There was a line in the recent movie Paul that reminded me how wide the cultural gap is between Great Britain and the United States. Two British tourists are talking to an American state trooper, who when being informed they are from London says,"I've heard of that. Isn't that the place cops don't have guns?" When the tourists answer in the affirmative, the cop then asks "What do they do when they want to shoot someone?" and is left speechless when told they try not to. So, if there's one thing about British television police shows that will always make them alien to American viewers, it will be the almost complete absence of casual gun play.
Times have changed in England, and it's probably more common for officers to carry weapons than it once was. One of the latest releases from Acorn Media is the first series of the 1970s police drama, Special Branch.
Those were the days of the unarmed British bobby walking the beat, and even officers of the British Police force's domestic counter intelligence agency, Special Branch, didn't usually carry weapons. If they needed them they were available, and they were all trained in their usage. However in the series, the main characters Detective Chief Inspector Alan Craven (George Sewell) and DCI Tom Haggerty (Patrick Mower) could go an entire 50-minute episode without once drawing or displaying a gun. Can you imagine an American show about FBI agents where guns aren't used?
It's ironic, therefore, that this series was shot in the hopes of selling it to the American market, as stated by Sewell and Mower in a behind-the-scenes featurette included on the DVD. Unlike most British television shows at the time, it was shot on film instead of video and on location instead of in the studio in order to make it more appealing to American viewers. Unfortunately the producers were told it wasn't violent enough for the American market and it was never picked up..
One of the big differences you'll notice between this show and its American counterparts are the two lead characters. DCI Craven grew up in the rough East Side of London and freely admits to having seen the inside of many a police station when he was young. However a stint in the army straightened him up and having served in Military Intelligence on return to civilian life a job with Special Branch was a natural fit. When the show opens he's already a 15-year veteran of the force. While DCI Haggerty is no less rough around the edges, he's also young and brash and a recent transfer to the department. While he fancies himself a bit of a ladies' man and gets under Craven's skin periodically with his occasional relaxed attitude towards regulations, he's as dedicated an officer as Craven.