Blue Heelers: articles

Julie Nihill and John Wood

Julie Nihill and John Wood in the final episode of Blue Heelers.

Beyond blue

After 13 years and 510 episodes, it's finally time to bid farewell to Mt Thomas. Brian Courtis looks at a future without Blue Heelers.

Hard to imagine life without Blue Heelers. For all its simple country philosophies and gruff Senior Sergeant Tom Croydon's shuffles between his cop shop office and the front desk, it will be sorely missed. Its parting is certainly going to be seen as rough justice to those of us who enjoy Australian accents in television drama.

There is a rich, thoughtful performance from actor John Wood as Croydon in this week's special two-hour final episode.

Remarkably, the Seven Network's long-running series does seem to have maintained quality performances, direction and scripting to the end. We're about to drop in at the Imperial again this week to blissfully suffer its remaining rural agonies.

Most of Tom Croydon's cops have suffered for that town. They caught the bad guys but went through miserable home lives, unhappy affairs, divorce and disaster. Still, it's time to move on. Tap another beat. The tears have all been shed for the show and, with this one, the cast can take pride and enjoy their last hurrah.

In the finale, Tom Croydon, facing the facts of his own mortality and realising he should be mending fences with his estranged family, is given a few more short, sharp reminders ... both at Mt Thomas police station and at the cancer clinic.

Tom's colleagues, not realising just what is on his mind, are bemused by his lack of interest in saving himself from the accusations made by disgraced former policeman Adam Cooper (Damian Walshe-Howling). Their boss appears more concerned with helping a young female cancer patient make dreams come true as she enters the final stages of her terminal illness. And some of those dreams are decidedly eccentric, especially for Croydon.

As for those of us left behind, there now seems only a few fading traditional American police procedurals, a little more digging-up of corpses with grim-faced pathologists, some waking of the dead with psycho-babbling mediums who want to play detective, or checking out more cold cases.

The Law And Order shows have been around so long they're starting to remind you of old episodes of Hill Street Blues, Naked City or even Dragnet, while there are only so many bodies, techno-blue lights and wondrous forensic lab special effects to keep the world of the CSIs thriving. And, of course, there are just so many Australians with American or English accents we can afford to lose.

We're now left here with our own dreams for the next big Aussie cop show. So many ideas have already been thrown away rather than reworked or recycled that you wonder where our creative talents should turn next.

Well, if a country that can turn a twitching kangaroo-paw bottle-opener called Skippy into a top detective can't come up with some fresh ideas then we're really in trouble. It seems the right time to rally to the networks with fresh and energetic "concepts" and get Australia's programmers excited again about reinventing a more locally influenced cop drama.

Clearly help is necessary, so, to start the ball rolling, try these dinky-di bonzer bewdy-mate suggestions for size:

The Americans offered us Blind Justice earlier this year. Somebody here bought it. The idea involved shoving a blind cop back on the beat armed with a gun. We can do better. Try Dead Right, a drama in which a country cop made redundant at Mt Thomas is hit by a getaway car only to discover on recovery that he can talk to dead wombats willing to help him solve cases.

From talking road-kill to something more reality inspired. Watch a 21st century variation of that cop show Skirts in a more sensitive, design-conscious Melbourne. This one, The Dag Squad, might bring together a sort of Trinny and Susannah team charged with pinning down potential fashion crims betrayed by garish ugh boots, mismatched tracksuit pants and scruffy hairstyles. (Think of the sponsors.)

If we really do need acronymic titles, then perhaps CSI: AFL deserves that guernsey. After all, the forensic detail behind our Tuesday night football tribunals is starting to make its mark. Its heroes will be those gatherers of evidence from the darkest arts.

And while we are "borrowing" cop-show titles (there has to be a little wean and take), then Bore And Order might push us into that other uncharted cop-shop territory, that of the politicians and statesmen now framing our increasingly curious "pax Australiana".

Ah sweet Melbourne . . . the New Jersey of the Southern Hemisphere! We do have our goodfellas. We can go one better here, too. Try The Tenors, the story of a family of supergrasses who, after being busted trying to fix Australian Idol, really start to sing. If the title seems esoteric then what about All Sinners?

Again, why just Lost? Why not Lost And Found, a show for trainspotters in which Southern Cross Station is the exotic location. Country travellers end up there, abandoned, confused, hearing the usual strange cries of polar bears, pirates and Big Issue salesmen on Platform 66, before working their way to what was once known simply as "lost property".

Perhaps, like my personal pitch for Desperate Detectives Wives, or that suggestion for Tom Croydon to have a rest and return to us with an all-Australian, biodynamic rural cop series renamed Green Heelers, these are all just a little too offbeat.

But television is a long way from giving away its law-and-order reliables. And if we can't come up with an original or unconventional indigenous replacement, then the Brits or the Americans certainly will. Before you know it, we'll be copping even rougher justice on TV.

Blue Heelers: Final Episode screens on Sunday at 8.30pm.

By Brian Courtis
June 04, 2006
The Age