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Series / London's Burning

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A long-running British drama series about the London Fire Brigade which aired on ITV from 1988 to 2002. It began with a one-off 1986 TV Movie written by Jack Rosenthal (of Coronation Street, That Was the Week That Was and Spend Spend Spend fame) and fourteen series followed. It was typically broadcast in hour long episodes at 9pm on Sunday nights.

London's Burning centres around the Blue Watch firefighters stationed at the (fictional) Blackwall station in south east London.note  Intended to accurately showcase the work of firefighters, each episode would feature at least one "shout" (emergency), which varied from huge blazes and road accidents to cats stuck in trees. The show's peak is generally considered to be series 1-9, when the emphasis was on the camaraderie between the group, black comedy and drama, and spectacular stunts and pyrotechnics. It had an Ensemble Cast which changed over time.

London's Burning was very popular at its peak in the early to mid 1990s, attracting television audiences of over 16 million. Its appeal steadily waned as popular characters left (and, frequently, were killed off), the show's iconic theme tune was changed and it adopted more soap opera-esque plots, with greater emphasis on the firefighters' personal lives and less action and drama.

Tropes seen in London's Burning include:

  • Accidental Murder: Frank Mooney beats up a man who owes money to a local gangland boss. The man later dies of his injuries.
  • Acronym and Abbreviation Overload: ADO, DO, ACO, BA, EVAC, ALP, FRU, FIT, DSU and RTA are all used often. Though it is all authentic Fire Brigade jargon.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Vaseline, despite being a serial liar and philanderer, he nevertheless manages to chat up a lot of women, besides his three wives. Frank Mooney seduces both Sally Fields and Shauna Callaghan.
  • Alliterative Name: George Green.
  • Amusing Injuries:
    • Blue Watch get called to release a "trapped" man: he actually has a curtain ring stuck on his genitals.
    Tate: A curtain ring? How'd you get a curtain ring stuck on your w-?! Get Bayleaf!
    • After robbing a young yuppie, two burglars decide to cement him into his toilet, naked.
  • Anyone Can Die: Established early on when Ethnic died in the pilot episode and when Vaseline died in series 2. Exaggerated in later series, when members of Blue Watch go down like flies: John Hallam in series 9, Nick Georgiadis in series 11, Sicknote and Joe Walker in series 12, and Recall in series 14
  • Attempted Rape: A man attempts to rape Josie after talking his way into her flat, but she manages to fight him off. When she spots him a shop a while later she causes a scene and gets him arrested.
  • The Baby Trap: George hastily marries Kelly when he learns she is pregnant. Then he finds out she isn't.
  • Bait-and-Switch Tyrant: Nick Georgiadis. He initially comes across as a relentless by-the-book leader and something of a Smug Snake, but quickly proves to be a compassionate man with a sense of humour.
  • Benevolent Boss: ACO Bulstrode. Though he does snap when his Berserk Button is pushed, he has a sense of humour and sometimes joins in with Blue Watch's practical jokes. He also sides with Tate in his feud with Scase.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Don't refer to Nick by his nickname. Kevin learns this the hard way.
    • George's obnoxious brothers-in-law are this for him. He ended up flooring both of them at his wedding.
    • The normally placid Pearce completely flips when he finds Patty's sister emptying his house.
  • Big Disaster Plot: Most season finales had some sort of huge, elaborate, use-up-the-leftover-SFX-budget disaster involving ten or more fire appliances and often some sort of cliffhanger. Examples include a Ferris Wheel at a fairground collapsing, a stolen car slamming into a tanker-truck full of petrol, a fire at a yard full of exploding propane cylinders and a literal train wreck. Subverted at the end of Season 9, when the show pulled a Bait-and-Switch by sending Blue Watch out to a classic example of this sort of thing (a fire at a hospital), only for the actual disaster to be something else entirely: An oncoming vehicle forces both engines to swerve, sending them off the road and down an embankment.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Pitbull serves up viande chevaline in a cookery contest. Unfortunately, none of them knows any French, so they all happily eat it. Coleman, who does speak some French, tells them it is horse meat.
  • Bottle Episode: An early episode in which Blue Watch are taken hostage at Blackwall by two men and a woman. They spend the remainder of the episode stuck in the station.
  • Bowdlerise: Repeat episodes were heavily edited when they were broadcast on weekday afternoons on the London Live channel.
  • Britain Is Only London: Though set in London, many members of Blue Watch are not Londoners. Sally Fields, John Coleman, Mick Callaghan, Carol Webb and Greg Blake are all from Oop North. Geoff Pearce is from the West Country and Kate Stevens is from Nottingham.
  • British Brevity: Averted. The series ran for 14 years and 171 episodes.
  • The Bus Came Back:
    • After leaving Blue Watch off-screen after the end of Series 2, Charisma returned to Blue Watch in Series 7, appeared for five episodes, then left again.
    • Josie officially left Blue Watch during the first episode of Series 3 and was seen in the second episode of Series 3 as she settled into her new station, but she returned for another brief appearance in the final episode of Series 3 for Sidney Tate’s retirement party, as well as appearing in the last two episodes of Series 4 for the 20 pump warehouse fire.
    • Bayleaf and Kevin both left Blackwall at the end of Series 8, but each returned for a guest appearance later on to mark a special occasion (Bayleaf in Series 9 for John Hallam’s funeral and Kevin in Series 12 for Geoff Pearce’s wedding).
  • Car Meets House: This happens when Vaseline, moonlighting as a minicab driver, gets distracted by the couple making out in the back seat (in the 1988 episode Ding Dong Merrily).
  • Cartwright Curse: Kevin Medhurst is perennially unlucky in love.
  • The Casanova: Vaseline is a serial philanderer who has been married three times and has scores of mistresses.
  • Catchphrase: John Hallam's "I'm impressed".
  • Cat Up a Tree: This doesn't happen very often for a series about the fire brigade, although Blue Watch do encounter variants like a cat under the floorboards and a gerbil stuck in a trumpet.
  • Characterization Marches On: In the TV film Sicknote is a malingerer, faking illness to do as little work as possible. During the series it is established that although he is a hypochondriac, worrying and complaining about imaginary illnesses, Sicknote is nevertheless a dedicated member of the team.
    • Geoff Pearce gets a fair amount over the course of the series. He starts out as a ProfessionalButtKisser with NoSenseOfHumour and almost No Social Skills; but by the penultimate season, despite still being pompous, pedantic and humourless at times, he has gained considerably more respect from the Watch, and has also ended up Happily Married and with a baby daughter.
  • Christmas Episode: Ding Dong Merrily.
  • Chronically Crashed Car: Blue Watch get through a lot of fire engines. One is turned over in a traffic collision, one is crashed by Bayleaf when he swerves to avoid a motorcycle, one is hit by a gas cylinder, one smashes into a truck and another veers off the road and rolls down an embankment.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome:
    • Kenny “Rambo” Baines, Carol Webb, Gregg Blake, John Coleman, Hi Ho, Hyper, Pitbull and station cook Maggie all disappeared without any explanation.
    • The Hallams and the Quigleys had children in early series, who were never seen or mentioned in later episodes.
  • Cliffhanger: The final episode of series 9, when the two pumps crash.
  • Code Name: Blackwall's pumps use the code names Echo 441 and Echo 442.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Sidney Tate gets a few mentions. He even appears in an old black and white photograph in Bulstrode's office in a series seven episode.
    • After Ethnic died in the pilot episode, he was mentioned by Bayleaf in the third episode of Series 3. After Colin rashly gives chase to a fleeing criminal, Bayleaf warns him that he will "end up like Ethnic".
    • After he died in Series 2, Vaseline was frequently referred to in Series 3, 4 and 5 because his wife was still appearing then. His final mention was in series 8, where Kevin simply refers to him as "a mate of mine."
    • Geoff Pearce shows Hi-Ho a monument to firemen who died in the line of duty, and the graves of John Hallam, Joe Walker and Sicknote.
  • Crapsack World: For a small area of London, Blue Watch encounter a vast number of deaths, infernos, explosions and traffic pile-ups.
  • Crappy Holidays: Like most firefighters, Station Officer Tate is not a fan of Guy Fawkes Night, as the viewer learns at the start of a Very Special Episode that takes place on November the 5th. By the time the credits are rolling it's hard not to feel he has a point: it's a spectacularly busy night even by Blackwall's standards.
  • Cut Himself Shaving: George appears at work sporting a black eye and numerous cuts and bruises from a fight.
  • Dangerous Workplace: Seven members of Blue Watch die over the course of the series, well above the typical casualty rate in British fire bridades, and several others are incapacitated. Then there's all the members of the public who die in fires and other accidents in the Blackwall area: they must have the laziest Health and Safety Executive branch office in the country. Jack Morgan's alleged reputation as a Doom Magnet had to be dropped as a character trait after his introductory episode, because who'd even notice the difference?
  • Deadpan Snarker: John Hallam, Geoff Pearce and Jack Morgan among others. Sicknote's wife Jean was also a notable one.
  • Death by Ambulance: Played for Drama in season 6 after a collision between a fire engine and a car that left one civilian badly injured and resulted in Bayleaf facing serious criminal charges. He's ultimately acquitted.
  • Death Glare: Jack Morgan's first encounter with Pitbull. The former says nothing, but somehow his expression can make even Pitbull quail.
  • Death of a Child: Numerous children are killed over the course of the series.
  • Delivery Guy: Pearce does it twice.
  • Desk Jockey:
    • Scase.
    • Subverted with Bulstrode, who is still an old fashioned fireman at heart and has no time for real desk jockeys like Scase.
    • Tate hated the idea of becoming one so much that he never tried for promotion beyond Station Officer.
  • Downer Ending: Several episodes use this trope, notably when Ethnic is killed by rioters at the end of the pilot movie, Malcolm's girlfriend is killed in a fire, and the watch learn of John Hallam's death.
  • Dream Sequence:
    • Bayleaf dreams about being hit by a falling manhole cover. This also acts as a Tomato Surprise, as the trope is rarely employed in the show.
    • George dreams about seeing Hallam on the night he dies.
  • Dumb Blonde: Dozy Rosie the station cleaner.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: In the movie:
    • Malcolm has a wife, who was never mentioned in the series.
    • Sicknote is portrayed as a shirker, using his ailments to avoid doing any work. While he was still a complainer and hypochondriac in later episodes, this aspect of his character was dropped.
    • As well as the eight watch members that became regulars in the series (Tate, Hallam, Malcolm, Josie, Bayleaf, Charisma, Vaseline and Sicknote), the pilot episode also showed two firefighters in the watch who did not appear in the series: Ethnic (who was killed in a riot at the end of the episode) and Rambo (whose actor was unavailable for filming in the first series and whose absence was never explained or even mentioned). There were also another three firefighters in the first series who did not appear in the pilot episode (George Green, Tony Sanderson and Kevin Medhurst).
  • Earn Your Title: Many members of the watch have a nickname:
    • Bayleaf, because he's the mess manager and main cook.
    • Charisma, because he has no charisma.
    • Gracie, because her surname is Fields.
    • Hi Ho, because his surname is Silver.
    • Poison, because he and his wife cause trouble with their gossiping and stirring.
    • Recall, because he has a great memory.
    • Sicknote, because he's always ill.
    • Skippy, because he's Australian
    • Vaseline, because he's a slippery womanizer.
    • Zorba, because of his Greek ancestry.
    • Ethnic, because he is the first black firefighter in the watch.
    • Rambo, because he fancies himself the action man of the watch.
  • Elevator Failure: Lift rescues are a regular job for Blue Watch. In one episode, the firemen themselves are taking the remaining, still functional lift up to the top floor to get at the winch-house on the roof when it packs up as well and they too have to be rescued.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Roland Cartwright.
  • Emergency Services: London's Burning was one of a trio of long-running British emergency services dramas that started in the 1980s, along with The Bill and CASUAL+Y.
  • Ensemble Cast
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Pitbull, of all people, is disgusted when he finds out that his Sub Officer has raped Sally Fields; and even offers a (vague) apology to Sally for not initially believing her story.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: In the space of a few episodes, Billy Ray is arrested for murder, charged, put on trial, acquitted and back on duty.
  • Eyebrows Burned Off: This happens to Hallam in the Christmas episode "Ding Dong Merrily" when his elderly father-in-law drenches the Christmas pudding with too much brandy. Becomes a Brick Joke in the episode and results in everyone at the station singing "Ding dong merrily on high, the Sub has got no eyebrows!"
  • False Teeth Tomfoolery: Blue Watch steal the dentures of a rival watch's Station Officer, in retaliation for their garden gnome mascot being kidnapped.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: Many. People are burned, drowned and killed in car accidents, a window cleaner is impaled on railings and an elderly woman is decapitated. Special mention must go to a boy who suffers a gruesome death while riding the lifts.
  • Faux Symbolism: In Station Officer Tate’s final appearance, Blue Watch receive newly issued helmets with plexiglass shield visors replacing the old cork helmets that they have worn for the first three series with Tate; they wear the new helmets from that point on right up until the eighth episode of Series 11 — which coincidentally marks the final appearance of Tate’s successor, Nick Georgiadis.
  • Firemen Are Hot:
    • Averted until around series 10, since most of the firefighters seen are just ordinary (and ordinary-looking) men and women, reflecting the show's docu-drama feel.
    • Played straight in the last few series, when Blue Watch is largely made up of younger, attractive actors (e.g. Sally, Dan, Joe, Hi-Ho, Adam, Craig), and there are noticeably more scenes of shirtless firefighters in the locker room.
  • Foreshadowing: Employed frequently and usually ominous. A group of men working on a building site, a child playing with matches, two kids riding the lifts, are a sure sign that something bad is about to happen.
  • Gas-Cylinder Rocket: Comes up fairly often as a hazard in building or vehicle fires. The season 7 finale featured about fifty of them going off like bottle rockets during a fire in a builder's yard, one of which scores a direct hit on a fire engine.
  • Ghost Extras: Often serving members of the London Fire Brigade.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Some of Blue Watch's more gruesome shouts are left to the audience's imagination. We never see what happened to the boy who was decapitated by a counterweight while lift surfing. This was followed by a Vomit Discretion Shot when Kevin found the boy's remains at the bottom of the lift shaft.
  • Happily Married: A running theme is that many of the characters are not happily married, mainly because of the strains of the job. Vaseline was divorced twice, and Josie, Bayleaf, Tony, Recall and Pearce eventually separate from their spouses. John Hallam and Sandra also have their problems. Played straighter with Bayleaf's second marriage to Claire, Nancy and Sidney Tate, and Sicknote and Jean, who stick together despite occasional marital troubles. As Josie remarks in the pilot episode: “Show me one fireman’s wife who hasn’t [done a bunk]!”
  • Henpecked Husband: John Hallam. Pearce is also one to Patti.
  • Heroic Fire Rescue: Lots of them. Occasionally deconstructed when people who aren't firefighters attempt this trope, such as when a panicked homeowner runs into a burning house looking for his daughter, only to be overcome by smoke and forcing the BA crews to rescue him as well.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • Ethnic, who is killed by rioters after saving Charisma's life.
    • John Hallam, who falls to his death while trying to save a group of young women in a burning building.
    • Nick Georgiadis, who is crushed when a roof collapses on him, moments after pushing his son and girlfriend out of the way.
  • Hollywood Satanism: Geoff and Sicknote encounter a group of Satanists when they are called out to a cemetery.
  • Hostage Situation: Happens in series 1, when a trio of armed robbers hold the whole of Blue Watch hostage at Blackwall. There is another much later on when Dan and Joe are held at gunpoint at the end of a shout.
  • Hypochondria: Sicknote, who is often fretting/moaning about ulcers, headaches, rashes and his bad back.
    Charisma: If he's not moving things about, he's grinding his teeth. If he's not grinding his teeth, he's worrying that he's getting another ulcer. If he's not worrying he's getting another ulcer, he's waking me up at three o'clock in the morning to tell me his heart's stopped!
    Sicknote: My heart did stop! It stopped for several seconds, I had to get out of bed and run on the spot to get it going again! I think that's what's given me this rash!
  • Hypocrite: One one occasion when Pearce rants against his fellow Watch members when they ask about the whereabouts of his wife. It's a bit of an emotional one for Pearce himself (he and his wife are separated and in the process of getting divorced), but still, given the man's own history of unpleasantness to the others, spreading gossip and prying into their lives...:
    "There's none of you got anything to be proud about, y'know! Your lives are a shambles! When you're not screwing around, you're rowing and arguing - you've got the morals of a bunch of savages! So how dare you question me about my private life?! At least I try to be respectable, mind my own business and do my job!...What have you got against me, eh? Eh? What've I ever done to you? From the moment I walked into this place, I've been made to feel unwelcome here! 'Watch out, here comes Poison' - what's that supposed to mean, eh?"
  • Jerkass: Pearce, Scase, Pitbull, Technique. Also Patti Pearce.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Vaseline, after being a racist and sexist bigot in the movie and a womanizing rogue for the first two series, shows a warm, paternal side when babysitting his newborn son which makes his death later in the same episode even sadder.
    • Jack Morgan is short-tempered and moody, often to the point of defying orders from senior officers, but he is also a very caring and loving father to his 11-year-old son Stephen. He also has a Dark and Troubled Past that makes his attitude understandable to some extent.
    • Geoff Pearce evolves in this direction across the later seasons. Although he largely remains strict and uptight on the job, he comes to show a more compassionate side. Notable occasions include consoling Sandra after her husband John's death, supporting Sally Fields after she is raped, and helping Hi-Ho overcome his doubts about staying a firefighter. See also Characterisation Marches On above.
  • Karma Houdini: Pitbull never truly gets his comeuppance for being a nasty bully and general Jerkass.
  • Killed Offscreen: Vaseline. He dives into a river to rescue someone and doesn't come up again. We learn from other characters that he died.
  • The Klutz: George. Amongst other mishaps, he accidentally burns down a burger van and destroys a grand piano.
  • Laxative Prank: A member of White Watch gives George a bottle of brandy spiked with horse laxatives, but the teetotal George gives it to Malcolm. In the end, Malcolm's love rival unwittingly drinks some, with predictable results.
  • Limited Advancement Opportunities:
    • Averted by a number of characters who earn promotion over the years, including Josie Ingham and Nick Georgiadis, whose promotions take them away from Blackwall.
    • Played straight with John Hallam, who never did get promoted beyond Sub Officer despite his best efforts. Justified by a story arc in which he's posted to another station as acting Station Officer and his attempts to stamp out the racist bullying of a black fireman by the rest of his watch backfire so badly that the poor bloke is nearly murdered. Unfairly or otherwise, this leaves a rather large black mark on his service record.
    • Subverted by Sidney Tate, who had the chance to be promoted to Station Commander (and acted up in the role), but preferred to return to being Station Officer at Blackwall.
  • Long-Runner Cast Turnover: Cast turnover in the first eight seasons was relatively limited. Five members of Blue Watch in series 1 (1988) survived to series 8 (1995) (Bayleaf, Hallam, George, Kevin, Sicknote). However, Blue Watch got 16 new members over the next six series and by series 14 George was the Sole Survivor from series 1.
  • Love Triangle: Sally, Dan and Joe, and Sally, Mick and Frank.
  • Male Frontal Nudity: Averted by a man who has his genitals trapped in a curtain ring.
  • Man on Fire: A lot of examples, including an angry husband who sets himself and his love rival on fire after dousing them both with petrol.
  • Misplaced Retribution: Bayleaf suffers this in Series 6 after crashing the pump ladder into a car. The accident was unavoidable, as he had to swerve to avoid a dangerously-driven motorbike, but he receives harassing phone calls from the relatives of those injured in the crash, and has to face a full court trial before being finally acquitted.
  • Mistaken for Racist: Averted by Pitbull, who really does make a racist comment to Two Tone.
  • Mr. Imagination: Charisma.
  • My Local: The SAS and the Ship Aground.
  • New Meat: Colin Parrish. Naive, gullible and error prone when he first joins, he often falls victim to Blue Watch's pranks. He does eventually distinguish himself and gets more savvy. Much later, Craig Ross fills the same role.
  • Nice Guy / Nice Girl: Plenty of characters. Standouts include Bayleaf, Recall, Maggie and Hyper.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Responsible for a high percentage of Blue Watch's shouts. Outstanding examples include a garment factory where Malcolm's Love Interest worked whose owner had padlocked all the fire exits for fear of burglars, a collapsed rental property in which an elderly woman was Buried Alive and Recall narrowly avoided getting electrocuted because some Crooked Contractor had bypassed the breaker box, and the spectacular season finale in which a small firm was permitted to store a couple of hundred propane cylinders right next to a residential neighbourhood...
  • Novelization: Series 1 to 7 were later novelized by writer John Burke.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: George has Kelly's overbearing mother and her two annoying brothers, who are also his Berserk Button. Then there's Colin's mum and how she treats poor Zoe...
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Scase and, later, Griggs.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: Josie and Bayleaf have one:
    Bayleaf: How did it go?
    Josie: How did what go?
    Bayleaf: The shout.
    Josie: Oh, we helped rescue some bird.
    Bayleaf: Oh, let me guess, broken love affair, right?
    Josie: What?
    Bayleaf: Well, nine times out of ten that's what it is, with birds.
    Josie: What are you talking about?
    Bayleaf: Women jumpers.
    Josie: This wasn't a woman, it was a bird, called Clive!
    Bayleaf: What? You mean like a transvestite?
    Josie: No, I mean like a parrot!
    Bayleaf: Can we start this conversation again?
  • One-Steve Limit: Played for Laughs with Vaseline's three wives, who are all called Marion. To his dismay a nurse he tries to chat up during a hospital stay is also called Marion.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Sicknote, Vaseline, Bayleaf, Charisma, Recall, etc. Nicknames are common in the real life Fire Brigade.
  • Parking Payback:
    • The Guy Fawkes Night special episode saw Blue Watch forced to shove an entire street's worth of badly-parked cars out of the way to get to a house fire. In Laser-Guided Karma, one of the more expensive vehicles that got its rear wing bashed in by the fire truck belonged to the obnoxious jerk whose carelessness with fireworks had started the fire in the first place.
    • A group of irate motorists take their revenge on a particularly zealous parking warden and clamp his car (and him).
  • Pilot Movie
  • Playing Sick: Technique does this constantly, and uses his time on sick leave to moonlight in other jobs. Eventually he gets caught and is thrown out of the Brigade.
  • Practical Joke: Lots of them, reflecting the Real Life penchant of firefighters for playing pranks on one another. Toilets filled with foam. Brandy spiked with horse laxatives. "Losing" a fire engine.
    • Colin was a regular target. Blue Watch successfully persuaded him that he needed permission from ACO Bulstrode to get married. He turned the tables on them by telling them the wrong honeymoon suite for his wedding night. They ended up gatecrashing the wrong couple.
  • Prematurely Bald: Sicknote. In one episode he buys a toupee and wears it at work, with amusing results.
  • Professional Butt-Kisser: Geoff Pearce. He's also a backstabber, a gossip and a stirrer. He's nicknamed Poison for a reason.
  • Psycho for Hire: When not fighting fires, Frank Mooney does a bit of debt collecting on the side.
  • Put on a Bus: Charisma, Tony, Kate, Billy, Jack and Dan all leave this way. In Charisma's case, The Bus Came Back.
  • Rape as Drama: Sally Fields is raped by another firefighter.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Billy Ray (played by John Alford) was written out of the show after Alford was caught selling drugs to an undercover tabloid reporter, for which he received a nine month prison sentence.
  • Really Gets Around: Sally Fields, who has relationships with Joe Walker, Dan Barrett and Frank Mooney, and almost has one with Mick Callaghan too.
  • Suddenly Shouting: Bulstrode tends to do this quite a bit. John Hallam also pulls this off, albeit to a lesser extent and with much less ferocity.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • Tate gives Scase a well-deserved talking-to during a shout at a building site on the Thames. Even more awesome because it results in Blue Watch saving two people that would otherwise have died.
    • Later, Scase is on the receiving end of another from ACO Bulstrode.
    Bulstrode: You could make a beehive look like a bunch of wandering hippies with your managerial mania!
  • Reassigned to Antarctica:
    • Scase is transferred away to the North East Area by Bulstrode after his fall out with Tate. Later, Bulstrode's successor demotes Scase and puts him in charge of the car park at Brigade HQ.
    • Carole felt this way when she found out she was to be transferred to Upham.
  • Red Alert: When the bells go down and Blue Watch are summoned to a "shout" (emergency).
  • Retcon: Bert and Jean Quigley had children, and then they didn't.
  • Retirony: A variant of this. Colin was all set for a transfer to the Stansted Airport fire brigade he badly wanted when an accident with a falling spotlight in the ballroom of a disused psychiatric hospital left him with a Career-Ending Injury.
  • Retool: Happened in series 11 (1998), when a new producer arrived, three new characters were introduced, including a sexy female firefighter, and the show got a new theme tune. It happened again in series 14 (2002), when five characters were axed, four new ones introduced and the show got another theme tune. By this point it was virtually unrecognizable from its heyday.
  • Ruritania: Blue Watch attend a fire at the Crajovan embassy.
  • Serenade Your Lover: George does this for Julia, with a little help from Sicknote.
  • Shout-Out: In Series 12, when Blue Watch are called to attend to some protesters stranded on HMS Belfast, the protesters start singing the theme song of Fireman Sam.
  • Shown Their Work: An effort was made to portray the Fire Brigade realistically, helped by the fact that they enjoyed the LFB's co-operation. A scene in which Blue Watch deal with a train derailment was so realistic that it was used by the Brigade as a training video.
  • Silly Song: Hallam has a few sung about him: "Ding dong merrily on high, the Sub has got no eyebrows!" (after his eyebrows are singed off at Christmas), and "Have you seen the y-front man?" and "There's lipstick all over my y-fronts!" (after his mate rubs lipstick over John's underpants for his wife to find)
  • The Smurfette Principle: There is only ever one female member of Blue Watch at any one time (although Josie, a former female Blue Watch member, does appear in scenes alongside Kate, a current female Blue Watch member, in the Series 3 finale and the last two episodes of Series 4). This reflects reality; currently, only 3.1% of operational firefighters in the UK are female. In 1986, when Josie Ingham first joined Blue Watch in the pilot movie, there were less than ten women in the London Fire Brigade.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: After Vaseline's death, Marion I is revealed to be pregnant.
  • Straight Gay: Hyper. Most of the watch are completely unsuspecting.
    George: How can he be gay? He likes football!
  • Stripper/Cop Confusion: Pearce, in all his fire gear, is mistaken for a stripper by a group of rowdy women at a hen party, who proceed to start peeling his clothes off. Inverted moments later when the real stripper arrives —dressed as a policeman— and Pearce mistakes him for a real policeman who has come to his aid.
  • Talking Down the Suicidal: A few members of Blue Watch have to do this, with varying amounds of success.
  • Team Dad:
    • Sidney Tate.
    • Sicknote took on this role to some extent during his last couple of years on the show.
  • Team Mom: Station cook Maggie Warboice would often offer motherly advice and compassion to the Watch members.
  • Television Geography: London's Burning was set in Blackwall, East London, but much of it was filmed in Bermondsey and Rotherhithe in South London. Real locations were used, such as Rotherhithe Street, Jamaica Road, and the Rotherhithe Tunnel Roundabout. Vaseline's death was filmed at the Greenland Dock in Rotherhithe, while the city farm that Sicknote campaigned to save was the Surrey Docks Farm in Rotherhithe. Blackwall fire station was actually the real life Dockhead fire station. Leyton fire station served as Blackwall's new station in series 13 and 14.
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted by John Hallam, who does see a therapist when he is traumatised after being buried alive on a shout.
  • Time Skip: The aftermath of the pump crash from the final episode of series 9 is never shown. The next episode begins three months later.
  • Title-Only Opening: From series 1-10. After series 11, the show got a Title Sequence.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Nick Georgiadis in series 9, likely compounded by John Hallam and Ariadne's deaths - he gradually becomes less sympathetic and more of a humourless disciplinarian throughout the rest of his tenure, culminating in his feud with Chris Hammond in series 11 (though his doubts about Hammond turn out to be not wholly unjustified).
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Many examples, notably a commuter at a tube station who climbs down onto the track to retrieve the contents of his briefcase. Guess what happens next.
    • Recall, who has been suffering chest pains, dashes into a burning building without breathing apparatus. He suffers a fatal heart attack moments later.
  • To the Batpole!: Or rather, the fire pole.
  • Welcome Episode: The 1986 pilot movie serves as this, with Josie as the new member.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Bayleaf and Josie (they spend one night in bed together, but take things no further); Jack and Carol they don't.
  • Women Are Delicate: Averted. All of Blue Watch's women are capable firefighters.
  • Written-In Absence: The absence of a character is sometimes explained in a line of dialogue, usually in the opening episode of a new series.
    Recall: Isn't it great? Kate gets transferred to Wimbledon, and we end up with Billy.