An icon because it was fresh and new

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PROBABLY my favourite scene from The Sweeney comes when Detective Inspector Jack Regan is apprehending a villain in his typical no-nonsense manner.

“Who are you?” asks the bewildered crook, as he finds himself man-handled into a pair of cuffs.

“We’re The Sweeney son,” returns Regan irritably. “And we haven’t had any dinner.”

As script-writing goes it’s not quite Othello but nevertheless I’m sure this touches on some fundamental human truth Shakespeare never did: that committing robbery and violence is utterly deplorable but committing an act which means another man must make do with a warmed up omelette for tea is truly beyond all forgiveness.

I love that show.

It may have ended years before I was born. It may be sexist and horribly homophobic. And it may require a monumental suspension of disbelief to accept Dennis Waterman as a ladies man (“he looks like a testicle chewing a wasp,” as my nana famously declared).

But I love it anyway – Waterman and all.

It comes clear but crackling from an age I never knew but which I like to peer back at anyway, each episode a treasure trove offering gold from that foreign country. And it generally features a good punch up too.

What’s not to love?

Hmm, let me tell you what: the fact that almost four decades on some witless wonder is remaking the show as a £16 million movie set in 2012 and starring – inevitably – Ray Winstone.

Why would they do that? Why would they look at this cult totem – which literally revolutionised British police drama – and decide it acceptable to burn it, defecate on the ashes and stick Plan B in the middle of the squalid remains?

Hmm, let me answer that as well: because increasingly any old re-heated tripe passes for entertainment – as long as it’s not something so maverick as an original thought.

Forgive me the rant because I know there are few things more boring than someone moaning about popular culture.

I deplore those who claim there is nothing exciting to be seen, heard or read anymore. Because there is.

Just because it’s not on Saturday night ITV1 doesn’t mean incredible music isn’t being made. Just because everyone reads Fifty Shades Of Mills And Boon doesn’t mean great literature isn’t being created. And just because multiplexes are filled with Spider-Man (rebooted) and Anna Karenina (the eighth movie version) doesn’t mean original films aren’t being produced.

It just means you have to look a little harder for the diamonds in the dirt.

I suspect it was ever thus.

But wouldn’t it be nice if just a bit more often the multi-millionaires at the multi-nationals which manipulate our mainstream culture overlooked making even more money and just let past glories lie?

If they could understand great entertainment was great because it was fresh – and the gold to be got from up-dating and re-booting isn’t worth the soiled sheets?

And then we might live in a world where Ant and Dec had never ruined The Likely Lads, and Will and Gareth had never mauled The Beatles. And that £16 million might be given to someone with an idea of their own which may not be a goldmine – but which may just still be talked about in decades to come.

And ultimately we could remember Jack Regan, not as Ray Winstone shooting a semi-automatic, but as John Thaw wearily telling a copulating gangland boss: “Get your trousers on, you’re nicked”.