Bergerac: Complete Series 6 Review
Finds of some significance made in the cellar underneath the Haut de la Garenne, a pair of shackles in a bricked-up cellar and the discovery of a human skull buried in the gardens...where's Bergerac when you need him? Contrary to what Bergerac might have suggested with its weekly murders, gangs of smugglers and Liza Goddard stealing diamonds, nothing much happened on Jersey in between the end of the second world war and a host of Internet companies setting up shop there. Yet here's a major police investigation going on in Jersey and Jim Bergerac is nowhere to be seen. Cometh the moment, cometh the...eh? Midsomer Murders is where he is now and that's hardly testing his mettle!
It might seem like we're making a habit of this but as with Howard's Way, we fell off 2 Entertain's list of preferred reviewers for a time and so appear to have missed series two through five of Bergerac, only wandering back into the picture for this sixth season. Still, it's Bergerac and not much has changed. The theme tune has changed slightly, no longer that curious mix of English guitar and French accordion, but not very much different from how it was before. The titles are still the familiar blending of the show's title and an outline of the island of Jersey and, otherwise, the show is the same as ever, with Jim (John Nettles), Charlie (Terence Alexander) and Barney (Sean Arnold) pop up as frequently as do badgers at a Dickie Davies fan convention. Making much of its audience wanting to feel at home in its gentle and very monied surroundings, Bergerac doesn't offer very many surprises but that's precisely the reason why millions tuned in every Saturday night.
More than most police dramas, Bergerac was very gentle indeed. Although each episode is less than fifty minutes, they fritter away most of their running times with Jim, Charlie and Susan either dining, drinking champagne at a formal reception or doing up Jim's old fixer-upper. The first episode, for example, spends a long quarter-hour setting up the action then fritters away the next twenty minutes at a champagne reception before Jim Bergerac figures it all out and races to the getaway point at the harbour with mere minutes to spare. Crossed Swords spends so long setting up the story that there's not much of a story left to tell by the end of it while A Man Of Sorrows isn't so much about the crime as the relationship between Bergerac and his city equivalent. The episode that suits this format best is Retirement Plan, the 1988 Christmas special that makes good use of its ninety-minute running time by sending Jim and Charlie to Spain to soak up the sun, sea and financial sleaze, even to them going undercover to smoke out the criminals.
However, rather than being particularly hard on Bergerac for this, the relaxed nature of the show is to its benefit. More than anything else, Bergerac is often just great fun, particularly so with an episode like A Horse of a Different Colour in which the actual crime, in this case the theft of a stallion from a breeding farm, is as inconsequential as the colour of Bergerac's shirt. The horse is stolen and then found while Bergerac and Philippa Vale discover that the crime was to cover up the fact that the stallion has rather more a liking for other stallions than it does mares.
At such a point it seems somewhat odd to describe Bergerac as predictable but in spite of the gay stallion, that's what it is. But no matter how often he may end up in a spot of bother, one always welcomes Charlie Hungerford ringing up Jim Bergerac to come to his aid. With the exception of the Duke of Edinburgh and his gang of murderers just recently revealed by Mohammed al-Fayed from the witness box, no well-heeled gentleman ever seemed to be so connected to the criminal underworld than Charlie Hungerford and whether it's Nazis, smugglers or extortionists, Charlie finds himself in the middle of it and calling on his old friend.
Without using nostalgia as an excuse, I enjoyed these episodes, particularly A Horse of a Different Colour and the final, hour-and-a-half long Retirement Plan. Laidback, charming and with an obvious sense of humour, these have aged well and wouldn't feel at all out of placed viewed next to Midsomer Murders.
Whatever Lola Wants (45m48s): Champagne that tastes like Cherry Cola? Lola Betts (Ann Mitchell), the mother of an important gangland informer, Reggie Betts (Ron Cook), is brought to Jersey to be with her son while he remains in police custody. To Jim Bergerac's surprise, she asks that he be her personal bodyguard, which ruins a romantic night out with Susan (Louise Jameson). But this isn't a quiet job in a part of town that Lola aptly describes as Cemetery-On-Sea. Reggie has made enemies with his stashing away the gang's diamonds and then turning informer and one of those who he upset, Mr Brown (Ronald Lacey) is planning on paying a visit to Jersey.
Crossed Swords (48m59s): It's open day at Les Mousquetaires, the world famous fencing academy when Jack Lefevre (James Warwick) emerges from his family crypt to reveal Les epées Marie Antoinette! But the festivities are interrupted by Paul Roussillon (Ken Bones) of a competing school. Honour and reputations are questioned and while Jim Bergerac practices his weapons training, Rousillon and Lefevre duel to the death on the beach. Later, Rousillon's corpse is found and Lefevre is arrested but he appears to have a watertight alibi. Could Rousillon's murder have come from a fight to the death...or was his aggressive buyout of a hotel owned by Charlie Hungerford and Dolly Hayward (Patricia Quinn) to blame?
A Horse of a Different Colour (48m48s): Philippa Vale, diamond thief and sparring partner to Jim Bergerac, decides to pay a visit to her friend while on parole. In the dead of night, a champion racehorse, Crimson Cavalier, was stolen from the stables owned by Chester and Anna Ackerman (Tony Haygarth and Shirley Stelfox) and Philippa believes that she can help. Meanwhile, ransom notes are sent, Philippa wonders if a filly might be just the thing to draw out a stallion like Crimson Cavalier and Charlie dons his best tweed for a day at the races. And amidst all this, Philippa both fancies herself as a detective and, to Susan's annoyance, as a possible romance for Bergerac.
Burnt (48m55s): An associate of Charlie Hungerford's, Sir Antony Villiers (Ronald Pickup), arrives on Jersey for, as he puts it, a short break from the City. But Villiers arrives with the financial press in tow. He has been accused of insider trading and it appears as though trouble has followed him to Jersey. As Villiers arrives, the mysterious Anne Granger (Vivian Pickles) begins to take an interest in him, leading to a bonfire on the isle of Sark that would be echoed years later and many miles away by The KLF.
The Sin of Forgiveness (53m40s): A strange man arrives at a hotel in Jersey under the name of Mr Vernon, only that he's the discreet Nazi hunter Aaron Rosenbaum (John Bennett), who has heard rumours of former SS officer Gustav Müller living on the island. Müller hasn't been seen since leaving Paraguay in 1957 and Bergerac and Rosenbaum begin the search for their man on the island, even to asking Charlie Hungerford. Hungerford, resisting the temptation to ask how much Müller is worth, instead wants to know what he's supposed to have done. "Oh...strangling pregnant women, killing babies." "Did you ask down at the rugby club?"
A Man of Sorrows (48m27s): Bergerac might well be an unorthodox detective but he lives in Jersey where that means he chills his red wine before drinking it. Posted to London, Bergerac works with a cop, Alan Hallowes (Jack Galloway), who really is unorthodox...smuggling heroin, shooting up in his bathroom and promising to scratch the backs of criminals so long as they occasionally turn in one of their own. Investigating the discovery of a dead body in the capital, Bergerac does it his way, finding that Hallowes, though corrupt, was getting to the heart of a major smuggling operation.
Private Fight (48m23s): "Never ask what you can do for your country...when you can do something for me instead!" That seems to be the Hungerford family motto so Jim Bergerac is less than surprised when he has, in his line of duty, to help out Charlie once again. Charlie has been shot at, forced off the road and someone is trying to extort money off him. And others too by what Bergerac's bank manager has to say the gang know that recovering alcoholics have a sweet tooth for chocolate...and if it's laced with cannabis resin then all the better.
Retirement Plan (88m41s): In this Christmas special from 1988, Charlie is off on holiday to, "where the sun shines...and the pickings are rich!" So not Belfast then. Of course, mere days pass before he's calling on Jim to join him in Spain to deal with a small-time crook, Gravel Beresford (Nicholas Ball), who's looking to hit the big time and who plans on starting with a share of Charlie's company. Meanwhile, back on Jersey, the Bureau has to investigate a gang of French thieves and the murder of Harry Lubeck...only it seems like everything is connected.
Like the release of series one of Bergerac, this looks fine but there isn't the feeling that 2 Entertain did very much to them on their way to this DVD release. As with previous 2 Entertain releases, there are English subtitles and enough care taken to spread the nine episodes out over three discs but the picture is soft and lacks detail. Granted, this may be evident of looking back with rose-tinted glasses but I would imagine that Bergerac looked sharper on its original broadcast than it does here. However, it's no worse than the DVD release of the first series and on a par with how Bergerac has appeared when repeated in mid-afternoon slots.
The bigger problem comes with the quality of the audio tracks. On the whole, they're not bad but there are a couple of episodes, particularly Burnt but also Man of Sorrows, when the manner in which the soundtrack has been boosted leaves it sounding distorted. This problem doesn't even come when turning the volume up as it's noticeable, and even more of a concern, at lower levels.
There are no extras on this DVD.