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Public Eye (1965-75)

Courtesy of FremantleMedia

Main image of Public Eye (1965-75)
ABC Television/Thames Television for ITV, 10/04/1965-07/04/1975
87x50 min episodes in 7 series, black & white/colour
Directors includeKim Mills
 Bill Bain
Based on an idea byRoger Marshall
 Anthony Marriott
Producers includeMichael Chapman
 Kim Mills

Cast: Alfred Burke (Frank Marker); Pauline Delaney (Mrs Helen Mortimer); Ray Smith (DI Firbank); Peter Childs (Ron Gash)

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Private Investigator Frank Marker operates at the margins of society, handling blackmail, missing persons, infidelity and petty crime, for little thanks or reward.

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Not every 1960s TV sleuth and private investigator enjoyed the high life. Frank Marker, the down-at-heel hero of Public Eye (ITV, 1965-75), lived a life of unromantic grimness at the margins of society, where morality and the rule of law were flexible commodities and only an innate sense of justice separated him from the petty criminal underclass he routinely encountered.

At the start of season one the hangdog Marker, played with understated perfection by Alfred Burke, is an unmarried loner scraping a living as a private investigator in London. The location was changed to Birmingham for seasons two and three, although in all other respects the show remained largely unchanged. Morally ambiguous and meticulously seedy, Public Eye's rejection of the romanticism of crime predates shows like The Sweeney (ITV, 1975-1978), which inhabited a very similar world of elastic principles.

The extent to which Public Eye differed from other similar programmes is clearly illustrated by the conclusion of season three - Marker is sent to prison for two and a half years for a crime he hasn't committed. He is released on probation at the start of season four, but despite a move to the coast at Brighton, Marker's world remains grey and unremittingly harsh - the reality of his situation brought home by the regular appearance of his probation officer, Jim Hull (John Grieve).

The series remained true to its original concept for 10 years, although from the fourth season onwards a semi-regular coterie of characters passed through the production including Helen Mortimer, Marker's landlady (Pauline Delany). The fifth season saw the introduction of the longest-serving secondary character, Detective Inspector Percy Firbank (Ray Smith), who becomes interested in the private investigator when he moves into new premises in Windsor. But their eventual friendship is cut short when Marker relocates to Chertsey halfway through the show's final season.

Despite its long run and ratings success, Public Eye has been largely forgotten by TV history, something that Marker, the habitual loser, would probably have seen the funny side of. However, the show remains an important link between the '60s super sleuths and the more realistic depiction of detective work that started to appear on TV during the 1970s.

Anthony Clark

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Video Clips
'The Bromsgrove Venus' Pt 1 (12:58)
'The Bromsgrove Venus' Pt 2 (13:55)
'The Bromsgrove Venus' Pt 3 (20:18)
1. Photography competition (3:34)
2. 'Only a photograph' (3:34)
3. Mrs Ainsworth (3:35)
Goddard, Jim (1936-2013)
Preston, Trevor
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