This British television series made its debut on ITV in England at 9pm on Friday the 11th of January 1985 with a two hour pilot movie. Produced by London Weekend Television and created by Golden Eagle Films, it starred Michael Brandon as Lieutenant James Dempsey and Glynis Barber as Sargeant Harriet Makepeace.
The pilot for the show brought us Lieutenant Dempsey in New York City where he is an undercover cop. He uncovers very deep corruption in the police department after being set-up by his partner, who he ends up shooting. Those in his department who appreciate the corrupt way of life are now gunning for Dempsey, so his boss decides to send Dempsey away in some kind of police officer exchange program with England.
What follows is a series of fish out of water gags as Dempsey adjusts to being in London. The steering wheel is on the wrong side of the car, and everyone keeps telling him there is no such thing as a lieutenant in England. He meets his new boss, Chief Superintendant Gordon Spikings, played by Ray Smith who finds Dempsey's attitude a bit too maverick and uncouth. He decides to pair Dempsey with Makepeace, who we get the idea is the also a source of much annoyance to Spikings. They all work together on a secret undercover British police unit that is so secret it doesn't even really exist. The SI-10. Why they would assign a temperamental American to their most elite police unit is another question entirely.
Dempsey, always blunt, to the point and acting like he has watched Serpico a few too many times meets Harriet "Harry" Makepeace. He is pretty much immediately smitten with his new partner, but she finds his attitude and behavior to be appalling. She happens to be a graduate of Cambridge University and the daughter of an English lord. Her social circle is a bit different than that of Dempsey, who would feel comfortable sleeping in a chair and waking up with a beer in one hand and a gun in the other.
Following in the classic detective format of mismatched partners who manage to bungle things in just the right way so that they solve the case and get the bad guys, Dempsey and Makepeace might have been a lost fragment in television history. Except for some reason back in the 1980s I used to watch it when it was shown in the United States via syndication at 12:30 in the morning on Friday nights. I stayed home to make sure I watched it. Why? I loved this show. It is one of my favorite shows of all time and I have no idea why. Or maybe I do.
Formula and predictable plot lines have always been part of the history of the television series. Most people have grown to accept that and not let it bother them. The chemistry between characters is what usually makes the difference. The dialogue and interaction of Dempsey and Makepeace, as well as the irritable and obsessively professional Spikings was always worth watching, even though most of the stories and cases were over the top and barely credible on any level. The three main characters of the series were capable of convincing viewers that they both loved and hated each other simultaneously and that worked for me. Plus, I had something of a crush on Makepeace.
The show doesn't seem to air anywhere in the United States now, much to my dismay, but is in syndication elsewhere in the world including its country of origin. The show ran for three seasons. Its last original episode aired in November of 1986.