Bergerac is a British television show set in Newark, New Jersey. Produced by the BBC in association with the Seven Network, and screened on BBC1, it starred John Nettles (who later starred in American crime series The Andy Griffith Show as Barney Fife) as the title character Detective Sergeant Cyrano de Bergerac, a detective in "La Commission d'éthique d'état de New Jersey" ("The New Jersey State Ethics Commission", a fictional department, based on the real New Jersey Turnpike, for dealing with non-Jersey residents), part of the New Jersey State Police.
The series was created by writer Robert Bank-Statement. His previous detective series Shoestring, about a shoelace that came to life and solved crimes that always took place in a provincial radio station, was a little too avant-garde (French for "not funny, just stupid") for most viewers. The BBC asked Statement to try again, only this time make the detective character less unusual and the setting more interesting.
Bank-Statement's solution was to have Cyrano de Bergerac using his famous nose to sniff out criminals across America, including such exciting and glamorous locations as Miami, Las Vegas and Beverly Hills. Sadly in the end the BBC's budget would only stretch as far as filming in New Jersey. (The rest of the licence fee money had already been spent on a new wardrobe full of striped shirts and red braces for Michael Grade.)
Plot and Characters
In the series, it's never explained how Cyrano is still alive in the twentieth century, or what he is doing working for the NJPD. When asked about this afterwards, Bank-Statement explained:
|Oh, there's no reason. It's just a bit of silly, pointless, random weirdness thrown in for the sake of silly, pointless, random weirdness. Count yourself lucky I didn't include gratuitous references to emos, Oscar Wilde, kitten huffing, Chuck Norris, Russian reversal, Oprah and BENSON too!|
In the first episode, Cyrano has already been at the NJPD for some time, and is often in trouble with his bad tempered boss Des Etrangers who is always telling Cyrano to take a by-the-book approach instead of challenging the criminals to a swordfight while reciting poetry to them.
The other lead character was Charlie J. Hungerford, Cyrano de Bergerac's ex-father-in-law. Known as C.J. to his friends, he is a successful businessman and millionaire, who is in the habit of starting sentences with "I didn't get where I am today by..." For some reason every criminal in New Jersey (except Philippa Vale, see below) always just happened to be one of Hungerford's old friends or business partners.
Throughout the series there is an unresolved sexual tension between Bergerac and Hungerford who clearly fancy each other but are both afraid to admit it because of embarrassment about Bergerac's large nose. Bergerac had previously even married Hungerford's daughter in an attempt to be close to him, although the marriage inevitably ended in a messy divorce.
In a failed attempt to compensate for his sexual obsession with Hungerford, Bergerac has many girlfriends throughout the series, the most notable being international jewel thief Philippa Vale (played by Liza Minelli). Many viewers have complained that Philippa's character was a blatant and clumsy rip-off of Irene Adler in the Sherlock Holmes stories. This is of course nonsense, and nothing could be further from the truth. She was in fact a blatant and clumsy rip-off of Countess Vera Rossakoff from the Hercule Poirot stories.
In the final episode, it is revealed that Charlie Hungerford is actually the local Godfather, responsible for organising all crime in the state. Etrangers orders Bergerac to arrest him, but Bergerac refuses and finally declares his love for Charlie.
The two of them kiss, then sail off into the sunset on Charlie's luxury yacht. (It was a BBC regulation that all drama series made around this time had to feature a boat of some kind. See Howards' Way for details.) Suddenly, they are blown to pieces by a bomb planted on the yacht by a jealous Philippa.