Detector Detectives

The golden days of tightly-plotted, watchable dramas and TV specials are over; they’ve been replaced by the dreary spectacle of reality TV. These shows feature implausible members of the public or D-rated celebs in a jungle, an enclosed house or a Space Station.

A different sort of reality TV programme is the real life documentary style show. This fly on the wall type of series has titles like, Cops on the Beat, Animal Hospital, Airline, Miami Ink and erm…one of my favourites, Ice Road Truckers. As bloggers worldwide blog about blogging and bloggers, the BBC in its infinite wisdom decided to do a show about itself. I was invited to watch the first episode being filmed. This was to be a candid portrait about the detectives who pursue TV licence dodgers and the show was to be called “Detector Vans are prowling about your neighbourhood and we’re on your trail so come out with your hands up.”

For insurance purposes I was garbed in the full SWAT outfit. I was introduced to the two top detectors in the business; a couple of likely lads with the names Bodie and Doyle. I sussed that we were on a shoestring budget when I saw their “van”; it was a 1950’s Police box. Who’s kidding who, I thought. On entering stationary vehicle I was surprised to find it was huge inside but empty, save for some doughnuts, Chips and a Cracker.
“Just how are we supposed to catch the non-payers in this?” I inquired.
“We listen.” Said Bodie or Doyle or Starsky or Hutch.

So we sat and listened, presumably for a TV. And we listened some more and listened some more again. This surveillance lark is not a lot of fun and there’s only so much listening your ears can take.
“What if we hear a TV and that person has a license?”
“SSSHHH!” Said Cagney or Lacey.
I shut up and listened and soon I heard an ice-cream van on Hill Street playing the chimes of “Eye Level” from Van der Valk. I’d give all my shares in Setanta for a Mr. Fifti 99 with raspberry sauce right now or a trip to Amsterdam.

Still listening I figure this is not going to be a ratings grabber. Three men in a box sitting doing nothing except listening. Then again it’d still be better than Eastenders. Then it occurred to me that it would be really hard cases of the Jack Ford ilk that don’t pay their license fee and if there’s a confrontation I might end up an unconscious objector. My country’s flag might be the Lion Rampant but I’m more the Lion out of the Wizard of Oz. The silence was soothing.
Suddenly a loud siren blared and Crockett or Tubbs said.
“Let’s get ready to RUMBLEEEE!” That’s definitely not one of Kojak’s.

I was caught between a Rockford and a hard place as I was swept along with the tide as the three of us were full of action running on the street, pushing pedestrians out of the way and showing them our Blue Peter badges until we arrived at an enormous set of high-rise flats that looked as tough as anything on The Wire. We surveyed the building, there was a lot of TV’s here. My now acute hearing could hear every one of them and they were all watching The Bill.
“Time to start breaking down doors and getting medieval.” Said……….. (Fill in the character of your choice; I’ve fainted)

To be continued…

“Detector Vans are prowling about your neighbourhood and we’re on your trail so come out with your hands up” will be shown this summer. Watch this instead of the World Cup.

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28 Comments on “Detector Detectives”

  1. Hello JW – what jolly memories!

    Do you also remember 'The Family' sometime in the seventies? I think it was the first poke-into-real-life series, and we could watch this family Change Beds and Have Rows and Pontificate Idiotically before our eyes. I loved it.

    Think it must have put me off anything similar, though. Except Animal Hospital of course.

    Looking forward to your next episode, But Be Careful Out There!

  2. PS JW – how did you get that nice little screen to play your clip? All I got for my TrueBlood link was a link that didn't link anywhere…

  3. JW10 Says:

    Hi Dolores,

    Can't remember “The Family”, sorry, that must have been one of the few times I was out the house. 🙂

    Sadly, there will be no second episode. The plug was pulled after the pilot, Thank God.

    It took me awhile to insert videos but here's what I know.
    Go to the YouTube clip you want.
    There's a box on the right hand side of the video with the poster's name and some info.
    Where it says embed. right click on this box then click Select All.
    The box should now be coloured blue.
    Right click again and then copy.
    Paste this into your blog.

    You should try a few test posts out. If they don't work, you can always delete. Some videos on YT say “Embedding Disabled”. These cannot be copied.:-(

    Good luck.

  4. Thank you JW – shall try tomorrow. (Perhaps I can find a 'Family' clip as well)

  5. Expat Says:

    Ah, but the ultimate reality show was Castaway!I absolutely loved that, especially that nice young man whatsisname who has gone on to become quite famous. Oh, and what was the show that marooned a famous person alone for a week? I only saw a couple of those but Billy Connelly running around starkers in the snow was priceless. And that Joanna Lumley! What a gal she is. Fancy thinking of making sandals out of a bra?

    JW you are so right about the dearth of good drama on TV these days, although Prime Suspect and Wire in the Blood were/are exceptions. In fact, I think the Beeb should pay people to watch nowadays rather than vice versa.

    But think about it…don't we have a pretty good reality show going on here on these blogs?

  6. JW10 Says:


    Imagine Castaway with yourself, Dolores, C.I and me. Now that would be some programme. It would be like a remake of the Banana Splits.

    I don't watch much TV drama nowadays, preferring things like Planet Earth by David Attenborough. However, the US show The Wire, that was set in Baltimore, Maryland, was a terrific show. I re-watch it almost as much as Taggart. 🙂

    These blogs are a reality show indeed. Sometimes surreal. You should start blogging too, Expat, to bring an American perspective on board. It is just a bit of fun, unlike football.

  7. Expat Says:

    Oh, no. I will never blog for fear that I would become addicted. I spend far too much time commenting all over the place as it is.

    We live not far from Baltimore (an hour's drive)and I love the Inner Harbor area. I have never seen The Wire. Like you, I don't watch a lot of TV. For the most part, American TV is the pits. WE get the occasional good programme on BBC America and PBS (Public TV, viewer and sponsor funded)

    Do you like Billy Connelly? I've been a fan for years and years. We used to have an LP of his and virtually wore it out.

  8. JW – terrific Castaway idea – what jollities! I never saw the TV one, and I suspect I'd have the DT's after 48 hours sans comfy bathroom & a hairdrier.

    We really enjoy powerful drama like “Survivors” (similar struggle against no electricity, no water, no people), “Being Human” (vampire, werewolf & ghost flatsharing) and, of course, “Come Dine With Me”…

    Yes, Expat, t'would be terrific if you found a blog moment.

  9. My favourite book is Crime and Punishment, which I read when I was a schoolboy. But I keep up to date by watching the news on TV.

    (I haven't seen most of programmes you mentioned, JW, but I love your blog!)

  10. Expat Says:

    The four of us, castaway on an island off the coast of Scotland…

    Can we bring significant others? Mine knows how to shoot critters for food, milk cows, make moonshine (yes, really)and fell trees without getting hurt. He could probably dig a serviceable latrine, too.

    George, among his many talents, plays the squeeze box so we'd have joyous cajun music.

    CI's S/O clearly has the patience of Job and a sense of humour..essential when cast away.

    What about you JW? Is there a Mrs JW with formidable survival talents?

    And me…oh, I'll write it all down and make a fortune with my tell-all blockbuster best-seller

  11. Will there be nuts on the island? My Significant Other likes nuts.

  12. JW10 Says:


    Sorry to hear my video advice hasn't helped. These instructions are for putting videos in blog posts only. I don't know how to insert videos or photos in comments.
    Try posting a new blog with a video in it. As I said you can always delete.

    Good luck again.

  13. JW10 Says:


    Crime and Punishment is a great book. I've read a few other Dostoyevsky books and waiting patiently on my shelf is The Brothers Karamazov. One day I will get round to reading it.

    Most of the programmes I mentioned were old cop shows and I tried to cram as many in as possible without the post becoming ridiculous. However, it did end up ridiculous but I'm sure that's the way we like them.

  14. JW10 Says:


    Billy Connolly is a funny guy indeed. The only thing I dislike about the man is the football team he supports. I never say the c word as I am 100% a Rangers fan.

    MrsJW would only survive as a castaway if the island were full of shops. Failing that a TV with the home shopping channel QVC would get her through the day.

    Moonshine? Does it taste as good as it sounds? I need to know more. How does one make moonshine?

  15. Expat Islander Says:

    I wll have to ask my other half about the process. He was a part-owner of a still when he worked many years ago in a country that shall be nameless where alcohol is illegal. However, mooshine making is alive and well in the backwoods of Virginia and many other places in the US. Well made, it's very smooth and very potent. I had some (not much, believe me) Virginia peach moonshine at a recent party that was delicious.

    No, CI no nuts of the tree or hedgerow variety.This island is a windswept spot in the ocean with wild sheep, remnants of a long abandoned farming enterprise, the only inhabitants.One hunts for gulls eggs, catches unwary fish, snares the occasional rabbit and, of course, herds stupid sheep of cliffs thereby snagging enough meat for a feast.

    I hope of of you was a boy scout (My SO was chucked out) since somebody needs to be able to rub two sticks together to make fire.

    Dolores, we shall need a spinning wheel. You probaly have one hoarded along with that tin of paint.

    Oh, this is getting so exciting!!

  16. Expat Says:

    Sorry… meant to say I hope ONE of you was a boy scout.

  17. Hello Expat!
    I’m only so-so as a so-and-so SO, but I can do SOS. Especially when I’m on the tiles in the moon shine, which makes me verse a tile. You’ve got to be versatile when you’re typecast as a typist type, with all that you type cast away…

    But I’m good at fighting. Will there be any fighting? (As there was in Lord of the Rings?)

  18. OMG JW! An interest in Russian literature is another parallel in our respective tortured lives, including the unread novel, growing dusty on my shelf in England…

  19. Expat Says:

    Soljenistsin (or however you choose to spell it)…The First Circle. Cancer Ward, Gulag Archipelego…all on my bookshelves at one time and all read several times over in my much younger days. Lordy, I just found out (checking the name spelling) that he died in 2008.

    Still have Anna Karenina somewhere…yet to read.

    Wierd, this…

  20. Good Lord! I meant to say Lord of the Flies, not Lord of the Rings….

  21. JW10 Says:


    A bit of War and Peace for you.
    If there are any savage natives and we're talking north of Scotland so there probably will be, you can fight them all you want. I'll stay in camp and guard the ladies …and more importantly the Moonshine.

  22. Moonshine, ladies, and fighting sounds like geat fun to me. But what abount music? (shades of Desert Island Discs). I'd choose the full orchestral version of The Blue Danube. How about you?

  23. Blimey, it sounds like everyone's all set for the off!
    I did once knit a pair of socks for a joke – I expect we could find hundreds of uses for them in Paradise!

    Thanks Expat for hint on JW comments – miraculously when I came to try, they were all here!

    Moonshine shounds perfect & essential – didn't Steve McQueen make some before they Greatly Escaped?

    And Music – The Stones! Or Soul Music – I always dreamed of being a Commitmentette…

  24. JW10 Says:

    Good of you to show up Dolores, after all the hard work's been done in setting up camp.

    C.I's chased off the natives, expat's made the moonshine and I'm hunting wild boar.

    Desert Island discs, great programme. If Freddie and Queen were not allowed I'd go classical as well. Last of the Mohicans theme tune would be apt.

  25. Yes, JW – I thought it seemed safe now to show willing!

    I'm trying to think of something Indispensable I could bring.

    Does anyone like Treacle Pud?

  26. Expat Says:

    Hmmm… I'm thinking the theme music from Apocalyse Now would seem to be appropriate.

    Love treacle pud, Dolores! Shall you also bring custard? I think you have found your niche as cook and comfort food provider..extremely necessary to survival in the wilds.

    How are you at butchering wild animals and tanning skins?

  27. Thank you Expat, I feel Full of Worth now! and Yes, custard by the bucket/seau full! T'would have to be the Birds variety, though, for the true type has never set for me within three days…

    SKIN animals?!! Unlikely – I spend ten minutes rehousing every worm I dig up when gardening…

  28. Tanning skins? We do that lots here!

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