Network on Air (studio)
1000min approx (length)
27 August 2018 (released)
02 September 2018
This series featuring the late Don Henderson as TV’s quirkiest, not to mention scruffiest detective George Kitchener BULMAN, is in actuality a spin off: the character had appeared in two previous TV-series (THE XYY MEN and STRANGERS) but here the character has been developed considerably more by Murray Smith who wrote the majority of the 20 episodes.
Series 1 (1985) spans 13 episodes and Series 2 (1987) has 7 episodes. Series 1 then begins with our quirky and retired London ex-cop George Bulman in his clock repair shop (supposedly located somewhere in London's Walworth area) when one day, he is visited by plucky young university drop-out and amateur criminologist Lucy McGinty (Siobhan Redmond). As mentioned before, Bulman is a retired ex-cop (and a top cop he was!) though these days he seems perfectly content with repairing old clocks whilst doing the occasional bit of private detective work on the side. Lucy is the daughter of a former murdered Scots police officer colleague of his and the two strike up an immediate rapport. Enthusiastic Lucy suggests they set up seriously as Private Investigators. They are, in fact, a pair of natural gumshoes. To call Bulman a rare one-off is something of an understatement for this is a man who puts the so called idiosyncrasies of the beer drinking and opera loving Inspector Morse into the shade! Bulman’s hobbies include: I.N.S.O. model trains, playing jazz and classical records on record, playing the tenor sax and piano himself (he is a highly competent player), reading and quoting the likes of the bard, Andrew Marvell and Latin phrases (he is in fact an Open University scholar), pouring HP-sauce over every meal imaginable including Chinese and Greek, holding his glass/cup in a peculiarly posh manner though he himself is working-class Cockney, wearing tatty string-gloves, using his nasal inhaler at every occasion, scoffing down greasy chips in frightening quantities, and sporting T-shirts with literary quotes. Now there can't be many cops about like him, surely! At the other spectrum we have Lucy with her fashionable 80’s Kim Wilde hairstyle, a never-ending array of oversized and trashy earrings, and enthusiasm and a sharp eye for detail by the spadeful.
Soon enough we have a formidable pair and it’s all aboard for the skylark. Also there is not so much as a hint of romantic involvement here proving that (older) men and women can work together without sex rearing its fatalistic head. With 20 episodes on offer we cannot possibly go into in depth here, though one episode (‘The Chicken of the Baskervilles’ starring late Hammer Horror star Ingrid Pitt) is a barmy as its sounds and great fun!!! We also have on hand (for a number of episodes) the highly polished old school charm of veteran thesp Thorley Waters as top M.I.5. man Bill Dugdale (an old acquaintance of George's) as well as Bulman’s former boss Jack Lambie (Mark ‘TAGGART’ McManus).
Whenever Dugdale appears we know the ante will be raised considerably and things are going to get complex and dangerous. However Bulman, scruffy as he is, is very, very far from being a fool and invariably has to be one step ahead of Dugdale's machinations. In one episode we see that old maxim 'once a cop always a cop' played out to the hilt. Bear that in mind no matter how much you may like Bulman.
When he takes on a very dangerous case indeed; he agrees to go into prison on a trumped up charge in order to 'get the goods' on criminal mastermind Revel (Alfred Burke, hitting very much the right note) with still fourteen more years to serve for presumably organizing a series of high powered robberies from within (the justification being unjustified killing). Bulman is only too well aware of the implications of a police inspector getting 'banged up'. Revel warns (rightly some may think) that if he discovers that he is duping him he'll have him killed. This, with outside help, is exactly what Bulman is planning to do. After winning Revel's confidence by means of manufactured ploys he totally puts a stop to a major robbery, thus making a total fool of Revel who then puts a contract out on him. George rightly decides to flee to Shanghai (shot at Bermondsey Quay?) for his life (accompanied by the faithful Lucy). End of Series 1!
Enter Series 2: Bulman being Bulman is not going to stay away for long - it should be mentioned this guy is pretty tough too and no mistake! A year later he returns with a beard and a ponytail to take on Revel on his own terms. Woe betide any man who is likely to underestimate George Kitchener Bulman! If anyone can turn the tables... there will be blood.
We have a number of distinguished guest stars scattered throughout the two series. A pity that the likes of the disgraced but immensely stylish Peter Wyngarde is virtually wasted as villain Gallio in 'I met a Man who wasn't There'. Powerhouse Scots actor Iain Cuthbertson gets shot after only one line in another episode (or was it tokenism, he'd had a stroke some years before). Fans of the irksome voiced little comic genius Ken Campbell are in for a treat too with his recurring pickpocket.
Writer Murray Smith has an episode for virtually all and sundry; we even have Jack Shepherd as a defecting sax playing KGB agent; all aboard for a duet with Bulman in Sonny Boy Saltz's (real life avantgarde legend Lol Coxhill) jazz band - what more do you want? Murray Smith would appear to have some insight into the workings of the M.O.D. , and was a friend of former spy and Daily Express journo Frederick Forsyth, which gives the Dugdale episodes a realistic edge.
It might be noted that there are a number of Scots actors on show here and it’s not just the aforementioned Mark McManus. Murray Smith himself was a Scotsman and Siobhan Redmond is of course also Scottish.
True, Bulman has not the polish of a big budget affair like INSPECTOR MORSE but it is more than amply compensated by Smith's clever scripts and Henderson's far from one-dimensional lead. One can't help wondering how much of Henderson went into creating his Bulman character (that Will Power badge and T-shirt for example).