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Taggart (1985-)

Courtesy of Scottish Television

Main image of Taggart (1985-)
Scottish TV for ITV/ITV1, 2/7/1985 - continuing
Over 150 x 60 min episodes, colour
Directors includeAlan MacMillan
 Ian Madden
 Patrick Harkins
Producers includeRobert Love
 Graeme Gordon
WritersGlenn Chandler
 Stuart Hepburn

Cast: Mark McManus (DCI Jim Taggart); James MacPherson (DS/DI/DCI Mike Jardine); Robert Robertson (Dr Andrews); Iain Anders (Supt Jack McVitie); Blythe Duff (DS Jackie Reid); Alex Norton (DCI Matt Burke); Colin McCredie (DC Stuart Fraser); John Michie (DI Robbie Ross); Harriet Buchan (Jean Taggart)

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Crime and detection on the mean streets of contemporary Glasgow.

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DCI Jim Taggart first appeared in the three-part drama Killer (ITV, 1983). Taggart was tough, but never resorted to the violent techniques used by DI Jack Regan in The Sweeney (ITV 1975-78); a few harsh words and a thousand-yard stare were usually enough to intimidate a suspect. Taggart had lived in Maryhill all his life, and reacted to murders in his hometown as if they were a personal insult.

Although Killer's focus was the investigation into a young woman's murder, it also explored the local community and its reaction to her death and, similarly, much of Taggart's success is built on its strong sense of place. Creator and regular writer Glenn Chandler made good use of Glasgow's rough reputation, but though gangsters and hard-men abounded, Chandler often subverted these stereotypes by using them to misdirect the audience. Tellingly, the least sympathetic character in Killer is an affluent businessman, and Taggart retained this particularly Scottish disdain for the wealthy and powerful.

Chandler’s gallows humour and gift for creating gruesomely inventive murders gave rise to the myth that he once worked as a pathologist ("I cannot stand the sight of blood!", he insists). Early episodes explored acute social and political issues, as in the first story, 'Dead Ringer', in which a murderer is freed from prison after doubts about his conviction emerge. There was a concerted attempt to change Glasgow's image in the late 1980s and, perhaps as a consequence, stories became more fanciful, though without completely losing their dark heart. The bizarre 'Gingerbread' (1993) updated the Hansel and Gretel fairytale, adding prostitution, a serial killer and a transvestite Bingo caller. 'Hellfire' (1994), the last story to feature Mark McManus, had satanic chainsaw murders. After McManus's death in 1994, Taggart became an entertaining ensemble piece, with Alex Norton a welcome addition to the cast in 2002.

With the cancellation of The Bill's (ITV, 1984-2010), Taggart became the longest-running police drama on British television. During this time, Glasgow has become more a more cosmopolitan city and Maryhill been targeted for redevelopment. There have been changes in the police genre too, but having survived the death of its star - the series endured longer without its titular hero than it did with him - Taggart seemed tough enough to cope with any challenge, until news of its own network cancellation broke in May 2011.

Kevin Sturton

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Video Clips
1. Another suspect (1:49)
2. Interview (2:33)
3. Red triangle tattoo (4:28)
Complete episode: 'Cold Blood' Part 1 (36:00)
Complete episode: Part 2 (17:12)
Complete episode: Part 3 (23:05)
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TV Police Drama