Taggart Returns, But For How Long?

By Heather Hughes

Jul 17, 2010

There's clearly something compelling about Taggart: it's captivated audiences from across the world, aired over 100 episodes, and is quickly approaching its 26th season. Time has moved on since it first aired in 1983 though, and with so much crime competition now vying for its viewing figures the Scottish detective series has to up its game when it returns to ITV1 this Sunday.

The first murder is that of a troubled gambler. Your instincts tell you his debts cost his life, but it can't be that simple can it? Actually, the motive is completely transparent and there are slim pickings as to the identity of the killer. Despite this, viewers are suitably--and at times too obviously--misguided about who's behind it all.

Nothing's changed though: the set up, the storylines, and the team dynamics are the same. Taggart has done nothing to set itself apart from the increasing numbers of new crime dramas. The occasional witty one-liners, for instance, are no smarter in Taggart than they are in Inspector Morse or Midsomer Murders. Alex Norton takes the best line of the debut episode when, as DCI Matt Burke, he mocks a local betting shop worker, saying: "I'm sure you're giving Alan Sugar sleepless nights."

It's Taggart's Glaswegian setting that remains the most unique aspect of the show. Very few crime dramas are set in that region and the cast's strong accents, which coined the phrase "there's been a murrderr", make it stand out (slightly) from the rest. Team this with the rundown police station set and the flawed detective characters and the show comes across almost realistic. When fake blood spurts from the neck of a stab victim though you can't help but chuckle rather than gasp.

Consistency has obviously worked for Taggart in the past, but time could soon be running out. ITV recently axed long-running dramas Heartbeat and The Bill, despite the latter having had a revamp. There were rumours that Taggart was also on the chopping board at one stage last year, and with more and more police dramas now swamping the TV genre it can't be long until another cut is made. Even main actor Alex Norton admits he was surprised the show survived the cull, that's got to tell us something.

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