By the time ITV pulled the plug on Taggart in 2011 it had become the longest-running crime drama on British television.
First broadcast in 1983, the show was created for STV by Edinburgh-born Glenn Chandler. Debate has raged in subsequent years over whether Taggart owes a debt to the classic Laidlaw series of detective thrillers written by William McIlvanney.
Regardless, the series soon became a hit. The title character, hard-bitten Detective Chief Inspector James “Jim” Taggart, was played with relish by former boxer Mark McManus until his death in 1994.
The show continued and Taggart’s right-hand man, Michael Jardine, played by James MacPherson, stepped up to the rank of DCI until his on-screen death in 2002 led to the casting of Alex Norton as Matt Burke.
MEETING OUR MAN
In what is still regarded by fans as one of the best episodes, the 1983 pilot Killer is when we first meet Taggart - wearing a dressing gown with ‘Big Daddy’ on the back - in the family living room complaining to wife Jean about the late hour daughter Alison returned home. It was this domestic setting, a valuable counterpoint to the grim wastelands where corpses are regularly found, that provided many of the vital sub-plots in subsequent episodes.
A SAW HEAD
Taggart generally had at least one murder per episode and the manner of death could range from the mundane to the genuinely gruesome. In 1994’s Hellfire, we see a character slain on Walpurgis Night by a chainsaw-wielding murderer in an episode that took the series’ dark elements to a new extreme.
Fans were shocked at the sudden departure of McManus following his death in 1994, but a second DCI would leave less than a decade later. James MacPherson, as Jardine, was the show’s star until 2002 when ill-health forced him to step down from the role. In a shocking scene, the detective is lured to the edge of the River Clyde by a recently released prisoner. The ex-con then assaults Jardine, prompting him to fall in the river and drown.
Blythe Duff was the longest-serving member of the cast when the show ended in 2011. Fans had watched her character Jackie Reid climb the ranks from uniform to detective inspector despite the often antiquated views of older male colleagues. On several occasions, Reid proved her impressive self-defence skills - such as in 2008’s Lifeline when she breaks the foot of a killer who has broken into her house.
OK STIRLING, OOT THE CAR
Taggart had a no-nonsense reputation on-screen, but McManus proved he had a funny side with a memorable appearance on the long-running BBC sketch show Scotch & Wry. Rikki Fulton’s gormless traffic cop pulls over Taggart - and is quickly enlisted by the detective to help on a ‘stakeoot’. In one moment, Fulton’s character expresses his surprise at Taggart’s occupation. “A polisman? A wee runt like you?”