The Beachcombers

1972 - Canada

The Beachcombers was an immensely popular family adventure series which aired on CBC from 1972 to 1990. The series holds the distinction of being the longest-running drama on Canadian television. Developed by Marc and Susan Strange, along with its first Executive Producer, Philip Keatley, and a group of talented West Coast writers, The Beachcombers was set in and around the port of Gibsons Landing, on British Columbia's beautiful Sunshine Coast. The storyline was based on a simple premise; that for $5 anyone could get a licence to beachcomb logs and sell them for half their market value to a logging consortium. The first episode, 'Partners' introduced us to all the main characters, most memorably the burly Greek logger Nick Adonidas (Bruno Gerussi) owner of the Persephone, and his Aboriginal partner Jesse Jim (Pat Johns) who had originally been hitchhiking down the Canadian coast with the intention of going all the way to South America, when he met Adonidas, befriended him and formed a partnership that would see them both through 19 TV seasons. 

Nick, as the central character, needed a foil, and he had one in the shape of the irascible, curmudgeonly, unscrupulous rival scavenger, Relic (Robert Clothier) who would go to great lengths to steal business away from Nick. The series also focused on a supporting cast of characters often centring around a cafe, Molly's Reach, run by Molly (Rae Brown), a mother figure to virtually all the characters in the series. Molly had two grandchildren living with her, Hughie (Bob Park) and his younger sister Margaret (Nancy Chapple). The format of the show was a good mixture of character, physical action, comedy and location filming that sometimes gave the series the feel of a documentary or travelogue and scenes of fishing, logging and beachcombing gave it an international appeal enabling CBC to syndicate it around the world. It was particularly popular in Britain in spite of being sold (by ITV) to UK audiences as a children's series (it was initially broadcast on Saturday mornings and later on weekday mornings and some afternoons) and also found fanbases in America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Ireland and East Germany (The German version of the series was titled Strandpiraten). 

The show also used Canada's multi-cultural diversity to good effect providing opportunities to explore different cultures - Greek, Aboriginal, German, Italian, Japanese, Dutch, East Indian, Swedish and British characters all featured. During the run of the series, storylines became more complex as the characters developed (Relic, a ruthless character, was later shown to have been brought up by his loveless Welsh coalmining family and despised by his father) and writers and producers occasionally used down-beat endings, shaking up the standard practice in this type of TV drama. The series' title was shortened to Beachcombers for its final season which ended with one hour-special. After 19 years and 387 episodes, Beachcombers was cancelled, and replaced by the American sitcom Sydney. Not a bad run for a series that CBC thought would last 3 years at most. 

A TV Movie was produced in 2002; The New Beachcombers was an unsuccessful attempt to revive the series - only two of the original cast appeared, Bruno Gerussi had passed away in 1995, Robert Clothier in 1999 and Rae Brown passed away in 2000 in her late 80s. Even 8 years after the series was cancelled the show maintained its unique place in the Canadian television landscape; a 1998 TV Guide website audience survey placed The Beachcombers as the most popular CBC TV Show of All Time. 

Published on November 29th, 2018. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.

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