Before there was The Bill, there was Cop Shop. One of the great televisual pleasures of my childhood was settling down on the lounge, bowl of ice-cream on lap, for my twice-weekly dose of this hard-hitting Aussie drama/soap.
Cop Shop had everything a good cop show needs. Hard-arsed detectives. Bumbling Constables (anyone who says Reg Hollis is not a blatant copy of Roy Baker can go and get stuffed). Crotchety old desk Seargent. Cops with principles and cops who can be bought. Comedic relief (Gil Tucker as Roy Baker is a modern Chaplin).
And then there are the crims. No gay basher or payroll robbing thug in Melbourne stood a chance against this crack group of law enforcers. No sooner had the balaclava-wearing, sawn-off wielding crook stumbled out of the bank when up would screech a late model Kingswood, and out would pop a couple of pissed-off, brown-suited detectives, guns at the ready. Next stop Pentridge.
And then there were the policewomen, notably the lovely Paula Duncan (cor blimey) and in later seasons the buxom blonde sex-kitten Lynda Stoner (as Gareth Keenan would say, “Look at those!”). Here are the two crime-fighting femme fatales side by side – or is it two early ’80s soccer mums set on revenge?
The great thing about Cop Shop was that you would get a new story each episode, but also catch up on longer-running plotlines. We saw the cops at work and at home. We got to know and love (or hate) them. We saw the cops having family troubles, we saw them fraternising with saucy ex-strippers. We saw them gunned down, buried and mourned, only to rise from the dead for the next TV Week cover. It was great.
The show also served as a training ground for new, young actors. Anyone who couldn’t get a bit-part on Cop Shop clearly had no future as an actor in this country. Mel Gibson appeared in early episodes alongside fellow NIDA graduate Steve Bisley.
Cop Shop was a Logie-winning, crime-fighting machine. But tragically after a mere 582 action-packed episodes the series ended in 1984 due to – you guessed it – declining ratings. Ah, the fickle hand of public opinion. Now, sadly, Cop Shop is almost forgotten. I couldn’t even find it on DVD, which these days is saying something.
Someone has been kind enough to put a few clips on YouTube, but unkind enough to disable embedding, so I provide here links for those who wish to reminisce.
Here are the original opening credits from 1977.
Here are the updated opening credits from 1981, featuring the delectable Lynda Stoner.
And finally, the opening credits from the show’s last year.