Dempsey and Makepeace

Dempsey and Makepeace (1985–86) is a British television crime drama made by LWT for ITV, created and produced by Ranald Graham. Lead roles were played by Michael Brandon (Dempsey) and Glynis Barber (Makepeace), who later married each other on 18 November 1989.

The premise of Dempsey and Makepeace is the oddball pairing of two police detectives: an elegant British noblewoman, Sgt (Lady) Harriet Makepeace, and a streetwise working-class New Yorker, Lt James Dempsey, both working for an elite and armed unit of the London Metropolitan Police.

When his partner Joey dies in a botched drugs operation and he uncovers police corruption at the highest level, Dempsey is under threat of assassination. With help from his colleagues, he hurriedly leaves New York for London, on the pretence of an undercover international police exchange programme.

Harriet “Harry” Makepeace is the daughter of Lord Winfield (Ralph Michael), who owns an English stately home. Reference is made to his having formerly been in the Army or the Secret Service. Harry’s grandfather is mentioned as having been a Victorian collector of antiques and rare items. Harry’s mother is mentioned only once, by her maternal uncle Duffy and, it would seem she had died some time ago. Harry has made her way up through the ranks of the police force, despite sexism by her male counterparts and the physical demands of the job.

Although there is initial reluctance on both sides, Harry and Dempsey work as partners in a specialised task force, SI 10, and they make a good team. SI 10 is under the command of Gordon Spikings, played by Ray Smith. A fourth regular role is that of Chas, played by Tony Osoba, who provides useful research and communications in the SI 10 office and occasionally has a more active role.

Two double-length episodes were produced, the first being the pilot one (“Armed and Extremely Dangerous”), and the second the lead episode of series 3 (“The Burning”).

At the height of the series’ popularity, and during season 2 particularly, the British tabloid press hounded the lead actors for off-screen stories regarding their then-budding personal relationship.

Much of the show’s draw came from the good natured “will they or won’t they” interplay and a slowly evolving romance between the main protagonists, made possible by the obvious chemistry between the two lead actors. The show ended with an episode directed by Michael Brandon himself where Dempsey and Makepeace are forced to confront at least some of their feelings for one another.

Main cast

The show was originally broadcast on ITV between 11 January 1985 and 1 November 1986. From July 2009, the series was repeated on ITV3 in the UK.

International broadcast

It was sold to many countries in Europe, including Eastern Bloc Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary, where it became an especially popular weekend-night TV-movie series with the usual high quality dubbing (original Hungarian revoiced episodes, kept inaccessibly in the archives of Magyar Televízió, are much sought after as very hard to find “collectables” by that country’s film fans). The programme was broadcast elsewhere worldwide, such as on Pakistan Television during 1985–86. The series was also syndicated to the U.S. airwaves in the autumn of 1985, usually broadcast on Saturday afternoons or early evenings. However, only the first 20 hours of the series were run in the U.S. (straight through in 19 weeks); by mid-January 1986, it was discontinued, with the 10 episodes of series 3 never being aired. To encourage interest, the show was marketed in the U.S. as being similar to a re-make of The Avengers, but, while well advertised, it never grew a substantial following.

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