April 11, 1980: The Gentle Touch

The_Gentle_Touch-1980.jpgThe Gentle Touch is a British police drama television series made by London Weekend Television for ITV which ran for five series from 1980–84. The series is notable for being the first British series to feature a female police detective as its leading character, ahead of the similarly themed BBC series Juliet Bravo by four months.

The series starred Jill Gascoine as Detective Inspector Maggie Forbes, who has worked her way up through the ranks of the police force and is based at the Seven Dials police station in London. Maggie’s husband, a police constable, is murdered during the first episode, leaving her to juggle her career with single parenthood, raising her teenage son.

The Gentle Touch largely dealt with routine police procedures and offered a frank depiction of relevant social issues (including racism, sexism, homosexuality, mental health and euthanasia). It was low on action and violence in comparison to previous crime series such as The Sweeney, opting for a more realistic and character-driven approach. Although the series mostly focused on Maggie’s professional life in a male-dominated field, it also showed her home life with her son Steve, as well as her occasional romantic involvements which sometimes clashed with her job. In real life Jill Gascoine could not drive so when Maggie had to be seen driving the scenes would be shot using a car towed behind the camera truck.

The Gentle Touch was a ratings success in the UK, where it was screened on Friday nights in a 9.00pm slot (except for the final series which was shown on Saturday nights). One episode shown in January 1982 garnered over 18 million viewers and was the 5th most watched television programme in Britain that year.[1] The Gentle Touch made Gascoine a household name and ran for five series until 1984, however the character of Maggie Forbes lasted longer and she returned in 1985 in the more action orientated spin-off series C.A.T.S. Eyes (also created by Terence Feely) about a team of female detectives in Kent who covertly work for the Home Office. [Wikipedia]

See more at BFI ScreenOnline.

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