City of Vice, Channel 4

by | Jan 14, 2008 | All, Reviews

Did we like it?

Yet another investigative police drama. But hang on, this is arguably the father of them all, as Channel 4 goes back to 18th century London and introduce us to the Fielding brothers. Blind John (Iain Glen) and – author of Tom Jones – Henry (Ian McDiarmid) decide to do something about the murder of prostitutes in squalid Covent Garden bathhouses and with a team of Bow Street Runners, commence their investigations. A great cast does their best against a gloomy backdrop, but it was very much hit and miss.

What was good about it?

• The 3-D street maps that zoomed us into the filthy streets of Covent Garden was a clever touch – immediately familiarising us with the geography of a place where all the streets looked alike.

• A drunk Henry offering John and the Runners a bet that with their new team assembled, London would be free of crime within five years. (This was 1753) Anyone who claimed in the mid-80s that Simon Cowell would be good for the development of music in the UK would have been nearer the mark.

• The thoroughly repellent Mr Harris – London’s leading pimp – and his book detailing the 400 whores in his employ and the ‘services’ they would offer, was a suitably squalid intro into the world of that time, and was later reputed to have sold 250,000 copies.

• There was the occasional (and welcome) introduction of humour, such as when a Doctor called out to examine the prostitute’s mutilated body complains that he was in the middle of supper. “So was I!” says Henry. “Clearly the man who did this has very little consideration for the comfort of others!”

• Henry’s methods for getting the fatally wounded prostitute to name her attacker were somewhat unorthodox – throwing a glass of water in her face, and shaking her violently. And she died before pointing the finger!

What was bad about it?

• Some of the scenes were very clunky indeed. After a conversation in Harris’s Tavern where they learn that a woman’s body has been found in Haddock’s Bagnio, Henry staggers to his feet and theatrically drops his wig onto his head, “The Bow Street Runners have their first case!”

• The burgeoning relationship between John and Harris’s chief whore – and one of his wives – Nancy, seemed very contrived.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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