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Series / Shoestring

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Shoestring was a British Detective Drama that ran for 21 episodes in 1979 and 1980.

Eddie Shoestring (Trevor Eve) is a former computer programmer who became a private detective after suffering a nervous breakdown. After investigating a potential scandal involving the then-fictional Radio West, Eddie is offered a job as the station's "private ear," presenting a weekly radio show and investigating cases for callers free of charge.

Shoestring contains examples of:

  • Accidental Kidnapping: In "Stamp Duty," two henchmen kidnap Eddie, thinking he witnessed one of their crimes. When they realize they have the wrong man, they force him to drink whiskey, then dump him onto a motorway, where he staggers around drunkenly dodging cars.
  • Accidental Misnaming: Eddie's been called everything from "Bootlace" to "Tieclip."
  • Actually, That's My Assistant: In "The Farmer Had a Wife," Eddie is visiting a doctor's practice. When he asks a woman gardening out front where Dr. Wilson is, she introduces herself to him as Dr. Claire Wilson.
  • All There in the Manual: According to the script for the unproduced movie, Sonia the receptionist's full name is Sonia Price.
  • Amoral Afrikaner: Jan Poesma from "An Uncertain Circle" is the leader of an international heroin ring.
  • And Starring: "Starring Trevor Eve with Michael Medwin, Doran Godwin, Liz Crowther."
  • Ascended Fanboy: Eddie read massive amounts of detective fiction during his stay in the mental hospital.
  • Badass Longcoat: Eddie's boss, Don Satchley, tries to invoke this trope by having him pose in a trench coat and fedora for publicity photos.
    Eddie: No hat. It doesn't even fit!
    Don: Yes, the hat. It's the Sam Spade image!
  • Break-Up Bonfire: In "The Farmer Had a Wife," the titular watercress farmer burns his wife's clothes and belongings months after she leaves him. Eddie isn't pleased, since he's investigating her disappearance and wanted to look through her things.
  • British Brevity: The show ran for two series and only 21 episodes.
  • …But He Sounds Handsome: Inverted in "The Partnership." A butcher asks Eddie if he's "that man on the radio." Eddie answers, "You mean that guy with the funny name? Can't stand him."
  • Buzzing the Deck: At the beginning of "Where Was I?" a helicopter chases a man across a moor, only leaving him alone after he flags down a pickup truck.
  • Character Tics: Eddie doodles when he's nervous or concentrating. He also rubs his fingers together, wrings his hands, and plays with anything he happens to be holding, including his tie.
  • Christmas Episode: The very last episode, "The Dangerous Game," is set during the Christmas season and involves the search for a batch of miswired toys that explode when they're turned on.
  • City with No Name: The show was filmed in Bristol, but the city is never mentioned by name.
  • Cope by Creating: Eddie doodles caricatures of the people he's talking to to manage stress. When he's dragged onto an abandoned train car in the first episode, he draws in the dust on the window.
  • Criminal Mind Games: In "Mocking Bird," a mugger calls Radio West after each attack to leave taunting messages about Eddie's inability to catch him.
  • Crying Wolf: In "Stamp Duty," Eddie's acquaintance from the psychiatric ward calls the station, saying he witnessed a murder. Eddie doesn't believe him, since he's a pathological liar who makes up a different crime every week, even though he's telling the truth this time.
  • Cry into Chest: A woman sobs into Eddie's chest after he tells her that her husband has been exonerated of murder.
  • Dating Service Disaster: Erica signs up for a video dating service to help Eddie find a man who went missing during a date. She doesn't find the man's video, although she does find a man who insists that anyone he dates be a Pisces with Libra rising ("My last was Scorpio with Virgo rising. Totally unsuitable. Totally.") and a germaphobe who wants his girlfriend to clean under the refrigerator every morning.
  • Diegetic Soundtrack Usage: The first few seconds of the theme song are used as a Radio West jingle, played at the beginning of things like news reports.
  • Easy Amnesia: Keith Amery from "Where Was I?" falls and hits his head on a rock. He isn't knocked out and starts running again almost immediately, but it's enough to give him total retrograde amnesia. He gets his memory back on time for the climax.
  • Evil Debt Collector: Mrs Walsh and Mr Parker from "Utmost Good Faith" are willing to use intimidation, threats, lies, and even destruction of property.
  • Expecting Someone Taller: A receptionist who recognizes Eddie in "Utmost Good Faith" says, "Funny, you're not as tall as I expected."
  • Eye Scream: At the beginning of "The Dangerous Game," a boy receives an electric racing game as an early Christmas present. When he tries to play with it, it explodes, propelling a piece of plastic into his left eye and almost blinding it.
  • Flashback Stares: When Eddie visits his old workplace in "Room With A View," he stares at one of the computers for a long moment, with close-ups of both his face and the machine, before one of his former coworkers startles him out of it.
  • Flower-Pot Drop: In "Nine Tenths of the Law," a girl Eddie is looking for climbs a tree and drops a flowerpot on his head, knocking him out long enough for her father to steal his car keys.
  • Follow That Car: Eddie does this in "The Partnership." The driver says, "Where do you think you are, The Streets of San Francisco?" He goes along with it, although he complains the whole time.
  • Freak Out: Eddie "blew a fuse," smashed up a roomful of computers with a hammer, and spent some time in a mental institution before he took up detective work.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Over the course of the show, Eddie is harassed by three different Radio West lawyers: Alan Bridgeman, Alan Cording, and Maurice Gilray. In "The Mayfly Dance," a sign can be glimpsed outside Gilray's office that says "Cording Gilray and Bridgeman Solicitors."
  • Friends with Benefits: Eddie and his landlady, Erica Bayliss.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: In "The Teddy Bears' Nightmare," Eddie tries to return a stolen handbag to its rightful owner. She tells him it can't be hers because she gave the handbag she bought to her mother, who would have told her if it was stolen. Eddie replies, "I didn't say it was stolen."
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Lettie Ross from "Room With A View" is a former music hall star who shows Eddie some pictures of herself in her prime.
  • Janitor Impersonation Infiltration: In "Looking for Mr Wright," Eddie pretends to be a computer technician so he can access a dating agency's files.
  • Man on Fire: In "An Uncertain Circle," Eddie is trapped in a burning beach house. With his clothes on fire, he escapes through a window, runs across the beach, and jumps into the ocean.
  • Meaningful Name: Eddie Shoestring is usually broke.
  • Mustache Vandalism: In "Listen to Me," Eddie hears that a rapist and murderer had a mustache and glasses. He draws a mustache and glasses onto a police sketch in the newspaper.
  • Performance Anxiety: Eddie has an attack of nerves on his first day. He stammers through much of his first broadcast, and even giggles at one point.
  • Photographic Memory: The reason Eddie doesn't need to take pictures.
  • Recorded Spliced Conversation:
    • The villain of "Mocking Bird" splices together snippets from Eddie's show to leave a message asking Erica to meet him at Eddie's boat. Eddie hears the message and rushes to the scene; he arrives too late to stop her from being attacked, although she isn't seriously injured.
    • In "The Mayfly Dance," a character splices together pieces of an old interview tape by a vanished pop star to make it seem like he talked to the pop star recently.
  • Recurring Riff: Most of the background music is either variations on the theme tune or stock background music that can be heard in other programs.
  • Roman à Clef: In-universe example. Eddie changes everyone's names in his weekly broadcasts, although the details he provides are sometimes still enough to get him in trouble with lawyers.
  • Scam Religion: The Starshiners from "I'm a Believer" buy run-down houses, renovate them for free, and sell them. Their founder tells them that the money will go towards spreading the religion, when it's actually being spent on his mansion.
  • Shame If Something Happened: In "Utmost Good Faith," two shady debt collectors are trying to get a woman to sign a voluntary requisition form.
    Mr Parker: People get a bit upset, having to hand their possessions over. They even smash them up sometimes.
    Mrs Walsh: I ought to warn you, Mrs Reynolds, that malicious damaged to hard-purchased property is an offence.
    Mr Parker: Yeah. You can end up doing time for that.
    Mary Reynolds: I assure you, I have no intention of damaging my property.
    Mr Parker: Oh, you may not, darling. [smashes her TV set]
  • Shirtless Scene: Eddie gets one in "An Uncertain Circle" while he's being treated for burns.
  • Shout-Out: Chris Boucher wrote "The Dangerous Game", which mentions Doctor Who and Blake's 7, episodes of which were also by him.
  • Slow Clap: Eddie tries one while attending a university lecture in "The Farmer Had a Wife." After the lecture ends, he claps four times, then stops when nobody else joins in.
  • Special Guest: Toyah Willcox guest stars in "Find the Lady" as New Wave singer Toola.
  • Stab the Salad: In "Room With A View," an old woman thinks she sees one man stabbing another through the neighbor's window. It turns out the "victim" had hanged himself, and the other man was cutting him down.
  • Talking in Your Sleep: In "Knock for Knock," a woman can't remember anything about the car accident that widowed her, until she's put under anesthesia at the dentist's office, when she starts muttering about what she saw during the accident.
  • The Tape Knew You Would Say That: In "The Mayfly Dance," a DJ explains that this is standard practice for radio interviews: the interviewee records his answers ahead of time and sends the tape to the station. That way the interviewer can ask a question and then play the tape, giving the appearance of a live interview.
  • Tap on the Head: Happens to Eddie a lot.
  • Victory Sex: In "The Partnership," Eddie and Erica are camped out in a hotel room when Eddie receives a phone call letting him know that his plan to trick burglars into robbing their flat has worked, and the criminals have been arrested. Eddie rolls towards Erica and says, "I want to celebrate." Fade to Black.
  • The X of Y: Eddie's show is called "The Private Ear of Eddie Shoestring."
  • Your Costume Needs Work: In "The Teddy Bears' Nightmare," Eddie introduces himself to a sceptical shop assistant, who says, "You're wasting your time. You don't even sound like him." After Eddie proves his identity by playing a trailer for his show, he says, "It doesn't sound much like me, does it?"