Bergerac at 40: Previously unreleased photos shared by BBC Archive

Image caption,
The series was unusual as it was shot entirely on film on location

He was a troubled soul, a maverick detective and recovering alcoholic adept at solving complex crimes.

Bergerac, the iconic detective series set on the island of Jersey, made a household name of actor John Nettles.

On the 40th anniversary of the show's first episode, a collection of previously unseen photographs has been released by the BBC Archive.

Bergerac ran for nine series between 1981 and 1991 and regularly attracted audiences of about 15 million people.

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John Nettles said the beautiful islands would keep viewers entertained if the plot did not

Nettles, who later went on to star as Tom Barnaby in Midsomer Murders, became a sex symbol for many and Bergerac's popularity prompted a tourism boom for Jersey.

The show was created by writer Robert Banks Stewart who spotted Nettles - originally from St Austell in Cornwall and now living in Devon - performing in a theatre production.

Banks Stewart convinced BBC bosses that Nettles was perfect to play the title role, despite their reservations at the time of casting someone who was not an already established household name.

In an interview in 2008 Banks Stewart said he saw the ability of Nettles to play the character with "a straight honesty and integrity".

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Jersey provided a huge variety of locations, said John Nettles

Andy Banks Stewart, the son of producer Robert Banks Stewart, said: "I think Bergerac is particularly memorable to people because of a quality dad sought, which was to bring an authenticity as he wrote from his own personal experiences."

The series was unlike many other studio-based productions as it was shot entirely on film on location, which was a key production element Banks Stewart remembers his father insisting on.

"Dad knew the importance of every aspect of production and was really committed to using film despite the pressure to use the cheaper alternative of video," he said.

Andy Banks Stewart said: "Bergerac represented in many ways dad's greatest success, he was incredibly proud of it… it lasted almost 10 series and still has legs."

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About 50 directors took the reins across the nine series
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John Nettles was the only actor to appear in all 87 episodes

Episodes in each series featured different directors, including several who went on to direct Hollywood films, such as Geoffrey Sax who directed White Noise (2005) and Martin Campbell who directed the James Bond films Goldeneye (1995) and Casino Royale (2006).

And it's an episode directed by Campbell - "Relative Values" - that Nettles says is his all-time favourite.

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Steve McFadden took a break from Albert Square to join the cast in Jersey in 1990
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Billy Murray, Bill Nighy and Tony Robinson were among a host of guest stars

To mark the anniversary the BBC has had the master film reels held in the BBC Archive digitised and restored and a special screening is planned in the island later in the year.

The restored episode, featuring the late Warren Clarke and Lynda La Plante - before she became a bestselling writer - is 10 minutes longer than copies edited to contain commercial breaks.

The show's huge audiences made stars of the regular cast including Terence Alexander who played Bergerac's father-in-law Charlie Hungerford, Deborah Grant who played his ex-wife, and Sean Arnold who played chief inspector Barney Crozier.

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The pictures from BBC Archive show the cast between shots
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The 1947 Triumph Roadster driven by Jim Bergerac was synonymous with the show

There were also frequent appearances by actresses Louise Jameson and Liza Goddard, and a large selection of guest stars.

The massive audiences for the series also led to a surge in tourism for Jersey.

Some residents at the time of filming the series believed tourism had doubled and the island still attracts fans of the show.

"At the end of the day Bergerac was all about pictures, it was about beautiful islands and unlikely villains beating each other up on cliff tops in bright sunshine," said Nettles.

He said: "If you got bored with the storyline... you could look over the shoulder of whoever was in front of the camera and see this marvellous scenery.

"You'd see Corbiere Lighthouse or you could look over at Terence doing his stuff and you'd see the great length of five-mile beach... or the extraordinary cliffs up at L'Etac in the north of the island.

"That's the great thing about Jersey, it's only nine miles by six with the tide out, nevertheless it contains within itself the greatest variety of locations you could wish for."

Image caption,
Andy Banks Stewart said his father was "incredibly proud" of the show he created
Image caption,
The show made use of locations throughout the island

There are currently plans for a new series, based again on Jersey.

The possibility for a revival was first revealed in 2019 by Westward Studios which is based on the island.

Executive producer Brian Constantine said: "We are working with a fantastic team and there is so much work going on behind the scenes, some of the ideas and writing is fantastic, watch this space."

Asked about a revival Nettles said: "Any hint of an audience and I'll be there."

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