Heartbeat (British TV series)

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Heartbeat is a British police procedural period drama series, based upon the Constable series of novels written by Nicholas Rhea, and produced by Yorkshire Television until it was merged by ITV, then by ITV Studios[1] from 1992 until 2010. The series is set in the North Riding of Yorkshire during the 1960s, and takes place in real-life and fictional locations. Most episodes' focus on separate stories sometimes intersect with one another; some episodes focus on a single major incident.

Heartbeat opening title (series 9–16)
GenrePolice procedural
Period drama
Created byJohnny Byrne
Keith Richardson
Gerry Mill
Based onConstable series of novels
by Nicholas Rhea
Opening theme"Heartbeat" performed by Nick Berry
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of series18
No. of episodes372 (list of episodes)
Executive producersKeith Richardson
(369 episodes, 1992–2010)
Kathleen Beedles
(12 episodes, 2008)
  • Gerry Mill (187 episodes, 1996–2004)
  • Archie Tait (97 episodes, 2004–2008)
  • Steve Lanning (20 episodes, 1993)
  • Martyn Auty (16 episodes, 1994)
  • Carol Wilks (15 episodes, 1995)
  • Stuart Doughty (10 episodes, 1992)
Running time45–51 mins. per episode
Production companyYorkshire TV (now part of ITV Studios)
Original release
Release10 April 1992 (1992-04-10) –
12 September 2010 (2010-09-12)

The programme initially starred Nick Berry, Niamh Cusack, Derek Fowlds, William Simons, Mark Jordon and Bill Maynard, but as more main characters were added to the series, additional actors included Jason Durr, Jonathan Kerrigan, Philip Franks, Duncan Bell, Clare Wille, Lisa Kay, Tricia Penrose, Geoffrey Hughes, Peter Benson and Gwen Taylor. Production of episodes involved filming of outdoor and exterior scenes around the North Riding, including in and around Whitby and Goathland, with interior scenes filmed at The Leeds Studios.

Heartbeat proved popular from the beginning, when early series consistently drew over 10 million viewers,[2] achieving a peak audience of 13.82 million in 2001,[3] and 12.8 million viewers in 2003.[4] Its success eventually led to a spin-off series, titled The Royal, as well as a special episode, and three documentaries. In June 2010, ITV announced the cancellation of Heartbeat after its eighteenth series, following discussions on its future.


Nick Berry as PC Nick Rowan
(Heartbeat book cover)

Heartbeat is a period drama set within the North Riding of Yorkshire during the 1960s. Plots for each episode take place within both the fictional village of Aidensfield and the fictional town of Ashfordly, as well as several other fictional villages and farms in the surrounding moors and countryside. On occasions, plots also include the real-life town of Whitby. Each episode in the series focuses on a set of at least one or two main storylines and a side story, some or all of which would cross over with each other and influence the outcome of their plots. Political tones for storylines, coinciding with the decade the programme was set in, were rarely featured in episodes, though some episodes featured occasional references to the counterculture movement, while others would sometimes delve into a dramatic single storyline concerning a major incident that characters would deal with and sometimes be affected by.

The programme's title was chosen by writers to represent the series' key characters who worked as police officers and medical staff  – "heart" for the medical themes featured regularly in the programme; and "beat" based on the phrase "the bobby's beat" ("bobby" being British slang for a police officer (from Robert Peel)).[5] Each episode's set of storylines were inspired by those created for the Constable series of books, written by Nicholas Rhea (the pen-name of former policeman Peter Walker), which were focused on a police constable in the 1960s who came to Aidensfield, in order to serve the local community and solve crimes that took place on his new patch. Much of the characters and locations in the Constable series were directly used for creating the setting and plots in Heartbeat, under guidance from Rhea.

The series was originally intended as a launch platform for actor Nick Berry, following his involvement on the BBC's soap drama EastEnders, who alongside actress Niamh Cusack, were the prominent main actors of the programme for its first two series. Storylines mainly focused around both their characters, as they offered aid to those around the village and beyond, though the tone of plots was portrayed with grittiness and social realism. From the third series onwards, the role of the village policeman continued to be central to the storyline, but supporting actors were redefined as the programme's main cast, with their characters elevated in presence, effectively evolving Heartbeat into an ensemble drama that was themed as more cosy and comfortable compared to more modern TV police dramas. The changes were more notable by how supporting actors gained more prominence in the opening titles after being elevated into the series' main cast  – up until the fifth series, both Berry and Cusack were prominently featured in the opening credits, but this changed in later series so that by the beginning of the seventh series, all actors in the main cast were given proper credit for their involvement in the drama series.

After the fifth series, storylines became less centralized around the village constable, focusing on separate storylines that retained a set structure within episodes: one focusing on a crime solved by the village constable and his colleagues at Ashfordly police; one focused on a medical issue that the village doctor and/or nurse would treat; and a side story focused on the programme's "lovable rogue" character which mainly was designed as comic relief, but sometimes featured light-hearted plots delving into heart-warming moments. In addition, over-arching storylines covering several episodes or even series, provided sub-plots between main characters, allowing for character and relationship development between them, with additional characters added in over time. In time, Heartbeat saw the cast being changed throughout its broadcast history, as new characters were introduced to replace those who left the show after being written out.

Sixties pop music features prominently in episodes, notably from the Beatles and Chuck Berry, forming the backbone of Heartbeat's soundtrack, although music from other decades sometimes is played in episodes.

Some 1970s records appear anachronistically, such as the Hollies' 1974 song "The Air That I Breathe", Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog" (1971), Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird" (1974) or Pink Floyd's 1971 instrumental "One of These Days". The end scene of the series 17 episode "You Never Can Tell" is accompanied by the Flying Pickets' 1983 song "Only You", an episode which featured a guest appearance by the band's lead singer Brian Hibbard.

Although Heartbeat was broadcast over 18 years from 1992 to 2010, the show remained set in the 1960s throughout its entire run. Series 1, which broadcast in 1992, was set in 1963 at the very earliest, but mostly in 1964, due to mentions of Christine Keeler in the first episode, the Dallas police at John F. Kennedy's assassination being mentioned in the past tense, and Lyndon B. Johnson being the current US president. By roughly Series 8, Heartbeat had reached 1969, and yet the show seemingly remained set in 1969 until the end of Series 18's broadcast in 2010, never moving into the 1970s. The episode titled "One Small Step", which was the 21st episode of Series 16, took place at the time of the July 1969 Apollo 11 moon landings.

Heartbeat had five main stars over the course of its 18 series run, i.e. Nick Berry as Nick Rowan (Series 1–7, 1992–1998), Jason Durr as Mike Bradley (Series 7–12, 1997–2003), James Carlton as Steve Crane (Series 12–13, 2003–2004), Jonathan Kerrigan as Rob Walker (Series 14–16, 2004–2007), and Joe McFadden as Joe Mason (Series 17–18, 2007–2010).


SeriesEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
11010 April 1992 (1992-04-10)12 June 1992 (1992-06-12)
21018 April 1993 (1993-04-18)20 June 1993 (1993-06-20)
3103 October 1993 (1993-10-03)5 December 1993 (1993-12-05)
4164 September 1994 (1994-09-04)25 December 1994 (1994-12-25)
5153 September 1995 (1995-09-03)10 December 1995 (1995-12-10)
6171 September 1996 (1996-09-01)25 December 1996 (1996-12-25)
72431 August 1997 (1997-08-31)22 February 1998 (1998-02-22)
8246 September 1998 (1998-09-06)28 February 1999 (1999-02-28)
92426 September 1999 (1999-09-26)5 March 2000 (2000-03-05)
102422 October 2000 (2000-10-22)8 April 2001 (2001-04-08)
112428 October 2001 (2001-10-28)14 April 2002 (2002-04-14)
12256 October 2002 (2002-10-06)18 May 2003 (2003-05-18)
13257 September 2003 (2003-09-07)6 June 2004 (2004-06-06)
14265 September 2004 (2004-09-05)5 June 2005 (2005-06-05)
152611 September 2005 (2005-09-11)2 July 2006 (2006-07-02)
162429 October 2006 (2006-10-29)5 August 2007 (2007-08-05)
172411 November 2007 (2007-11-11)28 September 2008 (2008-09-28)
182412 October 2008 (2008-10-12)12 September 2010 (2010-09-12)

Special programmes


The following is a list of specials made for Heartbeat, most of which were behind-the-scene documentaries. All were later included in DVD boxsets for specific series of the programme:

  • Heartbeat: Changing Places (13 June 1999) – A one-off special, starring Nick Berry and Juliette Gruber, who reprised their roles as Nick and Jo Rowan respectively. This extended episode was initially released on VHS in 1998, before its television debut over a year later. It focused on life for the Rowans after they move to Canada, including Nick's new job as a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The episode was filmed on location in Cochrane, Alberta, which is around 22 miles from the city of Calgary. In Cochrane, Nick discovers a lot of similarites to what he had in Aidensfield, such as a police boss like Blaketon and a female loveable rogue who is similiar to Greengrass. There are also differences, such as the need to use guns in the line of duty, the presence of First Nations people, and the different animals that roam the countryside and bins, such as bears and moose.
  • 10 Years of Heartbeat (14 April 2002): A documentary special to celebrate the programme's tenth anniversary. Past and present members of the cast and crew, along with celebrity guests, 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 the Christmas episodes created for Heartbeat.
  • Heartbeat: Farewell Phil (24 December 2007): A one-off special, commemorating the departure of actor Mark Jordon from the programme, after performing for seventeen series as the character Phil Bellamy. Both the actor and his former colleagues relive moments from the series featuring Jordon's character.
  • In August 2023, the TV Heartbeat Podcast was announced. An 8 part series that will be released weekly on the YouTube channel @TVHeartbeat and will delve into all things Heartbeat with conversations with cast, writers and fans. It is the accompanying podcast to the fan pages on Twitter @TVHeartbeat and Instagram TV.Heartbeat






Across Eller Beck to Goathland railway station
Brow House Farm near Goathland, used as the home of Claude Greengrass (one of the best-known characters from the show's early series, played by Bill Maynard)
Scripps' Garage from the series

The series was filmed at various locations around North Yorkshire. These include shots on the moors and frequent mentions of local roads (like the A171). Exterior scenes of Aidensfield are filmed in the village of Goathland in North Yorkshire, with the village's railway station also appearing occasionally. Other prominent filming locations include Whitby, Otley and Scarborough. The "Heartbeat: Changing Places" special includes location filming in Canada and in series 18, two episodes were filmed on location in Queensland, Australia.[6]



When Heartbeat first began on 10 April 1992 it aired on Fridays at 9.00 pm (on the ITV Network) but from series 2 it was moved to Sunday evenings in the 7.00 pm or 8.00 pm timeslot. All Heartbeat episodes are around 42–51 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.

Heartbeat repeats have appeared on ITV during the summer months (often billed on-screen as "Classic Heartbeat"), typically at 5.00 pm or, in 2006, at 4.00 pm. In 2006, episodes from the first few series were repeated again. Most of the swearing ("bloody", "bastard", etc.) and violence that was present in the early episodes was edited out for these daytime broadcasts.

For several years (as of 2016) Heartbeat reruns from series 11–18 have shown on ITV3, formerly in the original two-commercial-break format and latterly with three breaks. These repeats run daily each weekday lunchtime, with a second airing in an early-evening timeslot. Episodes from different series were shown on ITV3 at weekends.

As of autumn 2015, series 1–10 of Heartbeat was being aired on the then-new ITV Encore channel, which was only available on the Sky TV platform (until ITV Encore ceased broadcasting). These episodes were broadcast at a time when ITV had two commercial breaks and therefore have a running time of around 50 minutes. However ITV Encore has 60-minute programme slots which include three commercial breaks, so some scenes are edited or have been completely removed, purely for timing reasons. An example of this was the series 7 episode 22 "Unconsidered Trifles", in which the scene with PC Mike Bradley and Bernie Scripps herding cows back into the farm shed was completely omitted.

Since ITV Encore's closure in 2018, all series of Heartbeat now air each week day on ITV3.

Home media





Series Year Rank Average audience share
1 1992 Unknown 14.50m
2 1993 Unknown Unknown
3 1993 Unknown Unknown
4 1994 Unknown Unknown
5 1995 Unknown Unknown
6 1996 Unknown 14.60m
7 1997–1998 Unknown 15.82m
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 15th 5.44m (Incl. ITV HD)

Ratings slowly declined after series 13. The schedule was split in half to incorporate the launch of The Royal from Series 12. Series 1 and 2 (1992–1993) aired between April and June, Series 3–6 (1993–1996) moved to the autumn schedule between September and December when there were either 10 or 16 episodes per series. Series 7–11 (1997–2002), comprising 24 episodes, aired between September and March.


  • 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 Street 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

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. Over time, however, the crossovers were dropped and The Royal developed its own identity.



On 5 June 2001, ITV planned cutbacks for dramas such as London's Burning, Heartbeat and Peak Practice to make room for new commissions which could have seen the programme's demise. A spokesman said "The temptation is to just cancel long running shows. But if you do that you can spend years trying to find replacements that achieve the same viewing figures."[7]

Kathleen Beedles, the new producer as of series 18, originally said Heartbeat was expected to continue until at least series 20 (at the time scheduled for 2010–11). 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.[8] Some newspaper reports interpreted this as meaning the show would be permanently cancelled.[9] A report in The Telegraph suggested Heartbeat may return in "a new lower budget form".[10]

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 played PC Younger, said the cast were to be released after series 18, indicating the show had been cancelled and filming had finished.

News of the show's alleged cancellation prompted protests from Heartbeat fans around the world, as well as from communities in the Yorkshire Television region where the series was filmed, and where the Heartbeat-themed tourist trade was seen as an important part of the local economy.[11]

In January 2010, rumours were published that Sky might buy Heartbeat from ITV and take over its production.[12] In February 2010, it was reported that Adam Crozier, the newly appointed ITV chief executive, would be responsible for making the decision about the future of the show.[13] In March 2010, a survey was carried out by the Whitby Gazette, a newspaper local to the area in which the show is set, asking "Do you think that popular ITV show Heartbeat should be axed after 16 years?" 71% of respondents voted "No", 19% voted "Yes" and 10% voted "Don't Care".[14]

Series 18 was unusually protracted. Filming ran from May 2008 to May 2009. It premiered on 12 October 2008 and took a break after the sixth episode, then continued from 19 April 2009 to 14 June 2009. The last nine episodes were shown between 18 July 2010 and 12 September 2010 in the UK,[15] but in Sweden on TV4 from 25 August 2009 to 4 September 2009, and in Denmark on TV 2 Charlie from 16 December 2009 to 24 December 2009. As of 19 May 2023, Heartbeat continues to be aired on TVO in Ontario, Canada.

During the period of uncertainty about the show's future, ITV continued to maintain that reports of the show being "axed" were untrue, saying that production was "taking a rest" so that stockpiled episodes could be aired.[16] However, on 25 June 2010, ITV finally confirmed that the show would be cancelled after series 18, with a spokesman saying "Heartbeat has been an important part of the television landscape over the last 18 years and we are incredibly proud of what it achieved in its heyday as one of ITV1's top rated dramas".[17]


  1. ^ "TV recruits rogue to rival Greengrass". The Daily Telegraph. 19 June 2001. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 26 March 2009.
  2. ^ "Niamh Cusack". TV.com. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 27 May 2015.
  3. ^ "TV AND RADIO – BBC on top in ratings war". BBC News. 28 January 2002. Retrieved 27 May 2015.
  4. ^ "Entertainment – ITV1's Street heads 2003 ratings". BBC News. Retrieved 27 May 2015.
  5. ^ "Why the title of "Heartbeat" was chosen". Archived from the original on 14 March 2006.
  6. ^ "Heartbeat films on the Gold Coast". TV Tonight. 10 September 2008.
  7. ^ "ITV plans drama revamp". Digitalspy.co.uk. June 2001.
  8. ^ "ITV suspends Heartbeat production". BBC News. 25 June 2010.
  9. ^ "Heartbeat axed by ITV after 17 years". Daily Mirror. 29 January 2009.
  10. ^ "ITV to slash drama as profits plunge". The Telegraph. 4 March 2009. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022.
  11. ^ "Heartbeat petition gets Euro MP's signature". Robin Hoods Bay Today. 20 February 2009.
  12. ^ "Sky TV the last chance for Heartbeat?". Whitby Gazette. 5 January 2010.
  13. ^ "New ITV chief faces Heartbeat decision". Whitby Gazette. 2 February 2010.
  14. ^ "Do You Think Popular ITV Show Heartbeat Should Be Axed After 16 Years?". Whitby Gazette. 10 March 2010. Archived from the original on 28 February 2010.
  15. ^ "'No hope' for ITV's Heartbeat after crunch meeting with bosses". Yorkshire Post. 12 March 2009.
  16. ^ "Axing reports untrue". ITV. Archived from the original on 10 April 2009. Retrieved 18 August 2009.
  17. ^ "Heartbeat is axed after 18 years". BBC News Online. BBC. 25 June 2010. Retrieved 9 January 2011.