Softly, Softly is a British television drama series, produced by the BBC and screened on BBC 1 from January 1966. It centred around the work of regional police crime squads, plain-clothesCID officers based in the fictional region of Wyvern, supposedly in the Bristol area of England. The series took its name from the proverb 'softly, softly, catchee monkey', motto of Lancashire Constabulary Training School, and was designed as a vehicle for Detective Chief Inspector Charles Barlow and Detective Inspector John Watt (played by Stratford Johns and Frank Windsorrespectively) from the police series Z-Cars, which had just finished its original run. Joining them in the early series was Robert Keegan as Blackitt, the police station sergeant from Z-Cars, now retired and acting as a freelance helper. The series introduced characters like Sgt Harry Hawkins (Norman Bowler) who would become very popular and well known. Promoted to Detective Chief Inspector, Hawkins stayed with the show for its entire run.
Shorter-lived regular characters in the series early years included Alexis Kanner as DC Matt Stone. Although popular with audiences, Kanner appears to have alienated cast and crew with erratic behaviour during live recordings, and the character was dropped after only nine episodes. He later played the recalcitrant Number 48 in The Prisoner.
The first two series continued the trend set by producer David Rose with Z-Cars, and transmitted the majority of episodes live. This was one of the last long-running British TV series to do this. From series three onwards all episodes were pre-recorded.
The original theme music was, like Z-Cars, a folk-song arrangement by Fritz Spiegl. It was released as a single (credited to the London Waits) on Andrew Loog Oldham's "Immediate" record label in 1966.
In 1969, to coincide with the BBC's move to colour broadcasting on BBC 1, the series changed. Barlow, Watt and Hawkins were promoted and moved to the South East of England, to the fictitious Thamesford, where they were in charge of Taskforces, groupings of police expertise and manpower drawn together for special operations. The series was to have changed its name toTaskforce, but the BBC was reluctant to drop a popular brand and it became Softly, Softly: Taskforce.
Johns left the Taskforce series in 1972 (Barlow had his own spin-off series Barlow at Large) and it continued until 1976 with Watt in command. During the 70s Windsor also appeared as Watt in Jack the Ripper, in which he and Barlow reopened the Jack the Ripper murder casebook, and a similar series Second Verdict, in which they looked into unsolved mysteries and miscarriages of justice.
All episodes of Taskforce survive, but much of the original Softly, Softly is lost, especially the first two seasons.
- 1/ 5 January - 29 June 1966, 26 episodes
- 2/ 2 November 1966 – 31 May 1967, 31 episodes
- 3/ 4 October 1967 – 4 April 1968, 26 episodes
- 4/ 12 September 1968 – 13 March 1969, 27 episodes
- 5/ 11 September 1969 – 13 November 1969, 10 episodes
- Stratford Johns — DCS Charlie Barlow /... (1966-1969 / Series 1-5 / 91 episodes)
- Frank Windsor — DI/DCI John Watt /... (1966-1969 / Series 1-5 / 84 episodes)
- Robert Keegan — Mr Bob Blackitt /... (1966-1967 / Series 1-2 / 42 episodes)
- John Welsh — ACC Bill Calderwood /... (1966-1967 / Series 1-2 / 24 episodes)
- Garfield Morgan — DCI Gwyn Lewis /... (1966 / Series 1 / 19 episodes)
- Norman Bowler — DS Harry Hawkins /... (1966-1969 / Series 1-5 / 75 episodes)
- Gilbert Wynne — DC Reg Dwyer /... (1966-1967 / Series 1-3 / 43 episodes)
- Cavan Kendall - PC Greenly /... (1966 / Series 1 / 14 episodes)
- Dan Meaden — DC Ben Box /... (1966-1968 / Series 1-4 / 49 episodes)
- Eric McCaine - Insp./CI Laird /... (1966-1969 / Series 1-4 / 18 episodes)
- John Barron — ACC Austin Gilbert /... (1966-1969 / Series 2-5 / 52 episodes)
- David Quilter — PC Tanner /... (1966-1967 / Series 2-3 / 29 episodes)
- Chrys Salt - Gwenda Lloyd /... (1967-1968 / Series 3 / 15 episodes)
- Peggy Sinclair — P/W DS Barbara Allin /... (1967-1969 / Series 3-5 / 38 episodes)
- Philip Brack — DI Jim Cook /... (1968-1969 / Series 3-5 / 29 episodes)
- Gavin Campbell — PC/DC William Digby /... (1968-1969 / Series 3-5 / 25 episodes)
- Howell Evans — DC Morgan /... (1968-1969 / Series 4-5 / 15 episodes)
- Alexis Kanner - DC Matt Stone (1966 / Series 1 / 9 episodes)
- Colin Douglas - DCI Rawlings (1966 / Series 1 / 3 episodes)
- Barry Letts - DS Reed (1966 / Series 1 / 4 episodes)
- Glyn Houston - D Supt Arthur Jones (1966-1969 / Series 2, 4 / 7 episodes)
- Gay Hamilton - Dr Jean Morrow (1969 / Series 4-5 / 5 episodes)
- Walter Gotell - Chief Con. Arthur Cullen (1969 / Series 5 / 1 episode)