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Gentle Touch, The (1980-84)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of Gentle Touch, The (1980-84)
LWT for ITV, 11/4/1980-24/11/1984
59x60 min episodes in 5 series
Production CompanyLWT
ProducersKim Mills
 Michael Verney-Elliott
 Jack Williams
Series devised byTerence Feely

Cast: Jill Gascoine (Detective Inspector Maggie Forbes), William Marlowe (Det Chief Insp Bill Russell), Paul Moriarty (Det Sergeant Jake Barratt), Nigel Rathbone (Steve Forbes), Kevin O'Shea (Det Sgt Peter Phillips), Brian Gwaspari (Det Insp Croft)

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The trials and tribulations of Maggie Forbes, a widowed single mother and a Detective Inspector with the London police force.

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The Gentle Touch had the distinction of being the first police drama series on British television with a female protagonist. Premiering on ITV in April 1980, it beat the BBC's Juliet Bravo (1980-85) to the punch by four months.

It portrayed the personal and professional vicissitudes of DI Maggie Forbes, played with grit by Jill Gascoine, whose private life frequently intertwined with her career as a police officer. In the opening episode her police constable husband was killed in the line of duty, leaving her alone to bring up their son Steve (Nigel Rathbone). Against orders she helped bring the culprit to justice and then handed in her resignation. She took it back in the following episode however, leading to a series that frequently put contemporary issues at the forefront of its stories.

Subjects ranged from prostitution, pornography and anti-Semitism to homosexuality and animal rights, while Forbes and her colleagues were frequently placed at the sharp end of things. At the end of the fourth series Forbes was hurt when the Seven Dials station was blown up when a distraught woman recently diagnosed with breast cancer walked into the station with two hand grenades. Other regulars in the series included William Marlowe as Forbes' world-weary boss and a pre-Casualty (BBC, 1986-) Derek Thompson playing a young Detective Sergeant.

Although a potential love interest was introduced in the second series in the shape of Alan Lawson (Ray Lonnen), the main focus in her personal life remained her son and the uneasy relationship with her aged father. These concerns were explored in two consecutive episodes directed by Carol Wiseman and penned by P.J. Hammond, 'Damage' (tx 29/1/82) and 'Solution' (tx 5/2/82), which dealt trenchantly with the themes of depression and euthanasia.

The series proved to be highly influential, even unexpectedly so. In the episode 'Something Blue' (tx 5/9/80) Forbes tries to speak candidly to a prostitute, saying "We really should talk, woman to woman - my name is Maggie". However the other actress (Lynda Marchal) and Gascoine kept corpsing when it came for the riposte, "All right, call me Juanita." Marchal felt she could write more believable dialogue herself and, encouraged by Gascoine, went on to prove this spectacularly, using the pseudonym Lynda La Plante.

Clearly a forerunner of La Plante's Prime Suspect (ITV, 1991-), The Gentle Touch also led to its own spin-off, C.A.T.S Eyes (ITV, 1985-87). A rather gimmicky idea from Terrence Feely, it saw Forbes transferred to the all-female Covert Action Team Section working for the government.

Sergio Angelini

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Video Clips
1. Old timer (1:10)
2. Hospital chatter (3:04)
3. A pub hypothesis (3:01)
4. Closing arguments (3:25)
Complete episode (Part 2) (16:48)
Complete episode (Part 3) (15:13)
Complete episode: 'Break In' (Part 1) (16:00)
London Weekend Television (LWT)
TV Police Drama