Bergerac hit British TV screens for the first time on 18 October 1981. Little did anyone know then how popular this series would grow to be, that the series set on the lovely Jersey, Channel Islands, featuring the handsome, slightly troubled and off-beat cop Bergerac, would enthral so many people all over the world for so long. Bergerac has become a classic, and you can still see repeats on various TV channels around the world. The series will also soon be available on DVD.
So what was it about this series which made it so popular? Why did so many people all over the world place themselves in front of their TV sets when Bergerac was on, letting themselves being drawn into the fairly unlikely stories that took place on this small island?
I think we can safely say that Jim Bergerac himself was an important reason for the popularity. He was a decent guy that many people could identify themselves with. He was far from perfect: he was an alcoholic, hopeless in relationships, made plenty of mistakes. He was no super-human, but a vulnerable man, which made him sympathetic. You don’t believe in James Bond, but you might believe in James Bergerac. John Nettles who portrayed this man must, naturally, take a lot of the credit for this. At the beginning there was not much for him to build on as the script didn’t contain much character description. It was then largely left to him to portray the detective being a little laid back and a man of few words. John once said in an interview that he had two regrets about how Jim Bergerac was introduced on the screen. Firstly he felt that he would have liked, in the interest of authenticity, to have worked hard on perfecting a Jersey accent for the part, and secondly he felt that Bergerac’s character could have been explored and explained in more depth if the stories had started two years earlier in his fictional life, when the detective was going through the difficulties of marriage breakdown and a bout of alcoholism. Despite the subject of Jim’s early alcoholism problems remaining largely unexplored in the series, John received a number of letters from members of Alcoholic Anonymous discussing the involvement of that subject in Bergerac.
Part of the charm and the attraction to many viewers, perhaps particularly in the UK, was that the series was set in Jersey, not only because of the island’s beauty, but also because many saw Jersey as a place where the values that they were losing were still very much up front, as the island traditionally prides itself in being a conservative society where people adhere to their values.
Another point in favour of the series is the fact that it didn’t dwell on aspects of sex and violence which other series tend to use in abundance to prevent interest in their storyline from dwindling.
Attempts to continually re-vitalise the storyline were made by introducing different directors and script writers to the series. However, good directors and script writers cost money, and the BBC didn’t seem to be willing to pay very much in the end, thus resulting in weaker storylines in the later seasons. I think most of us must admit that even if it was incredibly sad to say goodbye to Jim Bergerac after 82 episodes, it was probably about time. The series had run out of steam. Jim was no longer the Jersey policeman we had learnt to know and love, but a grape picking private eye in Provence. Nevertheless, Bergerac was built to last. To watch it now is to appreciate what a great and enjoyable series it was.
There are points in a young man's life at which it seems all the forces of the cosmos vibrate in perfect harmony to produce an overwhelming flow of rightness; a guiding hand, if you will, supremely powerful in volition and perfect in its completeness. The front cover of the Radio Times of October 23rd, 1983, provided such a moment. It would take a modern Ruskin to paint in words the majesty of the image; a man, no longer in the first flush of youth, perhaps, but with a gaze of craggy, Homeric intensity, his pose startlingly virile in execution - caught mid-abseil, he's coiled, expectant, a hair-trigger set to release the strength of a thousand suns.
Over the subsequent weeks and years we grew to love this man add with love came understanding, an understanding of the human spirit, of Jersey, of irascible father-in-laws and of Triumph motor cars. Each episode was an essay in the vicissitudes of existence worthy of Montaigne, brought blinking to life by the language of Mr Dennis Spooner, the bard of Nether Wallop, unmatched in the English tradition. It's impossible, of course, to pick a firm favourite but I think perhaps the one where Bergerac had to drink orange juice with a man with a beard and the man with the beard had poisoned one of the glasses but Bergerac didn't know which one, was probably the best.
This series bought the beauty of a very tiny island, and the island's unique place in a very special community into our living rooms; whilst retaining a sense of reality hinging around the everyday lives and activities of the Bureau des Etrangers.
The storyline was based around one police officer, Jim Bergerac, his life and loves and the complicated relationship he had with various other people including his terminally nosey ex father in law, Charlie Hungerford.
Charlie's selfmade wealthy business man with time on his hands frequently caused problems for Jim, especially with his desire to keep his fingers in every available pie. And it was the dynamic between Charlie and Jim which kept a certain edge on the series.
The scenery played a fairly large part in the series, particularly the first series and the small farmhouse which Jim shared with his French girlfriend, Frankie. The valley in which the farmhouse stood was flooded to form a reservoir, which brought a greater sense of involvement in the series.
True the series now seems dated, but it still has a certain charm and is well worth a look.
To be honest I could classify this show aa lots of things: it's my guilty pleasure, no-one knows I watch it, it's absolutely fabulous and I need my daily fix of it. (ask my mum, I reckon she regrets every introducing me to the show while flicking through the TV channels for something to watch: '...Bergerac can sometimes be good...' and the obsession had set in.
I absolutely love this show it is funny and intriuging and I love following the sub-plots which add continuity to the series and show. The best returning character had to be Philippa Vale (played by Liza Goddard) and I thought the ending to Old Acquaintance was just a brilliant (but sad ending) not only to Jim and Susan's relationship but also to Jim and Philippa's relationship. Every series is good and I also enjoyed series 9 despite it's bad reviews although I have to admit it was not as good as previous series due to the lack of continuous characters and places such as the Bureau. I only started watching this back in January and I instantly became addicted. I had stopped watching detective shows in about 2004 after watching as episode of Midsomer Murders (also starring John Nettles) and when I found Bergerac I was only just beginning to watch them again but Bergerac was far more lighthearted in the crimes as there was less blood so it ended up relighting my passion for crime and detective dramas so that I will now watch Midsomer Murders, The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, Dalziel and Pascoe, New Tricks etc which a year ago I wouldn't have watched. I am now eagerly collecting Bergerac on DVD and can't wait until the 3rd of September when series 5 comes out and I have now nearly seen every episode thanks to UKTV Drama.
This show is BRILLIANT!!!!
Bergerac is one of my all time favourite TV series. It had a lot of things going for it - a talented cast, interesting stories, the island of Jersey (and I think occasionly they filmed in the UK and abroad, until the later series when they filmed more in France along with Jersey), the instumental score and the characters.
The episodes of Bergerac I remember the best were the ones during the Susan years when Louise Jameson played Jim's estate agent girlfriend Susan.
Around the mid-1980's they the makers of Bergerac started doing an annual Christmas special which aired a week or two before the start of the new regular series. These I remember became more violent as the series went on.
In the last couple of years the focus of the show seemed to move more towards France. I don't recall seeing all of the final few episodes of the series, but it was still a good show. It was better than some of the rubbish shown on UK TV today.
A classic TV series. Wish they could make a one-off reunion special with Jim, Barney, Diamante Lil and of course Charlie.
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