002
These 3 episodes of the cop show Z cars are from 1962, and it shows. The budget seems just as limited as in the first Doctor Who episodes, actually the studio bits have originally been broadcast live! So, it definitely looks dated.
There, however, is also the shows strength. The makers of Z Cars have strived to make it as faithful to real life as possible, and today it serves as a marvelous "time capsule", a look into a past era. The pace is slow, the crooks peaceful and unarmed, at one point the wife of an iron thief (!) offers the policemen tea before they take his husband away!
Z Cars is also top quality drama. Instead of one star cop we have six exciting characters, very much like in the Hill Street Blues. The most interesting, and sadly the most short-lived of these characters, is PC Steele played by Jeremy Kemp. Otherwise a "good man" and a good cop, he has the unforgivable habit of beating his wife. Such real, deep characters are still too rare in the telly..
The only thing where Z Cars fails are its attempts at suspense. It is far too cozy for that. Also, not being british i only understood about half of the thick dialect. Strongly recommended for people interested in early 60's life and realistic police drama.
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on 20 September 2013
I had split emotions after watching this.

I was thrilled to have watched my favourite programme from the 70's, with Sgt Bert Lynch, P.C. Quilley and Det Sgt Stone all bringing back happy memories.

But were these the best episodes the compiler could find? I was actually becoming quite bored towards the end and was starting to think my memory had let me down and the programme was this bad. But I don't think it was. I am sure there were far better episodes and hope that Z Cars 2, which will surely follow in a few months, will have a better selection.

I loved both of the Dixon of Dock Green DVD's, from about the same era, as at least they were INTERESTING, but there was none of that in this Z Cars DVD. I was almost hoping that Gene Hunt from 'Life on Mars' would put in an appearance and liven it up, as L O M was set in 1973, the same year as some of these Z Cars episodes, but whereas L O M had loads of action, this was almost total INACTION.

So do I recommend or not? YES, if you used to watch it in the 70's and want to see it again, but NO if you are too young to have seen it first time round - buy Dixon of Dock Green instead.
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on 10 November 2013
I was over the moon when I heard z cars was being released on dvd, a long time in coming, but compared to the tv programmes today this is one of the best, when I started to watch them I was not disappointed. I hope they will release the next series of z cars. this is something I would reckomend to a family member or friend.
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on 20 October 2013
this is brilliant, a great nostalgic dvd which harks back to the days of truelly great television. z cars have become an icon of tv history and even todays kids would love this
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 29 July 2014
Having not been born when these episodes aired in 1972, watching this set was am interesting experience. The pace of the programme is certainly very different from anything of today, and the crimes solved are somewhat lesser than may have been found in the long-running series The Bill.
Having watched this set, I am keen to see some more.
Looking forwrad to set 2.
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on 18 October 2015
I first heard of Z Cars when I read about it in a book about tv programmes that I have. It is like a 1st version of The Bill, another good police tv series. It features a load of good actors such as James Ellis R.I.P.and Geoffrey Hayes who presented the childrens television programme Rainbow.
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