Celebrating Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) at 50

September 19, 2019

In the 1960s, no other TV company did crime drama like ITC. In fact, few British series of the time boasted the Hollywood-like gleam and ambition of Man In A Suitcase, The Saint, The Champions, The Baron or Department S. But whatever the cultural wallop of those shows, it’s another, one that this year marks its 50th anniversary, that has perhaps endured more than any of them.

Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased), which debuted on ITV on 21st September 1969, was markedly different to its ITC stablemates. Not only was it proudly fantastical, it was also killingly funny, and where most of ITC’s other shows aimed for a seductive fantasy of transatlantic sophistication, Randall & Hopkirk presented a scuzzier and more recognisably real world.

Key to Randall & Hopkirk’s uniqueness in the ITC canon, was the casting of Mike Pratt. He may have only been 37 when he played Jeff Randall, but he already had the deep-grooved face lines of someone 20 years older. Randall seemed to be someone more at home in the grungier, fag-stained world of Public Eye than a series about a private dick partnered up with a crime-solving ghost. More ABC than ITC.

Jeff was a man who, unlike Craig Stirling (The Champions), Simon Templar (The Saint) or McGill (Man In A Suitcase), lost more fights than he won. A faintly seedy, leather-jacketed gumshoe who can’t even afford a decent flat (though he seemingly had fine taste in music, from the look of his LPs).

It’s said that droll Irish comedian Dave Allen was considered for the role of Jeff, before it went to Mike Pratt. Pratt was then best known as a songwriter (he co-wrote, with Lionel Bart, the Tommy Steele number Little White Bull, for which they received a prestigious Ivor Novello award) and was once memorably described as having “the weather-beaten features of a mountainside”. Despite being under 40, his body-punishing lifestyle gave him a look way in advance of his years.

“When people remember Randall and Hopkirk they talk about the comedy.”

What also sets Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) apart from its crime show peers, is that it’s not afraid of being funny, and if Pratt does most of the heavy lifting dramatically, it was Kenneth Cope, as the spectral Marty Hopkirk, who proved the whimsical heart of the show. If guys liked Pratt for being the cigarette-chewing, whisky-glugging perpetual bachelor, women – and kids – embraced the cuddly and Beatle-mopped Cope. “When people remember Randall and Hopkirk they talk about the comedy,” the actor said a few years ago. “That’s what made the show.”

Only 26 episodes of Randall & Hopkirk were ever made, and it’s heartbreaking, and somewhat mystifying, that ITC never continued the series into the 1970s. It was eventually remade, overseen by The Fast Show’s Charlie Higson, by the BBC in the early noughties, with a fatally miscast Bob Mortimer and Vic Reeves as the titular ‘tecs. Yet it couldn’t hold a torch to the original, a series that, even five decades on, remains one of ITC’s most cherished and warmly-remembered shows. Many happy returns.

Steve O’Brien

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Comments:21

  1. Rob W Reply
    19/09/19

    A great series but why don’t you sell the compkete series in a BD boxset or at least offer the 4 seperate volumes as a bundle?

  2. Nigel Phelan Reply
    19/09/19

    it remains the best of the ITC shows. Blu-ray set is remarkable and brilliant. The only caveat is that I wish the original opening titles with the Kenneth cope voice-over had not been used on episode 1 as I don’t think it would have been included like that on the original broadcast as those titles give away the plot of the first episode.

  3. peter beresford Reply
    19/09/19

    Such a lovely series such terrific leads and fun scripts. My favourites when Hopkirk is wandering about in the early hours and we can suddenly imagine how lonely and isolating his life must be and the one where Randall bops the baddies under the spell of Hopkirk. and mustn’t forget the lovely playing of Ms Andree

  4. Steve Cann Reply
    19/09/19

    Great write-up! I l’ve loved this show since first seeing the Sunday afternoon re-runs in the early 70s, which we’d often watch as a family together – lovely memories.
    As with Marty H, my parents are sadly now long gone, but the show lives on!
    I got back into it with the late 80s re-runs in my Itv region, many of which I still have on video.
    I did of course later buy the whole set on dvd, & my wife is now a fan too!
    We’ve visited some of the locations over the years, and last year were very privileged to meet the lovely Annette herself.
    Happy 50th Birthday R&H – if only TV shows these days were even half as good!

  5. david garner Reply
    19/09/19

    bought the DVD release of this from network i remember faintly as a boy of 9 or 10 watching the repeats on ITV
    and thought it a bit boring.
    Then last year bought the DVD set and watched it all and couldn’t believe how wrong i was .
    very down to earth characters even if one of them was not of this earth.
    Great scripts,very funny,well filmed and lots of genre favourites popping up in episodes left right and centre.
    very sad that Mike Pratt died not to long after finishing the series as i think he would have gone on to be a big name in T.V. of the time.

  6. Len Reply
    19/09/19

    a classic ITC effort and a timeless one too the chemistry of Mike Pratt and Kenneth cope rivalled that of Curtis and moore in the persuaders ! nice that Marty and Jeanie are still with us!

  7. Michael Roche Reply
    19/09/19

    I have adored Randall and Hopkirk for 50 years and hopefully continue to do so for another 50!
    You can never get bored with such a wonderful programme.

  8. David Convery Reply
    19/09/19

    Happy Birthday ‘Randall & Hopkirk’ – Fondly remembered on ITV Anglia on Sundays back on the early 70’s, have it now on Blu Ray and with an excellent re-mastered CD box set of Edwin Astley’s excellent music, all thanks to ‘Networkonair’.
    I never met Mike Pratt or Annette Andre but did meet Kenneth Cope who was very appreciative of the genuine support for the programme even after all the years that had passed by.
    It has often been said “They don’t make them like that anymore!”, truth is, they probably couldn’t, so I count myself very fortunate to be 57 and to have been old enough to have been raised on such wonderful TV programmes.
    RIP Mike and congratulations to Kenneth and Annette. Thanks all of you for brilliant TV that lives on.

  9. Alan Keeling Reply
    19/09/19

    In 2005, I had the pleasure to meet Kenneth Cope, of course we discussed the merits of Randall & Hopkirk and also his appearances on Coronation Street, plus his part in episodes of The Adventures of Robin Hood. A lovely fellow indeed.

  10. John Goddard Reply
    19/09/19

    Cream Rises To The Surface No Doubt.
    We celebrate 50 years of longeivity
    Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased)
    Cope Pratt and Andre
    Heres to the next cause to celebrate this ITC
    Icon
    Lucky enough to witness it first time around
    Still love all of it..

  11. John Rees Reply
    19/09/19

    What should`nt be forgotten with all these ITC shows is the theme music ……. catchy never to be forgotten that instantly brings back those great days of British television thanks to Edwin Astley.

  12. Nigel Phelan Reply
    19/09/19

    Randall fans were unfortunate if they lived in the Anglia area. I did but was lucky enough to get LWT too. Anglia completely ignored the series and in fact their first showing started just 45 minutes before LWT begain their first repeat run on sunday afternoons exactly a year after the first showing. After some Sunday afternoon airings the rest of the series got shown either 11pm kind of time or weekday afternoons. And it was the same for all the 70’s repeats on Anglia. The 80’s got slightly better for Anglia viewers when they showed a few on saturday mornings but generally Anglia were out of touch with their choices in these types of series.

  13. Simon Le C Reply
    19/09/19

    Grew up with this fab programme, and never missed an episode over the years, whenever it was shown. Thanks to everyone involved. Still taken aback with how stunning Annette was/is. Still watch it regularly, not spoiled by knowing all the episodes off by heart !! Also love the shots of “old” London, almost a different world.
    The Blu Ray is absolutely stunning. If you don’t have it- you need it !!

  14. len Reply
    19/09/19

    it’s great that both Kenneth cope and Annette Andre are both still around to enjoy the continued love of this itcclassic. much like Curtis and Moore’s chemistry in the thepersuaders! cope and the late great Mike Pratt also showed this and the series continues to have a timeless quality

  15. Damian Magee Reply
    19/09/20

    I remember watching it first time in Australia, in early 70″s it made me laugh out loud. Wishing there more episodes. It lots of repeats here, with each repeat got better and better. The cast were wonderful all click , just like every ITC show. I have both network and the Australian copies of series due to diffetent extras and commentaries.

  16. Steve Sullivan Reply
    19/09/20

    A good write-up which I entirely agree with. I can’t understand why Lew Grade didn’t OK a second series other than perhaps key actors didn’t want to do more. Or maybe it didn’t do so well with the American audience? I don’t know. The superb 35mm camera work adds lustre and that unique “living” feeling to the action. Mention should also be made of the superbly fitting score composed by Edwin Astley (also available on CD thanks to those wonderful guys at Network) whose emotion-stirring work created some moving, magical moments, highlighting the drama, or perhaps more often humour in this unique series. I still have my S-VHS recordings of this series taken off air, plus the series in DVD and more recently the BD release thanks to those wonderful men at Network . The upshot, sadly, is that I remember individual stories too well so am giving the BD set a break for a while – just like a vintage Hautes Cotes Nuits, letting it mature nicely. Just imagine what the series (along with other ITC classics) would look like on 4 or even 8K!

  17. Vanessa Bergman Reply
    19/09/20

    Happy 50th Anniversary to my beloved Randall and Hopkirk! I watched this fantastic series from its first showing with Mum, Dad and my brother. Don’t remember seeing it from the first episode though. I think my dad must have switched channels and thank goodness he liked what he saw otherwise I might never have got to watch it until years later! On it’s rerun in the late 80s I fell in love with the series all over again and in fact I became addicted to it. This time I saw it from the very first episode. And in colour! My brother had just bought a new VHS video recorder and gave his old Betamax video recorder to me so I was able to tape each episode which I would watch over and over again as I couldn’t wait a whole week until the next episode! I wondered if there were other fans of the series like myself so in 1989 I started the Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) Appreciation Society (RAHDAS for short) and it very quickly shot to fame! Unfortunately I had to disband the society in 1994 due to personal circumstances but happily there is still a small group of us that have remained friends ever since and meet up from time to time for a good day out together. Until rececently we enjoyed visiting or revisiting locations around London as well as in and around Elstree and Borehamwood but nowadays we just enjoy having a meal out together and being in like minded company. A legacy of long-lasting friendship has been left by this terrific series which now enjoys a whole new generation of fans as well as bringing back happy memories of the 60s and 70s for older fans! Long live Randall and Hopkirk and here’s to another 50 years of this truly amazing series which still captures the hearts of young and old alike!

  18. Nigel Phelan Reply
    19/09/20

    I thought I’d seen it mentioned before but can’t find it now so some clarification. The series ITV debut may have been September 21st in London but at least 2 other regions, ATV and Yorkshire played it 2 days earlier on the 19th which was the Friday.
    Like Steve above I’m very familiar with all the episodes so after watching 2 today to celebrate I’m going to give it a break for a while although there are several I know word for word that I never tire of. The first one + That’s How Murder Snowballs and For the Girl Who has Everything. 3 absolutely sublime hours of tv.

  19. John Mcculloch Reply
    19/09/21

    Remember watching Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) on tv what a great series this was.Episodes were of the highest quality.Fondly remembered.

  20. Ben Ripley Reply
    19/09/21

    I first discovered this wonderful show in the 1990s while I was in my late teens. It was being rerun on BBC2 on Friday nights and I taped them all. Not since ‘The Avengers’ had a TV show captured my imagination so vividly. Since then, I have bought all the DVDs (twice – as the Australian boxset had special features unseen on the Carlton releases), the blu-ray set, and the soundtrack numerous times (boxsets, vinyl, ‘best of’ etc). I have watched the episodes umpteen times. I simply never tire of it. ‘Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased)’ will remain in my top five TV shows of all-time. Favourite episodes include: ‘But What a Sweet Little Room’, ‘That’s How Murder Snowballs’ and ‘Vendetta for a Dead Man’. Oh, and I have the theme music as my ring tone. 🙂

  21. len Reply
    19/10/01

    What’s the next ITC classic from network ? Can’t wait !

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