BBC SCOTLAND is reporting that the first episode of River City, which is made in Dumbarton at the former Strathleven Bonded warehouses site aired on the national channel 24 September 2002.
Since then, it has transmitted 1344 episodes, and had 19 weddings, 11 births, 46 deaths and 22 murders.
The show’s villain Lenny Murdoch has had 13 attempts on his life. Nine of those “killed” off, will return in a special anniversary episode which will be available from Monday.
BBC Scotland’s flagship soap has launched hundreds of careers and is a training ground for television talent.
Series producer Martin McCardie, started out as an actor.
“I played Lenny Murdoch’s friend, arrested in the first season,” he said. “Technically I’m still in jail.”
He returned as a writer in 2005 and said the show had lasted for 20 years because it was able to adapt.
“It’s went through a lot of different incarnations”, he said.
“Going from half hours to hours, back to half hours again, different writers, different actors, different stories, different ways of doing it, and that’s one of the reasons it’s lasted because it has changed and adapted as it’s gone along.”
Over the years, River City has both helped launch careers – such as Outlander’s Sam Heughan – and also hosted established actors on its set in Dumbarton such as Stefan Dennis, known for playing Paul Robinson in Neighbours.
Una MacLean, Dawn Steele and Alison Peebles have all played key roles. Susan Boyle, Lorraine Kelly and Judy Murray have all had cameos.
Although some people have been able to use the programme as a stepping stone into other work, it has also been valuable at keeping Scottish talent in Scotland.
Mr McCardie said: “”For somebody like me, when my family were small, when they were growing up I wanted to work in Scotland and a lot of my time before that was working elsewhere.
“This place gave me the opportunity to work in Scotland and be here for my children growing up and that’s a massive thing for me that I was able to do that because of River City.”
It is not just onscreen where change has taken place. River City has become an important part of the screen industry.
A report by Screen Scotland in June showed the TV and film industry contributed almost £568m to Scotland’s economy in 2019 and the Scottish government hopes that can double to £1bn by the end of the decade.
“There’s more work in Scotland than I’ve ever known in my lifetime in television and television drama and that’s challenging for us,” says Mr McCardie.
“We bring people through and then they move on to those other shows as well so we’ve got to continually bring people through the system, we have to plan that ahead.
“You’re always looking for new writers, new camera operators, you’re looking for DOPs (directors of photography), you’re looking at succession planning all the way through.”
A 20th anniversary episode will be aired at 22:00 on Monday as part of the celebrations.
The one-off special see Bob drinking from a mystical bottle of alcohol and waking up with his best friend Angus, in a multiverse where many of the lost friends from their past still exist.
Stephen Purdon, who plays Bob, is the only original cast member from 2002 still working on River City.
He said: “I was just kind of in and out every few episodes, every two or three episodes coming in for a bit of comedy relief.”
Having started the role at the age of 19, he said it’s “overwhelming and humbling” to take such a central role in the anniversary episode.
“When I look back to my younger self still living with my mum and coming here as a young boy and to think now that I’m married with two kids and I’ve been here 20 years, I guess it’s mind-blowing when I say that actually.
“Bob has grown up as a character and I’ve grown up as a person as well.”
Picture top of page: Some of the staff of Strathleven Bonded Warehouses which closed before River City was utilised by BBC Scotland as the site for its soap opera.