Softly Softly: Task Force – Sunday, Sweet Sunday

S02E02 (20th September 1970). Written by Alan Plater, directed by Simon Langton

John Watt has sent the Task Force to the seaside.  Sunday is the day when the skinheads tend to turn up, creating havoc wherever they go.  But this week – possibly because of the strong police presence – they don’t appear.  So Watt sends his team out onto the streets to sniff out crime wherever they can find it ….

Sunday, Sweet Sunday has a nice, wrong-footing opening.  After Watt explains about the skinhead problem, the audience will have been primed for their arrival.  PC Snow is one of the officers waiting on the train platform for them and several shots of slowly approaching trains serves to ramp up the tension just a little more.

But since they never turn up, the story is able to veer off in unexpected scattershot directions as Plater sketches several different examples of crime (all fairly mild, it must be said).

PC Snow is less than impressed with Stephens (Windsor Davies), a bingo caller at the local amusement arcade.  Snow reminds him that he promised the players a prize if they completed a line – so why did he ask two ladies to play off for the prize when they both completed a line at the same time?  Terence Rigby is as delightfully deadpan as usual.

WDC Donald runs across a cheeky chappie photographer called Daley (Christopher Beeny).  Daley takes photographs of holiday makers and offers to post them several prints for the princely sum of five shillings.  Donald twigs that he hasn’t put any film in his camera all morning, realising that he just pockets the money and moves on.  Earlier, Sgt. Evans confessed to Donald that he finds the seaside to be a somewhat depressing place – it simply exists, he claims, to fleece holidaymakers of their money.

His comments are echoed by Daley who admits that he’s ripping people off, but attempts to justify himself by telling Donald that “people come to the seaside expecting to be taken for a ride. Well, most of them on the seaside are pretending that they’re giving you value. I mean, you’ve got fruit machines, you’ve got bingo, bags of chips. It’s all a big con. Really it is. So I don’t bother pretending.”  Beeny gives a nice comic turn (I especially like his reaction when Watt arrests him. “That’s not fair, you should wear a helmet”!)

Earlier, Watt agreed to meet Mr Hughes (Donald Morley) for a drink.  He’d never previously heard of him, but it’s noticeable that when Watt speaks to him on the phone he straightens up after learning he’s friendly with the Chief Constable!  Hughes is a local businessman who, along with several others, is concerned about an influx of hippies.  The hippies don’t actually do anything, but Hughes still wants them moved on.  Watt’s a stickler for the law and views Hughes with disfavour – if the hippies haven’t broken any laws then there’s nothing he can do.  Frank Windsor bristles with indignation during this nicely-played scene.

And with Evans chasing a Borstal escapee, Kennedy (Andrew Neil), through the fairground and onto the beach, as well as the conman Miller (Michael Hawkins) lurking about, there’s no shortage of incident in Alan Plater’s script.  Although Chief Constable Cullen isn’t terribly impressed after Watt discusses his haul, deadpanning that the home office is very worried about seaside photographers!

Possibly because of the faded film sequences, the seaside footage has a rather seedy glamour.  These scenes are a lovely time capsule of the period though, especially the rather run-down fairground.  A typically dense story from Plater which is a rather good vehicle for Susan Tebbs (Donald’s encounter with Daley being the pick of the vignettes).

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