Blue Heelers
Also known as Boys in Blue (Working Title)[1]
Format Police, Drama, Crime,and (briefly)Soap-opera 2004–05
Starring See Main cast
Country of origin Australia
No. of seasons 13
No. of episodes 510 (List of episodes)
Location(s) Victoria, Australia
Running time 45 minutes
Original channel Seven Network
Picture format 576i (SDTV),576p (EDTV)
Audio format Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
Original run 18 January 1994 (1994-01-18) – 4 June 2006 (2006-06-04)

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Blue Heelers

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For cops in Mount Thomas, life's about more than the badge

Blue Heelers is an Australian police drama series which depicted the lives of police officers stationed at the fictional Mount Thomas police station in a small town in Victoria.

Overview

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Blue Heelers was produced by Southern Star for the Seven Network. The series dealt with many controversial and "touchy" subjects. The series was also the first to examine the stressful world of young police officers who are invariably "thrown into the deep end where they are left to sink or swim". During its 13-season run it won a total of 32 awards and was nominated for a further 50. This included 25 Logie Awards, five of which were the Gold Logie, the most coveted television award in Australia. Blue Heelers first aired on 18 January 1994 with the episode "A Woman's Place", and last aired on 4 June 2006 with its 510th episode "One Day More".

It was Australia's most popular television drama, drawing more than 2.5 million viewers every week at its peak. It jointly (with Homicide) holds the Australian record for most episodes produced of a weekly prime time drama. It was also almost the longest-running series, however, Homicide lasted one calendar month longer and, due to five feature-length episodes, had more actual on-air time across the 510 episodes.

Blue Heelers also gained recognition worldwide, particularly in the UK, Ireland, New Zealand and Canada, where it had a strong following in syndication. Worldwide, Blue Heelers has been sold to 108 territories.

Blue Heelers launched the careers of many Australian actors such as Lisa McCune, Grant Bowler, Ditch Davey, Rachel Gordon, Tasma Walton, Charlie Clausen and Jane Allsop. While many of these actors are still best known for their character on Blue Heelers, some have gone on to bigger roles. Many major actors of today also called Mount Thomas home, including Hugh Jackman, Charles 'Bud' Tingwell, Peter O'Brien and John Howard. Blue Heelers veterans actors John Wood and Julie Nihill remained with Blue Heelers during its entire 12 year run, portraying Senior Sergeant Tom Croydon and publican, Chris Riley respectively.

Plot

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P.J. Hasham, Tom Croydon and Maggie Doyle



The series primarily focused on the daily lives of Victorian police officers working at a police station in the semi-rural, fictional town of Mount Thomas. Each episode was presented from the perspective of the officers themselves, as opposed to the criminals and various individuals they dealt with. This was a specific technique creator Hal McElroy wanted to employ.

Mount Thomas and police officers—commonly referred to as "Heelers"—were always active, sorting out the town's many problems. These problems ranged from trivial complaints such as land and fencing disputes, to more serious offenses, such as homicides and assaults. The small town was also faced with many other significant occurrences including bank robberies, escaped criminals, police shootings, kidnappings and the acts of many deluded criminals. Of these, one of the more significant events included the bombing of the police station during the show's eleventh season. Whenever overwhelmed, the Heelers would call on the assistance of the police in the nearby, larger town of St. Davids, home of the resident police inspector, Russell Falcon-Price. An antagonist in the series, Falcon-Price often tried to terminate the employment of the Mount Thomas sergeant or to close the entire station.

Along with their police work, aspects of the Heeler's personal lives were regularly featured in the series. The most well-known of these plot arcs is the relationship between colleagues Maggie and PJ which ended in Maggie's death; one of the most watched moments on Australian television to this day. The environment of Mount Thomas Police station was like that of a big family where everybody usually got along. However, like all families, there were always disagreements. These were usually settled over a beer at the bar at the Imperial Hotel, where Chris Riley was always ready to listen.

Casting

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Blue Heelers final cast of 2006

Main cast




Recurring/semi-regular cast


Each episode featured a range of guest cast members, and over the run of the series hundreds of actors featured in these roles.

As well as the main (regular) cast members, a number of well-known Australian actors frequently appeared as either recurring or semi-regular characters. These included Terry Gill as Superintendent Clive Adamson,Neil Pigot as Inspector Russel Falcon-Price,Jeremy Kewley as Mt Thomas journalist Tony Timms,Frankie J. Holden as Snr. Det. Jack Woodley,Catherine Wilkin,Debra Lawrance,Emily Browning,Josh Lawson, along with Suzi Dougherty as Dr. Mel Carter, Peta Doodson as Inspector Monica Draper, Beth Buchanan as Susan Croydon, Michael Isaacs as Clancy Freeman, and the late Reg Evans as Keith Purvis.

Many other notable actors also had one-off or recurring guest roles in Blue Heelers including Shane Bourne,Hugh Jackman,Gerard Kennedy,David Wenham,Marcus Graham,Peter O'Brien,Gary Sweet,Vince Colosimo,Alan Cinis and Alan Dale.

Production

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On average, 42 episodes of Blue Heelers were broadcast per year on Australian television, with each episode comprising fifty scenes. One episode was made every week. The scripts were written to a formula which allowed one day for rehearsal, two days on location and two days in the studio. Episodes were shot eight to ten weeks ahead of their scheduled broadcast date. There were 16 episodes in various stages of production at any one time (from the conception of new storylines to post-production). In addition, there were always seven complete episodes waiting to go to air. Apart from the regular cast members, the show employed 4,300 guest actors annually, plus 30 extras every week. A total of 150 people were involved in some way with the show's production each week, including cast members, crew, wardrobe, publicists and writers.

Conception and development
Blue Heelers creator/producer, Hal McElroy, conceived the idea of Blue Heelers when he heard that a eighteen-year-old friend was planning to become a police officer. Intrigued, McElroy his inquired as to why this young boy, fresh out of school, would want to become a police officer, as opposed to the many other opportunities he had open to him. McElroy soon discovered that, at the time, a staggering 60% of Australian police officers were under the age of 26. This, coupled with McElroy's desire to create a country cop show, formed the basis of the programme. When this same young officer left the force only a year later due to the shooting death of his colleague, McElroy was even more intrigued to learn about the very fickle, yet rewarding job of policing the community. McElroy continued his quest by asking ex-police officer Michael Winter to write down what it was like to be a city cop who transferred to a country town. These became the ideas that Blue Heelers was based around. Michael Winter also conceived the name of the programme by recounting the common names for a country police officer: "tyre-biters"—referring to the fact that country cops are often involved in car chases—and "blue heelers"—referring to their blue uniforms and overall similar appearance and persona to a Blue Heeler dog, a protective and intuitive breed of Australian dog. From the time that McElroy's idea was initially conceived, to the time the programme was ready to air, three years passed.

During Blue Heelers early development, two completely different pilots were shot: one depicting the story from the perspective of a police officer and the other from the perspective of a criminal. When these were presented to the Seven Network, the network committed to 13 episodes of the first pilot. The pilot went on to become the official first episode of Blue Heelers, telling the story of a new cop in town, Maggie Doyle, and her beginnings in Mount Thomas. McElroy chose to discard the second pilot realising it was a fatal mistake to be "with the criminals as they plotted the crime". He also conceived his rule that the producers of the show "couldn't have a camera in a room unless there was a copper there as well" (a rule shared by long-running UK Police drama The Bill). Hence, the basis of the show being from a police officer's perspective became a firm reality.

McElroy tells his police advisor's opinion:

By creating the programme, McElroy and Morphett hoped to close the gap between to police and the public. They hoped to show the human side of the policing and that, like other citizens, police officers have feelings, regrets, aspirations and fears. They also hoped that the show would act as a tribute to the courage of police officers, who risk their lives everyday, never knowing if they'd return home at the end of the day.

Filming locations
Only about half of the footage for each episode was shot on location. Most of the scenes, including scenes in the police station and pub, were filmed inside Stags Head hotel in Williamstown. Much of the filming on location was carried out in towns such as Williamstown, and the more established parts of Werribee. The scenes of the outside of the Mount Thomas police station were actually filmed at the old, disused Williamstown police station, which was then a private residence. Scenes at Mount Thomas High School were filmed at Williamstown High School. The town of Castlemaine was most often used as the backdrop for Mount Thomas, seen in almost every episode. Although the Blue Heelers' pilot was shot in Castlemaine, the cast and crew very rarely returned there to shoot further episodes; the scenes in Castlemaine were usually just generic scenes where no "action" actually takes place. Chris Riley's fictional Imperial Hotel, for example, was actually the real Imperial Hotel in Castlemaine. Mount Thomas' fictional Commercial Hotel was filmed at the Willy Tavern in Williamstown. The second Mount Thomas police station, adopted during the programme's reform of 2004, was filmed at Newport Railway workshops. The Mount Thomas Hospital was filmed at the Werribee Mercy Hospital.

Reception

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Described by critics before its launch as "A Country Practice meets Cop Shop", and as "the contemporary cousin of British cop show, Heartbeat",Blue Heelers was not anticipated by critics to become a hugely popular programme. However, it became a hit TV show soon after it began airing. During most of its broadcast, Blue Heelers was very popular in Australia, regularly attracting up to 2.5 million viewers, and up to 3.5 million viewers at its peak. Throughout the show's broadcast it continually drew a strong audience, regularly appearing among the top-rating prime time programmes on Australian television. Viewership of Blue Heelers never dropped below 1 million viewers. The episodes "Gold" and "Fool's Gold" (episodes 140 and 141), which aired during the programme's fourth season, were two of the most popular Blue Heelers episodes. Each drew 2.5 million viewers, considered a huge achievement in 1997.

Blue Heelers' executive producer, Gus Howard believed the show's popularity was due mainly to the quality of the cast.

Much of the show's sixth season, as well as the first 10 episodes of its seventh season, were the most watched episodes of the series. These episodes focus of the death of Maggie Doyle (played by Lisa McCune). Maggie's being shot and left for dead during episode 255, "One More Day", was ranked by TV Week as the third most memorable moment of a drama series on Australian television.

2004 Revamp: The Station Bombing
After low ratings in 2003 and 2004, the producers and executives of Blue Heelers realised that there were apparent problems which could potentially lead to the series's downfall. In 2004 Blue Heelers lost the top ratings spot to McLeod's Daughters. During 2003 and 2004, Australian television drama was also at its "lowest point in a decade" and many popular shows were cancelled. As the show remained basically unchanged from its debut, ten years ago, the production team decided that a revamp was in order.

Blue Heelers' revamp started with a new opening credits to make it feel more modern in the 21st century taking out the acoustic putting in an electric guitar which started in the beginning of season 11 and also a broadcast of a live episode which did not feature Ben Stewart, played by Paul Bishop, who didn't appear due to film commitments; the episode was titled "Reasonable Doubt", and the producers hoped it would offer a short-term ratings rise and encourage more long-term viewers. Although an immediate success, the live episode did not bring about a sustained increase in ratings. Producers also hoped that a shift in direction, a change of mood and setting, and the addition of four cast members would cement Blue Heelers' long-term future. They also wanted the show to remain relevant and more accurately reflect today's modern world:

The main plot, setting and character changes started in July 2004, with the airing of the episode "End of Innocence". In this episode, the main storyline was the bombing of the Mount Thomas police station. The blast killed popular main character Snr. Const. Jo Parrish (Jane Allsop) and recurring cast member Clancy Freeman, and injured the show's main protagonist, Senior Sergeant Croydon. After the bombing it was revealed that Croydon's wife, the Reverend Curtis, was missing. It was later revealed she had been brutally raped and murdered. These events brought about sweeping changes to the mood of not only Croydon, but also the mood of the entire show. The Daily Telegraph television writer Marcus Casey commented, "Mount Thomas has become a darker, grittier place, the people and cops in it transformed by an invasion of evil". Consequently, the story changed its focus from the old Mount Thomas police station to the new one that was used until the show's cancellation in 2006. The Seven Network feared that in the modern post-9/11 world, a show about country police was no longer what audiences wanted. Storylines of the proceeding five episodes focused on the bombing of the station and the 4 new main characters: Rachel Gordon as Amy Fox, Geoff Morrell as Mark Jacobs, Samantha Tolj as Kelly O'Rourke and Danny Raco as Joss Peroni. Popular former cast member William McInnes also returned to the show, temporarily reprising his role as Nick Schultz. Producers hoped the new tone of the series, the new younger actors, and McInnes's role reprisal would lure back viewers who had stopped watching the programme. This new style of programme that Blue Heelers was embracing was a sign of the show trying to keep up with other larger television shows, particularly the CSI franchise.

The revamp of the series resulted in a 25% ratings increase, bringing the series's weekly viewership to 1.6 million people. Critical response after the event was reassuring, and it appeared that critics were approving of the drastic moves by Seven and Southern Star:

Cancellation
In the hope that viewing would increase, an 11-episode season in 2006 was commissioned by the Seven Network. However, the ratings spike begun in 2004 was not sufficient for the Seven Network to commit to continuing to produce the show. In January 2006, Seven officially announced that they had cancelled Blue Heelers, but would air a final shortened season of 11 episodes in mid-2006. At the time the show was still drawing 1.2 million viewers per week on average, down from the 3.5 million it was drawing at its peak. The announcement was front-page news on nearly all of Australia's major newspapers including The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney's Daily Telegraph, The Melbourne Herald Sun, The Melbourne Age and Brisbane's Courier Mail. Two different endings were shot for the final episode, which finished filming on 20 December 2005. The first ending wrapped up all the show's storylines, while the second left the show open for another season; the first was version was used.

For Blue Heelers' final season, it was moved from its primetime Wednesday-night timeslot, to a lower rating Saturday-night timeslot. In the Saturday timeslot Blue Heelers competed with The Bill, a British police drama which had become quite popular in Australia. This move was slammed by leading cast member, John Wood.Blue Heelers cancellation may also be related to Seven's AFL broadcast, which saw Seven invest $780m for the 5 year broadcasting rights of the game.

Episodes

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Seasons generally ran in Australia from early February to late November. Each season generally consisted of 41 to 42 episodes. The eleventh season however, only consisted of 39 episodes, as the Seven Network had gained the rights to televise the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. In total, 510 episodes were aired: 509 hour-long standard episodes and one live episode. The live episode, titled "Reasonable Doubts", was filmed to celebrate Blue Heelers 10th year on the air. To prepare, the cast was given six days to memorise their lines.

The final episode of the 13th season aired as a 2-hour tribute. It opened with an introduction from John Wood and concluded with a compilation of Blue Heelers moments from over its 13-season run.

Australian television quiz-show, The Weakest Link, hosted by Cornelia Frances, also aired a Blue Heelers special episode on 9 August 2001. Cast members John Wood, Neil Pigot, Ditch Davey, Jeremy Kewley, Jane Allsop, Suzi Dougherty, Paul Bishop, Caroline Craig and Peta Doodson took part in this special event.

SeasonEp. #Season PremiereSeason Finale
Season 14518 January 199422 November 1994
Season 24121 February 199521 November 1995
Season 34112 February 199626 November 1996
Season 44210 February 199725 November 1997
Season 54124 February 199825 November 1998
Season 64210 February 199924 November 1999
Season 7419 February 200022 November 2000
Season 84121 February 200128 November 2001
Season 94113 February 200220 November 2002
Season 104212 February 200326 November 2003
Season 11394 February 20045 November 2004
Season 12422 February 200526 November 2005
Season 13111 April 20064 June 2006


Merchandise

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Blue Heelers DVD release.

The first full Blue Heelers novel, Maggie's Story, was written by Roger Dunn and released in 1997 by Coronet Books. In August 1998, a second novel, Tom's Story, written by Cassandra Carter was released by Bolinda Publishing.

Several episodes of Blue Heelers, including "In The Gun" and "Fair Crack of the Whip" were released on VHS video cassette format in the later 1990s.

DVD releases


Seasons 1–13 of Blue Heelers have been released on DVD with Season 14 due for release on 2 June 2011. The DVD release is only available in Australia and New Zealand. It is not known if the series will be released on DVD internationally.

In November 2005, Paramount Home Entertainment released the Blue Heelers—The Complete First Season box set in Australia in Region 4 DVD format. This was shortly followed by Blue Heelers—The Complete Second Season: Part 1 and Blue Heelers—The Complete Second Season: Part 2, which were released together in December 2005. However, the "seasons", as defined by the DVD releases, are markedly different to the original seasons as they aired on television. It appears that the episodes are being released according to what year the episodes were "produced" in, as opposed to the year they aired. For example: The Complete First Season DVDs contain some episodes from season 1 (1994), while The Complete Second Season contains the remainder of season 1 (1994) episodes and some from season 2 (1995).

In January 2007, Paramount Home Entertainment announced that they would be releasing each already released season of Blue Heelers as one complete set, rather than in two parts as they had done prior. These new sets, rather than being box sets with special slipcase packaging, were now just both parts, packed in a standard DVD case, packaged together in plastic. Each of these DVD sets now consists of 10 or 11 discs, rather than 5 or 6 each. The new sets were released on 15 February 2007.

In July 2009, Southern Star announced that seasons 10 – 13 would be released throughout 2010 and season 14 would be released in early 2011.

Blue Heelers Initial Season Release Dates for Australia (DVD)
DVD NameRelease DateEpisodes
Complete First Season2 November 2005Season 1 episodes 1 -> 17.
Complete Second Season1 December 2005Season 1 episodes 18 -> 45, Season 2 episodes 46 -> 54.
Complete Third Season16 February 2006Season 2 episodes 55 -> 86, Season 3 episodes 87 -> 96.
Complete Fourth Season6 April 2006Season 3 episodes 97 -> 128, Season 4 episodes 129 -> 139.
Complete Fifth Season6 June 2006Season 4 episodes 140 -> 170, Season 5 episodes 171 -> 181.
Complete Sixth Season10 August 2006Season 5 episodes 182 -> 211, Season 6 episodes 212 -> 223.
Complete Seventh Season31 July 2008Season 6 episodes 224 -> 253, Season 7 episodes 254 -> 265.
Complete Eighth Season1 October 2008Season 7 episodes 266 -> 287, Season 8 episodes 288 -> 306.
Complete Ninth Season5 November 2009Season 8 episodes 307 -> 335, Season 9 episodes 336 -> 348.
Complete Tenth Season6 May 2010Season 9 episodes 349 -> 376, Season 10 episodes 377 -> 388.
Complete Eleventh Season5 August 2010Season 10 episodes 389 -> 418, Season 11 episodes 419 -> 428.
Complete Twelfth Season4 November 2010Season 11 Episodes 429 -> 457.
Complete Thirteenth Season3 March 2011Season 12 Episodes 458 -> 499.
Complete Fourteenth Season2 June 2011Season 13 Episodes 500 -> 510.


Awards

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In terms of awards, Blue Heelers is regarded as one of the most successful programmes on Australian television.Blue Heelers has been the recipient of many awards, including 25 Logie Awards, five of which are the prestigious Gold Logie, 3 AFI Television Awards, 3 People's Choice Awards, and 1 AWGIE Awards.Blue Heelers was nominated for a further twelve Gold Logies. Blue Heelers has also won multiple Silver Logies, including numerous Most Popular Actor, Most Popular Actress and Most Popular Programme awards, as well as many Outstanding Awards. Many Blue Heelers cast members have also hosted the Logie Award ceremony. In the 2005 50 Years 50 Shows poll,Blue Heelers was voted 37th greatest show on Australian television and ranked within the top ten dramas.

Blue Heelers award summary
AwardWinsNominations
Gold Logie Awards
53
Silver Logie Awards
2035
AFI Television Awards
34
AWGIE Awards
11
People's Choice Awards
36
Australian Screen Editors' Awards
01
TOTAL
3250


Broadcasting

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Blue Heelers had a strong following not only in Australia, but also worldwide; it has been sold to 108 territories and is shown in over 70 countries.

Australia

Blue Heelers originally aired on Tuesday nights at 7:30 pm on the Seven Network, thus it was limited to a PG content level restriction. When the series was hailed as a success it began the transition from this timeslot to the 8:30 pm timeslot on the same day. After the move, writers could explore more diverse storylines, as the show was restricted to an M rating. The third and fourth season premiers aired on Monday nights during the 8:30 pm timeslot, but the show moved back to its original slot before the next episode. In its fifth season, Blue Heelers moved to the Wednesday night 8:30 pm timeslot, which it occupied for most of its run, until the end of its twelfth season. This move was made to make way for hospital drama All Saints.

Starting in 2004, the Seven Network aired Blue Heelers in their weekday "early days drama" slot at 2:00 pm. They aired all the episodes of Blue Heelers, starting from its first season. In this slot, Blue Heelers was a replacement for the broadcast of the early episodes of Home and Away. Blue Heelers concluded airing in this slot in 2007, with the broadcast of its final episode, and made way for the broadcast of early episodes of All Saints.

Blue Heelers has also screened on Foxtel The Hallmark Channel in Australia in various timeslots.

 New Zealand

In New Zealand Blue Heelers screened on TV One in a popular timeslot. However, following the on-screen death of Maggie Doyle, ratings fell, and the show was moved to a 9:30 pm slot on Friday. Following that, the show moved to a late night Thursday slot where the rest of the episodes played out, with the show beginning anywhere between 11:30 pm and midnight. It aired its final episode on TV One on 20 March 2008.

Ireland

Irish broadcaster RTÉ originally began airing Blue Heelers on Friday afternoons at 4:30 pm. Episodes were only a few months behind the Australian broadcast. The series took a two year break in 2000, before re-commencing in a five-day-a-week timeslot at 10:30 am in early 2002. The show quickly caught up with the Australian broadcast; by 2004 the show was scaled back to the original one episode a week, and moved to a late night Thursday–early Friday morning timeslot, typically around 1:00 am. RTÉ commenced broadcasting the final season on 30 May 2008 in a late night Saturday–early Sunday morning timeslot. RTÉ screened the final episode on 30 November 2008. RTÉ began re-airing Blue Heelers weekly from episode one, commencing on 24 June 2009, usually around 4 am. RTÉ screened all episodes in their original unedited state. The drama proved very popular in Ireland and rated very well.

United States of America

Blue Heelers aired briefly in the United States of America in the early 2000s on the short-lived cable channel Trio (carried primarily by DirecTV). No episode after number 76 was ever shown in the United States, and when Trio changed their programming in 2004, Blue Heelers was dropped from the schedule.

Canada

Blue Heelers was broadcast on Showcase in Canada, last airing on 15 May 1998.

 Iran

Blue Heelers is broadcasting on IRIB. All episodes were dubbed in Persian.

Italy

In Italy Blue Heelers was broadcast on Italia 7 Gold (now called 7 Gold), from the 1st to the 6th season. All episodes were dubbed in Italian.

UK

In the United Kingdom the series was broadcast on most stations on the ITV Network. Many companies tended to screen the show as hour-long episodes in the afternoon (occasionally with necessary edits to suit the time slot), however Central Television started with a late night 11:40 pm slot before following other regions with a typically 2:20 pm slot.

In Britain, Carlton Television often showed the episodes in two halves, as was common with other Australian soap operas in London. Several regions including Yorkshire Television and Tyne Tees Television chose not to import the show. When the ITV contractors reformated as one company in 2002, regionally-run programmes such as Blue Heelers (which were at different points of the series in each region) disappeared from screens. No ITV region ever screened the series in full.

The show also aired on UK cable channel Carlton Select in the late 1990s, first screening the early episodes daily and then in a weekly slot Fridays at 8:00 pm as episodes became more recent. Episodes to the later part of the 1997 season were shown before the series was dropped.

Blue Heelers was also aired on Meridian Television and Channel Television, typically Mondays at 2:20 pm, but some episodes also aired in a morning slot during school holidays. On Westcountry Television Blue Heelers was broadcast beginning 3 January 1995 at 2:50 pm in half-episode format.

Scottish Television (STV) aired hour-long episodes, airing on Fridays, and then later on Tuesdays. STV dropped Blue Heelers after episode 10.

Ulster Television (UTV) began airing Blue Heelers in early 1995. The show initially screened 3 times a week, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons at 1:50 pm. They then moved it to the 2:20 pm slot later in the series. A few episodes also ran at 11:40 pm on Thursday nights, as they were considered unsuitable for daytime viewing. UTV cancelled Blue Heelers in 1998.

See also

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  • List of Australian television series
  • Mount Thomas
  • Victoria Police


Some of the content on this page has been provided by the following page on Wikipedia.org: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Heelers


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