01 February 2009

Juliet Bravo

Be it London or Lancashire, a life in "the fuzz" (as we used to call the police force back in 1980) wasn't a bowl of cherries for women as Maggie Forbes (Jill Gascoine) and Jean Darblay (Stephanie Turner) proved in two new TV drama series in 1980.

Whilst Maggie (who, as TV critic Hilary Kingsley pointed out, always seemed to be in a bad mood) battled it out in the London manor of Seven Dials in ITV's The Gentle Touch, Jean Darblay, over on the Beeb, faced up to surly, chauvinistic Sergeant Joseph Beck at Hartley Police Station in Lancashire - and a few others who doubted that a woman had what it took to be inspector. And she not only proved her case but was rather less grumpy than Maggie Forbes into the bargain.

By the way, "Juliet Bravo" was Inspector Darblay's call sign.

Back in 1980, when hardly anybody could afford a video recorder (just 5% of UK households had them), almost every TV series was novelised. Sometimes, as was the case with Juliet Bravo, you got a whole series of novels. Great, eh? And the cover of the novel pictured above reveals that the TV series was written by Ian Kennedy Martin, creator of The Sweeney. WOW!

Juliet Bravo was not Sweeney Mark 2 - it was more PC Plod territory, often reflecting the humdrumness of the uniformed copper's lot. Like dear old Dixon of Dock Green.

But this new show was still revolutionary. Jean Darblay was not impossibly glamorous like Police Woman or the heeled and haired ladies of Charlie's Angels. She wasn't infallible, either. She (like grumpy Maggie of Seven Dials and the soon-to-arrive from the States Cagney and Lacey) was far more real. No false eyelashes. No make-up applied with a trowel. No soft-focus camera work. This was definitely progress.

Jean's difficulties in what was a traditionally male career were reflected, but not all her male colleagues were portrayed as being sexist buffoons. And I only recall a couple of occasions when the show succumbed (in my humble male opinion) to naff feminist soap boxing.

Jean, hubby Tom (David Hargreaves) and the lads at Hartley police station were likeable and believable characters.
Then, in 1982, Stephanie Turner decided that her days in uniform were numbered. That year's series was to be her last.
So, what would become of Hartley nick?
From the Daily Mirror, 4/9/1982...

The star of a hit police series is to quit the Force.

Actress Stephanie Turner, who plays Inspector Jean Darblay in "Juliet Bravo" (BBC-1, 7.50) is to quit the series when filming finishes in November. But the show will go on, for they are determined to make further episodes without her.

Stephanie was reluctant to talk about her decision, but as determined as the strong-jawed character she plays to stick to it.

"I feel it's not fair to announce publicly that I'm leaving," she said. "It sounds somehow disloyal.

"But after three years of of total involvement, which I've loved, enough is enough. I want to leave before I stop enjoying it and while I still feel it is a good quality programme.

"I can't talk about my plans yet."

The news has shocked her co-stars and left them depressed about the show's continuing appeal.

I understand that the BBC do not plan to replace her with another woman top cop but to build up the characters of Hartley police station.

Meanwhile life and crime in the small town go on as before. Jean has a new breezy hairstyle and with her husband away on a course of study in Dover she has to cope with the loneliness at the end of the day.

Tonight a soldier newly back from Northern Ireland gets into serious trouble.

The show went on after Stephanie/Jean left. A new broom was appointed for the 1983 season.
The decision was taken to replace the Jean Darblay character with another female inspector. The programme title could then stay the same - the new incumbent could inherit her predecessor's call sign, and the issues of a woman working in what was traditionally a man's world could continue to be explored. 

Experienced actress Anna Carteret took the role of the new inspector, Kate Longton, in 1983, and was at the helm until the series ended in 1985.

Fixtures since episode one, providing some man power at Hartley Nick - Sergeant Joseph Beck (David Ellison) and Sergeant George Parrish (Noel Collins).


Ado said...

I loved Juliet Bravo. I recently bought the first series on DVD and it's just as good to watch over twenty years later as it was when it was originally broadcast. Stephanie Turner was my favourite, I remember her as Dennis Waterman's wife Alison in the Sweeney

Anonymous said...

I've just bought three series with ms turner, i love it! I remember the 1980 autumn line up promos on bbc one i was 7 at the time and i loved the tune to.

andrew said...

I bought the first five series on dvd,Anna Carteret wasn't as good as Stephanie Turner but I wanted to get series 4 because two lads I went to school with appeared in the episode" Solvent Solution".

Mark said...

Favourite as a kid, favourite when it was repeated on UK Gold and just catching up now on DVD. By the way the fictional Hartley was Lancashire, my county and NOT Yorkshire.

Drew said...

Thanks for that, Mark - don't know how I got that wrong! I stand corrected, and so does this blog post.

Andylad said...

Hi, could somebody please tell me which series/episode it is where Sgt Beck gets into a pub fight ? I've been going mad trawling through the series trying to find it ! Thanks :)

Robert Bates. said...

Hi Andy I believe that episode is from near the end of series 5 in a show called Ducks In A Row.Beck has a fight in the pub and the man dies in jail later causing a lot of grief for Joe Beck of course.Hope that is a help.