The time, the place: ITV, early seventies. Neither seen nor heard of since until UK Gold picked it up last year for repeats. And, boy, did it look its age - all tulip-lapel collars, leather safari jackets, flared trousers, and feather haircuts.

But really: Down-these-mean-streets ''Saf Landan'' TV cop show. An early sign of British telly's enduring love affair with literary detectives (you can draw a line from here to Morse, Dalglish, Wexford at al). But Hazell was different. He had attitude in spades. Mind you, he avoided violence and never got involved in car chases. He was a Cockney Philip Marlowe who hit people with jokes.

The pitch: James Hazell is a former Met cop with a murky past and a serious bevvy problem. A bit of an East End wideboy, a ducker and diver 'oo was forever dropping 'is aitches (''My name is 'Aysell, Jaymes 'Aysell''). So 'e opens up 'is own detective agency wif a dingy office up a close in Soho. Always one step ahead of the bailiffs, 'is pride and joy is 'is motor - a beaut of a Triumph Stag (#2177 new) which is in perpetual

danger of being repossessed. Can be a bit of an 'ard man when 'e wants to, our Hazell, but deep down 'ees got an 'art of gold.

Cult credentials: None, to be honest. No Hazellnutters around, apparently.

Origins: There were but three Hazell novels (originally published by Penguin paperbacks) written by a chap called P B Yuill. This, as it turned out, was a pseudonym for the most unlikely of literary duos- none other than Terry Venables, at the time manager of Crystal Palace, and Gordon Williams, the Ferguslie Park-born writer and journalist whose previous work included The Seige At Trencher's Farm (which became Sam Peckinpah's controversial movie Straw Dogs). Venables and Williams had become firm friends after collaborating on a book called They Used To Play On Grass, which was (and still is) one of the best novels about football ever written. Believe it or not, the Hazell books were born out of an attempt by the pair to write a Love Story style book. The plot involved two mothers who were given the wrong babies at the maternity hospital. However, midway through the writing, Tel and Gordon

realised that sentiment was not their strong point so they scrapped the idea and adapted the plot to bring in a cop called Hazell. The result was a crime novel called Hazell Plays Solomon (which was also the first story to be adapted for the TV series and starred Jane Asher). Venables provided the Cockney rhyming slang, by the way, and Williams delivered Hazell's superb one-liners like: ''I've got a wad of cash 'ere that could choke a washing machine.''

Whatever happened to . . ? Gordon and Tel? Well, Gordon went on to write a few more books, one of which, Walk Don't Walk, is just about the best book ever written about a Scot in America. However, nothing very much has been heard of Mr Williams in recent years. Terry, on the other hand, has had his moments in the Great Game (though he is not renowned for his business skills).

The actor: Hazell was played by Nicholas Ball. He seemed to disappear off the face of television earth when the series folded, but lately he's made something of a decent comeback and was most recently spotted as the Rolls Royce-driving Flying Squad gaffer in ITV's Thieftakers (put on a bit of weight, he has). And finally, from the not-a-lot-of-people-know-that department, Ball was

once married to Pamela Stephenson. They divorced in 1984, about the time that a chap called Billy Connolly came on the scene.