Blue Heelers: articles

John Wood

Shake-up: in the new-look Heelers Tom Croydon (John Wood) drops the fatherly image.

Blue if Heelers axed

READERS of the Guide will be well aware of my bias towards Blue Heelers, and I make no apology for it.

Heelers is a phenomenon, up there with other Aussie jewels such as 60 Minutes—shows that deserve every accolade going for what they have achieved.

Yet in recent years it has become fashionable to knock Heelers, to dismiss it as old-fashioned, even cheap-looking.

A colleague recently described it as quaint.

It’s as if Heelers is some sort of dinosaur, hanging in there by default in an era to which it no longer belongs.

One certainly gets the impression that Seven is more enamoured of All Saints. God knows why. Certainly viewers aren’t, and that’s what counts. Heelers remains the more popular of the two,

People point out how cheap Heelers looks alongside the CSI franchise, and they’re right.

So it should. I reckon Heelers costs Seven about $250,000 an episode, while the CSI shows cost about $A3.5 million an episode.

Unless you have been living on another planet in recent weeks, you will be aware that the old girl is undergoing a revamp. Four new cast members join the show tonight, Jane Allsop went last week, Will McInnes is back as Nick Schultz for six episodes, and Tom Croydon is no longer Mr Nice Guy.

As executive producer Gus Howard says, the show had to be reworked to ensure it remained relevant and more accurately reflected today’s world.

After 10 years during which Heelers remained relatively untouched, it was time for a shake-up. Only time will tell whether the reworking boosts figures.

But the truth is, any network would kill for an Australian drama series that attracts the audience Heelers does, after 10 years on the air. The gang from Mt Thomas last week drew about 1.5 million viewers. OK, so it was the episode in which Jo Parrish died in an explosion, but the week before it pulled 1.394 million. What sort of audience do you think either of the CSI series will be pulling in seven or eight years? The answer is neither will be on air, after being axed because of poor ratings.

Blue Heelers premiered in January 1994.

Just look at some of the “more worthy” Aussie police series that have come and gone in that time: Wildside, Young Lions, Murder Call, White Collar Blue and the disgraceful Above The Law.

Only Stingers comes close, but after eight seasons it has now been moved to 10.30pm because it was being belted in Sydney, and was not consistently winning its slot in Melbourne.

Disappointing, says Nine, given that at 9.30pm, Stingers was coming off the back of the most-watched drama in Australia—CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

Stingers was dropping almost one million viewers nationally from its CSI lead-in.

Heelers, on the other hand, increases its audience on the dreadful Hope & Faith.

But Seven is yet to renew Blue Heelers for next year. It should.

Make no mistake, Seven’s proposed new series, Last Man Standing—if it makes it to air—won’t match Heelers’ figures.

Here’s hoping Seven gives Heelers the green light, at least for one more year. The series may be 10 years old, but it is still the network’s top-rating drama.

By Robert Fidgeon
July 14, 2004
Herald Sun