27 July 2004 | matthew-58
Used to be good but lost its way
Heartbeat began with former EastEnders star (and wooden as my front door) Nick Berry as a London police constable who relocated to the North Yorkshire Moors in the 1960s. Based on Nicholas Rhea's real experiences of police life during that era, it was a worthy and authentic series that set out to address some of the pertinent issues of the time. Nick Berry's severe limitations when it came to expressing anything were compensated by the fantastic character performances of Derek Fowlds as tyrannical Sergeant Blaketon, William Simons as lazy, ageing Constable Ventress and Bill Maynard as local rogue Greengrass.
Unfortunately, the show progressively suffered from a series of departures. The excellent Niamh Cusack, who played Berry's wife, left to be succeeded by a less capable actress as his love interest. After about five years in the series, Nick Berry left. Berry's replacement, Jason Durr, was a better actor, but the writing was deteriorating and the series appeared to have run out of ideas. Two of the best characters were also replaced with very over the top and irritating substitutes; Bill Maynard left, to be replaced by Geoffrey Hughes and Derek Fowlds was replaced as Sergeant by Philip Franks. Four long years later, Franks was gone. Somehow, Ventress remained a serving officer, when he clearly looked too old by this time. Jason Durr left in 2003, to be replaced by young actor James Carlton, who has only lasted in the show for a year. These frequent changes in the cast have not helped the series. And Ventress is still there! How old does he have to get before they pension him off?
Heartbeat was once a fine and relevant drama, but it is now just decorative fluff. I am told it still gets good viewing figures, but I can only assume that is due to the attractive countryside, smart police uniforms and classic cars. It can't be the scripts.