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Good series from the days when ITV could make drama
Hazell was one of a clutch of London-based drama series of high quality which ITV produced in the 1970s, with others from this era including Minder, Budgie and Out. Minder aside, I was too young to watch these series when they were originally broadcast, however I've really enjoyed catching them on DVD. Hazell was an interesting take on the private eye genre, with the 'tec as a Cockney ex-cop with a classic car and a nice line in dialogue.
Nicholas Ball is convincing in the title role, and I'm a little surprised he didn't become a bigger name on TV post-Hazell. I didn't know the writers thought he was too young for the part, and I'm astounded they considered John Bindon for the role. Bindon could play a tough nut, which of course is what he was in real life, but as Dennis Waterman said in his autobiography, Bindon wasn't what you would call an actor.
As well as sharp dialogue, Hazell benefited from a very capable supporting cast, which included Roddy McMillan as the teetotal Scots CID officer Choc Minty, Desmond McNamara as cousin Tel, and James Faulkner as Gordon Gregory, the posh lawyer with some very dubious clients. With regard to a remake of Hazell, I did hear a rumour a while back about Ray Winstone taking the lead role (I feel Jimmy Hazell would be a better part for him than Vincent), and I'm disappointed it hasn't happened.
However, it doesn't surprise me in the slightest that the useless lot in charge of drama at ITV think Hazell is 'dated and sexist'. James Hazell was hardly someone who treated women badly, and Barbara Young played a strong (but not butch) lesbian character in the series, so go figure, as the Americans say. Nowadays, Network Centre (dubbed by one national TV critic Notwork Centre) is content to churn out endless series by Lynda La Plante and unimaginative guff by Kay Mellor, therefore how they can dismiss worthwhile ideas so freely is beyond me.
A measure of ITV's current hold on reality - phone quiz cons aside - is that they think Caroline Quentin is star material. Dearie me. Back to Hazell, and it's a great shame there's been no similar series on our screens for many years. Television drama series aimed primarily at men have been extremely thin on the ground for a very long time, and with TV advertisers said to be desperate to reach younger men, you'd think the answer was obvious. Even to the right-on dullards running drama at ITV.
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