"You shoot one dog in this country..."New Tricks (2003-2015) is a BBC crime comedy/drama about the investigations of the Metropolitan Police's (fictional) Unsolved Crimes and Open Cases Squad (UCOS). Although mostly a Mystery of the Week Police Procedural, it also combines a hint of Amateur Sleuth in that most of the members of the squad are actually retired policemen employed to investigate unsolved crimes. The only serving police officer on the squad is the boss, Detective Superintendent Sandra Pullman (Amanda Redman), an uptight, tough-as-nails investigator. Her previously high-flying career came crashing down to earth through an unfortunate dog-shooting incident, resulting in her reluctant appointment to the newly created UCOS. Faced with an unappealing selection of job applicants, she recruited:
— DS Sandra Pullman
Jack Halford (James Bolam), an ex-Detective Chief Superintendent and Pullman's old boss and mentor, who left the job in grief over the unsolved hit-and-run death of his beloved wife Mary.
Brian 'Memory' Lane (Alun Armstrong), a brilliant but highly eccentric and anti-social detective with an instant-recall memory and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. A recovered alcoholic.
Gerry Standing (Dennis Waterman), a Jack-the-lad charmer with three ex-wives (that he is on excellent terms with), a gambling habit and some shady ethics, who left the force under suspicion of corruption after punching out his boss (who just happens to now be Pullman's boss). A softened-for-comedy version of what George Carter, Waterman's character in The Sweeney, would be like today, complete with long hair, wide flashy neckties, constant smoking etc.In the course of of Series 9 (2012), Jack was Put on a Bus and replaced with DI Steve McAndrew, played by Denis Lawson (AKA Wedge Antilles), a Fish out of Water retired detective from Glasgow who originally came down to help with a case relevant to his past. In series 10 (2013) there was an even greater cast change, with Brian being replaced by DCI Dan Griffin (Nicholas Lyndhurst) and Sandra being replaced by DCI Sasha Miller (Tamzin Outhwaite). Gerry left the show in 2015, to be replaced by Ted Case (Larry Lamb).Also frequently appearing were Pullman's bosses (Don Bevan in the pilot and first series, Robert Strickland in the second onwards) and Esther Lane (Susan Jameson), Brian's put-upon and long-suffering but loyal wife.Although a mystery series, much of the interest in the show comes from the characters and their various eccentricities, and in particular the culture clash between modern police methods (represented by Pullman and her media-and-statistics conscious superiors) and the old-school ways (Halford, Lane and Standing are all cops from the seventies and eighties). Pullman is often exasperated by the corners cut and rules ignored by her colleagues, even as she herself is gradually 'corrupted' by them. In some ways, it can be said to foreshadow the popularity of Life On Mars, only instead of the boringly squeaky-clean modern copper being sent to the past to be 'corrupted' by it, the past's veteran coppers return in the present.This is also a seriously popular show - repeats have been known to get eight million or more viewers, and they can be found pretty often at that. However, the ratings did eventually decline, leading the BBC to announce that Series 12 would be the last.
Provides examples of:
- Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Justified in "London Underground". The sewer they end up investigating is actually the Fleet River, which has been paved over an turned into a sewer: the lore associated with the Fleet being central to the case they are investigating.
- Abusive Parents: "The English Defence" showed that even on his deathbed Robbie McAndrew has nothing but hatred for Steve, even though Steve is the one who arranged his medical care, and spends all his free time with him. It's later revealed his father would beat him for trivial reasons, such as dropping crumbs, and may hold some responsibility for the death of his mother. This is especially harsh considering Robbie has nothing but praise for Steve's sister, Alice, even though she hates him as much as Steve does, and refuses to visit him.
- The Ace: Danny. Knows martial arts, well read in just about everything, combines work with taking care of his disabled daughter, able to work out how to play football by reading the rule book and just applying basic physics. You name it, he can do it... Unless what you name is "asking a woman out", but luckily for him Professor Kennedy can read between the lines.
- The Alleged Car: Gerry's Triumph Stag. He keeps claiming it's a classic, but it is notoriously unreliable and when any other team member rides in it, they are always dubious as to whether it will get them to their destination.
- Amicable Exes: Gerry and his ex-wives, to the point of hooking up every so often. Also, they have been seen dining together - not just Gerry and one ex, but Gerry and all his exes, who seem to get on with each other very well.
- Appeal to Obscurity: In "The Fame Game", Steve is interviewing an agent who specializes in celebrity lookalikes, and who bemoans that reality television has made celebrities ten a penny:Agent: Who wants a lookalike when you can have Joey Essex?
- Awesomeness by Analysis: Dan astonishes everyone with his mad skills in the neighbourhood 5-a-side football tournament, but he falls for the goalie throwing a dummy. It turns out he hasn't seen a single match in his life, he was just applying "basic physics".
- Badass Gay: Ted, when a much bigger thug punches him, he takes it and knocks him back.
- Badass Grandpa: Effectively the show for it, all the older cops while displaying different levels of frequency, have their moments reminding us that they still have it. The most prominent examples are Gerry, Steve and Ted.
- Badass Family: Gerry's extended paternal family are more or less confirmed to be this in Season 6 episode "Meat is Murder" wherein it's revealed that his father, uncle and cousins and other Smithfield Market stallholders launched a Curb-Stomp Battle revenge attack on a loan shark who had tried to force Gerry into becoming a Dirty Cop and they won. The cousins involved remember this rather fondly, unnerving Jack in the process.
- Backstory of the Day: Gerry seems to go back and forth between having a phobia of deeply wooded areas and not. He is afraid in "17 Years of Nothing" and "Into the Woods", but seems perfectly at home in "Wicca Work" (at least until his bad tea trip).
- Becoming the Mask: In the episode "Only The Brave" it turns out the murderer was Reverse Mole Knowles who had gone native in the gang he was sent in to investigate.
- Beef Bandage: In "The Curate's Egg", Fiona holds a slab of beef wellington on Danny's eye after he is punched by her father.
- Benevolent Boss: Strickland's grown into this role over time; having started as something of a politically-minded Pointy-Haired Boss he's gradually earned the respect of the team and vice versa. He eventually gets a Day in the Limelight in the 9th season episode "Part of a Whole" where he proves himself to be seriously badass.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Jack, whilst normally a pleasant, gentle sort of fellow, possesses a sharp and sometimes violent temper if someone (usually a murderer or corrupt cop) has really managed to annoy him. His interrogation of a phony psychic in one episode is conducted almost entirely in calm, reasonable tones, but it's extraordinarily evident that he is beyond outraged by the nature of the crime; watching the scene will send shivers down your spine. Similarly, Brian is normally just a little bit awkward, but becomes more than a little bit scary when he hasn't been taking his medication.
- Beware the Silly Ones: As detailed above in Badass Family: Gerry's cousins Sid and Barry and the other Lestades come across as a goofy Wacky Wayside Tribe at first with the joke about the names ending in "-ry" with exception of Sid but they are ultimately revealed to be feared as Gerry threatens Vernon "Mouthful" Murnaghan with exposure as a mole for loan shark Danny Paye in Smithfield to them unless he spills the beans on how he made his fortune.
- Bill... Bill... Junk... Bill...: In the pilot, Jack sorts through the list of potential UCOS candidates Sandra has been given and delivers one of these speeches. Most of the candidates are dead. The rest...Jack: (throwing down the candidates' photos, one at a time) Dead... dead... as good as... alive, but he bores for England... retired, but currently under investigation by the CPSnote ... ditto the DTInote ... dead... alive, but don't leave him with your kids... retired sick - well, insane, really... dead... dead... would be if I got hold of him.
- Big Eater: Sandra is the junk food queen. Kebabs, curry, fried chicken, bacon, pastries... and if the others can't finish, she'll have their leftovers.
- Big Secret: There are usually three or four of these per episode, invariably complicating the murder investigation.
- Blessed with Suck and arguably Cursed with Awesome: It's established that Brian's remarkable photographic instant-recall memory and outstanding abilities as a detective and forensic investigator are the direct result of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and a manic depression that, if he doesn't take his medication, leaves him with crippling, obsessive paranoia and at the best of times renders him an anti-social pedant. He is also a recovered alcoholic.
- The Boxing Episode: In "Gloves Off", the gun used to murder a talented young boxer 11 years ago surfaces in an armed robbery and UCOS is drawn into the darker side of professional boxing.
- Brother–Sister Incest: A case occurs in "Couldn't Organise One", although here it turns out to provide an alibi for the murder.
- But I Read a Book About It: Dan is widely read and has a lot of esoteric knowledge. But this trope really comes into play when he demonstrates mad skills at five-a-side football despite never having seen a match. He explains that when he learned they were going to be playing, he read several books on the subjects and the rest was "basic physics".
- Butt-Monkey: Gerry's role, especially in later seasons, was to be the comedy relief and the butt of any joke going. He still gets plenty of moments reminding us that age has barely dampened his tough guy persona though.
- Bystander Syndrome:
- At the end of the pilot, the final arrest occurs at a dinner the villain is hosting, which results in a punch-up between the villain's family and friends and the cops, with everyone pitching in... except for one bloke, presumably not that fond of the villain, who just calmly finishes his meal with the chaos going on around him and walks out when everyone's gone, blithely muttering 'very nice' to the main characters as he leaves.
- In the same scene, Jack, Brian and Gerry — having caused the fight in the first place — decide discretion is the better part of valour and stand back to let the actual coppers take care of things, offering a running commentary all the while.Gerry: (as Bevan gets knocked down) Same old glass jaw!
Jack: (as Bevan climbs to his feet and punches his assailant) You see, he's not fully following through... (mimes a punch)
Brian: (as Bevan gets knocked down again) He's carrying too much weight.
(they duck out of the way as the police drag several people out of the room, the violence continuing apace)
Brian: (as Sandra knocks down one of the villain's family) Aw, good effort.
Gerry: (as Sandra keeps throwing punches) Dunno about you, but she's making me very excited.
- Carrying a Cake: The end of "The Curate's Egg" sees Steve arriving at the office with a fancy gateau (as part of an Escalating War between the team members involving pastries). Dan deliberately shuts the door in Steve's face, so Steve winds up wearing the gateau all over his chest.
- Chained to a Bed: The Victim of the Week in "Prodigal Sons" was chained to a bed in what was supposed to be an act of publication humiliation, but turned into murder when the killer entered with a Vorpal Pillow.
- Character Name Alias: In "A Death in the Family", a witness gives the fake name of 'George Boole'. Brian recognises this as the name of a famous mathematician (the inventor of Boolean logic) and reasons that only another mathematician would have picked that name as a spur-of-the-moment alias.
- The Charmer: Gerry.
- Chocolate Baby: Plays a role in the solution to "The Curate's Egg". A Polish woman had an affair with the black son of The Vicar. When she became pregnant, she married her boyfriend, hoping the baby would be white and she could claim it was his. The baby was not white.
- Circus Episode: In "Big Topped", the UCOS team face the challenge of explaining the death of a circus ringmaster who burned to death in his caravan, leaving only his feet behind.
- Coffin Contraband: In "Life Expectancy", the murder weapon — a marble bust — was buried in a grave underneath a coffin.
- Cold Reading: Used by a fake psychic in "Dead Man Talking". Brian brilliantly turns the tables on him by doing his own Sherlock Scan and revealing all kinds of things the psychic would rather have kept secret.
- Conspiracy Theorist: Brian turns into one of these if he comes off his anti-depressants, although he has shades of this even when he's on them (indeed in at least once he came off them because he was convinced modern medicine was a conspiracy); most notably in one episode where the team are investigating the suspicious death of a prominent 1970s trade unionist, Brian — himself a member of the Police Union during his service — becomes convinced that he's being observed.
- Continuity Nod: One case involves the team investigating a fictional brewers and pub chain called Felspar's, whose quality of beer and hospitality has noticeably declined, a few episodes later Gerry and Brian are in a cheerless pub and offhandedly mention they can't expect anything good because it is a Felspar's.
- Conveyor Belt of Doom: Gerry is almost dragged into a chopping machine when his jacket snags on a conveyor belt in "Dark Chocolate".
- Cops Need the Vigilante: The retired cops sometimes take advantage of the fact that they are no longer official police to do things they could not do if they were still on the force. While they can still expect official censure, it will generally be light if their actions resulted in an arrest.
- Crazy People Play Chess: In "The English Defence", UCOS investigates the cold murder of a freelance translator who was a chess master. When it starts to look like it may have been chess that got her killed, they start to look at her rivals. One was a physicist with a genius IQ who lost multiple games to her and became obsessed with defeating her. He finally defeated her in the last match she played before her murder. When the team reveal he cheated in this game, he suffers a complete breakdown.
- Creepy Souvenir: The season 8 finale involves a serial killer who keeps body parts in VHS cassette boxes, with labels like "Goldfinger" for the fingers.
- The Cuckoolander Was Right: In one episode, Brian becomes convinced that MI-5 might have investigated him (and that he had his career held back as a result) when he finds out that his wife was involved with some activists who were investigated. At the end of the episode, an irate Halford brings him his file and confirms that he was indeed being observed. They concluded that he wasn't a threat, which leaves Brian slightly offended.
- Cut Himself Shaving: In "The Curate's Egg'', Steve asks Dan how he got his black eye. Dan claims, somewhat unconvincingly, that he 'walked into a door' to cover up the fact that he his girlfriend's mother hit him with a ladle after he got in a fight with her father (It Makes Sense in Context).
- Da Chief: Sandra and her superior officers.
- Sasha takes the role after Sandra leaves.
- Danger Takes A Back Seat: In "Only The Brave" one of the gang members tries this on Sandra with a gun, but she breaks his nose instead.
- Darker and Edgier: The majority of episodes written by Julian Simpson fall into this category, avoiding the usual geriatric antics and veering towards more serious (and violent) cases, which usually focus on conspiracies of some kind.
- Deadpan Snarker: Each member of UCOS has their moments.Gerry: So, Ricky Hanson... mate of yours?
Jack: Biggest murdering, thieving, lying piece of morally-bankrupt shite I've ever laid eyes on.
Brian: Oh. Nothing personal then.
- Dead Line News: The victim in one episode was a radio shock-jock who burned to death live on air.
- Dead Man's Chest: In "The Little Brother", a trail of clues leads Brian to a woman's body inside a box in a storage unit.
- Dead Person Impersonation: In "The Fame Game", a celebrity impersonator conspired with the wife of the celebrity to murder the celebrity (and the impersonator's wife). The impersonator then took over the celebrity's life.
- Death by Falling Over:
- The Body of the Week in "In Vino Veritas" hit his head on some barrels during a struggle with his killer. Another person later staged a Fiery Cover Up, which further muddied the way in which he died.
- The 'falling down the stairs' version happens in "The Queen's Speech".
- In "Into the Woods", a shove during an argument impaled the Victim of the Week on a sharp tree branch.
- Death Seeker: Jack confesses that he is sometimes this, when explaining why he doesn't want an award for bravery when he knows he was really just trying to get killed.
- Defective Detective: Brian, as mentioned above. To a lesser extent, the others as well: Jack most obviously with his grieving for his late wife Mary, but Gerry has to deal with borderline addictions to gambling and cigarettes (although he can control his booze, oddly enough) and a lingering reputation for corruption, and Sandra has to cope with being a workaholic with no social life and the lingering memory of her father's suicide.
- Department of Redundancy Department: Brian's life has been very full since his retirement: grandchildren, gardening, football, swimming, day trips, gardening, car, pets, dogs, the wife... did he mention gardening?
- Did You Just Have Sex?: The boys have this reaction when Sasha enters the office with a spring in her step in "The Lottery Curse". Leads to a Side Bet about whether she had or not.
- The Dog Was the Mastermind: In "Ghosts", the murderer in a 60 year old murder case turns out to be another resident of the nursing home where the wife of the victim now lives who Gerry interviewed once to gain information about the wife.
- "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: That's Dennis Waterman singing the tune.
- Doting Grandparent: Though he was shocked about discovering his daughter Paula was pregnant and intended to be a single mum to her child Gerry unashamedly adores his grandson Gerry Junior; Brian and Esther will clearly become this trope with the news that they would become grandparents in their last series as regulars.
- Ear Ache: In a flashback in "Last Man Standing -Part One", a young Gerry Standing is forced to watch as a London Gangster cuts the ear off a rival.
- Early Installment Weirdness: The early seasons are more comical, lampooning pop-psych efficiency initiatives and bureaucracy-speak within the police hierarchy. The characters' backstories take a while to be set in stone, too - Gerry claims never to have been in the Vice Squad (he was) and Brian claims to have grandchildren and a car (he has neither.)
- Establishing Character Moment: Brian and Gerry each get one in the Terrible Interviewees Montage in the pilot:
- On learning Pullman's name, Brian immediately rattles off her entire career history without prompting. When discussing his personal life after retirement, he disinterestedly rattles off a number of leisure pursuits he clearly couldn't care less about, only to immediately perk up when the subject returns back to working in the police force once again. We instantly get his obsessive attention to detail and his complete lack of a functional personal life outside of the job.
- On seeing an ashtray, Gerry immediately tries to light up, and gets petulant when told he can't. Upon realising who Pullman is, he eagerly brings up her Old Shame shooting incident in order to piss her off. He's ruled by his vices, irreverent and disrespectful to authority.
- Eureka Moment:
- Brian is sometimes given to these.
- Parodied with a subversion in one episode when Gerry sees someone he recognises in an old 1980s video about a peace protest. We're lead to assume that he's just had a sudden breakthrough about the case... until he proudly announces "I had her!"
- Jack has one when Brian and Gerry show up to his guest lecture on serial killers in "Where There's Smoke" from Series 7. When he tells the audience that Dennis Nilsen was Britain's most prolific serial killer after Harold Shipman, Brian whispers to Gerry that Peter Dinsdale killed nearly twice as many people as Nilsen;note Jack overhears this exchange and begins arguing with Brian that Dinsdale doesn't count as he was convicted of manslaughter, not murder. As he explains that Dinsdale, as a serial arsonist, was more interested in setting fires than killing, he realises that this is likely also true of the perpetrator of the nightclub fire UCOS are investigating.
- Everything's Better with Penguins: Brian's tattoo.
- External Combustion: At the end of "Last Man Standing - Part Two", Gerry is seemingly killed by a car bomb. The explosion was actually used to fake his death to allow him to disappear into witness protection.
- Extremely Cold Case: Although the entire purpose of the UCOS team is to investigate cold cases, they cover new ground in "A Death in the Family" when Stephen Fisher of MI5 asks them to investigate a murder that took place 160 years ago.
- Fiery Cover Up: In "In Vino Veritas", UCOS investigate the murder of a pub landlord who died in a fire at his pub. The landlord's dire financial situation led the police at the time to mark the fire down as suspected arson and his death as suicide. However, the landlord was murdered and the fire was started by his brother (who was not the murderer) to cover up evidence of other crimes that would have come to light if there was an investigation.
- Fingore: In "Trust Me", Jack slams an ex-copper's hand in an oven door and holds the door shut to get him to talk.
- First-Name Basis: Played with in the season 2 finale.Strickland: Professor Mears...
Mears: Call me Reynard.
Brian: I thought your name was Ian?
Mears: *makes a face* I don't like "Ian".
- Food Slap: In "Lottery Curse", Fiona dumps a drink over Danny's head after she finds out he bet on whether Sascha had sex.
- Four-Temperament Ensemble: Sandra is choleric, Gerry is sanguine, Brian is melancholic, and Jack is phlegmatic.
- Framing the Guilty Party: In the pilot movie, DCI Lovett framed Roddy Riger for the murder of Anna Dubrovnik because he could't prove that Riger had earlier killed Willie Stiles, and was certain that Riger had killed Anna. Ironically, it turns out the evidence he used to frame Riger (his shoes, which Lovett smeared with Anna's blood) did have Stiles' blood on them, so the frameup was unnecessary.
- Fresh Clue: An "Old-School" detective states he knew someone was a suspect when he saw that a cat was sleeping on the still-warm hood of their car, disproving their account of not having driven it. Subverted when it turns out that was just bullshit he made up to justify his hunch, and that all the team knew that was a widely used justification in The Met during the '70s.
- Giving Them the Strip: In "Dark Chocolate", Gerry escapes the Conveyor Belt of Doom by taking off his jacket.
- Gender-Blender Name: Ted Case's partner is named 'Pat'. Because Ted is a Straight Gay, the others do not realise that Pat is a man until he accompanies Ted to an official function.
- Genius Bruiser: Dan Griffin is a big man who's kept up to date with hand to hand combat classes, to the point he can overpower a man half his age with only two moves. He's also a walking encyclopedia of knowledge, takes over as the group's new smart guy and is even able to speak Latin.
- Golf Clubbing: The Victim of the Week in "Good Work Rewarded" was 10 year old boy killed with a golf club on a golf course.
- Happily Married: Jack and Mary Halford were very much this before Mary's tragic death. Brian and Esther Lane, despite Brian's mental health and drink related issues and his lapses into paranoia and obsessive nature it's obvious Esther is still very much in love with him and Brian is devoted to her. Gerry subverts this by being thrice married and divorced but all three ex-spouses and him are Amicable Exes and frequently socialise together as a result.
- Head-Tiltingly Kinky: In "Cry Me a River", UCOS are watching a porn video starring the victim of the cold case they have just reopened. Sandra, Gerry and Steve all tilt their heads to the side in unison just as new member Dan walks through the door behind them.
- I Call It "Vera": Brian calls his prized bicycle "Matilda".
- I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: One of the 'murders' in "The Rock" turns out to have been have accident caused by a boy stealing a gun from his father and using it to play soldier.
- I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: George Cole, Dennis Waterman's co-star in Minder, guest-starred in an episode.
- Info Dump: Brian often gives these about the background of a case, or sometimes the whole area of crime involved (such as cybercrime in "Body of Evidence").
- Innocent Innuendo: Brian often tends to wander into these.
- Insult Backfire: At the end of the pilot, Sandra refers to the boys as 'criminals'. They react with offence. She amends the insult to 'crooks'. This, they can live with.
- Interservice Rivalry: When an old case crosses with a new case, most commonly due a murderer trying to cover their tracks, UCOS are supposed to hand the old case over to the people investigating the new case and back off. Needless to say they don't like doing this.
- Ironic Echo: In the pilot, the deputy commissioner tries to shut down Jack when he approaches him for a warrant by smugly pointing out that he's not actually a police officer any more. At the end, when the same deputy commissioner is getting his arse kicked in the climactic punch-up and begs Jack for help, Jack — who, with the others, his happily standing on the sidelines watching the chaos — 'apologetically' points out that he's "not actually a police officer anymore, remember?"
- It's Personal: Jack was hell bent on bringing down crime boss Ricky Hanson, the man who murdered his wife. Jack actually tries to kill him with his car at one point, but only ends up hospitalising himself and the whole team. Taken Up to Eleven when Hanson takes the opportunity to try and smother him in his hospital bed (while rubbing his wife's death in his face no less) and still gets away with it due to having a ruthlessly efficient lawyer who destroys the case by referencing all of the team's flaws (including Jack's obsession with bringing Hanson down), to make them all seem like unreliable witnesses. The team celebrate with champagne when they finally bring him down in a later episode.
- Kick the Dog: Subversion / parody - in the pilot, Sandra - a decent person - is forced to shoot one that is attacking her, but the resulting public outcry completely derails her career and makes her a laughing stock ("You shoot one dog in this country...")
- Lawman Baton:
- One episode has Jack trying to reconcile with an old friend who has never forgiven Jack for joining The Met and cites the massed baton charges employed by said force during the UK miner's strikes of the mid-80s.
- In "Last Man Standing", the Victim of the Week was a Dirty Cop who was Gerry's old boss. He was done in by a blow to the head from Gerry's truncheon, which was planted next to the body.
- Letterbox Arson: In "Prodigal Sons", Sasha and Steve arrive at a suspect's flat only to discover it is on fire. It is later discovered was started by someone pouring acetone through the letterbox and setting it alight.
- Lima Syndrome: Combined with Stockholm Syndrome in "Trust Me". Hannah Taylor was kidnapped by a young man with a grudge against her mother, a then-alcoholic doctor whom he blamed for his mother's death. After Paul talked with Hannah for a while, he came to his senses and decided to release her and go on the run, not even bothering to collect the ransom he'd asked for. But Hannah, who hated her mother as much as Paul did, chose to come with him. 13 years later they're Happily Married with a child.
- Line-of-Sight Name: In "The Rock Part 1", Gerry arrives at a casino and finds Brian undertaking some unauthorised undercover work. Brian introduces Gerry as his business partner "Vince... Table". This provokes an incredulous "Your name's Vince Table?" from the suspect.
- Long-Runners: The series ran for 13 years, due to end after the upcoming 12th season. One odd consequence of this is that as the 'closed past cases' tended to become more and more recent, UCOS began investigating crimes which took place after the series chronologically started.
- Lotsa People Try to Dun It: In "Life Expectancy", the team recover what they think is the weapon used in a fatal bludgeoning: a marble phrenology bust. After investigating, they finally get a suspect to confess that she struck down the victim with the bust. However, after this, forensics reveals that the fatal blow did not come from the bust, and the team realise that someone else had come along and finished the job.
- A Match Made in Stockholm: In "Trust Me", Hannah Taylor was kidnapped by a young man with a grudge against her mother, a then-alcoholic doctor whom he blamed for his mother's death. After Paul talked with Hannah for a while, he came to his senses and decided to release her and go on the run, not even bothering to collect the ransom he'd asked for. But Hannah, who hated her mother as much as Paul did, chose to come with him. 13 years later they're Happily Married with a child.
- Men Are Uncultured: The stereotype is played with. Gerry, who normally comes across as an unreconstructed 'real man', is a connoisseur of fine food, while Brian, the 'nerdy' one who enjoys tabletop strategy games, is conversely a Serious Business football fan.
- Mistaken for Gay: The boys come to the conclusion that Sandra is a lesbian after trailing her to a mysterious assignation with another woman in "1984". Sandra finds this hilarious and soon sets them right: the woman she was seeing was not her girlfriend, but her shrink.
- Molotov Cocktail:
- In "Painting on Loan", Jerry and Brian throw a Molotov cocktail while experimenting to work how a fire might have been started. Jerry comments on how he has always wanted to do this.
- A suspect uses one to try to torch the lock-up they think holds evidence against them in "Romans Ruined". However, it was a trap and UCOS was waiting for them.
- Monkey Morality Pose: Brian, Gerry and Jack at the end of "Powerhouse".
- The Mourning After: Jack's wife may be dead, but he still considers himself very married.
- My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels: A visit to the Deaf husband of a murder victim prompts Gerry to try and brush up on his long-forgotten sign language skills. He tries to say "I want to practice my signing with you" to the sign language interpreter, but instead comes out with "I want to dig up my elephant with you."
- My Greatest Failure: As well as the established dog incident for Sandra, Brian considers his lack of parenting and bonding with son Mark when he was growing up as his biggest failure, though it's clear Brian loves his son deeply and both Esther and Gerry remind him that when he was there he tried his best.
- Necro Cam: Not as often as you'd think, though, especially given that most of the cases that are dealt with occurred up to 20 years ago and this isn't Waking the Dead. Then in season 11, it suddenly became Once per Episode.
- Need A Hand Or A Hand Job - During a case that briefly took Brian into Soho, a lady of the night approached him asking if he 'had the time.' Misunderstandings ensued.
- Never Live It Down: In-Universe. Sandra has been in charge of UCOS for nearly a decade after she was attacked in the press for shooting a dog in self defence, considered a dead-end job; the group in general has a reputation as a refuge for washed-up has been cops and officers. This despite the fact that they have put away crime lords, drug lords, serial arsonists and killers, corrupt police officers (including the deputy commissioner), and numerous other high-level crime figures, basically putting the rest of the Met to shame several times over.
- Although it is played with, in that their hard work and achievements have been noted and rewarded several times over; Sandra has been offered 'better' jobs but for whatever reason has always chosen to stay with UCOS. However having been dumped out-of-the-way in the basement in the first series, each season has seen them be moved to increasingly nicer rooms before they reached their current, rather swish offices, suggesting that their overall reputation has gradually improved even if they do remain the butt of a few jokes.
- Never Win the Lottery: "Lottery Curse" uses the 'winning the lottery will ruin your life' version, with the team investigating the murder of a woman who was part of a winning lottery syndicate.
- New Old Flame: Sandra acquires one in the form of DCI James Larson in "Object of Desire". This does not end well when James turns out to be a Dirty Cop.
- No Badge? No Problem!: Brian, Jack and Gerry are retired police officers and are usually pretty good at identifying themselves as such. However, they do work for the police department as investigators so they have the official authority to question people and access police records.
- No Medication for Me - Averted, Brian never gets any better if he comes off his meds.
- Noodle Incident: Whatever Gerry did when he got hypnotized and Gerry Rafferty music was played.
- Notable Non Sequitur: Played with. Generally, every apparently offhand comment of this type will turn out to be significant in some way, but not necessarily one related to the case (for example, it might expose an unrelated and previously unmentioned other crime or secret the suspect is hiding).
- Not-So-Fake Prop Weapon: In "Final Curtain", the UCOS team looks into the death of an actor who was shot dead during a performance of a play. The gun was loaded with blanks, but a piece of metal lodged in the barrel killed him. The death was originally ruled an accident, but new evidence makes the team reopen the case.
- #1 Dime: Ted Case's lucky charm is a cigarette case that stopped a bullet. Although he tries to act calm, he goes into a panic when he loses it in the episode "Life Expectancy".
- Obfuscating Disability: The killer of the week in "Magic Majestic" has pretended to be confined for to a wheelchair for his entire adult life, referencing Real Life magician Chung Ling Soo. This allows him to escape from custody at the end of the episode.
- Office Golf: Jack, who is an avid golfer, does this while Sandra is away in "Good Work Rewarded". On learning that Sandra is returning sooner than they expected, the boys scramble to clean up the office before she gets back. Jack misses one of his golf balls, and Sandra trips over it on her return.
- Off the Wagon: Brian. Handled far far better than many instances of this trope though.
- Off with His Head!: The Body of the Week in "Romans Ruined" was a decapitated corpse found in a sandpit. UCOS gets involved when the murder weapon (a Roman sword) and the head are discovered years later. In a nod to realism, it is noted that it took several blows to remove the head.
- Old-Fashioned Copper: - Jack, Brian and Gerry, although the writers hang a lampshade on the trope by having the characters gleefully excuse their actions with the (reasonable) justification that, technically, they aren't actually cops anymore.
- Played with at times; sometimes, the old-fashioned way of doing things makes things worse, and the new methods are the better ones, for their flaws.
- Danny has his moments, such as ignoring orders in order to investigate the death of a friend in "Breadcrumbs", but Steve is the master of this trope. His first couple of episodes alone had him stealing phones, setting off car alarms to cause distractions, and breaking into a suspect's house. Sandra was not impressed.
- Pac-Man Fever - Averted, as Jack is seen playing Ghost Squad on the Wii and doing very well.
- Painting the Medium: One episode had Brian visiting a suspect in Broadmoor psychiatric hospital, in the midst of a mild psychotic episode of his own. These scenes included impossible details like characters changing actors between shots and background security monitors displaying mysterious closeups of faces.
- Papa Wolf: Gerry's father Norman Lestade may not have seen eye to eye with his son for not becoming a butcher like him but when Gerry was in serious trouble with loan shark Danny Paye in the 1970's as his nephew Barry states: "he's going to be buggered if he's going to let his son take a kicking from a jumped up, bullying little toerag like Danny Paye" and Norman's solution to this? Personally lead a posse including his brother, Sid and Barry and 30 others from Smithfield Market to confront Danny and his gang. It ended badly for Paye and his cronies.
- Phony Psychic - Brian turns the tables on a fake psychic in "Dead Man Talking"; using cold reading techniques to reveal all kinds of incriminating information about him.
- Pocket Protector: Ted Case's lucky charm is a cigarette case that stopped a bullet and saved his life.(Or so he claims. Sasha keeps pointing out that the bullet went straight through the case and he spent months in hospital. Ted maintains that if the case hadn't slowed the round down, he's have died.) He goes into a mild panic when he loses it in "Life Expectancy".
- Pointy-Haired Boss: DAC Don Bevan from the pilot and season 1. He is an empty suit, obsessed with bureaucracy and management buzzwords, and his only interest in UCOS is how it can improve his media profile. His replacement DAC Robert Strickland is actually genuinely interested in making the squad a success.
- Political Correctness Gone Mad - Although they're not too bad for the most part, the boys can at times have difficulty adjusting to more modern ways of thinking about things like race, gender equality, etc., which can cause tension.
- Said word for word by Gerry (and Sandra) in the end of "Magic Majestic".
- Poorly Disguised Pilot: "Glasgow UCOS" in Series 9.
- Pun-Based Title: Several episode titles, usually mixed with Shout-Out:
- Put on a Bus: P.C Jon Clarke, the squad's uniformed IT officer-slash-gofer, disappears between Series 1 and Series 2.
- Rabid Cop:
- The retired detectives have slightly Cowboy Cop attitudes compared to modern police methods and standards. So they see nothing wrong with creating a fake Rabid Cop scenario where the interrogator gets so insanely angry that he shoots the suspect's public defender lawyer. The 'lawyer' is another retired cop and the gun is a starter pistol.
- And occasionally they find themselves working alongside a real Rabid Cop, such as Frank Patterson in "The Fourth Man".
- Reality Is Unrealistic: In real life, drowning victims tend not to struggle or cry out. As Brian puts it: drowning doesn't look like drowning.
- Real Men Cook: Chain-smoking, hard drinking Old-Fashioned Copper Gerry Standing is also a gourmet chef.
- Red Baron: Brian "Memory" Lane and Gerry "Last Man" Standing. The former because of his impressive memory ("Memory Lane"). The latter was mockingly given to him by a mob boss, in both a straightforwardnote and ironicnote manner).
- Red Herring: We are often given several suspects with apparently suspicious behaviour, but in a variation of the trope, they will usually all turn out to be hiding something, just not necessarily something directly related to this week's case.
- Revisiting the Cold Case: The premise of the series.
- Ripped from the Headlines:
- Especially in later series, many episodes are inspired by real crimes or types of crimes that have been in the news. For example, "Queen and Country" involves a civil servant misplacing a laptop with sensitive information, something which (as the episode itself notes) embarrassingly happened several times during Gordon Brown's premiership.
- This is also true of episodes where the crime comes from a past era. The "Ice Cream Wars" episode in series 3 is, surprisingly, based on a true story from The '80s—albeit one that happened in Glasgow rather than London.
- Sharp Dressed Man: While Gerry and Jack usually wear suits, their tastes are a little old-fashioned and dowdy. PC Clark, however, who saves up his pay to spend on designer clothing, is a fine example. Steve, too, dresses very smartly, as fits his playboy lifestyle.
- Sherlock Scan: Brian turns the tables on a fake psychic in "Dead Man Talking"; using cold reading techniques to reveal all kinds of incriminating information about him. Since taking an FBI course in reading body language, Danny has been playing with this too.
- Ship Tease: Earlier episodes seemed to suggest some kind of potential relationship between Gerry and Sandra (which would have been Real Life Writes the Plot, since the actors used to date in real life long ago), but this was gradually dropped. Nevertheless, over time the two went from being quite sharp with each other to becoming quite good friends.
- Sandra described some of Gerry's dodgier actions as being "out of the Life On Mars handbook". The two shows have often been compared by critics because their concepts can be viewed as mirror images (70s coppers back at work in the present vs modern copper in the 70s).
- Gerry's birthname Lestade is clearly based on a certain Lestrade
- Shown Their Work: The backgrounds to many stories are very well researched, such as the cybercrime-themed series 9 episode "Body of Evidence".
- Slave to PR: Sandra's bosses are very aware of the power of publicity and often saddles the team with pointless cases merely for the sake of favourable press. Averted for the team, they simply don't care as they are not technically policemen anymore.
- Smug Snake: Stephen Fisher, from Intelligence, or thereabouts.Sandra: How did you get down here without an escort?
Fisher: Oh, bless.
- Something Completely Different: Several of the cases in Series 9, especially "Glasgow UCOS", which of the main cast only has Gerry and Steve, going to Glasgow in order to help set up the Glasgow branch of UCOS.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: Several episodes end on a sombre or even bleak note, which can make it a bit disorientating when Dennis Waterman suddenly starts singing "It's alright, it's okay, doesn't really matter if you're old and grey..." in a cheerful tone with the end credits. Later series introduced a more melancholy ending theme which would be played in such situations.
- Stealth Insult: While investigating a crime in a museum, Gerry wonders what it is like to spend every day surrounded by fossils. Sandra thinks she has an idea.
- Stockholm Syndrome: Combined with Lima Syndrome in "Trust Me". Hannah Taylor was kidnapped by a young man with a grudge against her mother, a then-alcoholic doctor whom he blamed for his mother's death. After Paul talked with Hannah for a while, he came to his senses and decided to release her and go on the run, not even bothering to collect the ransom he'd asked for. But Hannah, who hated her mother as much as Paul did, chose to come with him. 13 years later they're Happily Married with a child.
- The Summation: A neat little subversion occurred once, in which Gerry explained how a crime didn't occur.
- Surrogate Soliloquy: Jack will often discuss details of the current case he is working on with his wife's memorial stone.
- Straight Gay: Ted, to the point where we've already known him for several episodes before the reveal, which is treated as a surprise inverse and out.
- The Swear Jar: The detectives install one for an early episode, which eventually allows them to go out for a nice meal on the town. Gerry's a bit aggrieved that he didn't get to choose, since he "put most of the bloody money in."
- Teacher/Student Romance: An affair between a teacher and a student plays a role in "The Queen's Speech". The student was looking for the teacher when she got killed. The teacher never told anyone about the affair to avoid trouble, and this may have hampered the original investigation.
- Team Chef: Gerry has frequently shown his cooking prowess by cooking well-liked and classy meals for family and his UCOS friends giving the reveal of his family being established and respected Smithfield Market butchers, his talent and intelligence for cooking and food makes sense
- Tell Him I'm Not Speaking to Him: In "Ghosts", a spat between Gerry and Steve over a missing sausage roll escalates to the point where Gerry is refusing to acknowledge Steve's existence, and starts forwarding all of his comments to him through Sasha and Danny. Sasha and Danny are only too quick to point out how silly the whole thing is.
- Terrible Interviewees Montage: Having been given no suitable candidates for UCOS by the Met, Sandra and Jack decide to advertise for the position, resulting in a parade of interviews that are over before they begin ("names" as given in the episode's end credits). Even Gerry makes a bad first impression:Racist Ex-Detective: 'Morning. Oh, just before we start, this new unit... no blacks, obviously.
Sandra: (at next interview) Now, you didn't officially retire, and yet I can't see any references to why you left the force. Why's that?
Drunk Ex-Detective: (obviously three sheets to the wind) Absolutely no bloody idea. (cut to him staggering to the door, starting by heading to the wrong corner of the room)
Vicious Ex-Detective: Police and Criminal Evidence Acts? Mistake. I mean, being able to threaten, intimidate, and cause pain to a suspect are the chief weapons in a copper's armoury! Right?
Scots Ex-Detective: (opens door, sees Sandra and Jack) Ah, shite... (immediately leaves)
Woman Ex-Detective: (angry) I mean, I don't take no bloody crap from no-one! (Sandra and Jack are visibly unsettled)
Sandra: (at next interview, smiling as she closes a folder) Thanks so much for coming in, it's - it's obviously very valuable to have such a successful, high-ranking ex-officer applying for- (the interviewee suddenly gasps and clutches his chest; cut to him sprawled on the floor as Jack tries pounding his chest to restart his heart)
(after Brian's interview, we cut to Gerry sitting down)
Gerry: (holding a carton of cigarettes) Ahh... an ashtray!
Jack: We'd rather you didn't.
Gerry: (surprised) What's...
Sandra: The squad will initially be quite small, concentrating solely on murder cases, and then, depending on the success of the operation, the unit may then be expanded to encompass other serious crimes, such as...
Gerry: (smirks, to Jack) It's 'er, innit? (off Jack's confusion) Woof, woof, bang, bang! (mimes firing two guns)
- That Came Out Wrong: In "A Delicate Touch", Brian is attempting to subtly quiz Sandra about how much the team members are paid. He starts by asking "Are you fully cognizant of the size of my packet?" and the conversation goes downhill from there. Typical for Brian, he never realises exactly what it is he is saying.
- Theme Naming:
- The writer named Jack, Brian and Gerry after the oldest spectator stand at his favourite football (soccer) club, West Bromwich Albion (Halford Lane Standing).
- Late in the series it turns out Gerry has relatives in the meat business. Their names? Barry, Harry, Gary, Mary, Larry, and Terry.
- There Will Be Toilet Paper: In "The Sins of the Father", Gerry is shown cutting himself while shaving multiple times. This shows how much the current case (which he has a personal stake in) is getting to him.
- This Bear Was Framed: In an episode, a man broke into a zoo and was assumed to have fallen into a tiger enclosure and mauled to death by the tiger. When the tiger dies a few years later it is revealed that its death was caused by a piece of a knife that was stuck in its body since that night. The team reopens the case and finds that the man was killed elsewhere and the body dumped in the tiger cage which is when the tiger was stabbed. Not only was the tiger framed but it was also another victim.
- Toyota Tripwire: Brian does this in "Good Morning Lemmings": opening the door of the surveillance van to flatten a fleeing suspect.
- Underdressed for the Occasion: Inverted in "The Rock, Part 1". An increasingly unstable Brian steals a tuxedo from a hotel to infiltrate a casino and confront a suspect. However, he is the only one wearing wearing a tuxedo and sticks out like a sore thumb.
- Vandalism Backfire: In one episode, Gerry has been having an escalating prank war with a colleague, which culminated in him welding said colleague's locker shut. They finally call the grudge off... until the colleague reveals that it wasn't his locker.
- Verbal Judo: Faced with a biker gang member threatening to shoot her in retaliation for what his gang members did to him for talking to the police, Sandra starts thinking out loud about the current case. After buying some time that way, she comes to some conclusions that cause the other to break down and lower the gun — as the case was his father's murder — and then punches him out in passing while he's angsting.
- Vomiting Cop: A severely hungover Gerry throws up after the team opens a fridge and discovers a head that has been in there for several years in "Romans Ruined".
- Vorpal Pillow: Used to kill the Victim of the Week (who is Chained to a Bed) in "Prodigal Sons".
- War Reenactors: In "Romans Ruined", the discovery of a Roman sword with blood on it leads UCOS into the world of Roman historical reenactment.
- Wham Line: A strong contender for the shortest Wham! line ever.Strickland: Surrey ran the third sample through the National Criminal Database. And while they didn't find an exact match, it did flag up someone from the ACPO files with a very similar genetic profile... i.e., a direct and close relative.
Sandra: Really? Who?
- "Well Done, Dad!" Guy: Both Gerry and Brian go through this at different times in the series. A Justified Trope as due to their respective issues. Relations between the Lane men thaw and improve near the beginning of series 10 as Brian bows out of UCOS; Gerry is surprised that his eldest daughter Paula considered him a great father as he always listened to her and encouraged her to think for herself relieving Gerry as he really believed he had stopped her achieving what she wanted in life. Paula tells him she is happy as a single mum to Gerry Junior.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: After suffering physical and emotional abuse for years, Steve demands to know why his father hates him so much. His father refuses to give him a proper answer, though it may be partially due to Steve becoming a police officer rather than a docker. Made even more tragic by the fact that this is their last exchange before Robbie's death.
- What Did I Do Last Night?: Happens to Gerry's son-in-law-to-be after his stag night in "The Queen's Speech". He wakes up on his couch looking considerably worse for wear and clutching a traffic cone covered in tinsel. This is entirely Gerry's fault as his friends had planned a fairly sedate evening, and Gerry decided he deserved a proper stag night.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Gerry has a phobia about forests as a result of a childhood trauma.
- Wrong Insult Offence: At the end of the pilot, Sandra refers to the boys as 'criminals'. They react with offence. She amends the insult to 'crooks'. This, they can live with.