1 9 9 2 – 1 9 9 3 (Australia)
26 x 50 minute episodes
Set in Melbourne (Australia), this superb police procedural revolved around members of the Major Crime Squad assigned to investigate the bombing of a social event being held by the police that killed a policewoman and a senior detective (loosely based on the real-life event of 27 March 1986 when a car bomb exploded outside the Russell Street police headquarters in Melbourne).
Paul Sonkkila was Inspector Jock Brennan, the hard-nosed, humourless, old-fashioned cop leading the Phoenix investigation. His main sparring partner was the balding, beanie-clad head of the State Forensic Laboratory, Ian “Goose” Cochrane (Sean Scully).
Old fashioned coppers like Jock didn’t understand or appreciate the subtleties of modern high-tech forensic methods.
Simon Westaway (who was a policeman for several years in real life) starred as Detective Sergeant Peter Faithful, along with Andy Anderson (remembered as Jim Sullivan in The Sullivans) as good-natured Senior Sergeant Lochie Renford. Tony Poli played Senior Detective Laz Carides, an undercover cop who had been out in the cold so long there were doubts about which side he was really on.
The female contingent was headed by Nell Feeney as Detective Senior Constable Megan Edwards, an accident-prone computer crime analyst and Susie Edmonds as Carol Cochrane, the forensic scientist married to the boss.
Documentary-style camerawork and the grey, gritty Melbourne landscape set the atmosphere and Phoneix made liberal use of hand-held cameras that followed characters up stairs, into lifts, along corridors and so on.
Given budget limitations, though, the series had to be shot on videotape rather than film, which provides a higher quality image. The video was then transferred to film and back to videotape, giving the footage the deep, grainy look closer to Hill Street Blues (shot on film) than The Bill (shot on videotape).
The second series introduced new characters: Faithful’s police officer wife Chris (Vikki Blanche), Inspector Lew Murdoch (Peter McCauley), Detective Robert Howie (David Roberts) and Detective Cath Darby (Jennifer Jarman-Walker) – but without Paul Sonkkila at the helm as Jock Brennan, the series lost an important gravitas that replacement Peter McCauley just didn’t provide.
Detective Sergeant Peter Faithful
Inspector Jock Brennan
Senior Sergeant Lochie Renford
Supt. Jim Wallace
Detective Senior Constable Megan Edwards
Andrew ‘Fluff’ Saunders
Detective Cath Darby
Inspector Lew Murdoch
Senior Detective Laz Carides
Detective Robert Howie