85. Cop-speak

Tapehead no 85

The question on Tapehead’s mind this week is: how much more street slang can we, the audience, can take?

NYPD Blue of course prides itself on being unintelligible – why else do they mumble all the dialogue and make up their own lingo just to see if the real police in New York will fall for it ?

This week’s episode has the usual ration of “I caught the case,” “He’s reaching out,” and “He’s given him up,” as well as the welcome return of that old favourite, “Someone just dropped the dime on that homicide.”

Sipowicz and Simone in particular are feeling linguistically frisky this week: “You helped us out before – that took some moxie,” growls Sipowicz, while Simone contributes: “You trying’ to jam me up ?” and “Who’s zommin’ who here ?” (Not me officer.)

Simone is forced to link up with an ex-vice cop under investigation by Internal Affairs. (“What’s he going’ down for?” “He’s in bed with a Colombian woman who washes coke money.”)

The cop has blatantly been brought in specifically for this expertise at banter: “You know Rick Turelli ?” 

“Since before the flood.”

Their sub-plot resolves with the following exchange:

“You’re draggin’ me down to some hot-sot up the ass-end of the Bronx, with an IAB tail that’s gonna put me in the jackpot.”

“I’m sorry. She dials 911 on my beeper – I thought they were dropping the hammer.”

So that clears that one up then. 

But never mind NYPD Blue, the really sassy street slang is on The Bill, which next week features a one-hour special (Confession) that begins with a man walking into Sun Hill nick and confessing to a murder. (As one-hour specials go, it’s pretty short.)

In other words, it is Dialogue City in The Bill.

“You mean that scumbag walked?”

“Walked! He flew!”

“Phelan tried to play the mad card, but he didn’t succeed.”

“I don’t know here he is, but I do know where he isn’t.” 

Tapehead had to worry about the nine o’clock watershed as in Somebody’s Home, WPC Keane asks hard man Mickey Dale: “does your mum know that you piss on the people you hit?”

Friday’s brilliant Boy Meets Girl centres on WPC Croft’s battle of wits against a cock-sure creep suspected of attacking women at bus stops. 

(He works in advertising so the chances are he’s guilty.)

“You wouldn’t think it to look at him, would you?” says PC Jarvis. “He’s got a smile and knife; what more do you need?” says PC Quinnan cheerfully.

When Croft goes for the suspect with a pair of hair pluckers, his reaction (“you want me to wipe that smile off your face, love? I know how to do it. The knife’s only an accessory…”) wins this week’s Much Scarier Than Anthony Hopkins As Hannibal Lecter Award by a mile.

No wonder the youth of today know so much about sex and violence: they learn it from The Bill.

Silent Witness is not so much a worthwhile version of Dangerfield as a dream combination of Inspector Morse and Heather from Brookside (Amanda Burton) as a police pathologist/sleuth.

It has arty opening titles, quiet music, a heroine with nice furniture and taste in classical music, not to mention a plot that goes extra slowly for its two-part debut.

There’s even more explicit child abuse and wife-beating than in The Bill and a wholly gratuitous scene where the villain sniffs Amanda Burton’s underwear (which, let’s face it, is something none of us would ever want to fantasize about doing).

Inevitably, the sleuth’s family resent her; the people in mortuaries all have a sick sense of humour and sing Donny Osmond songs as they carve the bodies up; and the hero is doing not only her own job but half the police force’s. (What is a pathologist doing interviewing lifers in prison ?)

“There’s a problem,” says a detective (conveniently). “She won’t talk to us, she wants to talk to you.”

With Morse-like stoicism, Ms Burton wrestles with such choice dialogue as “I want justice, not a witch-hunt” and “She was murdered. I just can’t prove it and the police aren’t even trying.”

Quite why the producers needed to throw in a cheap joke at Jeremy Paxman’s expense is also anyone’s guess.


NYPD Blue: 10-10.55pm, Thu, C4

The Bill: 8-9pm, Tue27, 8-8.30pm, Tue, Thu, Fri, ITV

Silent Witness: 9.30-10.20pm, Wed, Thu BBC1