The Thin Blue Line (BBC1, 1995-1996)
When Rowan Atkinson who had already had much success over the years as a great comic actor in such classics as Blackadder and Mr Bean was announced to be starring in a sitcom that would be written by another famous comedy name Ben Elton, a lot of people thought it would be another show in the lively “alternative comedy” style that Atkinson and Elton had helped bring to the screen in the early-80s, but The Thin Blue Line turned out to be a rather broad and old-fashioned sitcom.
Atkinson starred in The Thin Blue Line as Fowler, a somewhat old-fashioned patriotic policeman who wanted to do everything by the book and wanted to make sure that everyone efficiently did the job that was required of them, but of course his colleagues at Gasforth Police Station turned out to be a right old useless shower.
The other staff include Dawkins who has lived with Fowler for ten years but has become frustrated by him as he would rather read Biggles books in bed. There is also Grim who is a detective who thinks he is superior to everyone and often goes on rambling rants often using phrases such as “namby-pamby” and “hoity-toity”. He would also be often be paired with the equally daft Kray (in series one) or Boyle (in series two). (David Haig who played Grim later appeared in another Elton-written sitcom The Wright Way and played virtually the same character.)
One of the funniest and most memorable characters was PC Goody, who was played in an amusingly camp style by James Dreyfus which would also be put to use in the sitcom Gimme Gimme Gimme who seemed to be vaguely overawed that he had become a policeman and seemed to be somewhat besotted with his colleague Habib.
Finally there is also Gladstone who was an older PC and seemed to do little in the show beyond being sat at his desk and looking like he was about to nod off. There were a few other people who guest starred in the show including Stephen Fry, Alexander Armstrong, and Ben Elton himself.
The Thin Blue Line only ran for a couple of series, and also a Christmas special. There was a slight change of format in the second series when Fowler addressed the camera at the start of every episode to briefly explain what he was up to that week. Although it wasn’t a huge hit with critics who were expecting something a little harder-edged I must admit that when I was younger I did find the show very funny as do many other people and I do have the DVD release where some of the episodes are longer than the broadcast version, and The Thin Blue Line still occasionally turns up in repeat runs on Gold 20 years on from the first series.