1972 | United Kingdom

Crime drama series with a difference, as it follows the exploits of nine bank robbers, beginning from the moment of their escape from imprisonment. 

The stories of the men, their accomplices, their women and the robbery unfold week by week in 13 one-hour episodes. They called it the "Bog Robbery." A gang of villains audaciously tunnelled from a disused lavatory into a bank in the city. When they walked out they were clutching a third of a million pounds. But things went wrong and most were caught. Nine were sentenced to terms ranging from 6 to 20 years. Now, a year after the robbery, they come together for their appeals. And they take the opportunity to escape. The series follows the activities of each villain such as William Whittaker, played by William Marlowe, who was the brains behind the Bog Robbery, and a successful criminal until this job. Now he is serving a sentence of 20 years. There's Peter Glazebrook (Michael Carver). Comes from a good family but lives in a fantasy world. He was one of two drivers on the robbery. And there is the callous, tough Montgomery Parkin (Martin Shaw) who helped tunnel the gang into the bank; and Charles Grindley (Bob Hoskins), nicknamed "Knocker" because of his fancy for women and his expertise as a safe-cracker. 

Bob Hoskins in Villains
Bob Hoskins in 'Villains'

The man behind Villians was producer Andrew Brown who was responsible, among other things, for the Manhunt and The Guardians series. The three directors on Villains - Tony Wharmby, Jimmy Goddard and Robert Tronson - also worked with the producer on these two series. Working out the individual stories so they fitted an overall pattern for Villains was, Brown says, a complicated business. "We even had to work out a careful timetable to fit in the actors. For example, an actor playing a major role in one episode would be needed for a small part in another story. What we are particularly trying to do is present a crime series from the point of view of the criminals. "Usually, crime series concern themselves with the police and detection. This one concerns itself with crime from the criminals' side. It's a line not often explored in television." Brown, who was in his early 30's, also scripted three of the stories. Other writers are Ray Jenkins, Keith Dewhurst, Robin Chapman, Jonathan Hales and John Bowen. Filming was done on location, mainly in London, but a lot of it ranges through the country, particularly the Peak District.

Published on February 11th, 2019. Written by Laurence Marcus (adapted from the original TV Times review) for Television Heaven.