One of the most iconic crime dramas to have hit British telly, Bergerac takes us to the idyllic island of Jersey – which, a bit like Morse's Oxfordshire, is rather more dangerous and unpredictable than the real life version.
It's a place of devious, self-centred millionaires, mysterious visitors, corrupt officials and glamorous women hiding agendas up their silky sleeves. And at the centre of it all is DS Jim Bergerac, a divorced recovering alcoholic who investigates the dark enigmas of the island. Also on-hand are his ex-wife Deborah and his gruff, wealthy father-in-law Charlie Hungerford, along with an ever-shifting supporting cast of scoundrels and allies making life very bumpy for the rugged and charismatic Bergerac.
The Birth of Bergerac
We actually have Waking the Dead star Trevor Eve to thank for Bergerac. He'd become famous in the late 70s as the eponymous hero of the BBC private detective series Shoestring, but the show was brought to an end when Eve decided to move onto other projects. The Beeb were faced with the problem of replacing Shoestring in the schedules, so they asked TV scriptwriter Robert Banks Stewart (who'd previously worked on programmes like The Sweeney and Doctor Who) to come up with a new crime series.
As it happened, Banks Stewart had already been developing a detective programme set in Jersey, and Shoestring's cancellation gave him just the opening he needed. Bergerac was born.
Location, Location, Location
It could be said that John Nettles's true co-star in Bergerac is Jersey itself. Much of the series was shot on location there, although the producers were a little daunted by the logistics of making a major series on such a small and close-knit island. Would filming be hampered by crowds of curious locals forming around the cast and crew?
To keep the public suitably uninterested, the producers cunningly put the word out that they were filming a documentary rather than an exciting crime drama. This worked very well until they had to make the second series, by which time the public had well and truly wised-up. All the local attention meant the producers actually had to relocate much of the action from St Helier (Jersey's capital) to more out-of-the-way areas. Which is why Jim Bergerac's office is initially in St Helier's Royal Square but based in a more rural building from series two onwards. (The building in question was later converted into Jersey's first youth hostel.)
A Triumph of Engineering (Kind Of)
Everyone knows about the burgundy Jaguar driven by Inspector Morse. But another burgundy car also ruled the roads in 80s TV-land, and that was the 1947 Triumph Roadster driven by Jim Bergerac.
It swiftly became one of the signature elements of the show, perfectly suiting the hero's unique and unconventional personality. The only problem was that the Triumph's elongated shape and sporty specifications made it a rather poor choice of transport for Jersey's convoluted roads and low, low speed limits. Driving the thing therefore proved rather frustrating, especially because it also had a tendency to break down. And the engine itself was so cantankerously noisy they actually had to overlay the sound effects of a smoother, "suaver" motor. Ah well, it still looked fab.
A Many Splendoured Thing
Unlike many shows to have come out of the 80s, Bergerac remains a fascinating and almost timeless show. A lot of this is down to the fact that the writers set out to make it an unpredictable and "eclectic" show that crosses almost all genre boundaries.
Some of the episodes are sinister who-dunnits, while others are rollicking romps with a healthy dollop of tongue-in-cheek humour. There are flamboyant figures who wouldn't be out of place in a Batman comic (such as the female jewel thief called the Ice Maiden), and some episodes even have supernatural and mystical elements (one episode deals with the lost city of Atlantis, while another delves into black magic). Not exactly your average cop show, then…