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April 4, 2010 / Nick

Police, Camera, Action!

I’m a man. Watching car chases is inherently entertaining.
I’m a reasonable human being. Alastair Stewart should be considered a complete tit.

Police, Camera, Action turns my expectations on their head. This programme, currently a regular space filler on ITV4, is built on police pursuits caught on camera. Yet it’s Alastair Stewart that makes the thing enjoyable.
Now, I’m not talking about these newer prime-time episodes which feature the public school personality vacuum and rent-a-host Adrian Simpson with a brief intro and outro by Stewart, but rather the old school episodes from the 1990s. ITV4 are on to a good idea repeating these because they are so funny just by virtue of their age. Things that seem informative in 1994 look a bit old-hat in 2010. In one episode, Stewart says in a completely grave and educational tone that ‘it’s now a legal requirement for all passengers in a car to wear a seat-belt’.

The Chiltern Air Support Unit, a group of helicops who seem to make their trade in videoing car chases from the air and selling the tapes on to every police programme on television, capture one car chase where the stolen vehicle is racing around country lanes and another car pulls up to a T-junction to give way. Alastair Stewart describes this rather mundane act of day-to-day driving politeness by saying ‘innocent passers-by are stunned into shocked immobility’. Do you know that, Alastair? Did you go over and interview the driver of the car giving way at a T-junction and ask ‘are you innocent? Did seeing a car coming down the road stun you?’? Or are you just making stuff up for dramatic effect because our police chases don’t look quite as Hollywood as the Americans’.

More entertaining than Alistair Stewart’s completely earnest tone, or his over enunciation of words like ‘carriageway’ and ‘constabulary’ is his habit of wandering around kooky locations looking incredibly out-of-place in badly cut suits.
He presents from behind the wheel on a motorway:
From his driveway:
From car showrooms:
And quite often (and most sinisterly) from school playgrounds, always skulking through without anybody paying him attention like some kind of transient being who’s completely invisible to people under the age of criminal responsibility (He has no power over them. Only adults):

Stewart calls drivers ‘foolish’ and ‘reckless’ for their motoring misdemeanours. The irony that we can appreciate now is that in 2003, a reckless Alastair Stewart was given a 23 month ban from driving for foolishly driving while 3 times over the limit and wrapping his car around a telegraph pole. Somebody at ITV4 must have a great sense of humour repeating these.

Review: Alastair Stewart is unintentionally funny. Retro or not, the rest of the show is a bit of a lemon.



Leave a Comment
  1. misterhyde / Apr 29 2011 7:21 am

    Badly cut suits!!

    Today, Alistair Stewart is the best dressed journalist on TV. I wish I knew who his tailor is.

    • Nick / Apr 29 2011 6:12 pm

      Times have changed indeed. He’s top dog at ITV these days. I’m sure they’re all too happy to bung him a couple of quid for a fit-for-royalty whistle and flute.

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