Series: The Thin Blue Line
1990s Brit Com
set in a small-town police station, written by Ben Elton
and starring Rowan Atkinson
as repressed, old-fashioned but basically decent Police Inspector Raymond Fowler. His nemesis in the series was Inspector Grim, a proto-Gene Hunt type
but without the brains. The other regulars were all fellow police officers, including Raymond's longterm and long-suffering cohab girlfriend Sergeant Patricia Dawkins, elderly Constable Gladstone, junior officers Goody and Habib, and Grim's henchman Kray.
The series was apparently modelled on the classic World War II-themed show Dads Army
, an ambitious target to live up to. The BBC's website sums up the show as "Should've worked. Didn't."
Not to be confused with the Errol Morris documentary
about Dallas police and prosecutors framing a man for murder, nor The Thin Red Line
Came thirty-fourth in Britain's Best Sitcom
The Thin Blue Line provides examples of:
- Against My Religion: Someone gets sick in Fowler's hat, and Fowler absentmindedly puts it on. When his superior shows up and want to know why Fowler isn't taking his hat off in respect, he claims to be a Sihk who is forbidden to bare his head.
- And You Thought It Was a Game:
- In "Rag Week", Fowler confronts and talks down a group of dangerous bank robbers, while under the impression they were students playing a prank.
- Inverted in "Fly on the Wall" — after Fowler talks down the old man with the gun, it turns out that he was going to turn it in to the weapons amnesty program and possibly get on television.
- Annoying Laugh: DC Kray', very much so.
- Away In A Manger: In "Yuletide Spirit", a travelling hippie couple arrive in the station on Christmas Eve. Naturally, the woman is heavily pregnant and goes into labour.
- Being Personal Isn't Professional: Inspector Fowler at times , in one instance pointing out that, as his girlfriend wanted his advice partly as her commanding officer and partly as her boyfriend, he will have to give her one opinion now and one at lunch, as he is not being paid to be her boyfriend.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Goody actually punches a skinhead for insulting Habib.
- Boldly Coming: Brought up briefly during the briefing in "Ism Ism Ism".
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: The episodes of the second series started with Inspector Fowler delivering a short intro to the audience, often ending with a very strange simile.
- Brotherhood of Funny Hats: Parodied with Grim's group, "The Todgers", an exaggerated expy of the Masons whose rituals involve wearing a dress and kissing a frozen turkey's bottom.
- Camp Straight: Constable Kevin Goody exhibits all the mannerisms of a Camp Gay (his actor, James Dreyfuss, fits this trope in Real Life) but is actually a Dogged Nice Guy to WPC Habib, whom he hits on in every episode (and is very surprised that his colleagues might have thought he was gay).
- The Cape: Raymond, or at least Raymond's self-image.
- Chain of Corrections:
I don't want to buy the queen a present, sir, she's an antichrist. Fouler:
I beg your pardon!? Goody:
Oh, no, I mean anarchist
. No, no, what's that name for someone who is out of date and does not matter anymore? Habib:
I think you mean an anachronism. Goody:
Yes, that's right, the Queen is an anachronism. Gladstone:
I though that was someone who was scared of spiders. Fouler:
No, no that is an arachnaphobic. Gladstone:
I thought that was someone who was scared of wide open spaces. Habib:
No, that's agoraphobics, they can't handle going outside. Arachnophobics hate spiders. Fouler:
Look, we're talking about the queen. Goody:
Is the Queen scared of spiders? Gladstone:
Well I wouldn't have thought so, but it is starting to look that way. Goody:
Perhaps that is why she is scared to go outside, sir.
- Construction Catcalls: Used in an episode, where the woman is Sergeant Patricia Dawkins and winds up getting so irritated she arrests the lot of them for harassment.
- Delivery Guy Infiltration: Inspector Fowler does this in an episode, to get into a bank robbery that has turned into a hostage situation.
- The Ditz: Constable Goody
- Double Entendre: Fowler and Grim make these all the time, usually unintentionally.
- The show had what has to be one of the most egregious examples when Grim urges Fowler not to make any mistakes: "'cause you know what'll happen Raymond, don't you? It'll be your cock-up, my arse!" This phrase is also made as short as it can be while also displaying the importance of punctuation. "Your cock-up, my arse".
The series as a whole seems rather fond of this joke. Compare; "It's my arse on the line here, and I don't want a cock-up!", and "I'll show them when Grim of Gasforth puts his arse on the line, they can't just stick two fingers up!"
It happens almost Once per Episode. The different variations on the same theme are actually quite inventive. Possibly it counts as a Running Gag.
- Fowler misty-eyed at Christmas as a kid, reducing Patricia to giggles "Dad would bring a fat bird home and tell mother to stuff it." (Bird being British slang for 'woman')
- Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: After Patricia discovers the Not What It Looks Like example below, she goes for the rolling pin, and when he argues against her idea of having kids, she hits him with a fish.
- Engineered Public Confession: Parodied where the chief admits to Raymond Fowler that he faked some evidence. Raymond the triumphantly pulls out a rather large tape recorder from his pocket. But when he tries to play the confession, the tape just runs the workout-training that used to be on the tape. Another policeman then shows that you have to press both record and play at the same time to start recording, "I don't know why either". As an added bonus, the recorder is turned on during that demonstration, resulting in it recording some fierce Innocent Innuendo between Raymond and his ex-girlfriend. And the tape belonged to Raymond's wife, and she uses it for her workout at the end of the episode....
- Firemen Are Hot: One of these appeared in an episode The Thin Blue Line. Maggie had the hots for a hunky firefighter who unfortunately turned out to have the hots for her male colleague Kevin. Hilarity Ensues.
- Football Hooligans: An episode of had the police being worried about a possible outbreak of football hooliganism due to a London team playing the local club. In arresting various troublemaking elements, they end up locking up the entire local club.
- Framing the Guilty Party: Done in the episode "Court In The Act": Inspector Grim is desperate to convict a drug dealer; his subordinate Boyle suggests that evidence can be found — "found", in inverted commas. Inspector Fowler found out about the frame up and, unable to prove the drug dealer had been framed, he told the criminal's barrister that Constable Kevin Goody, who found (he didn't know about the frameup) the planted evidence, was wearing a new uniform that wasn't an official police uniform, thus invalidating any incriminating evidence found during the search and allowing the drug dealer to get Off on a Technicality.
- French Jerk: In one episode, everyone at the police station is forced to attend diversity training, but when they're instructed to arrest an illegal immigrant, they get the wrong guy - causing a major incident because he is actually the European Commissioner for Human Rights (and black.) The man turns out to be a French Jerk and instantly starts complaining about everything in Britain: "You British. No wonder we all hate you. Your chocolate isn't chocolatey enough. Your bananas are too long and bendy. And you insist on eating prawn cocktail crisps despite the fact that we have told you not to!"
- Freudian Slip: After the sex therapist Fowler and Patricia are seeing starts stripping — "Thank you, Constable Nipple."
- Honey Trap: The episode "Honey Trap" was about Inspector Fowler and Detective Inspector Grim recruiting Constable Habib to catch a criminal via a honey trap. The criminal arrested her.
- Hypocritical Humor:
- At one point, Grim is needling Raymond about his divorce and slightly distant relationship with his son, whom Raymond is worried is turning a bit wild. Grim makes a lot of hay about how he's a devoted family man who is always there for his sons. On an unrelated matter, guess who's loutish son just got arrested for disturbing the peace...? Raymond's son, incidentally, turns out to be studying to try and get into university; turns out Raymond's worries were a bit hyperactive anyway.
- "Ism Ism Ism" has Grim arguing against "weird customs and funny clothes" in the police force, then turns around and tries to demonstrate his initiation ceremony for the Todgers.
- Ignore the Fanservice: Patricia tries to improve her sex life with Raymond by coming to bed in a silk nightie. Unfortunately, it doesn't get his attention until she mentions how much it cost...
- Incompatible Orientation: An episode concerns Constable Maggie Habib meeting a handsome firefighter and trying everything to get into bed with him. In the end of the episode, it's revealed that he hasn't touched her because his interests were focused on her colleague, Constable Kevin Goody, who's spent the whole series pining after her. In the last scene they all sit at a pub musing about their love triangle woes.
- In Medias Res
- Innocent Innuendo:
- The conservative and idealistic Inspector Fowler from had a tendency to make statements containing innuendo that everyone except him could see.
"Ah, Christmas — when Father brings home a plump bird for dinner and tells Mother to stuff it..."
"Have I said something amusing, Constable Habib?"
- And Inspector Grim when his job depended on an important operation.
Remember, it's your cockup, my arse!
- Ironic Echo: When Fowler finally settles the ethical dilemma that's been troubling him over the Honey Trap that Grim has set up and declares he wants no further part in the operation, Grim gloatingly replies that he'll hold Fowler to his promise that Grim will get 'full and complete credit' for the operation. Then, Habib drags the mark in, appearing to validate Grim — until the mark points out that he's seen through Habib and has in fact dragged her in as part of a citizen's arrest. Fowler decides it a good time to remind Grim that he's now taking 'full and complete credit' for the operation.
- The Joy of X
- Justice by Other Legal Means: When an Engineered Public Confession doesn't work, Fowler gets the case thrown out by revealing that Goody was still wearing the prototype uniform that he was modelling when he found the planted evidence.
- Magic Negro: Constable Frank Gladstone, thankfully to a very mild degree.
- Malaproper: Inspector Grim. He once described a suspect as being "as slippery as an owl".
- Military Alphabet: Subverted when it turns out to be requests for drinks from a pizza place. "Tango. Tango. Lilt and a Fanta."
- Mistaken for an Imposter: After a succession of student pranks for Rag Week, Inspector Fowler single-handedly arrests (and insults) a group of armed, masked bank robbers, assuming it's another joke.
- Mistaken for Gay: Constable Goody suffers badly from this trope. His speech, his mannerisms, his hobbies (gladiators) and many of the things he says give off the distinct impression that he's as gay as Christmas wrapper paper. In fact, he only has one non-stereotypically-gay characteristic: He lusts after women.
- Mistaken for Racist: When the Mayoress orders Raymond to arrest an illegal immigrant, she forgets to give him a description of what the man looks like, so he and his officers just arrest the man who opened the door. Unfortunately, he not only isn't the illegal alien, he's also black and the European Commissioner for Human Rights. Learning of the man's real identity, Raymond is horrified: "A Frenchman? In my station?!"
- Mixed Metaphor: Something Inspector Grim is good at in. For example in the episode "Night Shift", he informs everyone that he is looking for:
A fat cat, spinning his web with his tentacles in every pie.
- Ms. Fanservice: Habib in the episode "Honey Trap". Played for laughs, but at the same time quite a revelation given she is almost always otherwise seen in a conservative police uniform.
- My Biological Clock Is Ticking: Patricia Dawkins.
- Nepotism: One episode has Grim wanting to join a secret society called the "Todgers". He proudly rattles off a list of why he thinks they are better than the Freemasons, including better costumes and ceremonies — until Fowler chips in with "... and better nepotism."
- Noodle Incident: Several references are made to Gladstone's marriage, including his objecting at his own ceremony.
- Not What It Sounds Like: After Boyle sets Fowler straight (see Engineered Public Confession), the Mayoress comes in, looking for a plea bargain. The conversation, in which she demands that Raymond "give it [the plea bargain] to me" and his assurances that she'll be "more than satisfied" (with the loophole of Goody wearing an unofficial uniform during the bust) gets recorded over Patricia's morning workout.
- Oblivious Guilt Slinging: While talking about the teenager they picked up for "joy-riding" in "Night Shift", Goody rambles briefly about the trouble broken families lead to before remembering that Fowler is a divorced father.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: To be fair, Fowler's rigid adherence to proper procedure is rooted in a heartfelt belief in things like due process, rule of law, work ethics and other unglamourous but socially beneficial principles. He just has a tendency to take it a teensy bit too far at times....
- Odd Couple: Ironically, despite Fowler's page quote above, he has his own Odd Couple-style relationship with Grimm, the CID inspector. Fowler is the By-the-Book Cop Parody who acts like he's in Dixon Of Dock Green, Grimm is the Wannabe Cowboy Cop who thinks he's in The Sweeney.
- Old-Fashioned Copper
- Derek Grim acts the part with his loathing of modern "fannying about", but is mostly a wannabe, not to mention a buffoon.
- Fowler's an even more old-fashioned cop; he, however, is old-fashioned in the "Dixon of Dock Green" fashion.
- One Dialogue, Two Conversations: Twice, both involving Goody. The first is when Fowler accidentally gets the gift of lingerie he'd meant for Habib, and the second is when he tries to decide whether or not to go to an illegal lock-in.
- Only Sane Man: Although Fowler usually has his head screwed on straight enough, Habib's a lot more down-to-earth and self-aware.
- Or Are You Just Happy to See Me?: PC Maggie Habib is getting into character for an entrapment operation, and uses the line on PC Kevin Goody - a naive manchild type character with a crush on her. After collapsing in embarrassment, he replies that "Actually, it's a Curly-Wurly" (chocolate bar)
- Our Slogan Is Terrible: The town had the slogan "It's not as bad as you think".
- Playing a Tree: Inspector Fowler is a bit luckier: in the annual Peter Pan performance at Christmas, he always gets the part of the crocodile who swallowed a clock. Tick. Tock.
- He does, however, end up literally playing a tree in a training role-play exercise in another episode. A tree to which his fellow officers pretend to tie themselves in the role of militant environmentalists. He really gets into the role.
- Political Correctness Gone Mad: An episode parodied this, with Fowler ordered to get everyone at the station up to standard on political correctness. He makes a series of embarrassingly awful attempts to express enlightened views about race, gender and sexuality: "That would be the pot calling the kettle ... er ... African-American!" Even more absurd in that the series is set in Britain.
- Right Behind Me: In the episode "Fly on the Wall", the precinct is being filmed for a documentary on what usually happens at police stations. Inspector Fowler isn't keen on this at all, and thinking that he isn't being recorded, expresses to his officers what he really feels about the crew being there, not realizing in the middle of his rambling they've come up behind him, despite subtle hints from his fellow officers.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: One of the many ways Grim mangles the English language on.
- Sleeping with the Boss: Sergeant Dawkins is Inspector Fowler's live-in girlfriend. Given Fowler's outlook on his duties, however, this is not a major issue. At one point he offers Dawkins some advice, half now (as her senior officer) and half when he is on break (as her boyfriend, as he is not being paid to advise people as their boyfriends and so cannot do so during work hours.).
- Small Name, Big Ego: Derek Grim.
- Spy-Tux Reveal: Played with. Sergeant Patricia Dawkins falls for a radical environmentalist, only to find he's an MI-5 Agent Provocateur when he comes out of Inspector Fowler's office wearing a James Bond tuxedo.
- Strictly Formula
- Stripper/Cop Confusion: An episode had two officers investigate a man who had the curtains closed for a few days, causing neighbours to be worried about him. Since he was hiring prostitutes, he thought the police officer was one of them, and was better choice than the nurse.
- Sure, Let's Go with That: The episode "Honey Trap" featured Detective Inspector Derek Grim and Inspector Raymond Fowler using Constable Maggie Habib as a Honey Trap to capture a criminal. Fowler's girlfriend, Sergeant Patricia Dawkins, thought he and Maggie were having an affair. In retaliation, Dawkins broke something valuable to Fowler, who claimed it represented all the values he stands for. She then replied he doesn't stand for any and mentions knowing what he and Maggie are doing. Wrongly believing she figured out about the Honey Trap, he comments about it, revealing to her the truth. She then let him think he was right, and he tells her he agrees with her reaction.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Kray was replaced with Boyle for series two. The general opinion is that Boyle was a lot funnier.
- Take Me Instead: The episode "Fire and Terror" ends with a double Take Me Instead, the second instance throwing Gary the gay fireman out of the closet.
Lunatic: I'm armed, and I'm dangerous, and I'm gonna take a hostage
Habib: Take me!
Goody: No Maggie! You’re too beautiful to die! Take me!
Gary: No Kev! You’re too beautiful to die! Take me!
- Take That:
- "There's a place for fatuous flippant would-be humorous inanities, and that place is on Noels House Party."
- "There is a place for smutty innuendo, Constable Kray, and that place is on Birds of a Feather."
- Talking in Bed
- Terrible Interviewees Montage: In the episode "Honey Trap", Inspector Fowler attempts to find someone who can replace Constable Habib in the upcoming trivia contest. He resorts to the perps in the detention room. Fat chance.
- That Came Out Wrong:
- Thirty Minutes or It's Free: Inspector Fowler says this while pretending to be a pizza delivery boy so he can gain access to a bank where robbers are holding people hostage.
- Title Drop: In the very first episode of.
Fowler: In the grand order of life there are but two forces: those of order, and those of chaos. And between them there lies us, the thin blue line.
(Goody immediately points out that that means three forces.)
- Token Minority: Habib (Asian and Muslim) and Gladstone (black Caribbean). Of course, this is modern day London, so an ethnically diverse workplace makes sense.
- Triang Relations: An episode uses this plot:
Habib: So you're telling me that Kevin fancies me, I fancy you, and you fancy Kevin?
- We All Live in America: Inspector Fowler, chief of a British Police station, attempts to teach his men the importance or political correctness, and at one point utters, "That would be the pot calling the kettle... errr, African-American." Almost certainly intentional, to show how over the top he is being. "Black" isn't even considered offensive in the UK when applied to people of African descent, isn't offensive anywhere when used as a purely descriptive adjective to describe the colour of an object, and the correct term if he was being really careful would be "Afro-Caribbean" (since fallen out of use because most British black people now either think of themselves as completely British or skipped the "Caribbean" part).
- We Should Get Another Tape: In one episode, Inspector Fowler attempts to record Inspector Grim confessing to planting evidence, but when he triumphantly plays back the cassette, all they hear is his girlfriend's work-out routine. Boyle, Grim's crony, points out that Fowler needed to push down "play" and "record" for it to work. At the end of the episode, as Patricia does her work-out, she hears what was recorded afterwards: the mayoress apparently propositioning Fowler.
- Wiki Walk: Constable Frank Gladstone is a master of this, often omitting the intervening steps and just announcing his seemingly random conclusions to his perplexed comrades. For example: His theory behind rampant graffiti?...Fridge magnets and the parents who use them to put their toddler's childish drawings on the fridge as adorable mementos, which causes the now teen kids to use graffiti as a method of gaining that familiar adoration from standing around the fridge.
- Women Are Wiser: Habib, and to a lesser extent Patricia, are more sensible and less often the butt of jokes than the male characters.
- Yaoi Fangirl: Constable Maggie Habib is very keen on the homoerotic aspects of football and in one episode speculates on the relationship between both Biggles and Ginger and Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson ("sometimes there's months between cases - what do they do then?"). The somewhat old-fashioned Fowler is horrified ("They chat! They smoke their pipes!").