Heartbeat (UK TV series)

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Heartbeat title card.jpg
Heartbeat opening title
Genre Period crime drama
Created by Keith Richardson
Gerry Mill
Starring <templatestyles src="Plainlist/styles.css"/>
Opening theme "Heartbeat" performed by Nick Berry
Country of origin UK
Original language(s) English
No. of series 18
No. of episodes 372 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Keith Richardson
(369 episodes, 1992–2009)
Kathleen Beedles
(12 episodes, 2008)
Producer(s) <templatestyles src="Plainlist/styles.css"/>
  • Gerry Mill (187 episodes, 1996–2004)
  • Archie Tait (97 episodes, 2004–08)
  • Steve Lanning (20 episodes, 1993)
  • Martyn Auty (16 episodes, 1994)
  • Carol Wilks (15 episodes, 1995)
  • Stuart Doughty (10 episodes, 1992)
Running time 60 Mins
(including ads)
Production company(s) Yorkshire Television
(now branded ITV Studios)
Original network ITV, STV, UTV
Picture format <templatestyles src="Plainlist/styles.css"/>
  • 4:3 (1992–99)
  • 16:9 (1999–2009)
Original release 10 April 1992 (1992-04-10) –
12 September 2010 (2010-09-12)
Related shows <templatestyles src="Plainlist/styles.css"/>

Heartbeat is a British police drama series set in 1960s North Riding of Yorkshire and broadcast on ITV in 18 series between 1992 and 2010. It was made by ITV Studios (formerly Yorkshire Television[1]) at the Leeds Studios and on location. Heartbeat first aired on Friday 10 April 1992 (it was later moved to Sunday evenings). The 372nd and final episode aired on Sunday 12 September 2010.

Heartbeat proved popular from the beginning, when early series consistently drew over 10 million viewers.[2] In its first year, Heartbeat averaged 14.5 million viewers[citation needed] and was regularly in the top five TV programmes across all British channels.[citation needed] In 2001, Heartbeat came sixth in the UK TV ratings list with a peak audience of 13.82 million,[3] and it was sixth again in 2003, with 12.8 million viewers.[4] In autumn 2008, typical viewing figures were around 6 million per episode.[5]

Originally conceived as a vehicle for Nick Berry, around whom early series were centred, the show has seen many characters come and go over the years. The final series starred Derek Fowlds, William Simons, Tricia Penrose, David Lonsdale, Peter Benson, Steven Blakeley, John Duttine, Gwen Taylor, Lisa Kay, Clare Wille, Joe McFadden, Rupert Ward-Lewis, and Nikki Sanderson. Derek Fowlds and William Simons were the only main-cast actors who remained with the show over its entire 18-series run.


Brow House Farm near Goathland, used as the home of Claude Greengrass (one of the best-known characters from the show's early series, played by Bill Maynard)

The show is set in the 1960s, although the specific timeframe is vague; various episodes within the series take place in a loosely defined "time-out-of-time" between 1964 and 1969. The series initially revolves around the work of a group of police officers in the fictional town of Ashfordly in the North Riding of Yorkshire, whose "patch" also includes the nearby village of Aidensfield, a fictionalised version of the real-life village of Goathland in the North York Moors, where the series is partly filmed. Each episode is an hour long, including commercial breaks.

The series was originally based on the Constable books written by former policeman Peter Walker, under the pen-name Nicholas Rhea. The title Heartbeat was chosen to represent "the bobby's beat and the medical connotations of the word 'heart'"[6] ("bobby" being British slang for a police officer (from Robert Peel), and "medical connotations" referring to the medical themes that have featured regularly in the show since its inception). The show was originally a starring vehicle for ex-EastEnders actor Nick Berry, cast as PC Nick Rowan, the Aidensfield policeman newly arrived from London with his wife Kate, a doctor. Berry also sings Heartbeat's theme song—the Buddy Holly song of the same name. Berry's recording reached number 2 on the UK singles chart in 1992.[7]

Scripps' Garage from the series

Over time the show evolved into an ensemble drama. The motorbike-riding Aidensfield village bobby, the role originally played by Berry, continued to be central to the storylines, but in later series the main cast was listed in alphabetical order on the opening credits, reflecting its standing as an ensemble piece with no clear "star". In the 2005 series no fewer than twelve regular actors had their names and faces included in the opening credits—at the time a record for any British series. In series 18 (2008–10) this had increased to thirteen. The record has since been broken by Holby City, which during the later stages of its 2009–10 series had sixteen regular actors appearing and listed in the opening credits.

Heartbeat was often criticised for seeing the 1960s through "rose-tinted spectacles". The show rarely featured political storylines, though occasional references to the counterculture movement were made during some episodes. Sixties pop music is prominent, forming the soundtrack to the show, as well as some 1950s records. Some 1970s records appear anachronistically, such as the Hollies' 1974 hit "The Air That I Breathe". In an extreme example the closing scene of the series 17 episode "You Never Can Tell" is accompanied by the Flying Pickets' 1983 hit, "Only You", an episode which featured a guest appearance by the band's lead singer Brian Hibbard.

Although its storylines regularly involve serious crimes and human tragedy, later series of Heartbeat deal with these themes in a relatively cosy and comfortable manner compared to many modern TV police dramas, and much of the grittiness and social realism of the early series disappeared. Episode 16.14 ("Another Little Piece Of My Heart") was given a warning before airing on ITV due to its "containing scenes of domestic violence".


First series

The first series dealt mainly with the experiences of a young married couple, PC Nick Rowan and Doctor Kate Rowan, arriving in a small North Riding village after living in London. Both faced initial suspicion from the villagers, but over the course of the series came to be accepted as part of the community. The stories focused almost entirely on the experiences of the two main characters. The build-up to the wedding of Sandra and Alan, two youngsters from the village, provided a running thread through the first series. However, Sandra and Alan were never seen, or even mentioned, after the first series.

Subsequent series

Nick Berry as PC Nick Rowan
(Heartbeat book cover)

Once the characters had settled in, subsequent series focused more on criminal and medical storylines, with a greater role for the other policemen at the Ashfordly station, who had appeared in the first series but only as quite minor supporting characters. Various new characters were introduced along the way, such as Gina Ward (played by Tricia Penrose), who would eventually become landlady of the Aidensfield Arms village pub, Bernie Scripps (Peter Benson), undertaker and proprietor of the Aidensfield Garage, and David Stockwell (David Lonsdale), hired hand and taxi/lorry driver. During the filming of series 4 Niamh Cusack, who played Nick's wife, became pregnant with her first and only child. In attempts to keep her to continue with the series the show's producers offered to write a new child character into the Rowan's storyline. Before filming for series 5 began Cusack decided that the prospect of motherhood meant it was time for her to leave the cast of Heartbeat and hence her character was "killed off" in 1995. After Kate's death from leukaemia (in series 5), Nick Rowan gained a new love interest, teacher Jo Weston Juliette Gruber. The two married and emigrated to Canada, and the central role of local Aidensfield bobby subsequently changed hands several times—as did the role of Aidensfield doctor. These and numerous other changes to the cast that took place over eighteen series are detailed at List of Heartbeat characters.

Two regular characters survived from the first series right through to the 18th and final series: police-sergeant-turned-pub-owner Oscar Blaketon (played by Derek Fowlds) and police constable Alf Ventress (William Simons). Constable Phil Bellamy (Mark Jordon), another original, was written out of the show in Series 17 (at his own request) after he was shot dead. The recurring character of local landowner Lord Ashfordly (Rupert Vansittart) lasted through all 18 series, and Gina Ward (Tricia Penrose), who was introduced early in the second series, was also present until the end.

Most episodes from later series follow a fairly similar structure. The main storylines are generally to do with criminal activity and related medical matters, and personal traumas. Typically one or more crimes take place, which are investigated by the Aidensfield bobby and the other policemen from the Ashfordly Police Station. The villains are almost always apprehended by the end of the episode, and usually appear for one episode only.

In the intro to series 18 David is shown driving his lorry as a left-hand drive vehicle with the number plate in mirror form. Obviously the film is reversed.

In parallel, the regular "lovable rogue" character of the day—a role originally filled by Claude Greengrass, played by Bill Maynard—drives a sub-plot which acts as light (and sometimes comic) relief. Typically this sub-plot involves a doomed money-making scheme, or a business venture that falls foul of the law. Other regular local characters get involved in the main plot or sub-plot in one way or another, with the Aidensfield Arms and Aidensfield Garage featuring prominently. The character of Greengrass remained in the show from its inception until December 2000, when Maynard was forced to leave because of poor health (though he would later return in the first series of spin-off, The Royal, in 2003). The role of "lovable rogue" was then taken over by Vernon Scripps, played by Geoffrey Hughes, from January 2001 until March 2005, and finally by Peggy Armstrong (Gwen Taylor).

Storylines are usually resolved within the episode, but the development of the main characters and their personal relationships—especially love interests—takes place over many episodes or even series.


Across Eller Beck to Goathland railway station

The North York Moors scenery is the backdrop to most episodes. In earlier series, Aidensfield's most distinctive local landmark—like that of its real-life counterpart—was the RAF Fylingdales Early Warning Station, the exterior of which appeared in numerous episodes. This is no longer featured, however, since the original "golf balls" were demolished in the 1990s. When the action moves further afield (for example, when an old-fashioned market town is required or a criminal attempts a getaway by sea), the towns of Whitby or Otley are normally used (Scarborough is occasionally featured instead for variety). Other real-life towns and cities—such as Leeds, York, Sheffield, Hull, Middlesbrough, Northallerton, Harrogate and Saltburn-by-the-Sea—are also sometimes mentioned and seen. Two series 18 episodes were filmed on location in Australia.[8]

On occasions when real-life maps have been shown on screen, the town of Ashfordly has been indicated to be in the location of real-life Grosmont, some 6 miles (10 km) southwest of Whitby

In 2005–07 Hornby Railways based a Skaledale Model series on Goathland railway station, part of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, which features in the show as Aidensfield railway station. The same station is used in the first Harry Potter film.


When Heartbeat first began on 10 April 1992 it aired on Fridays at 9.00 pm (on the ITV Network) but from series 2 it was moved to Sunday evenings in the 7.00 pm or 8.00 pm timeslot. All Heartbeat episodes are around 42-51 minutes long (one hour with adverts). The opening episode of Series 11 was planned to be the show's first two-hour episode, but it was eventually split into a two-part story, "Sweet Sixteen" and "She's Leaving Home". In 1994 a one-off feature-length episode was filmed, starring Lloyd Owen as constable Tom Merriweather.

Heartbeat repeats have appeared on ITV during the summer months (often billed on-screen as "Classic Heartbeat"), typically at 5.00 pm or, in 2006, at 4.00 pm. In 2006, episodes from the first few series were repeated again. Most of the swearing ("bloody", "bastard", etc.) and violence that was present in the early episodes was edited out for these daytime broadcasts.

For several years (as of 2012) Heartbeat reruns from various series have shown on ITV3, formerly in the original two-commercial-break format and latterly with three breaks. These repeats run daily each weekday lunchtime, with a second airing in an early-evening timeslot. Episodes from different series are shown on ITV3 at weekends.

As of Autumn 2015, series 1–10 is being aired on the new ITV Encore channel, which is only available on the Sky TV platform. Also some of these earlier episodes were filmed when ITV had two commercial breaks and therefore have a running time of around 50 minutes. However ITV Encore has 60 minute programme slots (unlike ITV3 which can be around 65 mins) so for this to fit in with the new three commercial breaks per hour ITV have adopted, some scenes are edited or have been completely removed, purely for timing reasons. An example of this was the series 7 episode 22 "Unconsidered Trifles", in which the scene with PC Mike Bradley and Bernie Scrips hoarding cows back into the farm shed was completely omitted.


Series Year Rank Average audience share
1 1992 Unknown 14.50m
2 1993 Unknown Unknown
3 1993 Unknown Unknown
4 1994 Unknown Unknown
5 1995 Unknown Unknown
6 1996 Unknown 14.60m
7 1997–1998 Unknown 15.82m
8 1998–1999 5th 14.35m
9 1999–2000 6th 13.71m
10 2000–2001 5th 13.21m
11 2001–2002 6th 10.77m
12 2002–2003 7th 11.29m
13 2003–2004 8th 13.11m
14 2004–2005 10th 8.77m
15 2005–2006 10th 8.42m
16 2006–2007 8th 7.80m
17 2007–2008 11th 6.90m
18 2008–2010 15th 5.44m (Incl. ITV HD)

Ratings slowly declined after series 12, when the schedule was split in half to incorporate the launch of The Royal. Series 1 and 2 (1992-1993) aired between April and June, Series 3-6 (1993-1996) moved to the autumn schedule between September and December when there were either 10 or 16 episodes per series. Series 7–11 (1997-2002), comprising 24 episodes, aired between September and March. As Heartbeat was well established as an autumn/winter Sunday evening programme, it was no surprise that from Series 12 onwards (2002-2010) ratings dropped, as the 2nd half of the run was broadcast during the spring/summer season, which naturally has lower viewing figures than winter broadcast shows. This can be seen in the erratic scheduling of the last series (18) when it was broadcast over a two year period in small sections, and the final couple of episodes being shown during the British summertime school holidays. Therefore if Heartbeat had been kept on its original winter schedule viewing figures may have counterbalanced, especially as it does very well as of today (January 2016) with the daily repeats on ITV3.

Heartbeat around the world

The show has, at various times, been seen in the following countries:

When the episodes are aired or repeated abroad, some tracks have been replaced from the original UK episodes; this is due to either copyright or clearance issues from the various record companies.

This is very noticeable in Series 7 Episode 20 "Local Knowledge", in which Nick, Jo, and Katie leave for Canada. In the original UK TV version broadcast in January 1998 (and the November 2015 repeat on ITV Encore), the last scene at the railway station featured the 1966 John Denver Track "Leaving on a Jet Plane", although the 1969 version by Peter, Paul and Mary was used. However on foreign broadcasts and DVD releases this is replaced with the 1964 Gerry and the Pacemakers hit "Don't Let The Sun Catch You Crying". Even though this was done for copyright reasons the scene does have a different tone depending on which version is viewed.


On 5 June 2001, ITV planned cutbacks for dramas such as London's Burning, Heartbeat and Peak Practice to make room for new commissions.[clarification needed] A spokesman said "The temptation is to just cancel long running shows. But if you do that you can spend years trying to find replacements that achieve the same viewing figures."[9]

Kathleen Beedles, the new producer as of series 18, originally said Heartbeat was expected to continue until at least series 20 (at the time scheduled for 2010–11). However, it was announced on 28 January 2009 that production of both Heartbeat and its spin off show The Royal would be suspended for an unspecified period of time so that a large backlog of unbroadcast episodes could be cleared.[10] Some newspaper reports interpreted this as meaning the show would be permanently cancelled.[11] Further reports in early March 2009 stated that Heartbeat along with The Royal and several other ITV shows had been axed owing to budgetary cuts necessitated by falling advertising revenues.[12] A report in The Telegraph suggested Heartbeat may return in "a new lower budget form".[13]

In March 2009 a meeting to discuss the future of the show took place between ITV bosses and Heartbeat cast and crew members. The mood after the meeting was reportedly pessimistic about the show's long-term survival. Actor Steven Blakeley, who plays PC Younger, said the cast were to be released after series 18, indicating the show had been cancelled and filming had finished.

News of the show's alleged cancellation prompted protests from Heartbeat fans around the world as well as from communities in the YTV region where the series was filmed and where the Heartbeat-themed tourist trade is seen as an important part of the local economy.[14]

In January 2010, rumours were published that Sky might buy Heartbeat from ITV and take over its production.[15] In February 2010, it was reported that Adam Crozier, the newly appointed ITV chief executive, would be responsible for making the decision about the future of the show.[16] In March 2010, a survey was carried out by the Whitby Gazette, a newspaper local to the area in which the show is set, asking "Do you think that popular ITV show Heartbeat should be axed after 16 years?" 71% of respondents voted "No", 19% voted "Yes" and 10% voted "Don't Care".[17]

Series 18 was unusually protracted. Filming ran from May 2008 to May 2009. It premiered on 12 October 2008 and took a break after the sixth episode, then continued from 19 April 2009 to 14 June 2009. The last nine episodes were shown between 18 July 2010 and 12 September 2010 in the UK,[18] but in Sweden on TV4 from 25 August 2009 to 4 September 2009, and in Denmark on TV2 Charlie from 16 December 2009 to 24 December 2009.

During the period of uncertainty about the show's future, ITV continued to maintain that reports of the show being "axed" were untrue, saying that production was "taking a rest" so that stockpiled episodes could be aired.[19] However, on 25 June 2010, ITV finally confirmed that the show would be cancelled after series 18, with a spokesman saying "Heartbeat has been an important part of the television landscape over the last 18 years and we are incredibly proud of what it achieved in its heyday as one of ITV1's top rated dramas".[20]


  • 1995 – ITV Programme of the Year (TRIC Award) – Won
  • 1998 – ITV Programme of the Year – Won
  • 1998 – ITV Programme of the Year – National Television Award – Most Popular Newcomer (Jason Durr) – Nominated
  • 1999 – Best Performing Peak-Time Drama (ratings higher than Coronation Street and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire) – Won
  • 2007 – Best European Drama (voted by Norwegian viewers) – Won
  • 2008 – Best Drama (nominated by ITV Studios along with The Royal and Emmerdale) – Won

Special programmes

  • Following the departure of Nick Berry (P.C. Nick Rowan) from the programme in episode 98, a special episode was filmed in Canada, to portray the new life of the Rowan family, and Nick's work in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The episode was filmed in 1998, and released on video the same year. It received its first TV airing in 1999. This episode is included with the Series 7 DVD Boxset.
  • 10 Years of Heartbeat (13 April 2002): A Heartbeat documentary screened in celebration of the show's tenth anniversary. Past and present members of the cast and crew and celebrity guest artists recalled their experiences of the show and reviewed their favourite moments from the previous ten years. This episode is included with the Series 12 DVD Boxset.
  • Heartbeat: Christmas Album (18 December 2005): A special that looked back at Heartbeat's Christmas episodes. This included a sneak preview of the Christmas special "Auld Acquaintance" (s15.e12) that was broadcast after this documentary. This episode is included with the Series 15 DVD Boxset.
  • Heartbeat: Farewell Phil (December 2007): A one-off special, commemorating the departure of the long-running character Phil Bellamy, whose final scenes (in "Touch And Go", series 17, episode 6) aired the previous night. Actor Mark Jordon relived his time on the series, along with contributions from fellow actors. This episode is included with the Series 17 DVD Boxset.

The Royal

The ITV medical drama series The Royal was originally a spin-off from Heartbeat, with the twelfth-series Heartbeat episode "Out of the Blue" serving as an introductory pilot for the show, with the Aidensfield police officers conducting parts of their investigations in "The Royal" hospital. The series initially had close ties with Heartbeat, and several Heartbeat characters made an appearance. However, over time The Royal went on to develop its own separate identity.

In January 2009 it was announced that production of The Royal would, like Heartbeat, rest due to a backlog of unaired episodes. Later, The Royal was also cancelled.

See also


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External links