1 9 7 2 – 1 9 9 0 (Canada)
324 x episodes
The Beachcombers was in production for 19 years – the longest-running drama in Canadian television history.
The family adventure series featured the adventures of Nick Adonidas (Bruno Gerussi) – a licensed beachcomber on the North West Coast of British Columbia, his young Native partner Jesse Jim (Pat Johns), and his irascible, curmudgeonly, unscrupulous adversary and rival beachcomber, Relic (Robert Clothier) who would go to great lengths to steal business away from Nick.
Working from the port of Gibson’s Landing, Nick runs the Persephone into the inlets of the Sunshine Coast.
The series also focused on a supporting cast of characters often centring around a cafe called 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 combination of characters and rugged locations strongly appealed to audiences abroad and the format focused on physical action – boat chases, storms, rising tides, various rites of passage, a long-distance swim or taming a wild dog.
Comedy was also part of almost every episode, and there was often a documentary flavour to the scenes of fishing, logging and beachcombing.
The show also used Canada’s multicultural diversity. Germans, Italians, Japanese, Dutch, East Indians, Swedes and British characters all provided opportunities for new plot developments.
As Jesse Jim matured he was joined by a small sister, Sara, who also grew up on the show. He then married a widow, Laurel, whose son, Tommy became the resident child.
Other running characters were Gus McLoskey, Captain Joe, and teenage homeless lad, Pat O’Gorman.
One of the most popular of the continuing characters was Constable John, the well-meaning but clumsy member of the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police). He very seldom used a gun or made an arrest.
The basic premise of The Beachcombers demanded that Nick remain a volatile Greek, unattached and available for many interesting women. Relic was his clever, unscrupulous, abrupt, antagonist for 19 years. Born to a loveless Welsh coal-mining family, Relic was despised by his father.
The series used two primary strategies. The first was to use topical issues – the recurring issue of the confiscation of Japanese fishing boats during World War II, logging practices, or First Nations’ land claims. The second strategy revolved around conflicts between Relic and various other characters.
In a late attempt to boost ratings, a displaced urban mum, Dana, and her son, Sam, took over The Reach. But urban/small town conflicts did not interest the audience.
The writing became tired and the plots full of pumped-up action sequences.
The series’ title was shortened to simply Beachcombers for its final season and ended with a rather lifeless 60-minute special.
To this day, the re-runs and worldwide syndication of Beachcombers represent Canada and Canadians to millions of viewers around the world.
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 as Bruno Gerussi had passed away in 1995, Robert Clothier in 1999 and Rae Brown passed away in 2000.