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Blue Heelers (1994 - 2006)

Drama series
510 episodes x 60 minutes

Series synopsis:

Blue Heelers is a police drama series set in the fictional country town of Mount Thomas. Under the watchful eye of Tom Croydon (John Woods), the men and women of Mount Thomas Police Station fight crime, resolve disputes and tackle the social issues of the day.

Curator’s Notes:

Blue Heelers was one of Australia’s longest-running weekly television drama series. Broadcast on Channel Seven, it clocked up over 500 episodes, drawing comparisons with the similarly long run of Crawford’s Homicide (1964-76). Such was the series’s popularity at its peak that, upon its axing, television critic Ross Warneke wrote that 'the end of Blue Heelers signals the end of the glory days of local television drama’.

In its 12-year run, Blue Heelers weathered some industry highs and lows. When it first aired in 1994, Australia’s commercial networks were recovering from a period of economic uncertainty in the late 1980s that had seen them in receivership. The program then rode out a late 1990s, early 2000s boom in local drama production – police drama in particular – and survived the subsequent battle between many of these dramas to stay on air. When it was finally axed in 2006, after a period of falling ratings, journalists speculated that Seven’s new deal with Network Ten to broadcast AFL, competition from pay TV and bigger budget US cop shows, and a general decrease in audience sizes for local drama may all have played a part in its decline.

Producer Hal McElroy calls the Blue Heelers approach to the cop show genre 'pro social’ – eschewing a hard-edged approach, overt violence or swearing and focusing on story-lines in which good wins out in the end. Its view of country policing emphasises community, shared values and local knowledge and has a higher ratio of soap or serial elements to action than police shows such as Water Rats (1996-2001) or Murder Call (1997-2000), also McElroy-Southern Star productions. Episodes often demonstrate a central theme or social issue around which several story strands are constructed.

Blue Heelers was born when McElroy and writer Tony Morphett spoke to a country policeman while researching another potential cop show and were inspired to base a series in the country rather than the city. The 'blue heelers’ of the title are a breed of farm dog as well as slang for country cops.

Major changes in the series during its run included the shift from a 7.30 to 8.30 evening timeslot, allowing more adult storylines. Then a 2004 'revamp’ in response to falling ratings included a shift to darker story-lines, cast changes and a landmark live-to-air episode.

Titles in this series

Blue Heelers – A Woman’s Place 1993

Fresh from police training, Constable Maggie Doyle (Lisa McCune) arrives to take up her new post in the country town of Mount Thomas, where the locals call the police 'blue heelers’. As the new kid on the block – and ...