Police Five

1962 | United Kingdom

Beginning on June 30, 1962 in a Saturday late night slot, Police Five was presented by New Scotland Yard in conjunction with ATV. Its aim over the planned six-week trial run was to appeal to the public for their help in unsolved cases. Requests from eye-witnesses who up until then may have been too scared to come forward with information, the whereabouts of ill-gotten gains, or identification of suspects through photofit drawings were among the appeals made. 

The Met had complete control over the content of each five-minute edition but were still a little suspicious of the format, due in part to the fact that nothing had been tried like this before. Any objections were put aside very quickly when, presented by the amiable former quiz-show host Shaw Taylor, the programme yielded some unexpectedly good results. So much so, that the show got a more family-friendly broadcast hour (it was eventually moved to Sunday afternoons) and continued for nearly thirty years expanding to include more complex cases (it covered the disappearance of Lord Lucan) and also offering crime prevention advice. 

Although Police Five was not networked by ATV, other regional stations soon picked up the format producing their own 'local' versions. Police Call was seen in the Anglia and Tynne Tees areas while Police File was the title adopted for programmes across Granada, Channel and Scottish Television areas. Shaw Taylor asked people to keep their eyes open for anything suspicious they might see and report it to the police, signing off each programme by pointing to his eyes and reminding the audience to "keep 'em peeled." This they did willingly. 

Police Five soon found its way into popular culture, jokes and everyday conversation earning Taylor the nickname of 'whispering grass.' 

In 1972 Junior Police Five was introduced to a younger audience. Police Five, presented by Shaw Taylor until 1990 introduced some 25,000 cases and was the forerunner to the now hugely popular and important BBC Crimewatch series. Over a decade after it finished, Taylor returned briefly to the role of programme presenter for a light-hearted insert in the time-travel crime series Ashes to Ashes, telling his willing audience to 'keep 'em peeled' just one more time.

Published on January 21st, 2019. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.