Bergerac is a British television series set in Jersey, which ran from 18 October 1981 to 26 December 1991. Produced by the BBC in association with the Seven Network, and first screened on BBC1, it starred John Nettles as the title character Jim Bergerac, who initially is a detective sergeant in Le Bureau des Étrangers (“The Foreigners’ Office”, a fictional department dealing with non-Jersey residents), within the States of Jersey Police, but later left the force and became a private investigator.
The series ran from 1981 to 1991. It was created by producer Robert Banks Stewart after another of his popular detective series, Shoestring, starring Trevor Eve, came to an abrupt end. 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.
Bergerac sometimes dealt with controversial topics – for example when an old man was unmasked as a Nazi war criminal his age raised various moral dilemmas. Supernatural elements occasionally appeared in the series, and some episodes ended with unpleasant twists, as in “Offshore Trades” and “A Hole In The Bucket”.
The evocative theme tune, composed by George Fenton, featured a reggae and accordion refrain.
The final episode filmed was the 1991 Christmas Special titled “All for Love”, set partly in Bath. The final scene provided a strong hint about Bergerac’s future, after Charlie Hungerford recommended Bergerac for a new position heading an expanded Bureau des Étrangers covering the whole of the Channel Islands following its success in Jersey.
The show is repeated on channels such as Alibi and Drama. On 24 February 2014 the BBC started a rerun of the series on daytime afternoons on BBC Two.
Bergerac ran from 18 October 1981 to 26 December 1991, split into 9 series with 8–10 episodes each. In addition, Christmas Special episodes were shown on each Boxing Day from 1986 onwards. In total 87 episodes were shown.
Jim Bergerac was a complex character, presented by the series as a somewhat unorthodox police officer. He was recovering from alcoholism partly resulting from an unpleasant divorce.
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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 was 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. By the end of the series Bergerac had become a private detective.
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 had several encounters with ex-wife Deborah (Deborah Grant) who had custody of their daughter Kim (Lindsay Heath).
Bergerac regularly drove a burgundy 1947 Triumph Roadster (a forerunner of the Triumph’s TR series of sports cars). Two different vehicles were used throughout the series. The original was notoriously unreliable and would not always stop when it was supposed to; its engine was excessively noisy and a separate soundtrack was utilised to enhance the supposed coolness of the vehicle. The replacement was mechanically sound.
The main supporting character was Jim Bergerac’s former father-in-law Charlie Hungerford (played by Terence Alexander, known for having played Monty in the BBC adaptation of The Forsyte Saga). Charlie was a lovable rogue and would-be tycoon, often involved in shady dealings, but paradoxically something of an innocent. Bergerac usually had a good relationship with him, although in the first episode “Picking It Up” they were not on the best of terms. Charlie was involved in all but two of the 87 episodes.
Other regular characters in the series included Bergerac’s ex-wife, Deborah (Deborah Grant), and his boss, Superintendent Barney Crozier (Sean Arnold), previously an Inspector (promoted from Sergeant immediately before the first episode) and later Chief Inspector. Bergerac had several sidekicks who were generally detective constables.
Bergerac had an ongoing flirtatious relationship with glamorous jewel thief Philippa Vale (Liza Goddard) who went by the nickname of the Ice Maiden.
Many well known actors and actresses also had minor roles in Bergerac, often before but at times after rising to fame. These include Julian Glover, Connie Booth, Ray Winstone, Prunella Scales, Louise Lombard, Ronald Pickup, Norman Wisdom, Charles Gray, John Forgeham, Bernard Hepton and Steve McFadden.
The series played heavily on its Jersey location and its supposed Frenchness. The early storylines were usually in and around Jersey, with short scenes shot in England and France. In later episodes the action strayed further away from Jersey, and was increasingly based in France.
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; part of the interior was shot within another flat at Gorey six miles away. 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 series four, when Bergerac was forced to seek new accommodation because of them, in the process meeting an estate agent who became his lover.
One of the main locations of the series achieved later notoriety. 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 filming there became difficult after the first series as the pretence of filming a documentary series was spoilt by public recognition of Bergerac’s Triumph.
Windward House, 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 nine series and the Christmas specials. This pink and grey building with white pillared entrance first appeared in series 1, episode 6 “Portrait of Yesterday”, as the home and wedding venue of the incidental characters. Windward House then reappeared from series 2, episode 1 as Charlie Hungerford’s main residence where he hosted a large garden fête, and then in almost every episode of the show – either used 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 and rockery.
Noirmont Manor, Noirmont, was Charlie Hungerford’s home throughout series one.
As the series ran for a decade, directors found it increasingly difficult to find locations which had not been overused. 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.
Plot lines occasionally took the action onto the British mainland, particularly London, and Richmond Riverside figured prominently.
The fourth series episode “What Dreams May Come?” was the start of an annual tradition of episodes with supernatural elements and a surreal atmosphere. Later episodes with fantasy elements included the bizarre poisoning of freemasons in “Poison”; the Christmas episode “Fires in the Fall” (which featured a Bergmanesque 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); the densely plotted “The Other Woman”; “The Dig” involving a Viking curse (apparently inspired by Hammer Horror movies); and “Warriors”, about a group who believed in the existence of Atlantis.
In 1982, composer George Fenton won a BAFTA ‘Best Original Television Music’ award for Bergerac theme music. In 2018 Youngr re-recorded the track, entitled Bergerac Remastered, with a video shot in locations around Jersey.