Z Cars – 1962-1978 BBC Crime Drama

Z Cars is a British television drama series set in the fictional town of Newtown, which is based on Kirkby, Merseyside, and follows the operations of mobile uniformed police. It premiered in January 1962 and continued until September 1978, produced by the BBC.

The series was initially broadcast live on air (with some pre-recorded inserts) from BBC Television Centre’s studio six. The live broadcast gave performances and skill an edge, and productions had the vigour of an adrenaline surge. Each episode could include up to 15 sets, with actors rushing between them. The actors sat in half-cars, facing a screen with a street projected behind them.

PC William “Fancy” Smith (Brian Blessed) and PC Jock Weir (Joseph Brady) drove Ford Zephyr police cars, and ‘Z Victor One’ (the ‘Z’ was for Zulu, not Zephyr) was soon cruising around. In Z Victor Two PC Bert Lynch (James Ellis) was an Irishman, while PC Bob Steele was a redhead (Jeremy Kemp).

Pandas replaced Zephyrs on the streets of Newtown in 1967, and the series went colour in January 1970, with the 300th episode airing a week later.

Detective Inspector Charlie Barlow (Stratford Johns) and Detective John Watt (Frank Windsor) were the two characters who had the most impact. Barlow was a big man who was prone to a bit of verbal or physical aggression now and then, and Watt was the perfect contrast for him.

They were so popular that they moved on to the Regional Crime Squad and their own spin-off show, Softly Softly (1966 -1970).

Important cast members included:- STRATFORD JOHNS as DCI Charlie Barlow / FRANK WINDSOR as DS John Watt / BRIAN BLESSED as PC William ‘Fancy’ Smith / JEREMY KEMP as PC Bob Steele / JACK ELLIS as PC Bert Lynch / JOSPEH BRADY as PC Jock Weir / COLIN WELLAND as PC David Graham / LEONARD ROSSITER as DI Bamber / JOSS ACKLAND as DI Todd / DAVID DAKER as PC Owen Culshaw / STEPHEN YARDLEY as PC Alec May / STEPHANIE TURNER as WPC Jill Howarth / ALISON STEADMAN as WPC Bayliss

Creator: Troy Kennedy Martin / Music arranged by Bridget Fry and Fritz Spiegl

UK / BBC1 / 667 episodes x25/50 m-e / 1962–78