'Shadow Squad' was an excellent private-eye drama, with more than a bit of humour in its basically serious scripts. The programme's original run was from June 1957 to June 1959. To my knowledge, 'Shadow Squad' was the first TV series to use a format which was later used successfully by the 'Batman' series on American TV in the 1960s: for most of its run, 'Shadow Squad' aired twice weekly in the form of a two-part episode, with the first night's instalment ending in a cliffhanger. Viewers had to watch the show twice in the week in order to see a complete adventure.
The first 26 episodes (13 two-parters) were filmed in London. Rex Garner starred as Vic Steele, a former member of the Flying Squad (Scotland Yard's most aggressive detail), who resigned from the force because he felt the Metropolitan Police Department's rules were hampering his attempts to catch criminals. Becoming a private detective, Steele formed an agency called Shadow Squad, in which his partner was Ginger Smart: with a name like that, you just know he's a Cockney. Actor George Moon's portrayal of Smart relied on the usual cheeky-chappy stereotypes. Steele and Smart (notice the catchy surnames) were abetted by their charlady Mrs Moggs, played by Kathleen Boutall. Mrs Moggs bordered on the stereotype of the typical comic-relief servant ('Can I do you now, sir?') except for one interesting detail. She had a penchant for noticing clues that escaped the attention of her employers.
After 13 adventures, production of 'Shadow Squad' was moved to cheaper quarters in Granada TV's studio in Manchester. Actor Rex Garner left the series: it was explained that he was on long-term assignment in Australia. He was replaced by more conventional leading-man Peter Williams as Don Carter, a former Scotland Yard detective inspector. Carter proved to be more popular with viewers than the supercilious Steele had been.
The last episode of 'Shadow Squad' was titled 'Swan Song', and it ended in bizarre fashion. In this story, Carter and Smart (aided by the redoubtable Mrs Moggs) investigated a murder in a television studio. The end of the episode revealed that this was actually the Granada studio in which the series had been filmed. At this point, actors George Moon and Peter Williams dropped out of character, introduced themselves by their real names, shook hands, and walked off the set. Astonishing!
Despite the ongoing clichés and a few predictable plot twists, 'Shadow Squad' was a highly entertaining series. I fondly remember this programme and wish it were rebroadcast.
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