Blue Heelers: articles

Alsop, Davey, Craig

Transparent, puerile mediocrity… Blue Heelers celebrates its 400th episode.

What you get when you don't ask for much

AUSTRALIAN television viewers do not ask for much, which is probably why they continue to not get much.

The ultimate demonstration of this culturally tragic situation will take place next Wednesday night when Blue Heelers—a show very appropriately named after a breed of dog—celebrates its 400th helping of transparent and puerile mediocrity.

A discerning TV viewer could tell this show was a dud at a glance. Why then have 400 episodes been made?

I know universities are often charged with funding feckless research projects, but I feel an investigation into this phenomenon would not only be a rollicking read but important for the survival of our very species (or at least our standards).

The only way I can account for this pitiable police drama's continued viewership is to imagine audiences are watching only for kitsch value, conducting drinking games every time Jo stares blankly at inanimate objects or Tom sighs like he has just lost another Gold Logie to a hyper-preened rookie on a superior program.

Despite these rationalisations, I fear loyal viewers watch Blue Heelers for the characters and their alleged development.

Perhaps a near-hypnotic fascination with figures they have become accustomed to, allows fans to overlook the show's dismal production values, its drab appearance, exposition-filled scripts or the acting, which runs the gamut from poor to dreadful.

This series sees supposedly seasoned police officers, who should know better, gesticulate wildly at little provocation. They yell at ill-timed intervals and change emotions several times a sentence. In fact, even time seems to be out of sync in Blue Heelers.

I cannot decide whether it is lamentable or entirely appropriate these flaws have not been corrected for the show's 400th episode, as producers continue to observe the standards that have made the show a success.

Furthermore, while the show is being sold as a two-hour finale, it is immediately apparent that each hour is an episode unto itself.

Detective PJ's new bed-friend, Dr Tatiana, is implicated, though strangely not arrested for violating a Russian accent

Mediocre Mt Thomas, it seems, can only handle one crime, or one series of related incidents, every couple of days.

Any deviation from this plan would give the viewer too much variety and may lead to increased expectations.

The first half of this questionable milestone in Aussie TV sees Constable Ben put on his worried-father face while investigating the health of a baby boy reared by his widowed dad.

The man is trying to treat the boy's fever with natural remedies, to the exclusion of conventional medicine, which outrages the police officer and leads to an eventual kidnapping. Detective PJ's new bed-friend, Dr Tatiana, is implicated, though strangely not arrested for violating a Russian accent.

The second half of this painfully long episode sees Constable Jo's boyfriend, Marco, maligned when the house they share with PJ and Ben is ransacked by men looking for his father. Jo is kidnapped. PJ furrows his brow.

It's not terribly tense, not awfully stylised or well plotted, but if you're an amateur detective you'll feel the warm glow of superiority early in the episode before you begin your long wait for the script to progress.

Long-time viewers will note both episodes malign PJ and Jo's current partners. Could a love-match be in the offing?

Would that be too obvious? More to the point, is there such a thing on this show?

By Jennifer Dudley
Dudley on TV
July 17, 2003
The Courier Mail