When the Sweeney finally came to an end, there must have been an excess of actors primed for roles as hard-faced coppers, sleazy streetwise villains and flash crime bosses, not to mention a few top-notch writers of gritty TV drama floating around. Thames obviously got wise to it and produced Out – a long-forgotten, but BAFTA-winning crime series, written by Sweeney writer Trevor Preston.
And like The Sweeney, it’s violent, very much of its era and absolutely top-notch. The cast is a who’s who of 70s acting talent, led by Tom Bell as Frank Ross, who is "out" after serving time for a robbery. It was a dream job, but someone "grassed". Now he’s out, he’s looking for the one who turned him in – but with the police and the underworld on his case, his time is rapidly running out. Sounds a bit like Get Carter? Well, in some ways it is, but with much more of that gritty TV realism we used to do so well.
Along the way we get those hard-faced coppers, cheap villains in cheaper suits, rich and well-connected gangland bosses (including a particularly nasty type played by Brian Cox), the usual array of car chases (in dodgy motors), punch-ups, double-crossing, boozing and numerous grudges revisited. But above all of that, we get a killer storyline.
Over something like five hours, there’s absolutely no filler. The plot builds steadily, always demanding your attention, but without giving you a headache or requiring you to make notes along the way. And there’s plenty of twists at the end to keep you on your toes.
Forget the nostalgia of Life On Mars – if you want to see some great UK crime drama from the 70s, head for the real thing. Your first port of call has to be The Sweeney – but when you’ve exhausted that, I’d recommend you give Out a go.
Extras on the DVD:
Audio commentary with Trevor Preston
Original scripts as PDF documents