Heartbeat

Heartbeat is a nostalgic ITV period drama focusing on the professional and personal lives of the officers at a rural police station and the local village community. It ran for 18 years and 372 episodes, with the first episode being broadcast on 10th April 1992 and the final one airing on 12th September 2010.

With a peak audience of 13.8 million viewers and consistently attracting more than 10 million viewers each week, it was a huge success in its heyday. The show won five TV awards, including two for Best ITV Programme of the Year in 1995 and 1998 and Best European Drama in 2007.

The successful formula was based on a one-off plot each week featuring guest stars, mixed with ongoing storylines in the regular characters' lives. All of the action was accompanied by a soundtrack of the best 1960s music that reflected the plot.

How Heartbeat began

Heartbeat was based on the novels of former policeman Nicholas Rhea, who was a village bobby in his younger days. On his retirement he became an author, after many years in the Yorkshire police force.

Set in the fictional village of Aidensfield, in the picturesque North Riding of Yorkshire, Heartbeat starred former EastEnders actor Nick Berry as PC Nick Rowan.

Its familiar opening sequence was set to the song, Heartbeat, written by Norman Petty and Bob Montgomery - first recorded by Buddy Holly in 1958, so it was slightly earlier than the 1960s era, although it fitted the mood of the show.

Main characters

PC Rowan was a key character in 96 episodes from 1992 to 1998 and he became a sergeant in later programmes. He had arrived in Aidensfield from London and after some early hostility towards the city boy from the rural residents, he became popular and well-liked.

He married Dr Kate Rowan (played by Niamh Cusack) but after a happy marriage and the birth of their daughter Katie, Dr Rowan was diagnosed with leukaemia and it claimed her life in 1995. The plot saw him eventually remarry and leave Aidensfield to start a new life in Canada as a member of the Canadian mounted police force.

His colleague, Sergeant Oscar Blaketon (played by Derek Fowlds, appeared in 342 episodes between 1992 and 2010. The starchy and somewhat grumpy sergeant had a particular dislike for local rogue Claude Greengrass (played by the late Bill Maynard).

However, Blaketon never quite managed to achieve his dream of putting Greengrass behind bars, no matter how hard he tried. He retired as sergeant during the series.

Other regular characters included the bar staff at the local pub, the Aidensfield Arms, including chirpy Gina Ward (played by Tricia Penrose), who was the tearaway niece of the pub landlord. She is sent to the village initially by her family as penance for petty crime. She quickly fits into the rural community and turns her life around.

Favourite episodes

The storylines are a mix of hard-hitting crime tales and often a more light-hearted second plot running throughout the same episode.

Thugs are terrorising Aidensfield in an episode called Catch Us If You Can, in October 1996. Pubs and cafes across the district have been targeted by yobs carrying out acts of vandalism and it isn't long before the Aidensfield Arms is attacked too.

PC Rowan realises all the pubs have one thing in common - they have leased a jukebox. The Aidensfield Arms has just hired a new jukebox immediately before it is attacked. He suspects the thugs are something to do with an organised gang from a rival jukebox firm - but will he manage to catch whoever is responsible before they strike again?

Events take a turn for the worse in an episode called Love Me Do, which was broadcast in February 1998. A 15-year-old girl asks PC Mike Bradley (played by Jason Durr) to walk her home from a village dance. He thinks she has a crush on him and tells her to ask a boy her own age, but she claims she's being followed. However, he thinks she's just fooling around.

However, two nights later, when she goes missing on her way home from the youth club, the police realise something sinister may have happened. Will they find her safe and sound, or will it be too late?

Heartbeat captured the nostalgia of an era when the police carried out their duties without the aid of modern technology, such as DNA, CCTV surveillance, mobile phones or computer databases.

In June 2010, ITV confirmed speculation that Heartbeat was being cancelled. Rumours had been circulating during season 18, following earlier meetings to discuss axing some network shows due to falling revenues and budget cuts. Despite fans' protests, it was the end of Heartbeat and proposals that it might possibly be bought by Sky didn't materialise.

Crime-fighting in the 21st century

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