Bad Cop, Bad Cop: acticles

Bad Cop, Bad Cop Walks The Beat

ABC TV will begin production in Sydney next month on its new comedy series Bad Cop, Bad Cop with filming commencing Monday 8 April.

Directed by Cate Shortland (Secret Life of Us) and David Caesar (Dirty Deeds, Mullet, Idiot Box) the 8 part series will be shot on location throughout Sydney. Cate will direct episodes 1 through 4 and David episodes 5 to 8.

Written by Ian David of Blue Murder fame, Bad Cop, Bad Cop focuses on the lives of two plain -clothes detectives in an outer suburban police station and stars Michael Caton (The Castle, The Animal) and Daniel Wylie (Cloudstreet, Chopper) as Detective Sergeant Red Lilywhite and Detective Constable Lou Knutt*

Keeping the peace on the streets and always a piece of the action for themselves, Red and Lou are completely uninterested in actually solving crimes. Their relationships with crims and other members of the general public serve only to benefit themselves. In the face of new style policing, internal affairs enquiries and corruption commissions, they are the fat blue line.

Joining Michael and Daniel as regular cast members are Helen Thomson (La Spagnola, Strange Planet) as Tracy Lafever: Roy Billing (The Dish, Rabbit Proof Fence) as Assistant Commissioner ‘Pud' Tugwell: Christopher Hobbs as Slim Azzopardi and Peter Browne (Sword of Honour, Joh's Jury, Police Rescue) as Sergeant Phil.

Bad Cop Bad Cop is a Southern Star production for ABC TV. Executive Producer and Producer is Errol Sullivan (Blue Murder, On The Beach). Ian David is Co-Producer/Head Writer. Executive Producer for ABC TV is Geoff Portmann.

Monday 11 March

Cop this!

If you think there are too many police shows on TV, you ain't seen nothing yet. Michael Idato reports.

Police dramas might be the last of the great television cliches, but Southern Star Entertainment chief executive Erroll Sullivan believes there are still stories to be told.

He has good reason to. Two good reasons, in fact. Last week, Sullivan's company started work on a new police drama, Young Lions, and a sitcom, Bad Cop, Bad Cop.

"We're doing this classic young-skewing cop show, all nice and straight, combined with an old-world, black, corrupt comedy," Sullivan laughs.

Though divergent in style, they share a pedigree with Blue Murder, the ABC's 1995 miniseries about organised crime and police corruption. Young Lions was co-created (with Sullivan) by Blue Murder director Michael Jenkins, while Bad Cop, Bad Cop was created by Blue Murder writer Ian David.

Impressed with two one-hour pilots filmed last year (using the crew of Water Rats, another Southern Star project), the Nine Network has ordered 22 episodes of Young Lions. Starring Alex Dimitriades, Tom Long, Alexandra Davies and Anna Lise Phillips, it is "a classic cop show with a difference", Sullivan says.

"It's going to have a very strong traditional feel, even a classic 1960s feel.

The lighting, the wardrobe, the music and the heroic casting is a wee-bit retro. That is something that hasn't been in cop shows for a while because the cop shows have tended to come from a strong reality base."

Sullivan says Young Lions is more idealistic than "the world-weary, worn-out, corner-cutting police world we're used to seeing". He includes Wildside in this category, a series hailed in its day for its innovation and honesty. "But I put my own shows there, too," he adds. "Water Rats, Blue Heelers, Wildside—these are people who have been dealing in this world all their lives."

In contrast to the idealism of Young Lions, Bad Cop, Bad Cop exploits the darker side of law enforcement and was conceived when Sullivan and David worked together on Blue Murder.

"While we were doing Blue Murder it was apparent to us that a lot of the madness was so out-there and it was so black that is was funny," Sullivan says. "Ian had this idea then of doing a show with two crooked detectives."

The concept has been reworked a number of times—at one point it was to be a vehicle for H.G. Nelson and "Rampaging" Roy Slaven. In its final form, it stars Michael Caton and Daniel Wyllie as the two bent cops.

"Policing for them is very simple," says Sullivan. "Policing for them is using the telephone, and using the telephone books to bash the truth out of people."

Given the scandals that have beset the NSW Police Service over the years, David will have plenty to draw on. "There is plenty of material," Sullivan laughs.

By Michael Idato
April 16 2002
The Sydney Morning Herald

Cops, crims and cons

IT features two bent coppers and their beautiful cohort in law, all three of them self-serving and in a completely different moral universe from everyone else.

Thus the ABC's new fictionalised comedy Bad Cop Bad Cop is likely to be as controversial as the real television footage released during the 1996 Wood Royal Commission into Police Corruption.

And like the images of corrupt cops trading bribe money and drugs, Bad Cop Bad Cop, which premieres on Monday, comes with the same outrageous storylines and colourful psychedelic language.

And while it is more than likely to cause much angst and/or titter among the NSW boys in blue, Bad Cop Bad Cop may even divide a nation on its merits as valid entertainment, just as the ABC's last foray into situation comedy, Kath and Kim, did.

The series was devised by Ian David, who wrote the acclaimed docudrama Blue Murder about the professional lives of corrupt cop Roger Rogerson and crook Neddy Smith.

It stars Michael Caton (Red Lilywhite) and Daniel Wyllie (Lou Knutt) as the officers with an old-fashioned attitude to policing, with Helen Thompson (Tracy Lafever) as their sexy solicitor with a very modern approach to law.

"I think some people will go 'What the hell is this about?' Others will really get into it," says Caton. "I would suggest it's not for everyone, the language is incredibly strong.

"But for years we've been watching Division 4, Cop Shop, Blue Heelers and everyone's got a white hat . . . we're making up for years of good wholesome cops, but don't watch this if you want to see them."

The eight episodes are based on real events that were divulged during the Wood Royal Commission and David's own research while writing Blue Murder.

He admits it skates dangerously close to the edge but he's ceased being surprised by elements of the force, an attitude based on the time he sat in the same pubs as cops and crims while researching Blue Murder.

"What really struck me was that, in that world, the cops and the crooks were laughing at us," says David.

"It wasn't about good and bad or black and white, it was about the way you looked at the world, like looking through a prism in another way. That struck me as funny and, once you get it, it never quite leaves you."

Thus from David's "corrupt perspective", any righteous indignation comes not from a shocked public, but from the shameless officers who face the prospect of having their easy pickings plucked away.

He cites the example of a corrupt cop who claimed to have slipped on a spilt milkshake and was stretchered away just after he had been summoned before the commission.

"I couldn't get over the fact that it was just outrageously absurd that anybody should seriously think they could get away with it," says David.

"But the dangerous thing is that they pulled it off all the time. You get a corrupt cop who thinks: 'OK, this is the scenario and I'm going to be so confident in the way I go about it, I know the rules of the game so well that I'm just going to pull the wool over everyone's eyes and it's going to work'."

The stories from the commission were so fantastic it was obvious it would make interesting television.

"I don't think I'll ever have an idea that is so appealing so immediately," he admits. "There was an embarrassment of stories in the end.

"If we're lucky enough to go to another series, there'd be no trouble finding stories."

By Jenny Dillon
November 14, 2002
The Daily Telegraph

Taking the cream off the crime

Crime doesn't pay? Debi Enker walks the thin blue line with a couple of dodgy cops who would disagree.

Masters of their own little universe, they swagger through the beachside car park carrying their favourite fast foods: milkshakes and burgers. They're only vaguely discomfited by the mayhem around them and continue walking impassively, past the drug deals, assaults, car thefts and kidnapping attempts.

None of it directly affects them, so it's easy to turn a blind eye. What does get their goat, though, is the mug leaning on the bonnet of their car as he watches the surf. They move that arsehole along quick-smart and return to their business, which nominally is protecting the good people of Sydney.

In fact, their true task is taking care of business—that is, any business from which they take a cut or pocket a profit. They'll also protect their turf from anyone stupid enough to stray into it without obeying the rules. And the rules are that they always win.

Meet detective sergeant Red Lilywhite (Michael Caton) and his partner and best mate, detective constable Lou Knutt (Dan Wyllie). They're the latest cop creations from Ian David, the writer responsible for Blue Murder, the milestone 1995 drama about police corruption and underworld activity in Sydney. A pair of reprobates, they're at the heart of David's pitch-black, eight-part comedy, Bad Cop, Bad Cop, and much of what you need to know about them is contained in the series' opening credits sequence described above.

These law enforcers are bent, loyal only to each other and dedicated to a particular notion of justice. "They have a different way of looking at the world," David explains. "Justice doesn't mean the same thing to them that it means to you and me. The foundation of their world is that justice is something purely personal: if you know what you want, any means is justified by the ends. Everything is dominated by the notion that you must always serve yourself first, that it must be to your advantage, that only an idiot would think any other way."

Further defining the law according to Red and Lou, David is clear on why they might have joined the force and how they conduct themselves within it: "They're given the job of enforcing the law, but they make it up as they go along. They've got authority, and they're judge and jury."

"They're absolutely ruthless," says Caton (The Castle), who's returning to acting in a break from hosting Seven's popular real-estate reality shows, Hot Property and Hot Auctions.

"They're completely amoral, completely self-interested," adds Wyllie (Chopper).

"They've got their own patch, and absolutely anything goes," says Caton.

"They take the cream off the crime," explains Wyllie, summing up their characters' motivation and modus operandi. He adds dryly that he's "done a couple of shithead roles" and played dark characters before, "but never in a suit as cheap as this one".

Red and Lou spend the entire series in their dark-coloured, wool-blend suits, always dressed for business, even when they're off duty and visiting their great mate and regular cohort, the extremely cluey lawyer, Tracy Lafever (Helen Thomson). Ian David gets a gleam in his eye when he talks about Tracy, describing her as "the audience's revenge on Red and Lou".

"She's having it off with both of them, but neither of them knows," he grins. "If either of them found out, it would kill them. She's the only one that actually cracks jokes. She's very bright, very successful and she knows exactly why she's there."

Red and Lou, on the other hand, might not be blessed with great intellect but they're loaded with rat-cunning and keen survival instincts. The actors say that while they're playing in a deadpan comedy in which they have to deliver their lines straight, they also have to bear in mind that their characters have no compunction about killing people. A mood of menace is critical and David maintains that, in order to succeed, the stories must surprise viewers with the lengths that the partners are willing to go to in order to achieve their ends. In this world of debts and favours "anything's possible, provided that there's a quid in it", he says.

David came up with the idea of a bent-cop comedy about half way though the production of Blue Murder: "It was a very tough shoot and I remember feeling pretty anxious about things," he recalls. "But once the fear and loathing started to diminish, it dawned on me that this world was fascinating. It was a complete world and it was a successful world for those people who'd entered into it, police officers and crims, and they had a fairly contemptuous view of everybody else, all the punters, as they called them.

"As I began to relax, the violence began to fade a bit. I thought that there was a comedic side to it. It was like looking through a prism and seeing the world in a different way. And the idea just came to me: 'Wouldn't it be wonderful to really squeeze the juice out of it and do the stories as comedy?'"

Originally, David thought that John Doyle and Greig Pickhaver (Roy and HG) would be ideal to play the police partners. But they moved to the Seven Network and the project stalled until Southern Star producer Errol Sullivan suggested that David develop the idea further and pitch it to the ABC, which they did.

David says with a laugh that he knew he was on a winner when Bryan Brown gave him the thumbs down. "He knocked me back on Blue Murder: he was offered Roger Rogerson and he said the scripts weren't good enough. So the first thing I did was to send these scripts to him because he'd knock me back and then I'd know I had a fantastic series. And that's what happened. I'd like Bryan to know that everything I write from now on, I'm sending to him, because I know he'll knock me back and then I'm away. We ended up with a pretty good cast anyway."

Among them, Roy Billing is wonderfully unctuous as assistant commissioner "Pud" Tugwell and Peter Browne is appropriately gormless as a uniformed sergeant. Some of the country's leading actors, including Bille Brown, Garry McDonald, Leah Purcell and Angela Punch McGregor, appear in guest roles.

Caton's Red is a loquacious fellow. A deviser of schemes, he sees himself as a bit of a philosopher, and, within the brotherhood of the police force, a keeper of traditions (ie, the unalienable right to free clobber from Maroubra Menswear, the licence to fit-up any bastard who tries to cross a copper, etc). His younger, more literal-minded offsider is the muscle of the outfit. If Red's a wily old bullmastiff, Lou's an easily riled doberman.

"It's a symbiotic relationship," says David. "As with a lot of mates in Australia, they deeply love each other. In one episode, you see them separated and they don't operate at all well. It's a true love story.

"Michael Caton has been riveted on to the production since we first spoke to him in 1999. He looks like butter wouldn't melt in his mouth, and there's something about him that's lovable and seedy at the same time. He's got a great comic quality and brilliant timing, and he sure tells me if the dialogue's not working."

Both Red and Lou have anger-management issues: cross them, even inadvertently, threaten what they see as their divine right to run their patch as they see fit, and their moustaches start to twitch. Their eyes bulge in disbelief and they furiously plot revenge. Neither of them can deliver a sentence without swearing and both are old-school, apt to call blokes "Sunshine" and sheilas "Missy".

Cate Shortland (The Secret Life of Us), who directed four episodes of the series, says that the comedy comes from Red and Lou's responses: "You laugh at how they react to situations," she says. "They will have an extreme reaction to not getting a free suit, whereas to really violent things, like shooting someone in the back, they have no reaction at all."

Sitting on a bench overlooking a beach on a sunny day in April, Ian David is just across the road from where Shortland and her crew are crammed into a few dingy rooms on the first floor of a budget backpacker haven, the Maroubra Bay Hotel. They're shooting a scene in which Lou muscles his way into the grotty hideaway of a video porn purveyor (Matthew Whittet) to heavy him about the whereabouts of an incriminating video. Art director Leigh Tierney thoughtfully adds a little extra grime to the door to aid authenticity.

The backpackers, temporarily denied free rein in the premises, have gathered around a large table in the common room, clearly enjoying the afternoon's free entertainment and the thoughtfully supplied refreshments. They're well-lubricated by six-packs of VB and vodka cruisers, provided in compensation for the invasion of their space, and they offer running—and none-too-flattering—commentary on the scene in a variety of accents. The irony sewn into the series isn't apparent to them from the snippet being shot.

The cast and crew cope stoically with the incessant verbal sniping. Shortland and her fellow director, David Caesar (Dirty Deeds, Idiot Box), must maintain a cracking pace through the five-week shoot, most days needing to get a hefty 10 minutes in the can. This is made more challenging by the fact that much of Bad Cop is shot on location in Sydney's southern beach suburbs, which David chose for specific reasons. "When I was doing Blue Murder, if I was going to meet with someone a bit shady, they invariably suggested Coogee, Maroubra or Botany Bay," he recalls.

In addition, there's an atmosphere that he thinks suits the show. "This area used to be a heartbreak suburb. If you couldn't afford a place in more salubrious areas of Sydney, you ended up here. In the next couple of years, property values will go up and it will change forever. At the moment, it's almost caught in aspic and I love the atmosphere, the sense of it being a little bit rundown, a bit seedy and very Australian in a way that harks back to a bygone time."

The area becomes something of a character in the comedy, which has a dinkum Australian flavour that drips right down to its character names: Raeline, Lorraine, Craig, Shane, Tracy. The stories also draw on a number of familiar urban myths, like the one about the retired federal politician who drops dead, "on the job", in a motel room in the company of a woman who's not his wife. Or the one about the loud-mouthed radio host who's concealing a very private private life.

Tapping into a milieu and a set of values that he sees as uniquely Australian was a consideration for David. He says his cops have a distinctive "larrikin casualness" and remembers a French film he saw about corrupt police: "There was an enjoyment in sensual things, like wine and women and food and song. Very French. Whereas here in Sydney, if you get a lot of money, you basically piss it up against the wall or you put it on the horses. Romance, oh yuk."

These are beer-and-snags blokes, not really concerned with life's more refined pleasures: when Tracy blackmails them into taking her to the theatre to see a musical, their discomfort is manifest. In a series that aims for midnight-black comedy, the added irony is that these fellas don't get a great deal of joy out of life. Being top dog on their patch, and screwing anyone who gets in their way, is what life's all about.

But will viewers be barracking for these bad-egg coppers to triumph in their battle of evil over good?

"I suppose at the back of their minds, the audience will have some sort of grudging respect for their relentlessness, " says Caton.

"And the fact that they get away with blue murder," adds Wyllie before heading off to continue bullying Leah Purcell, who's playing a menswear store manager unfamiliar with the degree of customer service to which Red and Lou are accustomed. All in a day's work, Sunshine.

Bad Cop Bad Cop premieres on Monday at 10pm on the ABC.


Lou: "We're the police: now piss off."

Red: "Do-gooders are easy marks. It's like Vegemite on your underpants: a little smear goes a long way."

Red (sighing as he takes another slurp from the tinny on his desk): "We have a workload that would drop Mother Theresa."

Lou: "We always win."

By Debi Enker
November 14, 2002
The Age

Copping it sour

THE Bondi Beach cafe where I meet the creator and writer of the new ABC black comedy Bad Cop Bad Cop is a long way from home for Ian David.

David chats to me, also a Perth expatriate, about how his love of telling stories as a little boy at Innaloo Primary School, feeling constrained at age 15 and leaving Scarborough High, getting his wool classing certificate at Fremantle and marching against the Vietnam War up Hay Street.

David worked as an actor in the theatre in Perth, including the Hole In The Wall theatre at Subiaco, but realised it was time to leave when he would look out into the audience on opening nights and see the same people wearing the same clothes. He was 26.

His father pointed him in the direction of the Australian Film and Television School in Sydney where he mixed with the likes of Jane Campion, graduated in 1984 and walked straight into the job of writing the ABC's series Palace of Dreams.

"I worked 15 hours a day but learned more in three to four months than I did in three years at film school and I was back doing what I loved, telling stories," David says.

But the next five years were bones-of-his-bum tough as he travelled to the Kimberley where he worked on the 1890s story of Aboriginal leader Jandamarra.

"It was a fiendishly difficult story to encapsulate and Aboriginal films were not popular at that time. As one highly respected person in the industry told me, "Boongs don't sell in the box office'," David says.

By 1989 his creative energy and his wallet had run dry and he returned to Sydney. There remains, however, a fire in his belly to one day work with the Bunuba people of Fitzroy Crossing and fulfil his dream of seeing Jandamarra on screen.

He soon fell on his feet with the documentary-drama Police State which picked up the 1989 Australian Film Industry award for best television feature and best script.

The awards kept coming with Blue Murder, which won everything from the 1996 Logie for the best television drama and AFI award for the best mini-series to the NSW Premier's literary award for the best screenplay.

David says the idea for Bad Cop Bad Cop came to him at the end of Blue Murder over a cigarette and a yarn with funny man John Doyle (aka Roy Slaven) who was starring in Club Buggery.

In what is a coup for the show, Bad Cop Bad Cop's lead character, Det. Red Lilywhite, is played by Michael Caton, best known for his performance as Darryl Kerrigan in the movie, The Castle, and most recently as the host of the television lifestyle program, Hot Property.

Caton's on-screen partner is Det. Lou Knutt, played by Daniel Wyllie from Muriel's Wedding and Chopper fame.

Guest stars include Garry McDonald, Leah Purcell and Angela Punch McGregor.

The story-line centres on Lilywhite and Knutt, two detectives from a beat on Sydney's southern beaches, who develop a close working relationship with members of the criminal underworld—and for their efforts get 10 per cent of the take.

"Lilywhite and Knutt believe the world is their oyster ready to be shucked," says ABC promotional material on the program.

And yes, David says he is aware of the royal commission into police corruption currently under way in home-town Perth.

Bad Cop Bad Cop premieres on ABC TV on tonight at 10 o'clock.

David is not concerned about the 10pm timeslot, believing it will appeal to what he feels will be the main audience, predominantly under-40s males.

He admits the themes and confronting language may not be popular with some viewers, particularly older women.

It currently runs to eight episodes. Although David says he has a mountain of additional material, more episodes will depend on audience reaction.

"Bad Cop Bad Cop takes the micky out of other cop shows such as NYPD Blue and Blue Heelers," David says.

"I hope that after watching Bad Cop Bad Cop people will never be able to look at other cop shows in quite the same way ever again.

"I want to make it OK to laugh at law enforcement and corruption.

"Comedy is the most exciting genre but it can also be the most heartbreaking. There are so many different elements that have got to work before it can be called a success."

And while Bad Cop Bad Cop is just about to go to air, David, president of the Australian Writers' Guild, is excited about his other iron in the fire.

He has just returned from Perth where the mini-series The Shark Net, based on Robert Drewe's novel of the same name, is being filmed. David adapted the book for television.

Bad Cop Bad Cop, ABC, 10pm.

By Liz Tickner
November 18, 2002
The West Australian

Laugh, bozo, or we'll bust ya…

No matter the talent, going in too hard on the parody means those cops just don't come up with the goods, writes Ruth Ritchie.

My grandmother used to attend all our school concerts. She applauded with sincere gusto the efforts of the nuns, the vividness of the crepe paper, the brilliance of all the young players. My entire family survived until adulthood under the misapprehension that we were balls of dazzling talent.

I often wished she'd been alive for the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympics. To see those critical faculties unleashed on such a genuinely fine production would have been really something.

In the interest of unfair play I have decided to channel my grandmother this week to review that dazzling new comedy Bad Cop Bad Cop (ABC, Monday). Hasn't everybody done a lot of hard work, and what a fun idea, what a Sydney idea, a show about corrupt cops.

What a sensational gang of collaborators! Producer Geoff Portman's whopping credentials include Backberner, Micallef and The Games. They don't come any smarter than producer/writer Ian David. Blue Murder remains the finest piece of Australian TV ever produced. Director David Caesar is an authentic talent. Mullet and Idiot Box are full of wonderful original business. Actor Daniel Wyllie has nothing to prove after his phenomenal Fish Lamb in Company B's Cloudstreet. I even liked Michael Caton, in The Sullivans. And for guest spots, it would be hard to improve on the irrepressible Garry McDonald or the completely luscious Helen Dallimore. The Anzac Bridge looks great from any angle and, really, it's amazing what can be achieved with those little video cameras these days.

The review really should end here, with a nice mention for the bloke who typed the credits and the energetic boy who swept the floor, but I am not my grandmother.

Just one question: With such a huge, heaped, groaning shovel full of talent, shouldn't Bad Cop Bad Cop be funny? My grandmother would be too polite to ask, or to compare it with another comedy, which debuted on Monday night, especially if the other comedy had won the BAFTA for best comedy. That would be mean, and hurtful, so here goes.

The Office (Foxtel, UKTV) parodies something Sydney folk know nearly as well as police corruption, office life. Its form is not revolutionary, seeming at first much like an episode of People Like Us, missing only the off-screen interviewer played by creator Chris Langham. It is unfair to compare these two series only if you buy into the idea that we can't cook sitcoms, so what can you expect? This is only Australia.

Actually, Kath & Kim is incredibly corny where it isn't blindingly funny. a level of Dungog eisteddfod amateurism is just fine by the Australian viewing public.

I don't accept that argument. Partly because the Poms have also been known to make terrible corny sitcoms, full of shocking loud laugh tracks and boom-tish music hall humour. And partly because series such as Frontline and The Games were hugely successful without the benefit of Caton's inexplicably popular pantomime delivery. Just because we started with Dad and Dave, there's no reason to rest on those cheeky, corny, unfunny laurels. Times change. To my sensibilities, John Clarke is much funnier than Roy Rene, although my grandmother would have smacked me with the feather duster for saying so.

Back to The Office. This show will have to eventually float around to free-to-air TV because it is just about perfect. The observations are keen and beautifully written. The characters are recognisable from a hundred paces without falling into the pit of caricature. Like school, or prison, the office is a place where we find ourselves stuck with situations and people who are appalling and stupid, with no real choice but to tough it out.

The boss (actually he's only the regional manager) played by co-writer Ricky Gervais is a hopelessly underachieving mid-thirties drip. Chinless, spineless and vain, he's an ageing boy for whom management jargon and calendar cliches roll as easily off the tongue as a good chuck on Friday night. We have all worked with him. We all hate him. Pity we all can't see him, because he's not on the ABC where he belongs.

Bugger the segue. What about Michael Jackson. His nose is more interesting and certainly more creative than his music, but surgical curiosity notwithstanding, is it not time for a moratorium on Michael Jackson antics? If we saw it once, we saw a thousand times this week, footage of Jackson dangling a baby out of a German hotel window. What exactly are we looking at, and why? If we're searching for proof of eccentricity, evidence the caboose has jumped the track, we could have stopped years ago.

I know why we watch The Osbournes and the Survivor shows, but where do we draw the line at that which is simply too sad to watch? I think my grandmother would have made me cover my eyes.

By Ruth Ritchie
November 23, 2002
Sydney Morning Herald