The Thin Blue Line (British TV series)

The Thin Blue Line is a British sitcom which aired on BBC One from 1995 to 1996. It was created and written by Ben Elton, and starred Rowan Atkinson. The series was popular with viewers, though it suffered in critical reviews due to "inconsistent character development" and an "overly broad plot line". It was ranked number 34 in a poll for Britain's Best Sitcom. In September 2021, the series became available on BBC iPlayer.[1] and also on STV Player.[2]

The Thin Blue Line
The Thin Blue Line.png
Created byBen Elton
Written byBen Elton
Directed byJohn Birkin
ComposerHoward Goodall
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of series2
No. of episodes14 (list of episodes)
Executive producerPeter Bennett-Jones
Running time30 minutes
Production companyTiger Aspect Productions
Original networkBBC One
Original release13 November 1995 (1995-11-13) –
23 December 1996 (1996-12-23)


The series is set in a police station in the fictional English town of Gasforth. A general parody of the serious police procedural, one of the main themes on the show sees the uniformed squad, led by Inspector Fowler, and the CID, led by Detective Inspector Grim, locking horns over similar, or even the same, issues while having conflicting views or methods of operations. Generally the uniformed section triumphs over the detectives, although not without their own foibles. Although other PCs and staff other than the main characters are visible in the background, they generally have no speaking parts.

Cast and charactersEdit

  • Rowan Atkinson as Inspector Raymond Fowler, an old-fashioned policeman whose lack of interest in sex annoys his live-in girlfriend of ten years, Sergeant Dawkins. He has a son from a previous marriage.
  • Serena Evans as Sergeant Patricia Dawkins, a desk sergeant. She is Inspector Fowler's long-suffering partner and is forever on a quest for more sexual attention from him, who is usually reluctant to oblige. Despite her frustration and anger, she loves Fowler devotedly and dreams of marrying him and having a child.
  • David Haig as Detective Inspector Derek Grim, the head of the CID unit at Gasforth Police Station. In reference to a common trope in police dramas and procedurals, his attitude is that CID are superior to the uniformed police. He has been married for 20 years to Tina, with whom he has an intense love-hate relationship. Their son, Darren, was arrested in one episode.
  • James Dreyfus as Constable Kevin Goody, who is perhaps the least complex of the officers. Profoundly unintelligent and oblivious to the obvious, he has very little idea of what being a police officer entails. Although his character is very camp, he is infatuated with Constable Habib.
  • Mina Anwar as Constable Maggie Habib, a female officer of South Asian descent, who was raised in Accrington. Habib is generally the straight man in Fowler's uniformed branch.
  • Rudolph Walker as Constable Frank Gladstone, a Trinidad-origin constable near retirement. Gladstone has been a PC all his adult life, as was his father, and is enjoying his career winding down.
  • Kevin Allen as Detective Constable Robert Kray (series 1), an officer in Grim’s CID unit. He is a very laddish cop, intelligent, cynical and pragmatic.
  • Mark Addy as Detective Constable Gary Boyle (series 2), Kray’s replacement in the second series. Like Kray, he is intelligent, cynical, pragmatic, very laddish and likes being a police officer for the associated perks.

Many notable actors made guest appearances, and these include the writer Ben Elton, Stephen Fry, Stephen Moore, Melvyn Hayes, Trevor Peacock, Owen Teale, Colin McFarlane, Alan Cox, Alexander Armstrong, Nicola Stapleton, Perry Fenwick, Walter Sparrow, Geoffrey Chater, Gabrielle Blunt and Rupert Vansittart.


Series 1 (1995)Edit

No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
1"The Queen's Birthday Present"John BirkinBen Elton13 November 1995 (1995-11-13)
Inspector Fowler and Sergeant Dawkins should be celebrating their tenth anniversary together, but the Queen's official birthday and Fowler's complete remissness puts a spanner in the works.
2"Fire and Terror"John BirkinBen Elton20 November 1995 (1995-11-20)
Constable Habib falls in love with a fireman and PC Goody is jealous. DI Grim is onto 'a big case' while Inspector Fowler is constantly plagued by a hoaxer.
3"Honey Trap"John BirkinBen Elton27 November 1995 (1995-11-27)
Dawkins is furiously jealous of Fowler's admiration for Habib, though mistakenly. While Fowler is preparing his team for the pub quiz, Grim has borrowed his star player, PC Habib. Can PC Goody take her place? And what will she look like in a miniskirt and will she succeed in nabbing the man Grim wants?
4"Rag Week"John BirkinBen Elton4 December 1995 (1995-12-04)
The local college students get completely out of hand during their rag week. Meanwhile, Detective Inspector Grim is in a good mood - he's got a real life bank raid to deal with.
5"Night Shift"John BirkinBen Elton11 December 1995 (1995-12-11)
Fowler reluctantly agrees to let his son Bill stay with him and Patricia for a few days. Patricia, unsatisfied and frustrated with Raymond, takes their matter to a sex therapist. Meanwhile, Grim is working with Scotland Yard against organised crime — and Fowler is most definitely NOT jealous.
6"Kids Today"John BirkinBen Elton18 December 1995 (1995-12-18)
Fowler leads a camping trip for young offenders, but Grim plans a short sharp shock.
7"Yuletide Spirit"John BirkinBen Elton26 December 1995 (1995-12-26)
Grim is on the trail of some dangerous carol singers, and Goody proves that giving Christmas presents at work can be a bad idea.

Series 2 (1996)Edit

No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
8"Court in the Act"John BirkinBen Elton14 November 1996 (1996-11-14)
Inspector Fowler prepares his force for the rigours of cross-examination in court, and Constable Goody tries out a fetching new uniform.
9"Ism Ism Ism"John BirkinBen Elton21 November 1996 (1996-11-21)
The Mayoress informs Fowler that an illegal asylum-seeker has taken refuge in the town. Grim meanwhile attempts to join a secret lodge.
10"Fly on the Wall"John BirkinBen Elton28 November 1996 (1996-11-28)
A television crew come to Gasforth to make a documentary about policing in the raw - and they don't come much more raw than Fowler's force.
11"Alternative Culture"John BirkinBen Elton5 December 1996 (1996-12-05)
Grim declares war on drugs. Meanwhile, a plumbing crisis at the station means the women have to share the men's locker room.
12"Come on You Blues"John BirkinBen Elton12 December 1996 (1996-12-12)
When Gasforth Football Club reach the third round of the FA Cup, Grim looks forward to tackling some major league hooligans.
13"Road Rage"John BirkinBen Elton19 December 1996 (1996-12-19)
Gasforth's new bypass causes headaches for Inspector Fowler when his partner Patricia joins the road protestors.
14"The Green Eyed Monster"John BirkinBen Elton23 December 1996 (1996-12-23)
Fowler thinks it's his turn for promotion. When Grim says they're looking for married officers, Fowler decides to propose to Patricia.


Creator and writer Ben Elton is a fan of Dad's Army,[3] and many of the characters were influenced by the show. Fowler's relationship with Grim is very similar to that of Captain Mainwaring to Warden Hodges, in that they are both on the same side yet enemies. Also, Constable Goody is rather like Private Pike in being a "stupid boy" who often irritates Fowler. Constable Gladstone's habit of interrupting a briefing with a story about life in Trinidad is similar to Lance Corporal Jones's penchant for reminiscing about Sudan during Captain Mainwaring's speeches. Other references include in the episode "Rag Week", when Fowler is briefly seen walking out of a shop called "Mainwaring's"[4] Elton has appeared in the programme himself, in the Christmas special episode "Yuletide Spirit". In the first series, the wanted poster behind Fowler's desk in the briefing room is an E-FIT of Elton.

Home releasesEdit

Both series have been released on DVD in the United Kingdom (Region 2) by Vision Video Ltd. The Thin Blue Line is available in Region 1 (North America), having been released by BBC Warner. Episodes in the first series were not in broadcast order on both Region 1 and 2 DVDs. The Series 2 episodes in the Region 1 DVD are cut to fit about 30-minute runtime. The Region 1 release has English closed captions. The UK Region 2 does not have any subtitles.


  1. ^ "The Thin Blue Line".
  2. ^ "STV Player". STV Player. Retrieved 6 March 2022.
  3. ^ Graham, Jane (14 July 2008). "Dad's Army: funny? You stupid boy!". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  4. ^ "Hidden in the Ranks: a bit like this". Walmington-on-Line. 21 November 2012. Retrieved 11 March 2016.

Other sourcesEdit

  • Mark Lewisohn, "Radio Times Guide to TV Comedy", BBC Worldwide Ltd, 2003

External linksEdit