Thoughts/Review: The Thin Blue Line [1995]

a review by the Brown-Necked Raven.
curated by the Azure-Winged Magpie!

Hello, everyone! I apologise for the lateness in my second post. Work kicked my butt and then conveniently, I went into writer’s block. Fun times, eh?

Now on The Corvid Review, we have reviewed movies, we have reviewed albums, we have even reviewed mangas! What we have not reviewed is an entire TV series (yet!). So, let’s pop that cherry shall we? (In a manner of speaking). [Insert Magpie groan here. I’m the nutty one!]

Now, I must confess I love British sitcoms. The dark humour, the social commentary, the intelligent banter… these are some of the things that they are awash with. I have spent countless nights watching entire series.

I am a glutton for them and I’m unapologetic about it. Of all the ones I watch, there is a little gem of a TV series called The Thin Blue Line. Released in 1995, it ran for two seasons. It is a humorous take on the British police in a fictional town called Gasforth situated just outside London.

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THE THIN BLUE LINE

WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS

[MAGPIE NOTE: MILD NSFW WARNING — I DON’T KNOW WHAT THIS BOY’S BEEN DRINKING]

The serial revolves around the uniformed branch of the Gasforth police station. The show stars the police officers, led by Inspector Raymond Fowler (Rowan Atkinson) and their usual antagonists — the CID — led by Detective Inspector Derek Grim (David Haig).

Fowler is an old fashioned English copper who, as per his girlfriend Sergeant Patricia Dawkins (Serena Evans), was “born middle-aged”. Despite his “strict upper lip” attitude and adherence to the law, there are moments in which he bends the rules when the cause is right. Grim, his antagonist, while trying to be a macho copper, ends up unintentionally saying the most humorous lines. For example: there’s this line: “I do not want two fingers up when it is my arse on the line!”.

Initially, Grim might seem annoying, but he grows on you, albeit slowly. (Okay very slowly). Apart from the people I’ve mentioned, there are various other characters, mostly from the uniformed branch.

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There are many points of interest about “The Thin Blue Line”.

The first thing that the audience would notice first is the comedy of errors as the characters go about their day. Whether it be to understand how discrimination works or trying to comprehend a notorious drug dealer. While their hearts are in the right place, they usually blunder their way towards their goal.

For example, in the episode Ism Ism Ism, they are tasked with finding an illegal immigrant in Gasforth. Fowler tries to talk to his officers about how we should rise above the superficial differences. Yet, they mistakenly end up apprehending a minister from the EU who happens to be black and in traditional North African clothing. The illegal immigrant turns out to be a white Chechen.

There are other social issues tackled in the episodes. This is what sold it for me. Under the thin veil of slapstick comedy, the serial is talking about important social issues. Another episode which I liked as much as Ism Ism Ism is Kids Today. Here, they are talking about how kids nowadays are rowdy with scant respect for the law. A skinhead uses racist terms against an Asian officer and thereafter gets punched by another officer leading to a sticky situation.

So, closely following the first point, the second point is how it is a window to nineties’ England. The mentions of good Japanese companies providing jobs by Fowler to Grim’s excitement about catching cyber criminals, we see a society slowly inching towards globalisation. Unlike the more insular English societies of the past which Fowler represents, the younger generation is a lot more adventurous. They want more and are slowly breaking down old beliefs.

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Fowler’s annoyance about kids today wanting more excitement is actually thought-provoking. If one is to analyse today’s (for us) society, people are turning to more extreme options for excitement. An explosion in drug usage is one example.

Most would prefer to party and/or get drunk until they cannot stand. No one wants to stay at home and read a book; to paraphrase Fowler: “what is wrong with boring?”.  One of my favourite lines from this show is, “football is soap opera for men”. As someone who has been watching football for over sixteen years, I agree! Each of the characters in the story is a caricature. While they might seem over the top, if one were to think about them, one would find a version of them in society.

Thirdly, that most cops usually have boring lives. With the advent of multiple crime dramas, there is the stereotype of the tortured-but-brilliant detective who goes around solving difficult cases. In the episode, “Fly on the Wall”, a team from BBC follow the cops around to see what they do every day. It is hilarious when they are just driving around and nothing happens. It is a job like any other.

From a technical perspective, The Thin Blue Line is somewhat average but has that nineties charm to it. To someone who is used to an explosion of colours and various camera tricks in TV series nowadays, it is a welcome change. From an acting perspective, everyone does a fantastic job. There are occasional guest appearances as well, like Stephen Fry and Roger Moore. In the second season, they even break the fourth wall and have Fowler talk directly to the audience at the start of every episode.

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The Thin Blue Line is not going to hook you in right away. Give it time and let it grow and you will not only start enjoying it, but it will also make you think. This is not something that I was expecting when I first watched it. Many of my discussions with the Crow regarding sociopolitical topics has been due to something I watched here. There are several other things that are of interest here but I want you to find it out for yourself. So go out there and watch it!


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FINAL RATINGS

THE BROWN-NECKED RAVEN: 6.5/10

THE AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE: 5/10

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