1 9 9 5 (UK)
6 x 50 minute episodes
Widows (1983) saw Dolly Rawlins (Ann Mitchell) and the wives of her husband’s gang learning the ins and outs of the criminal world and pulling off a diamond robbery of their own. A sequel series – Widows II (1985) – found the girls in a desperate struggle to hold onto their ill-gotten gains and Dolly in prison for a 10-year stretch after murdering her gangland boss husband, Harry.
After a gap of ten years, ITV’s She’s Out picked up the story with Dolly getting out of HMP Holloway on parole, determined to leave her life of crime behind her and open a children’s foster home. All she has to do is collect £6 million worth of stolen diamonds to fund it.
There are problems on the outside, though. Awaiting Dolly in a disused health farm called ‘The Grange’ is a group of her old jail chums – a motley collection of non-law-abiding stereotypes: Tough as specially toughened-up nails, Ester Freeman (Linda Marlowe) plots a way to relieve Dolly of her stashed diamonds, helped by snooty, over-éducated girlfriend Julia Lawson (Anna Patrick) who’s doomed to be known as “The Doc” (she had been struck-off as a doctor as a result of her drug addiction).
Fleshing out the team and clocking up the cliches are the tarty bigmouth gun dealer Gloria Radford (Maureen Sweeney), vacuous floozie and former prostitute Connie Stephens (Zoe Heyes) and deceptively merry colleen forger Kathleen O’Reilly (Maggie McCarthy).
Still, who needs characterisation when you can have shoot-outs? Lynda La Plante’s success in mainstream drama can be attributed to her willingness to get on with the action and spare us any lengthy dwelling on motivation or psychology.
Here are a bunch of crooked sorts, she says, here are the diamonds . . . stand back and count the bodies.
Over six episodes, Dolly multitasked furiously – working towards opening the children’s home and planning and conducting an audacious armed mail train robbery – on horseback!
Ultimately, she went out with a big bang (several big bangs actually) – blasted to death by Ester – while the other ladies were led away for yet another round of life behind bars.
It may have been schlock, but it was class schlock, and She’s Out pulled in some 12 million viewers and universal plaudits from the critics.
DS Mike Withey
DCI Ron Craigh
DS John Palmer