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Heartbeat is a long running Britishmarker TV police drama series set in 1960s Yorkshiremarker. It is made by ITV Studios (formerly Yorkshire Television) at The Leeds Studiosmarker, and on location, for broadcast on ITV. Heartbeat first aired on Friday 10 April 1992 (it was later shifted to Sunday evenings). By autumn 2008, it had reached its 18th series, clocking up over 370 episodes.

Heartbeat has proved popular since the beginning when early series consistently drew over 10 million viewers. In its first year Heartbeat averaged 14.5 million viewers and was regularly in the top five TV programmes across all British channels. It has even scored higher figures than soap opera Coronation Streetmarker (one of Britain's best known and most popular TV shows). In 2001 Heartbeat came sixth in the UK TV ratings list with a peak audience of 13.82 million and was sixth again in 2003 with 12.8 million viewers. In autumn 2008 typical viewing figures were around 6 million per episode.

It stars Steven Blakeley, Joe McFadden, John Duttine, Rupert Ward-Lewis, Derek Fowlds, William Simons, Lisa Kay, Tricia Penrose and Gwen Taylor alongside Peter Benson, David Lonsdale, and Clare Wille.

Filming for the 18th series began at the end of May 2008 and finished on 8 May 2009. The first episode of series 18 was screened on 12 October 2008.

Future of the show

Kathleen Beedles, the new producer as of series 18, originally said Heartbeat was expected to continue until at least series 20 (2010–2011). 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. Some newspaper reports interpreted this as meaning the show would be permanently cancelled. 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. A report in The Telegraph suggested Heartbeat may return in 'a new lower budget form'.

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 has finished. The final nine episodes are to be shown in 2010. However, as of August 2009 ITV continue to maintain on their website that reports the show has been 'axed' are untrue. They say production is 'taking a rest' so stockpiled episodes can be aired but they do not specifically say if or when production will recommence.

The show's cancellation has prompted protests from Heartbeat fans around the world as well as from communities in the Yorkshire region where the series is filmed and where the Heartbeat-themed tourist trade is seen as an important part of the local economy.

Current cast and characters

Actor Character Duration
Derek Fowlds Oscar Blaketon 1992—
William Simons PC Alf Ventress 1992—
Rupert Vansittart Lord Ashfordly 1992—
Tricia Penrose Gina Bellamy 1993—
David Lonsdale David Stockwell 1993-1995, 1996—
Peter Benson Bernie Scripps 1995—
Steven Blakeley PC Geoff Younger 2004—
John Duttine Sgt George Miller 2005—
Gwen Taylor Peggy Armstrong 2005—
Lisa Kay Nurse Carol Cassidy 2006—
Clare Wille Detective Sgt Rachel Dawson 2006—
Joe McFadden PC Joe Mason 2007—
Rupert Ward-Lewis PC Don Wetherby 2007—
Nikki Sanderson Dawn Bellamy 2008—

Background to the series

The show is set in the 1960s and 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 Goathlandmarker in the North York Moorsmarker, 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'" ("bobby" being British slang for a police officer, 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. 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.

Scripps Garage from the series
Over time the show has evolved into an ensemble drama. The motorcycle-riding Aidensfield village bobby, the role originally played by Berry, continues to be central to the storylines, but in recent series the main cast has been 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 – an all-time record for any British series. In series 18 (2008-9) this had increased to thirteen.

Although the show is often criticised for seeing the 1960s through rose-tinted spectacles, in reality it has tended to avoid the usual "swinging sixties" clichés. If there is a cultural revolution going on, then it's not going on in Aidensfield and Ashfordly. Some episodes do, however, make reference to swinging sixties culture, as well as to hippies and psychedelia, usually imposed on the community by outsiders. Sixties pop music is prominent, forming the soundtrack to the show. Occasionally records from the 1970s appear, anachronistically, on the soundtrack (The Hollies' 1974 hit "The Air That I Breathe" being an example). In an extreme example (and perhaps a deliberate effort to confound expectations), the closing scene of the series 17 episode "You Never Can Tell" is accompanied by The Flying Pickets' 1983 hit, "Only You".

The notion that people were friendlier and the world was safer in the 1960s is given short shrift too. The local people are often portrayed as insular and suspicious of strangers, and the area's high crime rate speaks for itself. Nevertheless, 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 has disappeared. Episode 16.14 ("Another Little Piece Of My Heart") was given a warning before airing on ITV1 due to its "containing scenes of domestic violence", though these proved to be relatively mild by modern standards.


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 Yorkshire 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

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), 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. After Kate Rowan's death from leukaemia, Nick Rowan gained a new love interest, teacher Jo Weston (Juliette Gruber). The two married and emigrated to Canadamarker, and the central role of local Aidensfield bobby has since changed hands several times – as has the role of Aidensfield doctor. These and numerous other changes to the cast that have taken place over eighteen series are detailed at List of Heartbeat characters.

As of autumn 2008 (series 18), two regular characters have survived from the first 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. The recurring character of local landowner Lord Ashfordly (Rupert Vansittart) is also a survivor. Gina Ward (Tricia Penrose), who was introduced early in the second series, is also still present.

As it reaches middle age, the show has become rather formulaic, with most episodes following a very 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 parallel, the regular "lovable rogue" character of the day (a role originally filled by Claude Greengrass, played by Bill Maynard) dreams up some scheme or other, often involving making money on the fringes of the law. This forms the sub-plot, which acts as light (and sometimes comic) relief. Sometimes these sub-plots are closely interwoven with the main storyline; other times they barely impinge and might be better termed "parallel plots". 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.

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. Because each episode is designed to be more-or-less self-contained, the show can sometimes appear to suffer from abrupt lurches in continuity. Extremely dramatic and traumatic events that afflict the central characters are often forgotten by the next episode, and characters who assume great importance in one episode, as, say, relatives or close friends are frequently never seen nor mentioned again.

Chronology and period detail

When the programme began, it was set in 1964. The setting then moved on, approximately in "real time", until it reached early 1969, where - apart from the Christmas episodes - it has now remained for some years. However, the show's chronology has been seen to be quite flexible: the inhabitants of Ashfordly and Aidensfield have certainly celebrated more than four Christmases between 1965 and 1969.

The 1998 episode "Heartbeat: Changing Places", which follows Sgt. Rowan as a Mountiemarker, opens with the caption "1968". This is sometimes thought to be the only explicit time reference in the series; however, one 2004 episode was specifically set on 6 February 1969, the date being deliberately displayed clearly in an extreme close-up of "today's newspaper", and in the Season 7 episode "Brainstorm", the date August 20, 1967 is prominently displayed in a police logbook. Whenever a car or motorcycle's tax disc is shown on screen, it is always valid until 31 December 1969. However, the show often depicts steam trains still in service on British Railways, which is incorrect for 1969 since steam-hauled passenger services finished in August 1968. In fact, most of the railway detail is little more than fantasy: the main line steam engines and coaches used (really part of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway) would rarely or never have been seen on such a line—in any period. Other inaccuracies include milk churns on the platform (abolished in Britain before World War 2, having been replaced by rail tank wagons) and anachronistic references to station masters and other outdated railway job titles.

Road vehicles are usually closer to the period, including not only many classic cars but also Vernon Scripps' lorry (the same one was previously driven by his predecessor Claude Greengrass) and a red single decker bus with the (correct) logo UNITED. Some of the road signs, however, are very odd. British road signs began to be replaced with the current types in 1964, and a mixture of old and new would be authentic in the later 1960s, but in practice, although some of the "old" road signs seen in the series resemble former types they are actually fictional. Why genuine 30 mph signs (for example) could not be used is unknown.

The Torrey Canyonmarker oil spill provided an off-screen plot point in a series ostensibly set in 1969, despite having actually occurred two years earlier. An episode broadcast in August 2007, "One Small Step", depicted the people of Aidensfield gathering in the pub to watch the Apollo 11 moon landing, which precisely "dates" the story to 20 July 1969, though it was actually aired just three weeks after an episode that was clearly set in winter. Perhaps anachronistically, the Moon Landing episode featured an early example of hoax accusations – Peggy Armstrong casts doubt on the authenticity of the mission and takes fake photos of David Stockwell in a space suit to prove her point. The locals are unimpressed by her efforts. The series 16 finale used the Northern Irelandmarker "Troubles", generally acknowledged as starting in 1969, as a plotline. In the series 17 episode "Bully Boys", David's invitation to a school reunion gives the date as 9 March 1969. Since this is before "One Small Step", yet the episode takes place after the death of Phil Bellamy, it can be inferred that there is no longer a consistent internal chronology within the series. In the series 17 episode "Taking Stock" Alf Ventress complains that his Austin 1100 is an old banger when it fails to start, even though it has an H registration plate, which means the car can be no older than August 1969. Judy Garland along with her husband Mickey Deans were mentioned in the Series 18 episode "Cashing In". This places the episode between March 17, 1969 and June 22, 1969.


The North York Moorsmarker 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 Stationmarker, 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 Whitbymarker or Otleymarker are normally used (Scarboroughmarker is occasionally featured instead for variety). Other real-life towns and cities - such as Leedsmarker, Yorkmarker, Sheffieldmarker, Hullmarker, Middlesbroughmarker, Northallertonmarker, Harrogatemarker and Saltburn-by-the-Seamarker - are also sometimes mentioned. Two series 18 episodes have been filmed on location in Australia.

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 six miles southwest of Whitby (though Ashfordly is portrayed as a reasonable-sized market town, whereas real-life Grosmont is a small village). Aidensfield (although not explicitly pointed out), would then fit in neatly with the real-life location of Goathland (where much of the show is filmed), which lies about nine miles southwest of Whitby and about two and a half miles from Grosmont.

A distance of two and a half miles between Ashfordly and Aidensfield fits with the impression given in the series that the two are very close. For example, all the Ashfordly police – not just the constable assigned to Aidensfield – seem particularly well acquainted with the village and its affairs and inhabitants, and seem to treat the Aidensfield village pub as their "local". In one episode Vernon Scripps stated that Ashfordly is "a few miles" from Aidensfield, and in the series 11 episode "Class Act" Gina Ward again describes Ashfordly as "a few miles up the road". In the episode "Not So Special", featuring a "hot rod" car race, a signpost is explicitly shown that reads "Ashfordly 3, Aidensfield 2", indicating a distance of no more than five miles. However, in the series 16 episode "Memoirs of a Fighting Man" it was said, in reference to Aidensfield Garage, that "there isn't another garage around for twenty miles". It seems inconceivable that a 1960s town the size of Ashfordly would not have a garage, so by this evidence the distance is greater than twenty miles. In addition to this, at the start of series 17, Aidensfield is described as being "too far away" from Ashfordly for there not to be a police presence. In the series 17 episode "Heirs Apparent", Ashfordly Hall was said to be a quarter of a mile from the Aidensfield Arms.

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


United Kingdom

When Heartbeat first began on 10 April 1992 it aired on Fridays at 21:00, but from series 2 it was moved to Sunday nights and now airs in the ITV Network Sunday evening 20:00 or 19:00 timeslot. All Heartbeat episodes are 45 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.

In recent years, Heartbeat re-runs have appeared on ITV during the summer months (often billed on-screen as "Classic Heartbeat"), typically at 17:00 or, in 2006, at 16:00. In 2006, episodes from the first few series were repeated again. These were originally designed to be screened with two commercial breaks, but were slightly edited for time to fit ITV's newer policy of having three breaks. Most of the swearing ("bloody", "bastard", etc.) that was present in the early episodes was edited out for these daytime broadcasts.

Series 1 – 10 have also been repeated on ITV3. For these broadcasts, the episodes were kept in their original two commercial break format. Most of the early swearing was edited out, but in some episodes was left in. More recently, some of the ITV three-commercial break edited versions have appeared on ITV3 mixed in with the original versions of other episodes, in late night airings of the series. Series 14 has also been repeated, shown on Saturdays and Sundays on ITV3.

As of 2009, Heartbeat repeats from various series air each weekday on ITV3 in an early evening timeslot in three-commercial break versions.

Heartbeat around the world

  • The series airs on Sunday evenings at 20:00 on TV3 in Irelandmarker.
  • The series airs intermittently on Saturday afternoons on TV1 in New Zealandmarker; it is regularly taken off for sport or other reasons and may not show for months at a time
  • The series airs on weekday at prime-time on ETV in Estoniamarker, where it is called Südameasi ("Matter of the heart").
  • The series airs daily on both TV2 and its sister channel TV2 Charlie in Denmarkmarker, where it has been retitled Små og store synder (English: "Small and Large Sins" or "Petty and Big Sins").
  • The series airs weekday mornings in Swedenmarker. Broadcaster TV4 has retitled the show Tillbaka till Aidensfield ("Back to Aidensfield").
  • The series also airs every Saturday evening in Norwaymarker where broadcasting channel NRK1marker has named it Med hjartet på rette staden ("With the heart in the right place"). Reruns are shown every Monday morning.
  • In Finlandmarker, YLE broadcasts the series on Friday evenings at 19:10. The show has been retitled Sydämen asialla ("In the business of the heart").
  • The series airs on Friday nights at 21:00 in Ontariomarker, Canadamarker, on TV Ontario, a public broadcaster.
  • The series also airs Saturday nights in British Columbiamarker, Canada at 20:00 on Knowledge, the publicly owned network.
  • The series used to air in Australia on ABC TVmarker and then the Seven Network, which is airing over the summer non-ratings period, on Saturday evenings. Australia is seeing episodes from series 15. Episodes are currently being shown on Seven HD on weekdays at 12pm.
  • The series airs every weekday on Flemish public broadcaster één in Belgiummarker.


  • 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 Streetmarker 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


width="20" > Year
Rank # Average Audience Share
1 1992 ?? ??
2 1993 ?? ??
3 1993 ?? ??
4 1994 ?? ??
5 1995 ?? ??
6 1996 ?? ??
7 1997-1998 ?? ??
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 ?? ??

Special programmes

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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 has gone on to develop its own separate identity.

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

See also


  1. "TV recruits rogue to rival Greengrass", Telegraph, 19 June 2001
  2. Niamh Cusack - website
  3. 2001 TV ratings
  4. 2003 TV ratings
  5. BARB
  7. "Heartbeat axed by ITV after 17 years",, 29 January 2009
  8. "Daytime stars for ITV axe", The Sun, 4 March 2009
  9. ITV to slash drama as profits plunge,, 4 March 2009
  10. 'No hope' for ITV's Heartbeat after crunch meeting with bosses, Yorkshire Post, 12 March 2009
  11. "Axing reports untrue" ITV retrieved 18 August 2009
  12. "Heartbeat petition gets Euro MP's signature", Robin Hoods Bay Today, 20 February 2009.
  13. Why the title of "Heartbeat" was chosen
  14. "Heartbeat films on the Gold Coast", TV Tonight, September 10, 2008

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