In the late 1970’s Trevor Eve was riding high as the most popular actor in Britain thanks to his starring role in the excellent series Shoestring which saw him playing a “private detective” who worked for a radio station tackling cases for listeners, halfway through the second season he made it plain that he wouldn’t be making a third, this left the BBC and Shoestring producer Robert Banks Stewart in something of a quandary, the infrastructure and time slot for a third season was already in place. Luckily Banks Stewart came up with something of a winner, another crime series but this time set on the idyllic island of Jersey.
Snagging the lead role in the new series was John Nettles who had first made a name for himself in the popular ITV series A Family At War but had mostly been a stage actor since then. Jersey itself was also going to be a major part of the series, this tax haven for the wealthy that lies just a couple of miles off the coast of France had been taken over by the invading Germans during World War II but outside of a couple of dramas about the War had never really been made use of as a location.
When the series begins Detective Sergeant Jim Bergerac is no straight forward cop, he’s a recovering alcoholic with quite a few issues, he does drive a rather cool 1959 burgundy Triumph roadster though. In the opening episode Jim is determined to investigate the killing of his former police partner even if it means getting booted off the force in the process, luckily for us though Bergerac ends up being drafted into a new unit, The Bureau Des Estrangers, which has been set up to deal with tourist crime on the island.
Working under taciturn Barney Crozier Jim is initially unhappy about the role but has a kind of grudging realisation that at least there is a steady stream of interesting cases to deal with. The Bureau was a great move actually as it allowed a constant stream of fresh faces to arrive on what is essential a strip of land five miles wide and over the course of the series a whole raft of well known faces popped up in guest roles including the likes of Greta Scacchi, Warren Clarke, a young Joanne Whalley, Geoffrey Palmer, Ray Winstone, the legendary Norman Wisdom and Liza Goddard to name just a few. An intrinsic part of the show too was Jim’s relationship with Charlie Hungerford the father of his ex-wife Deborah. Charlie was absolutely loaded and had his finger in every pie going, one of the key members of Jersey society he makes an appearance in every episode thanks to a bit of canny contract negotations by the fab Terence Alexander who plays him.
Liza Goddard’s role in the series was a semi-recurring one too playing jewel thief Phillipa Vale who enjoyed a flirtatious relationship with Bergerac who never seemed able to bring himself to bring her to justice. Speaking of love interests, in the first series Jim became involved with Frankie the French girlfriend of his old partner but his most consistant relationship was with real estate agent Susan Young (played by former Doctor Who companion Louise Jameson) who provided the catalyst for one of the most intriguing seasons of Bergerac when their relationship began to go awry and she died in mysterious circumstances. For a time you were left thinking that Jim might have actually murdered her! Towards the end of the series Jim fell in love with French woman Danielle whilst on a case in the country and ended up quitting the force to work as a private detective both on Jersey and in France.
In retrospect the final season of the show can be seen as something of a misfire. Jim’s relationship with Danielle goes absolutely nowhere, despite the fact that he has seemingly given up everything to be with her. Even before the midway point of the season Jim is basically back on Jersey working as a private investigator out of an office supplied by Charlie Hungerford. There is also much input from the Bureau with Willy and Lomas still on the scene and a new boss in the shape of the oily Deffand (played by Roger Sloman).
One of the major plus points of the series was the way that it didn’t always stick to your standard crime story of the week format, it’s continuing storyline meant that you really got to know the supporting characters and the plots themselves too were never afraid to move into darker territory occasionally moving into outright horror or the unexplained.
It was and remains though a superbly entertaining series, when it ended Nettles said that having been in the show for ten years he didn’t want to embark on another long running series, of course a few years later he took the part of Tom Barnaby in the incredibly popular Midsomer Murders and stayed with the series for 14 years!
As much a part of the show as Nettles himself the island of Jersey became a major tourist hot spot thanks in no small part to the series. It’s small but perfectly formed and is just five miles wide and nine miles long, much closer to France than England it is also blessed with sandy beaches and much better weather than the rest of the UK. It has become something of a tax haven and scores high with visitors when shopping because the dreaded English VAT doesn’t apply there.
The capital is called St Helier and has a very French feel, as does much of the island naturally enough. Key areas of interest for visitors are Elizabeth Castle which has become a military museum, Jersey Museum and the Old Court House Hotel in St Aubin. Explorers can find the house Jim lived in on the show in the area of Haut de la Garenne. Famed naturalist Gerald Durrell created Jersey Zoo on the island and the Jersey Wildlife Presevation Trust, which does a fantastic job in trying to preserve rare species threatened with extinction, is run from it. Meanwhile one of the biggest events of the year is The Battle of Flowers which takes place on the second Thursday in August – a carnival like day in which hundreds of floats decked out in flowers travels across the island.
Jim drove a vintage 1959 burgundy triumph roadster.
UK / BBC-1 / 81×50 minute episodes 5×90 minute episodes / Broadcast 18 October 1981- 26 December 1991
Creator: Robert Banks Stewart / Music: George Fenton / Producers: Robert Banks Stewart, Jonathan Alwyn, George Gallaccio, Juliet Grimm
JOHN NETTLES as Jim Bergerac
TERENCE ALEXANDER as Charlie Hungerford
SEAN ARNOLD as Barney Crozier
DEBORAH GRANT as Deborah Bergerac
LOUISE JAMESON as Susan Young
MELA WHITE as Diamante Lil
NANCY MANSFIELD as Peggy Masters
JOHN TELFER as D.C. Willy Petit
DAVID KERSHAW as D.C. Ben Lomas
CECILE PAOLI as Frankie (season 1)
SEASON ONE 18 October – 20 December 1981
1. PICKING IT UP (18 Oct 81)
2. NICE PEOPLE DIE IN BED (25 Oct 81)
3. UNLUCKY DIP (1 Nov 81)
4. CAMPAIGN FOR SILENCE (8 Nov 81)
5. SEE YOU IN MOSCOW (15 Nov 81)
6. PORTRAIT OF YESTERDAY (22 Nov 81)
7. LAST CHANCE FOR A LOSER (29 Nov 81)
8. LATE FOR A FUNERAL (6 Dec 81)
9. RELATIVE VALUES (13 Dec 81)
10. THE HOOD AND THE HARLEQUIN (20 Dec 81)
SEASON TWO 9 January – 6 March 1983
1. A MESSAGE FOR THE RICH (9 Jan 83)
2. ALWAYS LEAVE THEM LAUGHING (16 Jan 83)
3. CLAP HANDS, HERE COMES CHARLIE (23 Jan 83)
4. PRIME TARGET (30 Jan 83)
5. ALMOST LIKE A HOLIDAY (6 Feb 83)
6. FALL OF A BIRDMAN (13 Feb 83)
7. A MIRACLE EVERY WEEK (20 Feb 83)
8. A PERFECT RECAPTURE (7 Feb 83)
9. THE MOONLIGHT GIRLS (6 Mar 83)
SEASON THREE 3 December 1983 – 4 February 1984
1. NINETY PER CENT PROOF (3 Dec 83)
2. A HOLE IN THE BUCKET (10 Dec 83)
3. HOLIDAY SNAPS (17 Dec 83)
4. ICE MAIDEN (24 Dec 83)
5. COME OUT FIGHTING (31 Dec 83)
6. A TOUCH OF EASTERN PROMISE (7 Jan 84)
7. A CRY IN THE NIGHT (14 Jan 84)
8. THE COMPANY YOU KEEP (21 Jan 84)
9. TUG OF WAR (28 Jan 84)
10. HOUSE GUESTS (4 Feb 84)
SEASON FOUR 11 October – 20 December 1985
1. THE LAST INTERVIEW (11 Oct 85)
2. OFF SHORE TRADES (18 Oct 85)
3. WHAT DREAMS MAY COME? (25 Oct 85)
4. LOW PROFILE (1 Nov 85)
5. RETURN OF THE ICE MAIDEN (8 Nov 85)
6. CHRISSIE (15 Nov 85)
7. THE TENNIS RACKET (29 Nov 85)
8. SINS OF THE FATHERS (13 Dec 85)
9. AVENGE O LORD (20 Dec 85)
SPECIAL ONE 26 December 1986
1. FIRES IN THE FALL (26 Dec 86)
SEASON FIVE 3 January – 21 February 1987
1. THE MEMORY MAN (3 Jan 87)
2. WINNER TAKES ALL (10 Jan 87)
3. ROOT AND BRANCH (17 Jan 87)
4. A DESIRABLE LITTLE RESIDENCE (24 Jan 87)
5. THE DEADLY VIRUS (31 Jan 87)
6. S.P.A.R.T.A. (7 Feb 87)
7. THANKS FOR EVERYTHING (14 Feb 87)
8. POISON (21 Feb 87)
SPECIAL TWO 26 December 1987
1. TREASURE HUNT (26 Dec 87)
SEASON SIX 2 January – 13 February 1988
1. WHATEVER LOLA WANTS (2 Jan 88)
2. CROSSED SWORDS (9 Jan 88)
3. A HORSE OF A DIFFERENT COLOUR (16 Jan 88)
4. BURNT (23 Jan 88)
5. THE SIN OF FORGIVENESS (30 Jan 88)
6. A MAN OF SORROWS (6 Feb 88)
7. PRIVATE FIGHT (13 Feb 88)
SPECIAL THREE 27 December 1988
1. RETIREMENT PLAN (27 Dec 88)
SEASON SEVEN 28 January – 18 March 1989
1. SEA CHANGES (28 Jan 89)
2. NATURAL ENEMIES (4 Feb 89)
3. TANGOS IN THE NIGHT (11 Feb 89)
4. THE OTHER WOMAN (18 Feb 89)
5. WEEKEND OFF (25 Feb 89)
6. WHEN DID YOU LAST SEE YOUR FATHER? (4 Mar 89)
7. OLD ACQUAINTANCE (11 Mar 89)
8. TRENCHARD’S LAST CASE (18 Mar 89)
SPECIAL NUMBER FOUR 26 December 89
1. SECOND TIME AROUND (26 Dec 89)
SEASON EIGHT 14 January – 18 March 1990
1. A TRUE DETECTIVE (14 Jan 90)
2. MY NAME’S SERGEANT BERGERAC (21 Jan 90)
3. THE DIG (28 Jan 90)
4. ROOTS OF EVIL (4 Feb 90)
5. ENTENTE CORDIALE (11 Feb 90)
6. IN LOVE AND WAR (18 Feb 90)
7. UNDER WRAPS (25 Feb 90)
8. ALL THE SAD SONGS (4 Mar 90)
9. THE MESSENGER BOY (11 Mar 90)
10. DIPLOMATIC INCIDENT (18 Mar 90)
SPECIAL NUMBER FIVE 26 December 1990
1. THERE FOR THE PICKING (26 Dec 90)
SEASON NINE 5 January – 9 March 1991
1. SOMETHING TO HIDE (5 Jan 91)
2. THE DARK HORSE (12 Jan 91)
3. SNOW IN PROVENCE (19 Jan 91)
4. THE EVIL THAT MEN DO (26 Jan 91)
5. MY FRIEND CHARLIE (2 Feb 91)
6. ON THE ROCKS (9 Feb 91)
7. THE WAITING GAME (16 Feb 91)
8. WARRIORS (23 Feb 91)
9. THE ASSASSIN (2 Mar 91)
10. THE LOHANS (9 Mar 91)
SPECIAL NUMBER SIX 26 December 1991
1. ALL FOR LOVE (26 Dec 91)
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