"WE'RE the Sweeney, son, and we haven't had any dinner!"
"SHUT it, you slag!"
"Put your trousers on, son, you're NICKED!"
Ah, yes. Harsh words, yet still sweet music to my ageing ears. All pearls of venom, spat from the curling lips of the late, great, irreplaceable John Thaw as tough-but-honest DI Jack Regan of The Sweeney.
Turning the beam of nostalgia on one of the best ITV dramas ever -- and one of the best cop shows produced anywhere in the world, anytime -- might seem, at first sight, a little premature.
The Sweeney began in 1974 and ended, after four wildly successful series and two feature films, in 1978, but it hasn't exactly gone away. It's screened practically every day of the week on ITV4, along with other old gems like The Professionals, The Saint and Man in a Suitcase.
In fact, if you're in the mood for a Sweeney binge, the channel is screening episodes all day on Saturday. Still, this lovely, engaging, affectionate documentary was more than welcome.
It did a tremendous job of transporting those of us who remember the adventures of the Flying Squad's Regan and his sidekick, DS George Carter (Dennis Waterman, much younger and sharper than he is in the fuzzy New Tricks), back to a world of screeching Fords, seedy strip clubs, shotgun-wielding villains in overalls and balaclavas, chain-smoking cops who kept a bottle of Scotch in the desk drawer, flared trousers and shirt collars that could put out the eye of a needle.
Aside from Mr Thaw and Garfield Morgan, who played Regan and Carter's by-the-book boss, Frank Haskins, who passed away three years ago, all the main players and a few minor ones, like guest stars Billy Murray, Patrick Mower and Lynda Bellingham, were here.
"Research involved a lot of drinking with policemen," recalled Ian Kennedy-Martin, who wrote the 75-minute pilot, which was called Regan and went out in ITV's Armchair Cinema strand to an audience of more than 7m.
But Kennedy-Martin, who wrote the part specifically for his friend Thaw, had a massive falling out with producer Ted Childs. Kennedy-Martin, whose brother Troy went on to pen many of the best Sweeney episodes, wanted the series to be shot on video, with more emphasis on dialogue.
Childs wanted it shot on film -- a radical departure for British TV drama at the time -- with the emphasis on action. He got his way and the results changed both British TV and British cop shows.
Up to then, the fictional face of coppers was cosy, kindly old George Dixon, of BBC1's Dixon of Dock Green, who greeted viewers with a cheery, straight-to-camera "Evening all," before inviting them into a tale that ended with a strong moral message.
The Sweeney threw morals out the car window, along with Regan's cigarette packet, in hot pursuit of a tougher, more realistic portrayal of the Flying Squad.
The police's top brass (and self-appointed moral guardian Mary Whitehouse, of course) hated it, but the boys on the street loved it. A little surprisingly perhaps, so did the criminal fraternity, which The Sweeney could certainly never be accused of glamourising.
"Every villain I've ever come across in my life loved The Sweeney," said Ray Winstone, who had a small part in one of the earliest episodes and has now come full circle by starring as Jack Regan in the new (and reportedly woeful) film version.
Actors were desperate to get a piece of the action. "If you hadn't guested on there, you weren't actually an actor," said Billy Murray.
Sadly, there were no archive interviews with Thaw, a private man who preferred to let his performances do the talking, but there were reminiscences from his widow, the actress Sheila Hancock, and co-star Waterman, along with some wonderful outtakes.
If you're a teenage boy who walks into the living room while Dad is tapping his foot along to Harry South's memorable theme tune, well . . . JUST SHUT IT, RIGHT!
unforgettable: the sweeney HHHHI