Bergerac (TV series)

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Bergerac
Bergerac (TV series).jpg
Main title.
FormatDrama
Created byRobert Banks Stewart
StarringJohn Nettles
Terence Alexander
Sean Arnold
Louise Jameson
Deborah Grant
Cécile Paoli
Celia Imrie
Thérèse Liotard
Country of originUnited Kingdom
No. of episodes87 (List of episodes)
Production
Running time60 minutes
Broadcast
Original channelBBC1
Original run18 October 1981 –
26 December 1991
 
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Bergerac
Bergerac (TV series).jpg
Main title.
FormatDrama
Created byRobert Banks Stewart
StarringJohn Nettles
Terence Alexander
Sean Arnold
Louise Jameson
Deborah Grant
Cécile Paoli
Celia Imrie
Thérèse Liotard
Country of originUnited Kingdom
No. of episodes87 (List of episodes)
Production
Running time60 minutes
Broadcast
Original channelBBC1
Original run18 October 1981 –
26 December 1991

Bergerac is a British television show set in Jersey. Produced by the BBC in association with the Seven Network, and first screened on BBC1, it stars John Nettles as the title character Detective Sergeant Jim Bergerac, a detective in Le Bureau des Étrangers ("The Foreigners' Office", a fictional department for dealing with non-Jersey residents), part of the States of Jersey Police.

Background[edit]

The series ran from 1981 to 1991 and was created by producer Robert Banks Stewart, after another of his popular detective series Shoestring, starring Trevor Eve, came to an abrupt end. The BBC wanted a series to replace the popular Shoestring[citation needed] and Bergerac was thus created. The blend of holiday locations, the island's tax exile millionaire populace and, of course, some unsavoury criminals, proved a massive hit with viewers.

Like Shoestring, the series begins with a man returning to work after a particularly bad period in his life: Eddie Shoestring from a nervous breakdown; Jim Bergerac from alcoholism and a broken leg.

As well as the fantasy elements incorporated into the series, a number of episodes ended with unpleasant twists, as in Offshore Trades and A Hole In The Bucket. The show also dealt with sometimes controversial topics – for example, in one, an old man is unmasked as a Nazi war criminal, and his age raises various moral dilemmas.

The evocative theme tune, composed by George Fenton, featured a reggae and accordion refrain.

The show is still regularly repeated on channels such as Alibi, RTE and Yesterday and on Monday 24 February 2014 the BBC started a rerun of the series on daytime afternoons on BBC2.

Lead character[edit]

Jim Bergerac was a complex character and presented by the series as a somewhat unorthodox cop. He was recovering from alcoholism, partly resulting from an unpleasant divorce. A Jersey native, he returned to the island at the start of the series after recuperating in England from ill-health dipsomania and major surgery on his leg following an accident caused by his drinking heavily prior to an attempted arrest. The accident is shown in episode two as a flashback: Bergerac was swigging brandy during a surveillance when he noticed his suspect and gave chase. Under the influence of his drinking, he attempted to prevent the man's escape by leaping onto his boat and got his leg crushed against the harbour wall as he slipped back. He was deemed unfit for the force as a result of this accident, but helped his old colleagues out in the recently formed "Bureau des étrangers" and was posted to that unit.

Bergerac's relationships with women were a frequent theme – often as a subplot to the main crime investigation. Bergerac's girlfriends included Francine Leland (Cécile Paoli) (who had been the fiancée of a dead colleague), Marianne Bellshade (Celia Imrie), Susan Young (Louise Jameson) and Danielle Aubry (Thérèse Liotard). He also had several encounters with ex-wife Deborah (Deborah Grant) who had custody of their daughter Kim (Lindsay Heath).

Bergerac often displayed "insubordination" when in the Jersey police force. Due to personal differences, and increasing "independence", he becomes a private detective by the end of the series, especially following the murder of ex-girlfriend Susan Young at the start of series 8.

In keeping with his maverick and adventurous style, Bergerac regularly drove a burgundy 1947 Triumph Roadster (a forerunner of the Triumph's TR series of sports cars) which, with its long bonnet, was a vehicle totally unsuited to the narrow and winding Jersey roads with their speed limits of no more than 40 miles per hour. Two different cars were used throughout the series. The first was notoriously unreliable and John Nettles generally had to endure how it would not always stop when it was supposed to. The car's engine was also horribly noisy and a separate soundtrack was utilised to enhance the supposed coolness of the vehicle. Fortunately the replacement was much more mechanically sound.

Other characters[edit]

Few of the characters were repeated throughout the entire series, but a number appeared in many episodes.

One of the most notable characters is Charlie Hungerford (played by Terence Alexander, well known as having played Monty in the BBC adaptation of The Forsyte Saga), who also happens to be Jim Bergerac's former father-in-law. Charlie is a "lovable rogue" and would-be tycoon, who is often involved in shady dealings, but is paradoxically something of an innocent. Bergerac usually had a good relationship with him (although in the first episode Picking It Up they are not on the best of terms) and in one of the more unbelievable aspects of the series, Charlie was somehow involved in all but one of the 91 cases Bergerac was involved in, Charlie being a good source of gossip when Bergerac had to deal with tax-exiles and people in high places.

Other regular characters in the series included Deborah (Deborah Grant), Bergerac's ex-wife, and his boss, Chief Inspector Barney Crozier (Sean Arnold), previously Inspector, later Superintendent. Bergerac also had several sidekicks, who were generally detective constables. Hardly any crime could have been solved without the help of Crozier's redoubtable secretaries Charlotte (Annette Badland) and Peggy (Nancy Mansfield). Many of today's best known stars can be seen in various episodes of the series.

One of the popular recurring characters was glamorous jewel thief Philippa Vale (Liza Goddard) who went by the nickname of the Ice Maiden. She and Bergerac had an ongoing flirtatious relationship. Many people[who?] agree that the best episodes were the ones featuring the Ice Maiden character, because of the onscreen chemistry between Liza Goddard and John Nettles. Philippa Vale appeared in an almost once-a-series basis and a Christmas Special. When Bergerac was not pursuing her, they engaged in friendly bantering.

Series 7 saw the last appearance of Philippa Vale, series 8 the last of Barney Crozier, just as the character Peggy had also vanished around this time (after series 7) and regular off-duty hostess Diamante Lil (Mela White) had made her last appearance in series 5. Following the episode "Root And Branch", Jim's ex-wife Deborah moved from Jersey to England and her number of appearances dwindled. Susan Young, who had become a mainstay of the series from series 4 and onwards, had her last appearance in the first episode of series 8. The last series were thus left somewhat empty of familiar characters, often with only Bergerac himself and Charlie Hungerford remaining.

Location[edit]

The series played heavily on its Jersey location, and its supposed 'Frenchness' even in its theme tune. The early storylines were usually in and around Jersey, with short scenes shot in England and France. In later episodes however, the action strayed further and further away from Jersey, and was increasingly based in France — introduced in part through a French girlfriend.

As Jersey is a small island (nine miles long by five miles wide), most of the filming locations there can be tracked down with ease. Jim Bergerac and Susan Young's flat was located just above St Aubin, a few doors along from the Somerville Hotel. Although, part of the interior was actually within another flat at Gorey, six miles away. However, Jim's original home in the first few series was submerged when the States of Jersey flooded the valley to create the Queen's Valley reservoir in 1991. Plans for this reservoir were referred to at the start of season four, when Bergerac is forced to seek new accommodation because of them, in the process meeting an estate agent who becomes his new girlfriend (i.e., Susan).

Frontage of Haut de la Garenne

One of the main sites of the series achieved notoriety much later. The "Bureau des Étrangers" was located at Haut de la Garenne, a former children's home which in February 2008 became the focus of the Jersey child abuse investigation 2008. The building, on Mont de la Garenne overlooking Mont Orgueil and the Royal Bay of Grouville, ceased being a children's home in 1983 and was re-opened as Jersey's first and only youth hostel.

The original Bureau in the TV series was located in St Helier's Royal Square, but due to the popularity of the programme, filming was often difficult after the first season as the pretence of filming a documentary series (a rather boring subject to watch) was spoilt by public recognition of Jim's Triumph.

Windward House, Jersey

Windward House,[1] Le Mont Sohier, St Brelade (since demolished)with lush grounds overlooking Ouaisné and St Brelade's Bay, was a stunning location used internally and externally throughout all 9 seasons and the Christmas specials. This pink and grey building with while pillared entrance first appears in season 1, episode 6 "Portrait of Yesterday", as the home and wedding venue of the incidental characters Windward House then reappears from season 2, episode 1 as Charlie Hungerford's main residence where he is hosting a large garden fête, and then appears in almost every episode of the show – either used heavily as part of the central plot, or as a backdrop for family gatherings, drinks parties, business meetings, barbecues, marquee events, etc. The entire house was used over time – particularly the living room with French windows, dining room, conservatory and long gallery hallways. External filming regularly included the gardens, paddock, driveways, fruit gardens, greenhouse, cider press, rockery. The house becomes Bergerac's "home" when he is in between properties of his own, and because of its unique design, sums up in many people's minds what a Jersey "millionaire's" house looks like.

Noirmont Manor, Noirmont, is Charlie Hungerford's home throughout season one. Whilst no explanation is given in the show as to why he moves to Windward House for later episodes, Noirmont Manor is notoriously hard to reach, being down a very steep hill, and perhaps not suitable for the big BBC Film Crew vans.

As is standard practice in film and television drama shot on location, the places portrayed are not intended to create an accurate travelogue of the actual island. In the fictional story on screen, locations from different island locales were frequently edited together into the same sequence. John Nettles, in his book Bergerac's Jersey, states that the locals were always amused by such editing.

As the series ran for a decade, directors found it increasingly difficult to find locations which had not been over-used in past episodes. While promoting his film White Noise in an interview with Xpose magazine, director Geoffrey Sax described how he made an effort to find new locations, only to return for the actual shoot to find camera tripod marks in the ground, another director having shot there in the meantime.

Plotlines often took the action onto the British mainland, particularly London, and Richmond Riverside figured prominently.

Supernatural elements[edit]

The 4th season episode "What Dreams May Come?" was the start of an annual tradition of episodes with stories bordering on fantasy, with supernatural elements and a surreal atmosphere.[citation needed] Later episodes with fantasy elements included the bizarre poisoning of freemasons in "Poison", the Christmas episode "Fires in the Fall" (which features a Bergman-esque representation of Death which appears, to judge from the last line, to have been real in spite of a 'Scooby-Doo' explanation having been offered a scene earlier), "A Man of Sorrows", the only episode of the sixth series set almost entirely outside Jersey, the only episode at all to lack Charlie Hungerford and – partly because of the heroin nature of the storyline, partly because of the lack of familiar characters – a dark, humourless episode unlike any other in the series[citation needed], the densely plotted "The Other Woman", "The Dig" involving an apparent Viking's curse (apparently inspired by Hammer Horror movies), and "Warriors", about a group who believe in the existence of Atlantis.

DVD release[edit]

Bergerac is being made available on DVD (Region 2, UK) by 2 Entertain/Cinema Club. The first series was released on 8 May 2006, including audio commentaries on three episodes. The second series was released on 13 July 2006 and the third series was released on 23 October 2006. The other series have been released at regular intervals and the final series is due for release in August 2009.

Unfortunately, mistakes occurred in the supply of the source material for the DVD releases which mean the episodes of Series 1 and 6 are highly edited versions, originally broadcast on UK daytime television. This error has been amended on the Complete DVD Box Set release, which includes all episodes in their full length.

Final episode[edit]

The final episode filmed was the 1991 Christmas Special titled "All for Love", which was partly set in Bath. The final scene provides a strong hint about Bergerac's future after Charlie Hungerford has recommended Bergerac for the new position of heading up the Bureau des Étrangers as it is rolled out across the Channel Islands following its success in Jersey.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]