Articles - Beachcombers, The (Series) (1972-1990)

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Beachcombers, The

From the Kelowna Teleguide, Nov 4, 1973

"The Beachcombers and the Spirit"

The Beachcombers was a "sleeper" series.

Nobody - with the possible exception of producer Philip Keatley and his cast and crew - expected it to capture the public's fancy to such a great degree. But you and other viewers across the country helped make The Beachcombers the top Canadian show of the past season.

And so the CBC brass decided to go for another season.

Filming for this year's 23 episodes began the first week of April at Gibsons, B.C., and - apart from a rainy June and a jinxed fishing boat - shooting has gone quite well, Good weather prevailed throughout April and May, and then the rains came in June. Bad weather hampers filming ... unless you're filming bad weather.

Then there was the Spirit, a fishing boat which crossed everyone up so often that nobody laughed after while. In its first dramatic stint on location at Keats Bay near Gibsons, old Relic, played by Robert Clothier, was supposed to salvage the Spirit after finding it abandoned. It sank with him in it.

After that, whenever they wanted it to float, it sank. Whenever they wanted it to sink, it floated. One day they wanted to sink it, loaded it with 800 pounds of concrete and knocked some holes in the hull. By sunset, it was still afloat and the crew plugged the holes and retired for the night, thinking they'd finish it off in the morning. When they awoke, it was at the bottom of the bay.

Finally, when time had runout and even the expert advice of professional boatmen proved invalid with the Spirit, it was decided to take the boat away on a flatbed truck until the water clears enough (in October) for underwater filming. In one last gesture of defiance, the Spirit rolled off the truck and broke some ribs. And there it lay all summer; a sullen, haunting hulk that had to be repaired for its underwater scenes.

The Beachcombers, starring Bruno Gerussi, is seen Sundays at 7 :00 p.m. on CHBC.

From TV Times Magazine - Mar 6, 1987

Nick returns to Greece in Beachcomber special

"Idyllic." It's the perfect word, the only word possible to describe Bruno Gerussi's life and work at the moment. For six months every year, he lives in Gibsons, B.C., in a big, rambling house "high up on a bluff looking out across the Georgia Strait." The Beachcombers is filmed there, twenty episodes a season, five days shooting, two days off.

This year, to celebrate the show's fifteenth anniversary, executive producer Don S. Williams found some extra time and money in the budget to give the cast and viewers a treat. The whole crew went to Greece, to make a special hour-long episode (Sunday, March 8, 7:00 p.m.).

Nick Adonidas (Gerussi) flies to Greece for a nostalgic visit to the homeland he hasn't seen for many years, taking along his pal Jesse (Pat John).

The tickets have been provided by Nick's old friend Lucas whose life Nick saved during the war. But it doesn't take long for Nick to discover that Relic (Robert Clothier) and Constable John (Jackson Davies) have also made their way to Greece. They have been sent over by Lucas' arch-enemy Diakos who is eager to destroy Nick's good friend. For the rest of the story ... well, watch the show.

Shooting in Greece really was like "coming home." Even though he'd never been to Greece, Gerussi thinks of himself as "very Mediterranean." The show itself doesn't live up to the promise. It has a lot going for it - the naturally photogenic backdrops of Athens and the island of Rhodes, a trio of excellent veteran Greek actors in supporting roles, and a bittersweet romantic interlude for Nick. The show's usual half-hour format demands tight direction and cutting, but this hour-long episode seems looser than usual.

One show that's less than perfect won't kill The Beachcombers. It's a success by the normal standards, as Gerussi notes, "the ratings have always been good and we're seen in over forty countries." But that's not the important thing for Gerussi. The Beachcombers is, he says, a unique mixture of ingredients, "plenty of fun, action and comedy, with no violence, and that's why it has won a special affection from Canadian viewers."

Gerussi leaves no doubt that winning the affection of his fellow Canadians comes first in his heart, over-riding "all the usual frustrations" of the actor's life, the worries about scripts and budgets, pressures of time and concerns about improving his work.

A recently-completed show for PBS in the U.S. is the exception proving the rule about Gerussi - his work is Canadian through and through. He's currently in the midst of "the long and complicated process of trying to assemble all the right elements for a feature film. It will be shot here, with a Canadian cast. We have a script under consideration, but putting all the pieces together is very time-consuming. The main thing is it's now possible to make movies here, the money is available."

From TV Guide - Sept 24, 1988

Adding new spice to the old salts

Recipe for a new Beachcombers: Take one trendy Toronto restaurateur and transplant her in B.C.


They have almost always been there. Longer than some of you have been alive. And next week The Beachcombers starts its 17th season; a new improved version of that crazed tinkertoy calliope theme music will resound through Canadian homes, alerting faithful families that Nick, Relic and Jesse will again be reliably grousing-about some picayune matter. There is evolution, though: Coast. John Constable now has his corporal bars. And there is an intruder this season, a ringer to add new plot complications, and—harrumph—sex appeal.

In Norsal Bay, about 10 minutes out of Gibsons, B.C., via jet boat, the Beachcombers production barge is anchored. All around it are the show's trademark backdrops: 50-foot rock faces, evergreen forest, gravel beach and the turquoise waters of Shoal Channel. The barge is a 60 x 90-foot production office of corrugated aluminum trailers, rimmed with old tire bumpers and battered silver jet boats. At one end, the ugly, chipped black hulk of the Persephone- Nick Adonidas's vehicle of choice- is moored. Bald eagles soar overhead, occasionally plunging to the water to terminate a fish.

Robert Clothier (Relic) snoozes in the late-July afternoon sun. Despite the heat, he wears his battered toque, dirty wool fisherman trousers and a worn mackinaw. On his face is the grandfather of Miami Vice stubble. Alongside, Jackson Davies (John Constable) in full RCMP uniform stands on the bridge of the police boat Tasha II, performing an impromptu choreographed rendition of Gerry & the Pacemakers' "Ferry 'Cross the Mersey." Sitting in the shade of die electrical shed, Bruno Gerussi (Nick Adonidas) gleefully cuts a headline from the newspaper and affixes it to a Polaroid of Davies; it reads, "Gay Mountie Reinstated."

Chuckling at the leg-pulling, Janet-Laine Green, me new blood, roams the barge's perimeter. She's a tiny package in a spaghetti-strap tank top and acid-wash denim pedal pushers. With chin-length blond curls, a tan that brings out her freckles, and a Farrah-like blast of smile, she stands out as frail and feminine amid these old salts.

Familiar to viewers of CBC's Seeing Things- which ended in April 1987- as the tense assistant Crown attorney Heather Redfern and from the tide role of "Chautauqua Girl," Green was also recently seen in the features "Cowboys Don't Cry" and "The Believers"- in which she was electrocuted during the first few minutes. In the hourlong Beachcombers season opener. Green debuts as Dana Battle, recently divorced restaurateur and mother of two. She drives into town wim all her worldly possessions in a U-Haul, ready to transform Molly's Reach into a chichi uptown eatery. Upstairs resident Adonidas, spurred on by the need for new accommodation, has decided to abandon Gibsons in favor of Tahiti. Battle is not prepared for the aged, gutted beancry she unlocks, nor the redneck habitues for which it serves as the hub of me universe.

As plots go, it's a classic Canadian setup: Toronto Cosmo girl set helpless and alone in the backwaters of frontier British Columbia. Sophistication versus the hard life. A late-'80s pioneer tale.

Watching the crew swimming around during a break in shooting. Green explains, "Dana had a trendy restaurant on College Street that did very well, and her husband was an architect who travelled all over the world and just wasn't around all that much; so this is her way to get out of town and start a new life for herself. She's a big-city girl, likes the fast life, has lots of ideas and lots of energy going for her, and she comes into Gibsons thinking, 'OK, I'm going to turn this place into a real tourist area.' But she doesn't know what the town represents. The townspeople see her as somebody who doesn't understand the way of Gibsons, which is 'Wc do things our way, and we do things much slower.' So she really comes up against it.

"She has a very strong reaction to Relic. It's like two cats fighting. They're at opposite ends of the pole, and as the shows go along you see them at loggerheads, but you sec that there's a growing respect."

Presented with this analysis of their characters' dynamic, Robert Clothier cackles. "He's not very fond of her. She represents an outside view of things, which is not Relic's view of the town or what the Reach should be. They're rather at daggers-drawn. Which is kind of fun. There are certain aspects that do amuse him in a sardonic way. But it is something that is going to have to be dealt with, and there comes a time where he does deal with it in no uncertain terms."

All agree that while the women on the show—Rae Brown as Molly, Marianne Jones as Jesse's wife. Laurel, and Charlene Aleck as Sara—have been giving sterling performances when featured, there has been no consistent, dominant female presence in the show. With Brown's retirement from the series in 1986, the time was right to inject a head-turner. "We've been asking for ages to get a good-looking woman to tune in to," says Davies. Gerussi nods, "Seventeen years, that's how long I've been trying to get one on the show. We have some, but she [Green] is an obvious one. She's just a delight to have around, and that reflects on-screen. She has a terrific sensuality."

But now, the big question: Who will become the object of Dana's affections? Green rolls her eyes. "That hasn't been established yet. We're seeing how she reacts to everybody. But I think it would be Bruno's character, if anyone. In the opening show, he's about to give it all up, and he kind of goes, 'Why didn't she walk in here 15 years ago?' Because she's somebody who really does attract him. Nick would be quite a different type of man than she would have been used to in Toronto."

To get the definitive perspective on Nick Adonidas' love life, however, you must go to the wise man at the top of the mountain. Bruno Gerussi's palatial home is the geographical, financial and societal apex of Gibsons. Out by his hot tub, overlooking the town, the man they call "the unofficial mayor [sometimes 'king'] of Gibsons" enjoys a beer and a pastrami sandwich and plumbs a few primordial memories of the time The Beachcombers was conceived.

"Originally the character of Molly was not a grandmother but was a widow who was very independent and very strong; there would be an attraction between her and Nick while there was also a battle between them. But the producers chickened out and turned her into a grandmother. I explained this to Janet, and she said, 'Isn't that interesting.'

"In the show where we first meet, I think, without hitting it over the head, I said, 'You're very much younger and attractive. And I'm a bit long in the tooth now." She said, 'Oh, don't be silly.' And I think even though I'm the age I am [60], and I'm a little bit overweight right now, I still have enough going for me as a guy. There is a chemistry there, and it shows. The audience should see that these two people are attracted to one another.

"Where it's going to go from here I don't know, because it's not been planned. But I can see where she's agreed that we're going to play just an undercurrent of these two people liking each other, and it could go further. Everywhere there's a little twinkle, a little grin. As actors we're establishing that note."

Never fear, though. Should matters wax romantic, they will be dealt with in the most chivalrous manner. No one on The Beachcombers ever loses sight of the younger viewer. Sitting in a tugboat wheelhouse alongside the barge, Jackson Davies takes off his Mountie cap. "I've really changed my outlook about the show," he says. "I've really become involved with the idea of family television. Not a family like the Cosby family. To me that's not a typical Canadian family. Now that I have a 2 Vi -year- old daughter and a 6-year-old boy, I'm really conscious of watching shows that I don't have to be embarrassed by when I'm sitting with my kids. And I don't want unnecessary violence."

At the beginning of last season, the buzz around CBC was that The Beachcombers was going to tackle social issues, become more relevant, focusing on the problems of the cast's teens for instance—troubles with drinking and peer pressure. A couple of shows did deal with those issues, but for the most part there was no revolution. "I think our job on a Sunday night is not to be a kiddie show," says Davies, "but we should just be entertainment, so people can watch, and they can smile or laugh. There may be some social issues, but not too many. You don't want to hit people over the head with bricks.

"I guess there are some things in life that you want to stay pretty much the same and be comfortable with. You may not have too many surprises, but you know you're not going to be disappointed. It may not be the greatest show in the world, but at least we're doing nothing wrong."

Who's to argue? The show's national viewership is constantly over one million, a solid hit by Canadian standards. Plus the show has been sold to over 40 countries and lasted a virtually unheard-of 17 years. Still, cast members bellyache about the lack of promotion for the show and the laissez-faire style of marketing. They all agree, though, that the addition of Green is their best chance to generate some excitement and even attract a few converts.

Gerussi strokes the most rococo beard this side of Reveen the Impossiblist and observes, "1 travel this country a lot and I travel internationally quite a bit, and the recognition and interest in the show is just constant and from all age groups, from kids to grandparents. The public holds it in great affection. I'm sure there are people who say, 'Oh God, I don't watch it any more,' or 'Are you still on the air?' But we've always got another cycle coming. You know a kid that last year was 3 maybe didn't watch, and now he's 4- maybe he's going to watch a little more television. And then when he's three years older, he's going to see the show in a different light again. And there's a terrific teenage following. Parents come in and say, 'You know, such and such an episode brought a subject up, and my kid started talking to us when we'd hardly spoken to one another for weeks.'

"I figure if you get one kid talking to one parent once a month in this day and age, then you've accomplished something. And we do that. And that's one of the reasons why the show is still popular. People keep asking me, 'How long are you going to keep doing this show?' And I say, 'I'm going to keep doing it until we get it right'- which is only half joking."

"I was really surprised at their attitude," says Green. "I thought I'd come onto a show where people would be really bored, tired, not wanting to do it, and it would be like, 'Oh God, we've got to do this a bit more; how many more years?' And when I got here they were having an absolute blast. I was immediately accepted, and people have been happy that I've come here, because I've come in with a whole different energy. That has created another kind of life to the ongoing saga of The Beachcombers." Green's contract is for two years, so Season 18 seems home free.

Robert Clothier, a cast member since the third show, lights a Medallion and leans into the sunlight. "I had no idea that it would last this long; I thought it might last a few years." As to why the show has exceeded his expectations, he nails the factors down in three strokes. "Number one, it is nonviolent, good family fare. Number two, it shows life in a part of our country that many people didn't even know existed. It's one of the most beautiful parts of the country, and that fascinates people. One can't take one's surroundings for granted out here; it's so gorgeous, and it changes all the time. Any shot that doesn't have one of our picture-postcard shots of the surroundings is a dead loss.

"And three, it shows that we don't just export wheat and lumber and fish and Mounties. We are capable of producing something that meets with the taste of others around the world."

Just then, Janet-Laine Green yells out, "Look, everybody, the eagle..." Production ceases, and all eyes raise to follow the massive bird soaring above the barge. After a minute, it disappears into the forest. Everyone grins at one another, then gets back to work on Season 17.

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