The Thin Blue Line is a comedy series that ran in the United Kingdom for two successful series between 1995 and 1996. It was the brainchild of Ben Elton and his style is very evident throughout. The series is set in a police station in a town named Gasforth, and revolved predominantly around the chief inspector there, Raymond Fowler (Rowan Atkinson).
Gasforth is a medium sized, average town somewhere in south-east England. It is far enough away from London not to fall under the jurisdiction of the metropolitan police, but has the feel of a London borough. It is, much to the irritation of Detective Inspector Grim, a largely law abiding town where exciting “real” crimes happen only extremely rarely. However the doggy-doo situation is getting out of hand and must be stamped on.
The police station contains the seven main characters, they are:
Chief Inspector Raymond Fowler
Fowler, played by Rowan Atkinson, is a true example of the traditional, conservative Briton. He feels very strongly that if he can maintain the thin blue line between order and chaos, his job will bring him satisfaction. Unfortunately this is not always the case, for as he sits in his office in his lunch hour, nibbling on his lovingly unwrapped chocolate frog and immersing himself in a chapter from Sherlock Holmes, he is plagued by the suspicion that he, just might, be boring.
Fowler never really got the hang of popular culture, or the fact that times change. He wants to return to the days when television shows were “dictionary games,” and when people were just “nice.” Although he tries very hard to be aware of issues of political correctness, he hasn’t quite got the hang of the differences between “woman” and “person,” but that said, he will never be the culprit in a case of “the pot calling the kettle…um…African American.”
For the past ten years he has been co-habiting with Sergeant Dawkins, and, although he can’t be expected to make love every fortnight he does care for her very deeply. He buys her loving gifts, such as bicycle pumps and fish, but somehow she never seems completely appreciative. She is often very annoyed with him, and once thought that he had been having an affair with Constable Habib. He, of course, would never do such a thing, he is completely loyal to her, but does suspect that it must be very boring for her to be attached to “a creaky old plodder” like him. He insists they treat each other as professional colleagues between the hours of eight and one, and two and six.
Fowler was once married, but unfortunately the relationship fell apart and he was forced to divorce his wife and abandon his son, a decision he regrets deeply. His son is a responsible young lad, with a surprisingly active sex-life. His name is Ben.
Ever the environmentalist, Fowler rides a bicycle to work, and never leaves without his safety, fluorescent band.
Sergeant Patricia Dawkins
This Sergeant, played by Serena Evans, has been living with Inspector Fowler for ten years. She probably doesn’t know why, he’s hardly the most exciting of partners. Dawkins has an incompatibly high sex-drive and often complains that Fowler isn’t putting out. However she is attached to him, even though she hasn’t been given a damned good rodgering for quite some time.
Like Fowler she also rides a bicycle to work, although she does occasionally walk, usually past a building site where the builders jeer and hoot at her. Pat really wants something exciting to happen to her, but it never does, well, excepting the time she was involved in an armed bank robbery, and the time she spent a weekend as a tree protester known as squirrel and nearly got shagged by another protester.
She mans the front desk at the police station.
Detective Inspector Derek Grim
Grim, played by David Haig, would probably describe himself as a “copper trying to do his duty.” Grim does, in fact, try a little too hard. He has a superiority complex and is always desperate to prove that his role in CID is more important than Fowler’s in uniform. Unfortunately for him this often backfires, it’s not that he’s stupid in fact he’s got “five O-Levels, and two of them bloody good grades,” but somehow his enthusiasm leads to his mistaking student’s rag-week pranks for actual terrorists and, of course, there was the time that the defence managed to pick a few holes in his claim that one of his prisoners had confessed to “chopping off the head of Charles I!”
Grim is mostly bored in CID, he longs for the days when they had “terrorists, bank robberies and murder” just to give him something to do, after all they used to get them in there everyday, but now the neighbourhood has really gone down hill.
Grim has a habit of stringing together metaphors in unfortunate ways. The best (or worst depending on who you are) one was probably “it’s my arse on the line, and I don’t want a cock-up!”
Constable Kevin Goody
Played by the brilliant James Dreyfuss, Constable Goody is a caricature of a camp man-child. It is completely unknown how he became a police officer because, if truth be told, he is a few cherries short of a cake. Everything he does is in some way ludicrous, and yet he is oblivious to just how stupid it is.
Goody has the feeling of an over-eager schoolchild about him. He sits at his desk in briefing with both hands on it and with his rapt attention fixed on Inspector Fowler. He is always eager to answer questions, but on the one occasion where he made a valid point, the shock was overwhelmingly visible in his face.
This is, however, a constable of passion. His first passion is for the Curly-Whirly chocolate and caramel bar, one of which he always keeps in his pocket. The other is for Constable Habib. He has lusted after this intelligent female policeperson for years, and yet she has always given him the cold-shoulder. He did on one occasion attempt to give her some sexy underwear for Christmas, but unfortunately it ended up on Inspecter Fowler’s desk, causing a very awkward situation.
Kevin’s heart is in the right place, it’s a shame about his brain.
Constable Maggie Habib
Constable Habib, played by Mina Anwar is probably the most intelligent person on the police force. She has a certain amount of respect for her superiors, but can be relied upon to hold her own. In the pub quiz team she is the star player.
Fowler has a few problems with Habib, she is an Asian Feminist Female, and whilst Fowler is not racist or sexist in any way, he doesn’t quite know how to show just how liberal he is in that respect, without accidentally appearing, God forbid, left wing. Habib, however, generally understands this, in fact she is the one who is most aware of the flaws of her fellow officers, but tolerates them to the greater or lesser extent.
Maggie is frustrated by Pat’s desire to be used as a sex-machine occasionally. Although she does have a thing for hunky firemen, Constable Habib is, in fact, pleased when he appears to be behaving as the perfect gentleman, never trying to get her into bed. (He later turned out to be gay.) In fact Habib’s love life doesn’t appear to be too smooth, she was used in an illegal entrapment operation, and became, briefly, a gangster’s slut. She also has to forever fend off Constable Goody’s awkward advances.
Constable Frank Gladstone
This wise Trinnidadian man, played by Rudolph Walker, is the source of many a useless anecdote in the police station. He tends to simply stand in the background observing the world with a tolerating eye. He reveres his home of Trinidad above all other places and often talks about his experiences there in his slow, deep voice.
Gladstone could have been a soprano singer, but unfortunately on his way to an important audition, his balls dropped, he ended up singing “Old Man River” and swears to this day that if the road had been tarmaced he would have made it.
Detective Constable Robert Cray
Cray, played by Kevin Allen, is only seen in series one. He is one of Grim’s men, but God knows why he’s on the police force. All he ever seems to do is eat kebabs and drink lager. He does make the occasional sarcastic comment, and knows a good pizza when he sees one.
Detective Constable Gary Boyle
Boyle is Cray’s replacement and is played by Mark Addy. In addition to all of Cray’s habits, Boyle enjoys making sexist comments and generally sucking up to Grim. He enjoys his football and considers that great anthem, “Tits Out for the Lads” to be a classic.
Really he‘s more suited to being a builder than a copper
The Thin Blue Line is a true example of post-python British humour, although the critics trashed it, it is, in my opinion, one of the most original Situation Comedy ever written.