Phoenix was possibly the coolest police drama
ever made in Australia
(if not anywhere). Produced by ABC television
(Australian Broadcasting Corporation
, that is). Two series
were made, the first screened in 1991
, the second in 1993
The first series centred around urban terrorism; eerily topical nowadays but when it first aired the wounds were still raw from a real bombing at the Melbourne city watchhouse in 1986 - 5 years before - which killed two police officers. (in the show it was a bombing at the police Christmas party) - and it was at least tacitly based on the actual Russell Street bombing in question; there were many parallels.
Relentlessly realist in terms of writing and direction, the continuing narrative allowed intense character development and abusive, uncensored dialogue, and it also looked a hell of a lot like TAC shock-tactic road-safety advertisements which had only just begun airing at the time. Shot on 16mm film, unusual at the time and unheardof these days for Australian television, it had a very cool, grainy, slightly noir look about it, and one of the most labyrinthine narratives you're ever likely to come across in a police procedural. To add to that it had an excellent soundtrack by Paul Grabowsky.
A second series was made in 1993, but at least to start with it lacked the resonant hook of the first series: No bombings here, instead aggravated burglaries and related drug importation, and continual run-ins with internal investigations. But if you stuck with it it was well worth it, although it was clear that Paul Grabowsky and band had got bored and were competing to out-play each other on the soundtrack. Nevertheless it was still incredibly cool, and when I saw it at age 10 and then the second series at age 12, it was really the first thing I remember that pushed me towards filmmaking.
The other thing that made Phoenix such a cool show was that both series really captured the milieu of early 90s Melbourne: in the middle of a recession, full of crime and decay, a public service falling apart at the seams, and in the second series the penny-pinching of a newly-elected conservative government.
As a side-note I had a strange few weeks not long ago where Paul Sonkkila (the actor who played the head of the major crime squad in the first series) seemed to be following me; he turned up everywhere.
But thankfully that stopped.
And yes, I realise this has already been said, but by the time I noticed Snailgus's post I'd already finished writing :)