Heartbeat, ITV1

by | Dec 15, 2002 | All, Reviews

Heartbeat could so easily have been a disaster. Take a newly-poached soap star (ex-EastEnder Nick Berry), make him a policeman in a Yorkshire village during the “swinging” Sixties, add in pop tunes from the era and a few stock characters (lovable rogue, pompous landowner, grumpy sergeant, mini-skirted dolly bird), and you’ve got the ingredients for a riot of clichéd inaccuracy and bland characterisation.

Some TV companies (no names – OK then, Carlton) would probably have done it that way, but Yorkshire TV did something much better. They gave it quality writing, high production values and a strong supporting cast, including Derek Fowlds (Yes Minister) and veteran comic Bill Maynard. They put talented newcomers like Tricia Penrose in the minor roles, and let them gradually develop. Most of all, they kept faith with the novels they’d based the series on (written by Nicholas Rhea, a former Yorkshire policeman) and showed the 60s as they really were beyond a five-mile radius of London’s Carnaby Street – closer to the 1930s than to today, with change only happening in small pockets and the old social and material values still largely intact.

In return they got a show which easily survived the departure of its heart-throb star, and is still going strong today, 10 years after its launch. It’s strictly mainstream stuff, designed to give you a warm feeling on a cold winter’s night, with a comic sub-plot always on hand to lighten things up. But it doesn’t pull punches either; farmers go broke and kill themselves, villains brandish guns, terrified girls find themselves pregnant. A laugh one minute, tragedy the next, just like real life – and policemen really did look that funny driving round in Minivans.

This week saw yet another personnel change when Dr Tricia Summerbee died in a riding accident, leaving PC Mike Bradley (Jason Durr, Berry’s successor in the heart-throb role) minus yet another partner. He’s leaving soon as well, but Heartbeat will survive that too. A bit of quality goes a long way.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles

15/12/2002

Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!

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