Blue Heelers: articles

True Blue folk earn success

More than eight years ago a group of actors assembled in the sleepy Victorian town of Castlemaine to film a new cop show. The program was a long-odds gamble many believed wouldn't succeed. But late last year a new generation of actors gathered at Castlemaine to celebrate the filming of the 300th episode of the top-rating and award-winning police drama Blue Heelers. Over the years the show has scored nightly ratings in excess of 3 million viewers and launched the careers of actors who have gone on to be household names.

Rupert Reid, Jane Allsop, Tasman Walton and Paul Bishop have become familiar faces thanks to their work on Blue Heelers. But no star shone brighter than Lisa McCune, who played Maggie Doyle and won a record four consecutive Gold Logies. Even Maggie's demise early last year as a shooting victim didn't dent the appeal of long-running show. The series revolves around the trials, tribulations and triumphs of the officers of a rural police station set in the mythical town of Mt. Thomas. Adoration for Blue Heelers has become so great hundreds of fans flocked to Castlemaine to watch the recording of the outside scenes for the 300th episode last October.

A group of people with disabilities even drove from Alice Springs to see their uniformed heroes in the flesh. Original cast member John Wood, who plays the station's Rock of Gilbraltar, Senior Sergeant Tom Croydon, was one actor who had faith in Mt. Thomas. Prior to joining the show, John knocked back a role for "heaps of money" on Paradise Beach. He said, "I loved the character, I knew it had the potential to be very good." And John was right on the money. He puts the show's phenomenal success down to the strength of characters. "I think viewers have embraced it because it explores relationships with people," he said. "The original slogan for the show was 'cops with heart'. I think that's why people watch."

Paul Bishop, who plays Senior Constable Ben Stewart, said casting and script were the keys to the Heelers' success. He said, "Since I began in mid 1998, much of the original cast has moved on. But they have been replaced by a new crop of actors who have also proved popular, underlining the importance of casting. The writers also keep coming up with great stories that maintain the audiences interest in the plots." Another major contributing factor to the series success is the camaraderie of the cast and crew. Although most actors say they work with a great group of people, that message comes through with such sincerity and consistency from all involved in Blue Heelers. There is no doubt a special magic is at work on the set.

David Nankervis
Sunday Mail
March 25, 2001