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Bergerac (1981-91)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Bergerac (1981-91)
BBC1, tx. 18/10/1981 - 26/12/1991
81 x 50 min episodes across 9 series and 6 specials, colour
CreatorRobert Banks Stewart
CompaniesChannel 7
ProducersRobert Banks Stewart, Jonathan Alwyn, George Gallaccio, Juliet Grimm

Cast: John Nettles (DS Jim Bergerac); Terence Alexander (Charlie Hungerford); Sean Arnold (Chief Insp. Barney Crozier); Cecile Paoli (Francine Leland); Deborah Grant (Deborah Bergerac); Celia Imrie (Marianne Bellshade); Louise Jameson (Susan Young)

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Detective Sergeant Jim Bergerac solves crimes in the tax haven of Jersey, frequently crossing swords with his superiors, his ex-wife and his wealthy ex-father-in-law.

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From uncertain beginnings as a hastily commissioned filler for a slot in the Sunday evening schedules, Bergerac would become, almost in spite of itself, one the BBC's longest running crime dramas. Writer-producer Robert Banks Stewart had a hit with Shoestring (BBC, 1979-80), but when star Trevor Eve opted not to continue, he used much of the same production crew to get its replacement on air within just a few months. Perhaps inevitably, the two series have some conceptual similarities, with protagonist Jim Bergerac also recovering from a breakdown (alcoholism and a broken leg following a failed marriage) while solving crimes in unusual TV surroundings (this time Jersey rather than Bristol). The new series, however, quickly developed its own distinctive personality, one with many unusual quirks and eccentricities.

Bergerac is a smart, no-nonsense copper with the (fictional) 'Bureau des √Čtrangers', dealing with murder, fraud and smuggling among (mainly) non-domiciled Jersey residents. He dislikes authority and his personal life is often in turmoil - even his longest-lasting relationship, with estate agent Susan Young, ends tragically when she is murdered. The series' long run saw many changes in the large supporting cast, the only real constant being Jim's amusing if sometimes unlikely involvement with the schemes of Charlie Hungerford, his wheeler-dealer ex-father-in-law. This relationship, reminiscent of the Arthur Daley/Terry McCann dynamic in Minder (ITV, 1979-94), was augmented by the show's glossy setting among Jersey's wealthy elite, invariably depicted in photogenic and permanently sunny locations - even Jim drove a luxurious car (a Triumph roadster).

At its best, Bergerac also offered something more unconventional, showing a real willingness to take risks with unorthodox story-telling approaches - for every cosy escapade featuring sexy confidence trickster the 'Ice Maiden' , there were several experimental and controversial episodes dealing with psychological and supernatural horror, such as the intense 'A Man of Sorrows' (tx. 6/2/1988) and Hammer-inspired fright-fests like 'The Dig' (tx. 28/1/1990).

In the final season, after one argument too many with boss Barney Crozier, Jim moved to France to become a private detective. This new format proved unpopular, and the show was axed, though the concluding episode, a stylish homage to Hollywood film noir, saw Jim back in Jersey and friends again with his ex-wife. Nettles merrily spoofed his Bergerac persona in the Jasper Carrott sitcom The Detectives (BBC, 1993-97) and the radio comedy 'Will Smith presents the Tao of Bergerac' (BBC, 2007).

Sergio Angelini

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Video Clips
1. Main titles (0:52)
2. A watery grave (2:21)
3. Recovery (2:50)
4. Foreign currency (3:46)
5. Thieves gather (2:58)
Complete episode (1:37:00)
Clemens, Brian (1931-)
Fenton, George (1950-)
Imrie, Celia (1952-)
Jameson, Louise (1951- )
Martin, Ian Kennedy (1936- )
Spooner, Dennis (1932-1986)
TV Police Drama