10 January 2004 | F Gwynplaine MacIntyre
"It's a fair cop, eh?"
London-based tv producer Harry Alan Towers made 'Dial 999' with some hope of selling the episodes to syndication in Canada and the United States. So, why did he give this crime series a title that called attention to its British origin? (In Britain, 999 is the emergency number, equivalent to 911 in the USA.)
Robert Beatty starred as Mike Maguire, a Canadian Mountie who has been assigned to Scotland Yard to learn British crime-fighting methods. As with the Yank tv show 'McCloud' (depicting a cowboy cop in the big city), there was an ongoing fish-out-of-water element ... and also some suggestion that the Canadian cop's rough-and-ready methods were better than those of the effete English constables working alongside him. On the London beat, Mountie Maguire kept his Dudley Do-Right uniform in mothballs and solved his crimes in a suitcoat and tie.
'Dial 999' was a good example of the 'thick-ear' crime genre, which is roughly the equivalent of America's 'film noir'. Maguire was constantly on the receiving end of blunt violence from London's baddies, but he was handy with his fists and always gave better than he got. In keeping with accuracy, Maguire and his London squadmates did not routinely carry sidearms ... but they often crossed paths with gun-toting gangsters.
With each episode running just under a half-hour, the pace of 'Dial 999' was brisk and efficient. Production values were abetted by some excellent location filming in recognisable London locations ... giving 'Dial 999' some historical value too. I fondly remember this series, and would like to see it again.