Liam Rudden: There’s been a murder! Celebrating Taggart’s 35th

Mark McManus and James MacPherson in Taggart
Mark McManus and James MacPherson in Taggart
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THERE’S been a murder! 35 years ago last Thursday, a new crime drama was unleashed on viewers of ITV.

Made by STV, the three-part serial called Killer was written by Glenn Chandler and starred Mark McManus as Detective Chief Inspector Jim Taggart.

The longest running crime drama in the history of British television had started, although it wouldn’t be until a further series was commissioned that it would adopt the name of its central character.

Taggart ran for 27 series, a total of 110 episodes, ending with the appropriately titled The Ends of Justice, broadcast on STV on the 7 November 2010, although English viewers had to wait until 22 February the following year for the final instalment.

That it survived for so long is largely a testament to its Edinburgh-born creator Glenn Chandler.

Without the strong foundations he laid over the first 15 series, there’s little doubt it would have been unlikely to enjoy the longevity it did, even as it became a pale shadow of its former self towards the end.

Glenn’s early scripts were dark, twisting and littered with grizzly murders, rightly earning him the nickname ‘God-father of Tartan Crime Noir’.

The gritty realism of his stories even inspired the Nordic Noir genre that became so popular some three decades later.

The impact of those early episodes were such that, combined with the brilliance of McManus in the lead role, Killer was indeed recommissioned despite initially being a one-off.

More so, when McManus passed away suddenly on 6 June 1994, the show had become so iconic that cancellation was never an option.

His last episodes - again an apt title, Prayer For The Dead - was broadcast between 11 and 25 January 1995.

McManus’ legacy saw actors come and go in the lead roles, but it is a celebration of those formative years that will have fans heading West later this month.

On 26 September, 7.15pm, at The Seamore Neighbourhood Cinema in Glasgow’s Maryhill, Taggart ‘83: A 35th Anniversary Screening plus Q&A will give fans a rare chance to watch Killer on the big screen.

Glenn too will be on hand to answer all those questions you’ve been dying to ask.

So, if you want to witness the birth of a Scottish TV legend in the company of cast and crew, including producer Robert Love, visit www.theseamore.org/events/taggart-pilot-screening. Tickets just £5.

Having worked with Glenn over the years, one thing is certain, the Q&A should prove an eye-opener, he has a myriad of tales from behind the camera.

It wasn’t unknown for him to do a ‘Hitchcock’ either. Watch the early episodes closely and there is every chance you will spot him on screen alongside many of the now famous guest stars who were just starting out when they appeared in Taggart.

@LiamRudden