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Shadow Squad & Skyport

There are some series that were very popular of their time, but have almost completely been erased from collective memory and the history books.  One such is Shadow Squad. Its longevity and popularity provided a training ground for key television writers of the 1960s and 1970s, including BAFTA-nominated Julian Bond and Coronation Street creator Tony Warren. 179 episodes were transmitted between June 1957 and June 1959, but only four now remain in the archive. The show was a series of two-part stories, showing episodes less than a week apart.

The theme makes you expect Quatermass, all doomladen and full of menace – not quite matching what was to come. And in terms of setting precedents, it is well worth noting that this show was one of the first to lead to a ‘spin-off’ - in this case the airport-bound Skyport, which carried over the popular Cockney wide-boy character of Ginger Smart as an airport security guard. And in this new Network DVD release, you get to savour the ONLY surviving episode of Ginger’s 52 further adventures.

Shadow Squad & Skyport on DVDThe first 13 two-parters of Shadow Squad were shot in London, with Rex Garner the star, playing the character of Vic Steele. He was a former Scotland Yard Flying Squad officer, who quit the force as rules and regs were stopping him from doing his job. Forming a detective agency, the eponymous “Shadow Squad”, the format had George Moon playing his right-hand man, Ginger.

Also a regular was the office help, Mrs Moggs (Kathleen Boutall), who actually had a very fine attention to detail, which often helped piece things together on various cases.

Following this ‘first season’, the series relocated to the Granada TV studios in Manchester. Garner left the series, his character “going on long-term assignment to Australia”. His shoes were filled by Don Carter, played by Peter Williams, this time the lead being a former Scotland Yard detective inspector. And it was this line-up which prevailed, and he’s the star of the quartet of surviving episodes.

The final episode, “Swan Song”, ended very much as the much later Gangsters did, with Carter, Ginger and Mrs Moggs breaking the fourth wall. Based around a murder in a TV studio, the denouement saw the actors drop character, introduce themselves to the audience by their real names, shake hands and walk off into the proverbial sunset!

For information, the surviving episodes included on this release are:

Shadow Squad: “Race Against Time” (Season 2, Episodes 11 – 24 October 1957, and 12 - 28 October 1957). Bookmaking shenanigans swiftly sorted over the course of an hour.

Shadow Squad: “The Missing Cheese” (Season 2, Episodes 21 – 28 November 1957, and 22 – 2 December 1957). A plot unravels as everything hangs on the theft of a wheel of cheese from a pub.

Skyport: “The Spanish Girl” (Episode 4 - 10 May 1959) – an episode which is summed up by its title, and features a very young Gerald Harper!

Shadow Squad is out now from Network, with a running time of 125 minutes approx, a ‘U’ certificate, and a RRP of £15.31 or less, available exclusively from the Network Online Shop.


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