''Z Cars'' is a British PoliceProcedural series that ran for nearly 800 episodes from 1962 to 1978. It broke new ground in realistic police drama, bridging the cozy CopShow ''Series/DixonOfDockGreen'' and the gritty ''Series/TheSweeney''. Also notable in that the early episodes were primarily acted and broadcast live rather than pre-recorded.

Recurring characters in the early years included Detective Chief Inspector Charlie Barlow (Stratford Johns), Detective Sergeant John Watt (Frank Windsor), PC "Fancy" Smith (Creator/BrianBlessed), PC Jock Weir (Joseph Brady) and PC Bert Lynch (James Ellis).

In 1967, after a year in hiatus (during which Johns and Windsor moved on to star in the spin-off ''Series/SoftlySoftly''), ''Z Cars'' was relaunched with a new format and an almost completely new cast. The only characters to make the transition were Constables Weir and Lynch; Weir left a few years later, but Lynch remained a regular character to the end.

The title of the series refers to the radio callsigns used by police patrol vehicles in the series.

''Z Cars'' had numerous spin-offs, all featuring Charlie Barlow, and many teaming him with John Watt.

No relation to Music/ZZTop or the CoolCar from their videos. Nor is it any relation to the sports car made by Nissan.

!!''Z Cars'' provides examples of:

* BackForTheFinale: Charlie Barlow returned to the series after years away for the series finale, which also featured guest appearances by several members of the original cast [[YouLookFamiliar playing new characters]].
* CowboyCop: "Fancy" Smith.
* DarkerAndEdgier: Mild by modern standards, but it was viewed as incredibly gritty compared to ''Series/DixonOfDockGreen''. There was particular shocked reaction to a scene in the first episode, which has a cop in a car calling a man in the street over... to ask him if he knows the result of a horse race the cop had put a bet on.
* DomesticAbuse: Once shown as a problem even good coppers are prone to.
* LeadPoliceDetective: DCI Barlow.
* NoCommunitiesWereHarmed: Newtown is Kirkby; the nearby city of Seaport is Liverpool.
* OopNorth: Set in the Lancashire/Merseyside area.
* PoliceProcedural
* {{Retool}}: Following a year in hiatus, the series was relaunched in 1967, with a new format and an almost completely new cast.