The recent BFS Entertainment DVD release of the 2013 first series (my people call them seasons) of the brilliant BBC police drama "WPC 56" is part of a bundle of great new titles from this purveyor of fine British television to those of us on this side of the pond. Reviews will soon follow of seasons of the equally good BBC dramas "The Indian Doctor" and "The Village."
The title "WPC 56" has a dual meaning; it is the designation of rookie Woman Police Constable Gina Dawson and refers to her becoming the first female member of the force in her West Midlands hometown in 1956.
The lack of melodramatic histrionics is the most awesome thing about this spectacular series; the boys in blue degrade their new colleague but refrain from pulling out their billy clubs or engaging in other overtly crude behavior, and Dawson goes about her job with a quiet dignity. There are no angry speeches, and Dawson actually must encourage the men to subject her to the same hazing that male rookies endure.
The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of a scene from the "WPC" pilot provides a good example of the themes described above. It also offers a sense of the excellent casting that helps make this show special.
The fact that much of the opposition stems from both understandable ignorance regarding the proper role of female officers and logical concern regarding the impact of Dawson being in the field with the male officers add nice sensitive touches to a potentially heavy-handed show.
One of the more amusing scene in the first season has Dawson becoming the hero after essentially being told to be a good girl and wait in the car. Other humor relates to relegating this well-qualified officer to the role of tea lady.
The compelling police investigations come in a close second regarding the best elements of "WPC." A season-long investigation into an ice-cold case involving a 30 year-old disappearance of two young boys nicely ties into a much more recent series of particularly creepy attacks on women. Shorter story arcs enjoy comparable entertaining synergy.
Further, the well-presented historic elements of "WPC" extend beyond the seemingly authentic clothes and other styles of the era and the out-dated attitudes toward female police officers. A season-long storyline that involves the personal life of a colleague of Dawson provides a glimpse of the shocking (pun intended) treatment of psychological problems in the '50s. Some of these scenes are more cringe-worthy than depictions of the police work, which includes brutal beat downs of suspects.
The end result of all this is that "WPC" is a "must-own" combination of classic British mysteries, "N.Y.P.D. Blue," "Hill Street Blues," and "Cagney and Lacey" without the preachiness and melodrama that partially characterize the American shows.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "WPC" is encouraged to email me. You can also find me on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.