1 9 8 8 – 1 9 9 0 (UK)
15 x 50 minute episodes
The BBC’s South Of The Border tackled the banalities of the police/private eye drama genre effectively by making its central characters some of the most unlikely defenders of the law seen on television.
Pearl Parker (Buki Armstrong) and Finn Gallagher (Rosie Rowell) were not Britain’s answer to Cagney and Lacey: their efforts at doing battle with the baddies seemed to be based on serendipity rather than slick professionalism. But their unsystematic approach made a refreshing change from the ‘kick-in- the-door-and-yell-“freeze'” routine so often employed.
Parker and Gallagher’s sarcastic solicitor boss Millie (Dinah Stabb) was also a familiar figure turned on its head. Running a struggling business, she not only had to contend with her investigators’ hit-and-miss methods but also the antics of her wideboy colleague Krish (James Harkishin).
Their economics-versus-principles row offered a revealing insight into the problems of keeping a small legal practice afloat.
The cast was excellent, a mix of black and white actors which left the viewer feeling that the choice of players had not been determined solely by colour.
The BBC pumped a considerable amount of money into the programme to achieve a polished look, and the warehouse parties and dingy record shops featured in the first series were replaced by computer hacking and the glassy tower blocks at London Bridge.
The impressive location photography and lavish direction certainly gave the production a certain gloss, but some of South Of The Border‘s original streetwise feel was lost with the injection of cash it received after the first series.
Pairing Pearl and Finn off with different partners in a broken marriage created an interesting twist in the duo’s relationship, but a little more characterisation and less of the aerial shots of Clacton might have made following the plot a rather less strenuous activity for the viewer.
South Of The Border certainly succeeded where most other private investigation dramas fall flat on their face.