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Cop Shop (1977 - 1983)

Drama series
582 episodes x 60 minutes

Series synopsis:

A police drama with soap elements, which follows the work and personal lives of staff at Riverside police station.

Curator’s Notes:

Injecting soap into police drama, Cop Shop departs from earlier Crawford Productions cop shows Homicide (1964–75), Division 4 (1969–75) and Matlock Police (1971–75). These are procedural dramas, with a firm emphasis on crime plotlines and limited interest in their police characters’ private lives, although their personalities are still central.

In Cop Shop, private lives – in particular romances, marriages and families – share centre stage with policing. Its combination of contained crime stories with serial relationship storylines has its most obvious descendant in Southern Star’s Blue Heelers (1994–2006). There is also a comic element, with shades of the sitcom, in particular through the presence of characters like Gil Tucker’s nerdy Constable Roy Baker, an archetypal irritating-but-lovable sidekick.

Cop Shop plays with the traditional cop show divide between plain-clothes detectives and the uniformed squad. In many episodes, the front desk is the source of lighter storylines, although it does also have its serious moments and soap-style relationship dramas. The plain-clothes wing also takes a step away from the earnest professionalism exhibited by the likes of Homicide’s detectives. They’re still the good guys but the office culture among Riverside Police’s detectives is jovial, blokey and irreverent, with occasional doses of 'carry on’-style humour. They like a drink and a joke and occasionally clash with their superiors, as exemplified by Peter Adams’s popular, larrikin detective ‘JJ’ Jeffrey Johnson.

JJ and his mates can also be seen sighing into their beers over the troubles of living and working with ‘independent women’. In further contrast with Homicide, there are female detectives and officers in the Riverside Police. Here in particular is where the series reveals itself as a product of its time. Cop Shop reflects the impact of second-wave feminism on mainstream culture in the 1970s and ‘80s. Women’s changing status in society and the challenges of balancing work and family life are recurring themes. Should married women work? Who should call the shots in a relationship or marriage? Should policewomen do the same, difficult work as policemen? Questions like these are often the source of dramatic tension between characters, and a reminder of how such social issues have moved on since the late ’70s and early ’80s.

When Cop Shop appeared on Channel Seven in 1977, it marked the return of Crawford Productions to the genre it pioneered on Australian screens with Homicide. By the early ‘70s, the production house had a police drama on all three commercial channels – but in 1975 Homicide, Division 4 and Matlock Police were axed, broadcasting their remaining episodes through 1976 and the non-ratings season of 1977. Channel 0 (later Ten) continued to screen Crawford’s soap The Box from 1974 until 1977, while their hit period drama series The Sullivans (1976–82) debuted on Nine in 1976.

Perhaps as a result of changing network demands, Cop Shop was a lower budget, higher turnaround production than its predecessors. Where earlier shows often shot locations on film and studio scenes on video – and for a period, Homicide was shot entirely on film – Cop Shop was filmed entirely on video, symptomatic of a general shift in production approaches for television. Cop Shop also displays less location shooting and – further emphasising its combination of series and serial formats, drama and soap – the show went to air twice weekly.

Cop Shop ceased production in 1983, with its final episodes airing for the first time in 1984. Over the course of its run, it won multiple awards. These included a slew of Logie Awards for most popular series and most popular actors, the latter won multiple times by audience favourites Peter Adams and Paula Duncan. Cop Shop also garnered a number of other industry awards.

Titles in this series

Cop Shop – Episode 109 1978

The Riverside police investigate a payroll robbery at a mill owned by Ralph Kingston (Roger Newcombe). They quickly set their sights on Kingston’s employee Rod Conway (Stephen Bisley), a mechanic with a criminal record, without realising that a romantic drama ...

Cop Shop – Episode 485 1983

When a homeless man dies of natural causes in a laneway, it seems like an open-and-shut case. Henry Adam (Ted Ogden) was apparently penniless, leaving behind only a common-law wife, Faith Bloomfield (Elaine Lee). Then his nephew shows up. Law ...