Public Eye had a superb theme tune. It was a very unusual piece using trombone, double bass, drums and piano composed by Robert Earley (a pseudonym for Bob Sharples). Its dark, downbeat nature perfectly suited the show. It was rearranged radically but impressively for the 1969 Brighton series. It was slowed down and pared to just acoustic guitar and trombone, with harpsichord added on the break bumpers. There was no incidental music on screen - maybe a conscious decision to aid the austere style of the visuals.
The set sold well and received great critical acclaim. Series 5 was given a general release in August 2005. Once again there are many extras in addition to the core series, including Don't Forget You're Mine from 1966. For three years there was no further news and Public Eye fans could have been forgiven for thinking there would be no more series on DVD. However Series 6 was finally released in February 2008. Clearance problems had apparently held up proceedings but Network were aware of the demand for the show and could finally oblige. Series 7 then followed in May to complete the Thames episodes. Further details are available on the product page.
Three ABC episodes remained unreleased but these finally emerged on a DVD from Network in 2012 of the five surviving ABC episodes plus the fragment of "It Can't be the Architecture - Must Be the Climate" from Series 3. Later the same year the company released a box set of all the surviving episodes. This was called "A Box Named Frank" and also included a book on the series...
The opening and closing titles changed every series. Once again these were bleak and doleful in character, absolutely fitting. The early titles were not especially memorable. However the closing titles for Series 2 deserve praise, depicting Frank, solitary as always, moving through the night streets of Birmingham.
The stark Brighton opening titles were great - images of Marker walking along the seafront in silhouette, the screen finally turning black as he approached the camera. Closing titles for Brighton were again very good, with the screen freezing for each set of credits.
The fifth series had excellent but also somewhat unusual titles. The openers start in a fairly prosaic fashion with Frank walking through some alleyways but then he turns suddenly, frightened, as if he has heard a noise. The camera then zooms in on his face. The end titles, in typical style for the show, depict the solitary Frank pacing the streets of his current town (this time Windsor). What is unusual is that the titles were shot in black and white due to a industrial dispute. On the colour episodes they were given a sepia tint which worked quite well.
The Series 6 openers were the first in true colour and also fine, if a touch less powerful than their predecessors. The closing ones for Series 6 were very impressive with Marker walking alone through Windsor on a pitch-black night. The whole combination of music and titles, their faultless matching with the tone of the programme, epitomised the care that went into the whole production.
Acknowledgements and useful links
My initial credit goes to the old UK Gold for its screenings of colour episodes in 1995-1996 which revived interest - and ignited it for those like myself who missed the show originally. Without these screenings it would have taken a lot longer for me to discover it - if at all - and I suspect the same is true of many other fans.
Two lengthy articles have provided me with great insight into the show. The first I came across in 2002 was by C P Smith entitled Classic Television: Public Eye (no longer available). Shortly afterwards I found an older article - just as impressive - by Adrian Petford called Hitting the Marker, written in 1994. These articles are especially good on the programme's early history. When the DVD was released the booklet included a new article by Adrian, again of top quality. He is involved with Kaleidoscope who have done much to promote the show with rare screenings, including a special event in September 2004 in which an episode from each series was shown. The DVD of Series 4 also includes valuable interviews with Roger Marshall and Alfred Burke, some of them organised by Kaleidoscope.
Alan Hayes has provided a great deal of help with newspaper articles and the audio episodes from 1966. Alan's fine work in restoring these home audio recordings can be heard on "Twenty Pounds of Heart and Muscle" which was included on the 1971 set. Andrew Hutchings helped me to get a fuller picture of the Chertsey episodes in particular before the Series 7 DVD release.
The essential reference source on the series is Andrew Pixley's book Six Guineas a Day, Plus Expenses mentioned above. Various shorter articles can be found on the Web - among the most notable is a short but very engaging and perceptive article by Kevin Burton Smith about the programme entitled Frank Marker. This includes credits and an episode listing. In fact a lot of the comments about the show on the Web are great value with one reviewer on the Internet Movie Database memorably describing Frank Marker as "the detective from the council estate"!
In terms of credits, the Kaleidoscope Episode Guide, included in PDF format on both of the DVD sets, is useful, giving the writer, director and actors for every instalment. The promotional material issued by ABC for the first series is extremely useful and can also be found on the DVD sets. It gives background to the series and about Alfred Burke, along with accounts and full cast lists for the initial episodes. The Internet Movie Database has a less comprehensive episode guide for the whole run but often helpfully indicates the character played by the actors. It is additionally a valuable source of information on the credits and biography of writers, directors and actors. It does occasionally have errors or omissions so details of any would be gratefully received. The comments also show how well appreciated is the show.
Public Eye was a show that benefited a great deal from its authentic locations. Readers interested in finding out more about these locations can explore the Andrew Pixley's book and the Facebook Public Eye Location Guide. The latter has updated pictures of the locations and the group has organised tours of them.
Most of all though thanks are due to everyone who was involved in the production of the original show which has given such delight.
This site has been written by Alan Briscoe. If you have any comments about the show or the site I'd be pleased to hear from you. Please e-mail me at email@example.com
A later book (published 1974 by Sphere) by Audley Southcott, Cross That Palm When I Come To It, deserves commendation (covers shown above). Unlike the Marriott book this is a set of novelisations of episodes (all originally written by the other co-creator and regular script-writer Roger Marshall), mainly from the Brighton series but also the final Birmingham story which gives the book its name. This closer link to the series may mean that this works better than the earlier original one. Southcott catches the mood of the programme very well. There are a few slips in quality, chiefly where he covers matters not seen on-screen, with (mild) sexual content more to the fore than in the show where it was left unstated. The book valuably starts with the events of "Cross That Palm When We Come To It" and provides the most detailed guide to this now lost episode. Thereafter it looks at most of the Brighton story-lines, generally following the broadcast events, culminating in his departure to Windsor. Interestingly this final section gives a quite different version to that seen in A Mug Named Frank but it's still a plausible and effective one. Given the publication date, long after the events had appeared on screen it's a little strange that the book departs occasionally from the episodes. Maybe this was artistic licence. Whatever the reason it is still well-worth reading. The back cover describes the book as "Public Eye No. 1", suggesting that further volumes were planned. These never appeared but it is possible they would have covered some of the later series.
For decades this was the only merchandise on the series and it seemed there would be no more. Public Eye never emerged on VHS and seemed an unlikely contender for the new format of DVD. However in July 2004 Network released a three disc set covering the whole Brighton series, plus Nobody Kills Santa Claus from 1965 and various extras. One of the best extras is a collection of stills from the first four series with those from the first three most valuable as most of their episodes are lost. Almost all the stills are in colour as well, unlike the episodes themselves at that time. The set also includes an excellent booklet. The episodes have all been restored, and A Fixed Address is presented in colour for the first time.
One of the most notable aspects of the programme was its episode titles. A glance at the listings will show some quite bizarre titles, certainly eye-catching, often giving no clue to the story within. In the ABC series these were taken from lines of dialogue in the episodes. On moving to Thames this practice ceased to be the norm although it still occasionally occurred - for example "How about a Cup Of Tea?" is suggested by a character near the end of the eponymous instalment in the final series but this rather prosaic line gives no clue to the harrowing events in the episode itself.
Trivia and odd facts
The book is Andrew Pixley's Six Guineas a Day, Plus Expenses and is an essential source for the Public Eye fan. . This was published in 2012 as part of a DVD box set covering all surviving episodes but it is also available separately for those who already have the series DVDs.. Andrew is an excellent writer and researcher of classic British TV series and this substantial book (260 pages) includes many fascinating insights into the show. The book particularly excels in its behind-the-scenes coverage including copious details on production dates, filming locations, names of extras and even music used as background within scenes. While some of this music by well-known artists, e.g. "Crocodile Rock" by Elton John, heard in a pub scene in Home and Away, much of it is library music and it is great to get the names of the composers, performers and albums used. The greatest though of its many assets are the extensive synopses of the ABC episodes which are unfortunately lost. While it isn't impossible that one or more of these may one day be found it is likely that Andrew's synopses will be the only detailed guide to their contents.
Aside from Andrew's book factual analysis of the show has rarely featured in print, in stark contrast to many other archive TV productions. An extensive guide to the first two (ABC) series of Public Eye, written by myself, was published in Action TV in 2007 (Volume 2, Number 3). This is still available from some sellers on eBay and contains many details not documented on this website although much of the content is much more extensively covered or superseded by Andrew's book..
Public Eye, although popular in its time, attracted little merchandise. Two books were published. Anthony Marriott, co-creator of the show, wrote the first, Marker Calls the Tune, published in 1968 (covers above). This quite rare book is particularly significant because of the author's part in the genesis of Public Eye, although he did not write any episodes. The book is certainly an interesting read, an original story depicting Marker's efforts to get to the bottom of a fraud and in so doing crossing dangerous criminals. Although the show had moved to Birmingham by the time the book was published the action is set in London. This may well have been Marriott's preferred location for the character. The style is generally faithful to the show on-screen but there are some false notes, with the events seeming a little too dramatic at times, more in line with the conventional "private eye" stories, although they never stray too far from the realistic template and Frank never resorts to violence himself. Of course any novel like this is "based on a TV series" and can depart from the style of the show to some degree. It may well be that Anthony Marriott would have preferred the show to have gone down a more dramatic furrow in this manner.
One of the most intriguing aspects of the novel is it gives a brief account of Marker's life before enquiry work. It describes how he had previously worked in accountancy and insurance, was married and had a detached house in the suburbs - a comfortable, conventional middle class existence. He was asked to investigate a fraud case, did so with great success and got the taste for enquiry work. He then decided to set up as an independent investigator. However this brought harassment. His wife became a target and ultimately decided to leave. He had to move around, found money harder to come by and eventually found himself in his current position. He had not divorced but did not know his wife's whereabouts and there was no prospect of reconciliation.
This is an interesting and certainly plausible background. It must be stressed there is no evidence that this biography influenced the depiction of Marker in the TV series. Roger Marshall and others involved in its production may have had very different ideas. It is not known whether any other biographical background was provided in the lost episodes; the existing ones give very little information of this kind.