Atkinson plays the old-fashioned, repressed, but basically decent Police Inspector Raymond Fowler. His nemesis in the series was Detective Inspector Derek Grim (David Haig), a proto-Gene Hunt type but without the brains. The other regulars were all fellow police officers, including Fowler's long-term and long-suffering cohab girlfriend, Sergeant Patricia Dawkins (Serena Evans); elderly Constable Frank Gladstone (Rudolph Walker); junior constables Kevin Goody (James Dreyfus) and Maggie Habib (Mina Anwar); and Grim's henchman, Detective Constable Robert Kray (Kevin Allen), who was replaced in Series Two by Detective Constable Gary Boyle (Mark Addy).
The series was apparently modelled on the classic World War II-themed show Dad's Army, an ambitious target to live up to even without the inevitable Blackadder comparisons. The BBC's website sums up the show thusly: "Should've worked. Didn't."
Came thirty-fourth in Britain's Best Sitcom.
The Thin Blue Line provides examples of:
- 100% Adoration Rating: by Inspector Fowler at least, who is intensely loyal to the Queen, and mentions her in almost every episode. He orders a huge ornate crest with "ER" to hang above the front desk, which becomes known as "the er".Fowler: What in the devil's briefcase did you imagine E.R. stood for?Goody: 'Er in the palace?Fowler: Elizabeth Regina! It stands for Elizabeth Regina.Gladstone: I never knew that. I thought it stood for Extremely Royal.Habib: Has the Queen been reduced to senseless initials?Fowler: Don't be clever, Habib.
- Affectionate Nickname: Raymond calls Patricia "cabbage".note
- Against My Religion: In "Fire and Terror", a drunk stumbles into the station and gets sick in Fowler's hat. Fowler absentmindedly puts it on to meet a representative from Special Branch. When his superior asks why Fowler isn't taking his hat off in respect, he claims to be a Sikh who is forbidden to bare his head.
- And You Thought It Was a Game:
- Inverted in "Fire and Terror" when a serial hoaxer comes in and briefly convinces all the other cops he's armed with a gun; Fowler, who knows full well he's just a pest, walks right up to him, 'disarms' himnote and tells him to get lost.
- 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.
- 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.
- Bad "Bad Acting": In "Yuletide Spirit", Grim successfully auditions for the part of Captain Hook in the Gasforth Amateur Drama Society's Christmas pantomime, despite his disparagement of theatre when Fowler is pinning up an advertisement for auditions. The few times we see him rehearse his lines, he is comically terrible, with a delivery that ping-pongs back and forth between No Indoor Voice shouting and over the top camp, sometimes in the same sentence. Since David Haig, who plays Grim, is an Olivier Award-winning stage actor, this falls squarely under Stylistic Suck.
- Being Personal Isn't Professional: Inspector Fowler at times, in one instance pointing out that, as Dawkins 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.
- Brick Joke: When Patricia suspects Raymond of fancying the Mayoress:Patricia: (in Tranquil Fury) I'd advise you not to take off your bicycle helmet tonight.Later...Patricia: (sweetly) Take off your bicycle helmet. (Picks up rolling pin)
- 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.
- Captain Morgan Pose: Adopted by Brigadier Blaster Sump in "Kids Today", much to his audience's horror as he's wearing a kilt.
- Cat Up a Tree: In "Fire and Terror", just as Fowler is trying to persuade Grim that uniformed police officer work is just as important as detective work, Gladstone gets a phone call...Gladstone: (in trademark monotone) Gasforth police station... Oh dear. Well, have you tried calling the kitten's name?[Fowler looks chagrined at being Instantly Proven Wrong] Well, how about shaking the branch?... Well, how about putting a saucer of milk at the bottom of the tree?
- Chain of Corrections: During a discussion of the title object in "The Queen's Birthday Present":Goody: I don't want to buy the queen a present, sir, she's an antichrist.
Fowler: 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.
Fowler: No, no that is an arachnophobic.
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.
Fowler: 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.
- Christmas Episode: "Yuletide Spirit" is set on Christmas Eve. Grim has been cast as Captain Hook in the Gasforth Amateur Drama Society's Christmas pantomime (with Fowler as his understudy), Grim and Kray are trying to collar a gang of thieves who pose as carol singers, Goody's gifts for Habib (sexy lingerie) and Fowler (a puncture repair kit for his bicycle) get mixed up and Dawkins assumes the gift is for her (and heartily approves), and a homeless hippie goes into labour when she and her boyfriend show up at the station to protest the impoundment of their van.
- Construction Catcalls: Used in "Come on You Blues", where the woman is Sergeant Patricia Dawkins and winds up getting so irritated she arrests the lot of them for harassment.note
- Cordon Bleugh Chef: Patricia. She seems incapable of cooking anything properly, and the best that Raymond can say about her food is that it is "intriguing". In "Fire and Terror", Raymond compliments her on a lamb dish that she says was supposed to be chicken chasseur, while "Yuletide Spirit" opens with Raymond congratulating Patricia on a dish of ufs à la mayonnaise... with no eggs (she broke them all) and no mayonnaise (it had curdled), leaving what he calls the best plate of "à la" he's ever had.
- Cowboy Cop: Played for laughs; Inspector Grim wants to be this trope so bad, but it's not helped by either the fact that he works in a fairly quiet small town rather than the gritty streets of London or the fact that he's not particularly competent.
- Creator Cameo: Ben Elton appeared in the Christmas Special "Yuletide Spirit". In the first series the "WANTED" poster behind Fowler's desk in the briefing room is an E-FIT of Elton.
- Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: Patrica, to an armed bank robber.Patricia: If you hurt him, I'll shove that gun so far down your throat you'll be blowing bullets out of your backside!
- Deadpan Snarker: Kray deals with Grim's pomposity and idiocy by quietly snarking during his speeches, or by claiming to find his jokes funny while not so much as cracking a smile - all of which goes completely over Grim's head thanks to that same pomposity and idiocy.
- During a briefing on organised crime ("one word", according to Grim) in "Night Shift":Grim: Motors stolen in Gasforth are being driven across the Channel.
Kray: Blimey. You'd need a decent underseal. [chuckles]
Grim: Local delinquents nick the cars, then flog 'em on to Mr. Big. He's out there. Somewhere. A fat cat spinning his web with his tentacles in every pie.
Kray: Shouldn't be too difficult to spot, then.
- In "Kids Today", Grim is going undercover as a van driver with Kray and Crockett as "braindead juvenile morons". Grim laughs that he should have chosen "some of Fowler's lot" to play the latter roles, and repeats the joke just to be sure Kray understands it.Kray: Brilliant, sir. Try not to be too hilarious, I've only got one pair of these trousers.
- During a briefing on organised crime ("one word", according to Grim) in "Night Shift":
- Delivery Guy Infiltration: Inspector Fowler does this in "Rag Week" to get into a bank robbery that has turned into a hostage situation.
- Dirty Old Man: In one episode, the police get mistakenly called out to the home of an old man who's waiting for an agency escort. He lasciviously says he'd requested for her to be dressed as a nurse but he'll take Habib instead, adding "I'd love to have you both, but I can't afford two on my pension".
- The Ditz: Constable Goody gets the wrong end of every stick imaginable.Gladstone: [after yet another crass remark by Kray] You know, fellas that talk about it most do it least. I know - I talk about it all the time. And I haven't had any since the days of Harold Wilson.
Goody: [stunned] I never knew you had a gay relationship!
Gladstone: What are you talking about?
Goody: This bloke, Harold Wilson, you were having it with.
Gladstone: Kevin, he was the Prime Minister.
Goody: [puts both hands to his cheeks in amazement] Blimey! And you an ordinary copper, you did do well! [Gladstone looks put upon]
- 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".note
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.
- From "Yuletide Spirit", Fowler misty-eyed at the Christmas traditions the officers on the Yuletide shift must put off enjoying:Fowler: Not for us the last-minute present wrapping. Carols round the tree. Grandpa smoking his pipe, enjoying a good rough shag.note [Habib starts giggling]
Fowler: Not for us the simple pleasures of Christmas. Sherry, chestnuts... Father bringing home a fat bird and telling Mum to stuff it.note
Gladstone: [deadpan] Sounds like a right old rave-up at your house, sir.
- 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".note
- 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.
- Dramatic Unmask: In the episode "Rag Week", students are going around town wearing gorilla masks. Later, there is a bank robbery, with three gunmen wearing gorilla masks. Inspector Fowler believes them to be students having a laugh, and in the manner of a strict teacher, talks them into handing over their guns, before unmasking them, and discovering they were not who he thought they were.Grim: Well, you broke every rule in the book, Fowler. But I can't deny you ended the siege without bloodshed, it's pretty cool to talk round armed robbers like that.Fowler: Oh really, Grim, hasn't the penny dropped? Why under these silly masks, you'll find not hardened robbers, but beardless, spotty-faced students on a rag... (he rips off their masks, to reveal sour-looking bearded men)... er, three desperate villains, just as I thought.
- Edible Bludgeon: In "Kids Today", Patricia hits Raymond over the head with a large fish. Just before he faints, Raymond comments that it's a good thing they were not about to eat a leg of lamb.
- Engineered Public Confession: Parodied in "Court in the Act" where the chief admits to Raymond Fowler that he faked some evidence. Raymond then 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 Patricia, and she uses it for her workout at the end of the episode....
- Everyone Has Standards: Grim may be a fairly wretched person but when Boyle talks him into planting evidence to get a conviction in "Court in the Act", it causes him terrible guilt throughout the episode. When Fowler manages to get the case dismissed on a technicality Grim blusters a bit but then breaks down crying, thanks Fowler for stopping it and then declares "There's nothing lower than a bent copper."
- Expy: In keeping with Ben Elton's stated influence from Dad's Army, several of the characters and their relationships are clearly based on those from the earlier show:
- Fowler is Captain Mainwaring (the pompous leader who's a bit ineffectual);
- Patricia is a combination of Sgt. Wilson and Mrs. Pike (both the long-suffering junior officer / comedic foil and the overly romantic love interest with a tendency to embarrass her lover with her overtures);
- Habib is Private Walker (the savvy, snarky and competent Only Sane Man);
- Gladstone is Corporal Jones (the somewhat fuzzy-witted old-timer with easily-derailed thought processes and a tendency to ramble);
- Goody is Private Pike (the naive youngster with a tendency to irritate and embarrass the pompous leader);
- Grim is ARP Warden Hodges (the rival to the pompous leader who's equally pompous and ineffectual, but in an opposite sense).
- Firemen Are Hot: One of these appeared in an episode. 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 "Ism Ism Ism", 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 in "Night Shift" starts stripping, they return to the station and Habib tells Fowler Grim wants to see him. "Thank you, Constable Nipple," says a still shocked Fowler.
- God Save Us from the Queen!: The Mayor is the small-town version of this, a terrifying woman who wants to turn the town into "the sweatshop capital of Britain." On the other hand, Fowler at one point argues that the actual Queen of England is quite a Benevolent Boss, as bosses go.
- Haggis Is Horrible: Grim's "reasoning" when suspecting a domestic terrorist organization the St Neduts of Egelloc of being Scottish extremists."If your national dish is a sheep's stomach your gonna be bitter aren't ya?"
- Homage: Fowler breaks the fourth wall in the second series, beginning each episode by briefly addressing the audience directly, in the style of Dixon of Dock Green.
- 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.
- Hypercompetent Sidekick: Detective Sergeants Kray (series 1) and Boyle (series 2) are this to DI Grim.
- Hypocritical Humor:
- At one point in "Night Shift", Grim is needling Raymond about his divorce and slightly distant relationship with his son Bill, 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 whose loutish son just got arrested for disturbing the peace...? Bill, 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: In "Night Shift", 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...
- Immodest Orgasm: The "noisy nymphomaniac" who appears in "Night Shift" tends to have ones that are so immodest that she keeps getting brought in for disturbing the peace. It doesn't help that she had the last one while having sex in her garden shed. Which collapsed.Kray: No good asking her to come quietly, I suppose.
- Incompatible Orientation: "Fire and Terror" 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."Not for us the traditional pleasures of Christmas. Sherry, chestnuts, Father bringing home a big fat bird and telling Mother to stuff it.""The traditional truncheon is perfectly adequate. I myself am more than happy with 14 inches hanging down my trouser leg."
- And Inspector Grim when his job depended on an important operation."If you get in the way I'm responsible: your cockup, my arse!""It's my arse and if you stuff it I'll end up very red in the face.""It's my arse on the line so you'd better pull your finger out."
- The conservative and idealistic Inspector Fowler from had a tendency to make statements containing innuendo that everyone except him could see.
- Ironic Echo:
- In "Honey Trap", when Fowler finally settles the ethical dilemma that's been troubling him over the title sting 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.
- In "Night Shift", Fowler is waxing rhapsodic on the duties and perils of nighttime police work, and when Goody quotes the Star Trek: The Original Series opening, "To boldly go where no man has gone before", he chides Goody for splitting the infinitive "to go". In the episode's final scene, Fowler offers his son Bill and the latter's girlfriend Rona a couple of tickets to an all-night rave that he confiscated from Grim's delinquent son Darren; Bill declines, and Fowler asks, "Are you sure you can't be persuaded to wildly prance off with your pal?"Bill: No, we're going to the library. You don't get into university going to raves, do you? [he gets up from the table to head out] And it's "to prance wildly", Dad... don't split your infinitives.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: In "The Green-Eyed Monster", Fowler is distraught when Dawkins finally breaks up with him, and becomes doubly so when he hears her telling Habib about Toby, whom he assumes is the new man in her life (he's actually her new pet dog). Gladstone suggests Fowler should put up a fight for her, but Fowler says that as long as Dawkins is happy with Toby and he looks after her and never hurts her, that's all he wants for her.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Fowler's pompous, uptight and officious, but he means well and has a good heart underneath it all.
- The Joy of X
- Justice by Other Legal Means: When an Engineered Public Confession doesn't work in "Court in the Act", 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.
- Kangaroo Court: Grim's vision of reversing the principle of innocent until proven guilty.Grim: (Furiously ranting) Why not have it the other way round? Presume everyone in the country guilty of something, which most of them are, and lock 'em up!Patricia: What, the entire population?Grim: Certainly the entire population. Only those who could, to the satisfaction of a senior judge, prove themselves to be wholly and fundamentally innocent would be released. There'd be a bit less fannying about then.
- Lighter and Softer: Significantly lighter in its humour and style than earlier Elton works like The Young Ones and Blackadder. Some of the contemporary negativity towards the show was from critics and viewers who had been expecting a much darker and more political comedy based on Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop gags.
- Magic Negro: Constable Frank Gladstone, thankfully to a very mild degree.
- Malaproper: Inspector Grim. He once described a suspect as being "slippery, like an owl".
- Military Alphabet: Subverted in a Rule of Three gag in "Yuletide Spirit" when it turns out to be requests for drinks from a pizza place.Detective: [on radio] Alpha Alpha Bravo...
Second Detective: [on different radio] Wilco, Foxtrot Delta...
Kray: [on phone] Tango. Tango. Diet Lilt and a Fanta. [hangs up]
- 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. During the robbery, Constable Goody is mistaken for a prankster by people who assume he's too young to be a real police officer.
- Mistaken for Cheating: Dawkins thinks Fowler and Habib are having an affair and parading it right in front of her, but it turns out that A. Raymond just wants Maggie on his pub quiz team and B. Maggie is also being set up as a Honey Trap in the episode of the same name. While it is true that Fowler kissed Habib, it was a completely platonic spur-of-the-moment thing when she won the previous pub quiz for their team.
- 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 in "Ism Ism Ism", 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. 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.
- Mugged for Disguise: A pizza delivery boy in shorts and T-shirt tells Grim he wants to make a complaint about police harrassment; then we see Fowler wearing the delivery boy's uniform, and riding his motorbike.
- My Biological Clock Is Ticking: Patricia Dawkins is anxious to have children. Unfortunately, Fowler is less interested in obliging, partly as he already has a teenage son with his ex-wife, Susan, and partly because he is overly devoted to his job as a policeman.
- My Country Tis of Thee That I Sting: Fowler rants about how misbehaving students are a stain on Britain's reputation.Fowler: Before long, Britain's name will be mud. Or worse, it'll be Italy.
- Nepotism: "Ism Ism Ism" 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 Boyle chips in with "...better nepotism."
- Never My Fault: In "Yuletide Spirit", Grim is too busy obsessing over his role as Captain Hook in the Gasforth Amateur Drama Society's Christmas pantomime to listen to Kray telling him about a rash of burglaries that involve using carol singers as a distraction... until Kray tells him that Division have demanded to know what Grim is doing about it, whereupon Grim berates Kray for obsessing over the panto.
- Noodle Incident: Several references are made to Gladstone's marriage, including his objecting at his own ceremony.
- Not What It Looks Like: After Boyle sets Fowler straight in "Court in the Act" (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.
- Oblivious to Love: Strangely, while Fowler and Dawkins have been together for ten years, he doesn't seem to be aware of her advances at times. Clearly Patricia loves Raymond, and he must return her affections otherwise they wouldn't be in a relationship, but it seems that to him she's just... there. This is at least in part because Fowler both believes very heavily in professionalism and maintaining an official distance at all times and is incredibly repressed and poor at expressing emotions in an almost stereotypically British fashion.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: Fowler. To be fair, his 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 Grim, the CID inspector. Fowler is the By-the-Book Cop Parody who acts like he's in Dixon of Dock Green, Grim is the Wannabe Cowboy Cop who thinks he's in The Sweeney.
- Oh, Crap!:
- In "Fire and Terror", a drunk stumbles into the squad room and is about to be sick; Fowler shouts to Goody to get the man something to be sick into, so Goody grabs the first thing to hand: Fowler's cap. The officers are then told that their superior from Special Branch has arrived to investigate the supposed terrorist they have in custody, and Fowler reflexively grabs his cap and puts it on... and gets the look of a man who knows he's stuck between a rock and a hard place when he feels the contents all over his head.Commander Crow of Special Branch (to Fowler): There is one thing you can do. Get your uniform dry cleaned, it smells like a drunk's thrown up in your hat.
- In the third act of "Come On You Blues", the mayoress of Gasforth (a former schoolmate and crush of Fowler's) is hoping to impress a group of foreign investors (specifically, sweatshop owners) at Gasforth Town FC's third round FA Cup tie at home to Chelsea. On the Friday, three of the episode's subplots climax as Dawkins arrests a group of builders for making lewd remarks toward her, an undercover Grim and Boyle arrest a group of pizzeria customers talking in hushed voices about turning "those Chelsea scum" into dust and sticking to the plan, and Fowler sends Habib, Gladstone, and Goody to arrest a group of revellers having a loud party. On the Saturday, the club chairman tells the mayoress they have to forfeit the match, as none of the players have turned up. He can't understand it - they were fine the previous day, with three of them at work on a building site (cue Dawkins looking worried), four of them talking tactics at a pizzeria (cue Grim looking worried), and the others holding a pre-match party (cue Fowler looking worried). The investors promptly leave, and the mayoress rounds on the police officers... who have beaten a very hasty retreat.
- In "The Green-Eyed Monster", Boyle is taking a phone call from a medical emergency, "potential fatality", but Grim is more concerned with the amount of time he has spent on hold to the water cooler repair hotline. In the background, Boyle's body language suggests he is trying to calm the caller down as he enters relevant details into the computer, only to get a horrified look as the ranting Grim snatches the receiver from his hand...Grim: Blimey! "You are in a queue, all our operators are busy," I mean what would happen if we tried that, eh?! Someone rings up dying, [grabs the receiver as Boyle looks on, aghast] "Sorry, all our officers are busy, your emergency is in a queue and we will be doing nothing about it!" [slams down the phone, compounding Boyle's horror; he looks back and forth between his phone and the oblivious Grim in disbelief] Imagine that!
Boyle: [picks up the receiver] Hello? Hellooo!...
- In "Fire and Terror", a drunk stumbles into the squad room and is about to be sick; Fowler shouts to Goody to get the man something to be sick into, so Goody grabs the first thing to hand: Fowler's cap. The officers are then told that their superior from Special Branch has arrived to investigate the supposed terrorist they have in custody, and Fowler reflexively grabs his cap and puts it on... and gets the look of a man who knows he's stuck between a rock and a hard place when he feels the contents all over his head.
- 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 in "Yuletide Spirit", and the second is when he tries to decide whether or not to go to an illegal lock-in in "Alternative Culture".
- 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 in "Honey Trap", 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 Mars Bar".
- Our Slogan Is Terrible: The town had the slogan "It's not as bad as you think".
- Paying in Coins: Fowler and Goody are in an slow queue at the bank, headed by a customer paying in coins, very slowly. When Fowler suddenly shouts, the customer knocks over his pile of coins, and has to start again.
- 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 "Road Rage". 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: "Ism Ism Ism" 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.
- Protest By Obstruction: In "Road Rage", the officers go to break up a group protesting the building of a bypass. Officer Goody encounters one protester who has tied herself to a tree, and ends up joining her.
- Rhetorical Question Blunder: A Rule of Three gag in "Ism Ism Ism", when Grim gets annoyed by Fowler's political correctness lecture.Grim: Police work is about villains, not 'isms'. What 'ism' ever mugged an old lady? What 'ism' ever robbed a bank? What 'ism' ever held a gun to someone's head?
Grim: [annoyed] Yeah, all right. What 'ism' ever threatened the security of the state?
Grim: What 'ism' ever hurt anybody?
- 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. His reaction when he does notice them? To smile sheepishly and say "At least that's what I've heard".
- Rule of Three:
- In "Fire and Terror", firefighter Gary is telling Habib, who has a massive crush on him (unaware of their Incompatible Orientation despite his frequent questions about Goody), about rescuing six children from a burning house. Habib says "Gosh, Gary! Amazing!" after every detail as Dawkins rolls her eyes. The third time, Dawkins sarcastically says "Gosh, Gary! Amazing!" in unison with Habib, who shoots her a Death Glare.
- When Raymond believes Patricia might be annoyed with him:Raymond: You made my tea with cold water... and yesterday's teabag... and in my bicycle helmet.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: One of the many ways Grim mangles the English language.
- 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 in "Road Rage". 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 Fowler's new royal crest, which he claimed 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.
- Suspect Is Hatless: After Kray and Grim spot the fake carol singers in "Yuletide Spirit" doing their thing, the latter decides to call in for backup, not wanting to get in a fight. Unfortunately, the only description he gives dispatch is that they're 'highly dangerous carol singers', which leads them to arrest a group of real carol-singers - the chief constable, the local MP, their wives, and the Bishop of Gasforth.
- 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! Youre too beautiful to die! Take me!Gary: No Kev! Youre 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."
- Fowler doesnt seem to care for Captain Kirks grammar or the Rubber-Forehead Aliens trope, as seen in "Night Shift".Goody: To boldly go where no man has gone before.
Fowler: To go Boldly, laddy, dont split your infinitives.
Goody: Captain Kirk does it.
Fowler: Captain Kirk regularly accepts figures painted blue with plastic forehead extensions as beings from another planet; I think we can dismiss him as hardly being an expert on anything.
- Talking in Bed: Several episodes feature bedtime conversations between Fowler and Dawkins, usually with the latter trying unsuccessfully to inflame the former's ardour while he'd rather just read a bit and then go to sleep.
- 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.Fowler: How far will Fred have to travel to reach the fire extinguisher?Perp 1: Errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr...Perp 2: What?!Perp 3: Who cares?Perp 4: (Vomits into a bucket)
- That Came Out Wrong:
- Raymond Fowler. Take this example from "Kids Today", in which he fondly describes his childhood Meccano sets, much to Habib's amusement:Fowler: They'll never know the joy a young lad can have sitting alone in his room... with his tool in his hand, tightening his little nuts.
- Grim: "It's my arse on the line and I don't want a cock-up!" and many variations.
- Raymond Fowler. Take this example from "Kids Today", in which he fondly describes his childhood Meccano sets, much to Habib's amusement:
- 30 Minutes, or It's Free!: Inspector Fowler says this in "Rag Week" 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.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 Britain, so an ethnically diverse workplace makes sense.
- Triang Relations: "Fire and Terror" uses type 2 of this plot:Habib: So you fancy Kevin, Kevin fancies me, and I fancy you?
- Two Words: I Can't Count: Grim is prone to this when trying to act the part of a hard-boiled detective.
- From "Fire and Terror", when boasting to Fowler about potentially cracking "the biggest case of [his] career":Grim: Two syllables: [holds up one finger] "Terror" and [holds up a second] "Ism".
- From "Night Shift", addressing the detectives on his squad about a rash of car thefts:Grim: The problem can be summed up in one word: organised crime.
- From "Fire and Terror", when boasting to Fowler about potentially cracking "the biggest case of [his] career":
- Unfortunate Item Swap: In "Yuletide Spirit", Goody has bought Christmas gifts for Fowler and Habib: a puncture repair kit for the former's bicycle and some lacy red lingerie for the latter. However, he puts them in identical boxes, so Habib gets the puncture repair kit and Fowler gets the lingerie. Matters are complicated further when Dawkins finds the lingerie in Fowler's office and assumes they're his gift to her... and then complicated still further when Fowler only discovers after swapping the gifts back that Dawkins enthusiastically approved of the lingerie.
- We All Live in America: In "Ism Ism Ism", 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 "Court in the Act", 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 in "Kids Today"?...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!").
- You Watch Too Much X: Grim wants to buy a water cooler for the CID, Fowler responds "you just want to walk around with a paper cup in your hand like an American police officer. You watch too much television".