'Rebooting a much-loved TV show should not simply be an excuse for zealots to sermonise'

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By Douglas Kruger

‘OUR favourite rogue is back. Quick, change every single thing about him!’

Good news. Bergerac’s back. But there’s some disagreement about what Jersey’s iconic cop should be like in a more politically correct 2020s.

The popular crime drama, starring John Nettles, ran until 1991, showcasing the Island like a nine-season travelogue. If you know someone under 30, take a moment to recoil in horror as you realise they weren’t born until after the show had ended.

Producers are now saying they’ll start filming the Bergerac reboot in 2023. The first episode should air the following year, more than three decades after the original series ended.

My wife and I, ardent viewers of Mr Nettles’s intervening Midsomer Murders, used to theorise that that show must have featured the single most homicidal, blood-soaked patch of real-estate in all of human history. Detroit has nothing on Midsomer. Consider the numbers: 22 seasons, at approximately 3.5 corpses per show. Run the maths and it turns out all of England was wiped out by season 15. That accomplished, Bergerac can return to Jersey.

Mr Nettles has indicated that he would be delighted to be involved in the new show, though possibly just as a guest. But there’s still a question to answer: who is Bergerac in the 2020s?

Enter a group who may well want to have their say. This group is known for the unfailing improvement of every cherished old story they overhaul. They are colloquially known as ‘The PC Police’. What could possibly go wrong?

How might this overhaul look? A good start, they suggest, would be to turn the recovering alcoholic, with his devil-may-care swagger, into an eco-warrior.

No. Really.

I see no downside to this. After all, injecting ideology into beloved stories never backfires. Nor does fundamentally altering a character to suit a political bent ever ruin a show, nor make audiences resent the cause in question. People love reworkings of history by woke zealots.

So why not transform Bergerac from a tough rogue-cop into a social-justice warrior?

Indeed, why not resurrect every beloved hero of the past for similar work? Why not He-Man as a community organiser, helping to defeat capitalism and repurpose vegetables?

You see, escapism is overrated. What we all need is much more sermonising. We don’t get enough of it in our news, advertising, radio, magazines, books, songs or news feeds.

I think my kid’s favourite morning cartoon, Numberblocks, should start pulling its weight. He’s five – when are they going to start teaching him privilege and guilt? And Peppa Pig should address her brother George’s toxic masculinity. Currently, these slackers do nothing but entertain and delight, and how can that possibly aid a child’s mental health? Or create the appropriately compliant citizen?

If this overreach seems a little off to you, that’s because it is. The finest entertainment does not presume to indoctrinate.

It is in poor taste to hijack someone else’s character as a mouthpiece for your own beliefs. By all means create your own character, then imbue them with whatever talking points you wish. But to steal someone else’s is just bad manners. It is weirdly discordant to alter a personality, even a fictional one. We love Bergerac because he’s Bergerac, psychological baggage and all. He is not an empty sack to be filled with any useful traits a passing activist may fancy for a teachable moment. That betrays the very nature of the character.

Truly excellent writers assume intelligence on the part of their audience. They treat them as sophisticated equals, not witless clay.

And escapism matters. If every show bows to social engineering, we effectively become a throw-back to the Soviet Union.

Few things taught me as much about my new island home as those old episodes of Bergerac. They’re delightful, and I can’t wait to see the new ones.

Just, please, grant us this one small mercy: when the scriptwriters meet, leave out that unsettling guy from the Department of Social Harmony. It’s a cop-show. Not a sermon.

  • Douglas Kruger is an author originally from Johannesburg who now lives in St Helier with his wife and five-year-old son.

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