Parkin's Patch (TV)
R2 - United Kingdom - Network
Review written by and copyright: Paul Lewis (22nd April 2012).
The Show

Parkin’s Patch (Yorkshire, 1969-70)

Historically, at least in terms of its representation on British television, the subgenre of the police procedural has experienced tension between depictions of police work as a form of pastoral care, and representations of the police as little more than unorthodox punishers or controllers of crime. The former trend is exemplified by the BBC’s long-running series Dixon of Dock Green (1955-76) – with Jack Warner’s PC George Dixon as the iconic friendly, paternal community policeman – whilst the latter trend is often cited as being embodied in The Sweeney (Thames, 1974-8), in which Detective Inspector Jack Regan (John Thaw) and his colleagues willingly bend the rules in their seemingly vain efforts to stem a rising tide of criminal behaviour. An influential study of the depiction of police work on British television, R Reiner’s ’The dialectics of Dixon: the changing image of the TV Cop’ (1994) argued that in the 1980s, a middle ground was established by The Bill (Thames/ITV Studios, 1984-2010); for Reiner, The Bill offered ‘a state of equilibrium’ through its juxtaposition of the lives of uniformed police officers (who, in their ties to the community, were not unlike PC George Dixon) and the more ‘glory hunting’ brand of non-uniformed detectives who had a little more in common with Jack Regan (Reiner, cited in Leishman & Mason, 2001: 101). This dualistic account of the development of the procedural sometimes neglects the fact that whilst Dixon of Dock Green was on air, other shows presented a more challenging depiction of police work: for example, a lineage could be drawn from Detective Inspector Barlow (Stratford Johns) in Z Cars (BBC, 1962-78) to Jack Regan (see Rolinson, 2011: np). Nevertheless, Reiner’s distinction between the depiction of police work as pastoral care (in 1950s popular culture) and the post-The Sweeney focus on highly-specialised units and unorthodox coppers who are willing to bend the rules to get their man, offers a useful gauge of public perceptions of the roles of the police force.

Produced in the era between idealised televisual depictions of police work and the more cynical examinations of police corruption and Jack Regan-style coppers who bent the rules that came to define the 1970s (Target, BBC 1977-8; G F Newman’s Law & Order, BBC 1978), Parkin’s Patch offers a representation of police work in a rural community that, by the later standards of the subgenre, is tempered and sedate. Most of the episodes are structured as strict procedurals, with Moss Parkin (John Flanagan) and his detective associate and friend Radley (Gareth Thomas) investigating a range of crimes. Many of these crimes seem designed to highlight issues within rural communities at the time of the series’ production: for example, the first episode (‘Hoof Nor Horn’) focuses on a case of rustling. Throughout these episodes, Parkin himself is shown to be the archetypal dedicated copper, thoroughly invested in his ‘patch’. In the first episode, it is revealed that Parkin has been out all night, patrolling his patch – much to the consternation of his wife Beth (Heather Page).

However, the episodes balance their focus on procedural elements with an examination of Parkin’s relationship with his wife Beth, who works in the police station in which she and Parkin also live. In its examination of social issues (especially those relating to rural communities), aspects of the conventional police procedural and elements of the television soap opera, Parkin’s Patch anticipates ITV’s much later series Heartbeat (1992-2010). However, as David Rolinson notes, Heartbeat’s idealised depiction of rural policing is self-consciously wrapped in a bundle of nostalgia – set in the past, its temporal setting foregrounded by the show’s use of music and fashions of the 1960s, Z Cars seems to be ‘signifying that people wouldn’t accept that the police are like this now’ (Rolinson, 2011: np). By contrast, Parkin’s Patch was set in the immediate present – at least, at the time of its original broadcast.

In contrast with the nostalgic Heartbeat, Parkin’s Patch offers a far from idealised representation of the rural community in which it is set. In the second episode (‘Lock, Stock and…’), whilst making his rounds at night, Parkin discovers that the door to a tobacconists has been forced open. There’s a palpable sense of threat as Parkin investigates the empty premises, and at the end of the episode the perpetrator is revealed to be a member of the community – unlike Heartbeat, in which the perpetrators of the crimes investigated by the community policemen were usually revealed to be outsiders. Likewise, ‘Dead? Or Alive?’ opens with a scenario in which it seems that the rural community will be faced with an outside threat – two bikers who ride into the local cricket club and cause havoc – but when one of the bikers turns himself in, believing himself to have murdered a young woman, it’s revealed that he has been framed by the girl and her associate. Meanwhile, the biker (played by Keith Buckley) has to face the prejudices of both the community and the upstanding Moss Parkin. The episode offers a subtle and clever inversion of the conservative narrative that the opening sequence seems to establish – a story about a peaceful rural community that is threatened by outsiders, recalling both American Western films and roughly contemporaneous moral panics surrounding mods and rockers, with the iconography of the bikers alluding to Marlon Brando’s rebellious screen persona in The Wild One (Laslo Benedek, 1953). Thwarting these expectations, the episode develops into a study of the rural community’s prejudices towards outsiders, and an almost film noir-tinged narrative about the trap set by the girl, whose ensnaring of the biker marks her as a femme fatale.

Disc One:
1. ‘Hoof Nor Horn’ (24:32)
2. ‘Lock, Stock and…’ (25:23)
3. ‘Dead? Or Alive?’ (24:33)
4. ‘Fame of a Kind’ (23:36)
5. ‘Bonus’ (25:37)
6. ‘The Good Listener’

Disc Two:
7. ‘The Deserter’ (25:47)
8. ‘The Way Home’ (26:13)
9. ‘Boys’ (24:59)
10. ‘A Pair of Good Shoes’ (25:16)
11. ‘The Birmingham Con’ (25:39)
12. ‘Nothing Personal’ (25:02)
13. ‘Everybody Knew But Me’ (24:28)

Disc Three:
14. ‘No Friendship for Coppers’ (24:45)
15. ‘The Manchester Passenger’ (24:46)
16. ‘The Journey’ (25:03)
17. ‘Regulation 17’ (24:55)
18. ‘Vickory’ (23:53)
19. ‘Fox Among the Chickens’ (24:51)

Disc Four:
20. ‘Wise Men’ (23:19)
21. ‘This Little Piggy…’ (24:31)
22. ‘Low Noon’ (25:39)
23. ‘The Spider’s Web’ (24:08)
24. ‘It’s Got to Be Local’ (24:26)
25. ‘The Link’ (23:33)
26. ‘The Gentleman Standing’ (23:43)


The episodes were filmed in studio on (colour) videotape, with some location footage shot on what appears to be 16mm film. The episodes don’t look great: there’s some noticeable evidence of tape damage and general wear and tear. However, they are watchable. Three episodes (‘The Deserter’, ‘The Way Home’ and ‘Boys’) are presented via off-air telerecordings and are in black-and white.

The original break bumpers are intact.



Audio is presented via a two-channel mono track. This is muddy sometimes, but it’s mostly clear. Sadly, there are no subtitles.




Parkin’s Patch makes for interesting viewing. Its balance of procedural elements with its focus on Parkin’s relationship with his wife Beth and his friendship with Radley works nicely. The series also frequently challenges stereotypes and overturns audience expectation, which may be down to some of the talent involved behind the camera (using the pseudonym ‘Tony Marsh’, Troy Kennedy Martin wrote two episodes of the series, whilst several were directed by Michael Apted and Mike Newell). However, on the other hand it has to be said that the series is constrained by the half hour format, with some of the episodes rushing to their conclusions with little opportunity to develop their themes.

This release contains an acceptable presentation of the episodes – as to be expected, they show some damage here and there.

Leishman, Frank & Mason, Paul, 2001: Policing and the Media: Facts, Fictions and Factions. London: Willan Publishing

Rolinson, David, 2011: ‘From “The Blue Lamp” to “The Black and Blue Lamp”: The Police in TV Drama’. [Online.]

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