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Category:    Home > Reviews > Spy > Espionage > British TV > Callan – Set One (1970 – 1971/British Spy TV/Acorn Media DVD)

Callan – Set One (1970 – 1971/British Spy TV/Acorn Media DVD)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C-     Episodes: B



Edward Woodward was a strong character actor for years and in 1967, landed a big hit TV spy series called Callan, which has not been seen in the U.S. for decades and in was only seen in a limited way back in the day.  The show has been available in other markets befitting its larger success there (like England) but Acorn Media has landed the series.  However, Callan – Set One actually stars in the middle of the series, the point where the show changed from black and white to color.


Hoping they’ll go back and do the early shows later, Callan has survived almost being killed via gunshot wounds in his side.  We meet him at the hospital where he is recuperating and finds out how things have changed while he was out of commission.  The best agent S.I.S. has, it will not be long before he is back in action.


The shows for this set, all the hour-long shows from the third season, include:


1)     Where Else Could I Go?

2)     Summoned To Appear

3)     The Same Trick Twice

4)     A Village Called ‘G’

5)     Suddenly – At Home

6)     Act Of Kindness

7)     God Help Your Friends

8)     Breakout

9)     Amos Green Must Live



This is one of the smartest Spy shows ever made with exceptionally rich, clever writing by the team that makes this possible, it holds up extremely well with only the format, time period and Cold War aspects (when they surface) aging it much.  It is more in the bureaucratic Ipcress File mode and while not as fantastic as The Avengers or sporting as most of the ITC spy shows, it is only rivaled by Patrick McGoohan in the John Drake shows Danger Man and Secret Agent for overall realism.


Woodward is very strong here, building up at least once an episode to his signature moment of truth where he’ll tell off anyone and the more money and power they have, the louder he gets.  If you have seen The Equalizer, a show in the mode of Callan (he plays McCall in that series, a highly likely hybrid of Callan and McGill, the gritty in the cold spy character in Man In A Suitcase, reviewed elsewhere on this site) then you know what you are in for.  As much as I like The Equalizer, Callan is even richer and has more consistency in its episodes.  However, the difference in quality is narrow to me and here’s hoping Acorn issues the whole series.


The 1.33 X 1 image is one of those many classic British series where the interiors are shot on PAL videotape and locations (plus most outdoor shots) are shot on 16mm film, though you are seeing film-to-tape transfers of the time.  The film may sadly be lost, so so much for a semi-HD version, but the quality here is pretty good despite some aliasing and flaws here and there.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is consistent and at a healthy volume throughout.  Extras include text trivia on the show and text bio on Woodward.



You can read more about The Equalizer at this link to our coverage of the first season of that show on DVD:





-   Nicholas Sheffo


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