Sunday, 28 June 2015
First watched : June 1974
This is the first World Cup I remember although I actually watched very little of it, perhaps no more than a portion of one match involving one of the Germanys. It was too nice outside. My interest in football was still a few years away from fully forming.
What I do recall is the publicity around Scotland qualifying and their chart hit "Easy Easy " which went "Yabba Dabba Doo. We support the boys in blue because it's easy - easy !" I remember hearing about their elimination and not understanding how they could be knocked out when they hadn't lost any of their games ( a first for the Finals ). Manager Willie Ormond gets some stick for giving a sentimental last cap to 34-year old Denis Law against whipping boys Zaire ( the last African side to look seriously out of their depth at the Finals ) but the whole team took it too easy and didn't press them hard enough. Even so Brazil still had to rely on an awful error by the Zaire keeper to go through at the Scots' expense.
The other thing I remember is all the talk about the Dutch superstar Johann Cruyff who was staking a good claim to be the best player in the world. Unfortunately he was also petulant and declined to play in 1978. The Dutch didn't qualify in 1982 so he became a one tournament wonder.
Friday, 26 June 2015
First watched : 24 May 1974
Well here's another case of memory playing tricks : I'd have sworn blind this was on ITV and broadcast much earlier, around the time of Ace of Wands and Pardon My Genie.
The Small World of Samuel Tweet was a vehicle for comedian Freddie "Parrot Face" Davies, the grandson of a music hall comedian. He made his name on Opportunity Knocks in 1964 with a shaggy dog story about a pet shop and was still mining the scenario for laughs ten years later with these two short and never-repeated series about a pet shop owner with a thing for birds. Freddie's gimmicks were a black Homburg rammed as low as he could get it and a splutter every few words. Even back then I thought he was f**king awful and I very much doubt the series has aged well ( two episodes at least have survived ).
Freddie was something of an anachronism even at the time and after the series ended in 1975 he started slipping out of view. He started moving into entertainments management while maintaining a presence on TV with a semi-regular spot on Punchlines. The failure of his company in the mid-eighties forced him to work for a time on American cruise ships.
When he returned to the UK in the nineties he sought to re-position himself as a straight actor with great success. He had regular roles in Harbour Lights and Born and Bred . He appeared in the 1995 film Funny Bones based on his grandfather and in one of the Harry Potter films.
Freddie published his autobiography last year and at 77 is still treading the boards as a comedian in regional theatres. He is by all accounts a really nice guy so long may he continue.
Wednesday, 24 June 2015
First watched : Uncertain
The lack of any stills knocking about and a very terse summary on TV Cream would suggest that my own reaction to this Blue Peter spin-off was widely shared. I thought it was an unwarranted intrusion into the children's TV schedules of adult material. Blue Peter's most boring presenter doing po-faced interviews with mostly boring people in front of a bunch of swotty-looking kids was an immediate invitation to change channels. Singleton was probably the first TV face I actively hated and I wouldn't have included this here except I'm pretty sure I would have watched the Les Gray ( of Mud ) edition broadcast on 7th May 1974 even if I can't remember anything about it.
The show ran for three series of six programmes each between 1973 and 1974* . It was probably the high water mark of Singleton's career though she was pretty active on radio and TV for the next two decades and has always participated in the various Blue Peter anniversary programmes. She's now 78 and lives in Dorset.
* In 1980 her successor on Blue Peter , Lesley Judd, hosted the very similar In The Limelight With Lesley but only five programmes were made.
Monday, 22 June 2015
First watched : 1974
My mum loved this guy and always sang his praises but it was 1974 before he was on at a time when we could stay up and watch him.
I half-enjoyed it because I didn't know who many of his targets were. I'd never heard of Robin Day or Alf Garnett and only became aware of the politicians in a meaningful way after we'd done some work on newspapers at school at the beginning of 1976. Like most people watching I was also exasperated when he broke the spell with "And this is me" then proceeded to do some variety club number in his bog standard voice, a bad guest on his own show ! Nevertheless Yarwood was insanely popular ; his Christmas show in 1977 had half the UK population tuning in and set a light entertainment record that's never likely to be beaten.
Mike Yarwood's subsequent slide into obscurity has been much discussed . He's still only 74 yet has been largely off screen for decades; only Simon Dee stands out as a more famous casualty. A common explanation has it that his decline started with the rise of Margaret Thatcher. I remember him early on trying to do her himself then wisely turning the job over to Janet Brown. I don't think that holds much water actually.
Much more damaging was his jump to ITV in 1982 where he never got the same ratings leaving him vulnerable as a new generation of satirists started to take over . They didn't want to lightly tease and appear with the politicians like Mike; they wanted to be sued by them. When Spitting Image got going in 1984 he looked hopelessly out of touch and it's no coincidence his show was cancelled the same year.
By his own admission Mike didn't take the decision well. His confidence shredded, he took to the bottle to control his stage fright . In 1985 his marriage broke up and in 1986 he was banned from driving for being three times over the limit. In 1990 he had a heart attack and was forced to become teetotal. He entertained hopes of a comeback and perfected a John Major impersonation but now he was up against Rory Bremner and faced the same problem as all older impressionists - young guys can impersonate their elders convincingly but it doesn't work the other way round. He was simply too old to do Tony Blair.
In the early nineties he retired from stage work to spend more time with his family and contented himself with odd guest appearances on TV e.g Have I Got News For You . Although he was treated at The Priory for depression in 1999 he's generally been able to discuss his rise and fall in a good humoured way on nostalgia shows and will always be fondly remembered by people my age and beyond.
Sunday, 21 June 2015
First watched : Uncertain
I might have caught this earlier but it was Friday evenings from May 1974 when I started watching it regularly.
It's A Knockout was a strange show for the BBC to be broadcasting and it was probably the fact that it was an international competition like the Eurovision Song Contest that persuaded the bosses to give it the go ahead. It had been running since 1966 and the basic premise was that teams of ordinary, but reasonably fit, people would compete against each other in silly games that usually involved either dressing in ludicrously impractical costumes or falling in giant inflatable pools. It started off with regional heats in Britain with teams from particular towns - I've no idea how the selection process was organised- battling it out and then the winners went to Europe for the international contest under the title "Je Seux Frontiers".
For better or worse the show is remembered for the manic presenting style of compere Stuart Hall whose laughter at the slapstick sometimes sounded genuinely deranged. Now I'm going to put my head over the parapet here and say I still have a certain amount of sympathy for Stuart Hall. Most of the crimes he admitted to ( and let's not forget that which puts him alone among the celebrity offenders ) were minor and the more serious ones were committed within a close circle of family friends in a short time frame when Hall seems to have had some sort of mid-life crisis. None were more recent than 1986. He doesn't deserve to be bracketed with Jimmy Savile. Yes he was foolish to make that speech outside the court but at the time he was being charged with a rape that later got dropped and expecting a guy in his mid-eighties to exercise good judgement under such strain is a big ask.
Anyhow I enjoyed the programme at the time but gradually my interest fell away and I wasn't still watching when it was axed as a regular series in 1982. Thereafter it has been periodically revived in one-off specials most notoriously in 1989 when the BBC ill-advisedly allowed failed paratrooper Edward Windsor to launch his so-called broadcasting career with a special Royal edition. Even without Hall's damaged rep, his interview, dressed as Henry VIII ,with a clearly highly reluctant Princess Anne would stand out as a buttock-clenching embarrassment. And of course Edward's flouncing out when reporters failed to hail him as the new Lew Grade for reviving a camp old favourite with his famous relatives has been identified as a key moment in the British media's loss of deference towards the Royal Family.
Nevertheless the revivals have continued including a two year run on Channel 5 around Millennium time and a recent revival on the BBC in a flimsy disguise as Total Wipeout.
Saturday, 20 June 2015
First watched : Uncertain
This one first moved over from BBC2 to BBC1 at the end of April 1974 but I might have caught it earlier. I do remember that long before I actually saw an episode of this I was familiar with Ben Murphy who was never out of the teen magazines my sister and I were buying from 1973 onwards.
There was a not exactly good reason why co-star Pete Duel wasn't featuring. He had committed suicide ( probably my first introduction to the concept ) on New Year's Eve 1971. Inevitably there's been silly speculation around it but the facts seem pretty clear. He was a pretty moody guy with a long standing alcohol problem, couldn't enjoy himself on set ( he and Murphy didn't speak off camera ) and was getting depressed over the show's falling ratings. After a couple of drinks that evening he went into his living room and shot himself.
The show was based on Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid ( Murphy was cast for his resemblane to Paul Newman ) with Smith and Jones the aliases of Hannibal Heyes ( Duel ) and Kid Curry ( Murphy ) who were outlaws on the run but really just trying to stay out of trouble until it became politically possible for them to be pardoned. The drama came from their interaction with the guest stars in which ever town they visited - a formula also used in The Incredible Hulk and The A-Team to name but two.
Duel's death has cast a long shadow over the series and you rarely hear anyone mention it these days ( although it was re-run as recently as 1997 ) . Astoundingly, Universal contacted the series ' narrator Roger Davis the same day instructing him to take over the role and they were re-shooting scenes with the rest of the cast before h'd even been buried. It was more bad publicity for an already struggling series and poor Davis had no chance. The show was cancelled at the beginning of 1973.
Murphy re-surfaced in the short-lived Gemini Man in 1976 and has continued working down to the present day in TV but has never recaptured the high profile he had with this.
Thursday, 18 June 2015
First watched : 19 April 1974
Well here's another one dragged from the outer edge of the memory banks. I don't think I've given this one a second thought since it was last broadcast nearly forty years ago.
The series transplanted everybody's favourite collie to a fictitious national park Thunder Mountain run almost singlehanded by the Persil-white Turner family, the youngest kid being blind for an extra yuk factor. Lassie and her motley band of animal buddies such as Toothless the mountain lion were the Rescue Rangers helping the Turners plus docile Indian Gene Fox protect life and limb from natural disasters and the usual tame criminals.
It was the first time I'd heard of Lassie but in America it followed directly on from the cancellation of the long -running live action series and was coolly received to say the least. Only 15 episodes were made . Even without that cross to bear it was poor stuff. Made by Filmation rather than Hanna-Barbera the animation was cheap and repetitive and the scripts were tame and boring making it very easy to forget.
Saturday, 13 June 2015
First watched : 1974
This is a fairly fuzzy memory now - bra-less Susan Stranks fresh from her stint in Magpie with a lunchtime programme for pre-school tots making objects from household waste assisted by the coloured spiders Itsy and Bitsy. I know a lot of older guys have wistful memories of Stranks ( now unbelievably 76 ) but I was still a bit young to note her.
First watched : 1974
Despite the still above, I just caught the tail end of the Polly James era when BBC moved it to the 18.50 pm time slot towards the end of her lat series.
The series marked the TV debut for housewife-turned-writer Carla Lane initially in tandem with Myra Taylor. It was developed from a 1969 pilot under the Comedy Playhouse banner. The premise of the series was that two young working girls shared a flat in Liverpool and dealt with boyfriends , work and family as well as the strains of living with each other. Initially it starred Pauline Collins and Polly James but only ran for four episodes due to Polly's theatre commitments. By the time she was free to resume Collins was the star of Upstairs Downstairs and had to be replaced by a new character Sandra played by Welsh actress Nerys Hughes. Along with Sandra came her overbearing mother Mrs Hutchinson played by Mollie Sugden.
Polly James left at the end of the fourth series when her character Beryl got married. It was her own choice, believing that Beryl was becoming a bit of a caricature. She would continue in acting both on stage and on screen until the early noughties but would never have as high a profile again.
She was replaced by Elizabeth Estensen , as the younger but equally loud Carol. The show took a new direction by giving Carol an extended family who were regularly involved in the storylines most memorably Michael Angelis in his breakthrough role as her hippy brother Lucien who was obsessed with rabbits. They became the main reason for watching the show with the downside that Sandra came to be seen as a rather wet and straight character by comparison.
I'm not sure if I watched the series down to its end in early 1979 or not. After a quiet period Nerys Hughes went on to equal success in The District Nurse in the eighties Estensen also had long spells out of the spotlight until resurfacing in Coronation Street in 1996 and then Emmerdale ( it took weeks before I recognised her ) where she remains. Angelis's impact can be gauged by the fact that Lucien was brought back for the ill-received reprise in 1996 but as Beryl's brother. That series passed by me entirely.
First watched : 1973-74
I'm not sure whether we watched this at school throughout the academic year or even if it was on for more than one term but I have a particular memory that places it in that time frame. Picture Box was presented by former Coronation Street actor Alan Rothwell ( the luckless David Barlow ) who was there to provide an introduction to a short film sourced elsewhere in the world. You never knew quite what to expect and of course interest in the contents varied greatly from one week to another.
The one I remember oddly enough is the one I didn't really watch. I had got in the habit with my friend Patrick where I would write the name of four cars from my Matchbox collection in a little notebook during lessons and then pass it under the desk for him to write the result of a "race" between them and pass it back. The class teacher - universally regarded as a useless eccentric so it seems unfair to name him - wouldn't have noticed if we'd detonated a bomb. One Thursday morning I took it into the hall and we did it all the way through Picture Box which that day was an animated story and were roundly chastised by those of our classmates who were close enough to notice, for not watching something that had been really good. Why they did this , in preference to alerting the teacher to what was going on , is something of a puzzle .
It did have the desired effect of making me feel guilty and regretful that I had missed something worthwhile - I don't know what it was called so I can't make it good with YouTube where there are some Picture Box episodes available. Unfortunately it's not a habit I've been able to kick ( stealing time for something more interesting than what I'm supposed to be doing ) although my current job doesn't leave much scope for it thankfully. My powers of concentration have suffered as a result.
Tuesday, 9 June 2015
First watched : 1974
A-ha! Not much chance of anyone forgetting this one which is at or near the top of any poll of favourite kids' TV shows that have been conducted in the past 20 years.
Bagpuss I think was the end of the line for me as far as Watch With Mother went; in fact the branding was dropped that same year. It was also the last entirely new Smallfilms production that I watched. Of course at nine ( at least ) I was long in the tooth for it anyway and was only watching when sick or on holiday but it was engaging enough not to be an irritant like Rainbow for example.
Like Pogles' Wood before it , Bagpuss is seeped in nostalgia, set in a ( presumably zero-rated ) shop populated by antiquated objects that exists only to enable their original owners to reclaim them. The "shop" was run by a girl called Emily ( only seen in sepia-stills featuring Peter Firmin's real-life daughter Emily ) who provided the motor for the story by depositing a broken object in the shop. Once she'd departed , the old cloth cat Bagpuss would come to life and direct other characters such as Gabriel the musical toad, Madeline the rag doll and Professor Yaffle , a woodpecker bookend, in mending the object and telling its backstory often in song.
The series did recycle ideas used in Pogles' Wood and The Wombles but it was done with great charm and you'd need a heart of stone not to feel a pang as Postgate closed the show with the lines "Even Bagpuss himself, once he was asleep, was just an old saggy cloth cat , baggy and a bit loose at the seams. But Emily loved him ". You can't sum up the enduring affection for an old toy better than that.
As usual only 13 episodes were made and it stopped being run regularly in 1987 but the memory endures.
Monday, 8 June 2015
First watched : Monday 4th March 1974
It was somehow typical of the BBC to replace the serious-minded Carrie's War with this Scotch silliness produced and sometimes co-written by Paul Ciani.
Bonny was prim postmistress Flora Havers ( played by Una McLean ) who has a crimefighting alter ego Captain Bonny whose fame she then exploits. All I really remember about it is that she had a voice like chalk screeching down a blackboard and it was all rather manic.
Apart from the synopses on Genome there's absolutely nothing to be found on the series. It doesn't have an entry on IMDB or a wikipedia page. The most intriguing thing I can glean is that the second episode featured a guest appearance from Kevin Keegan who was rapidly eclipsing Best as football's pin-up boy but shouldn't it have been someone from Scotland ? A certain Mr Dalglish perhaps ?
The initial run was four episodes long in March in 1974 .It returned for six more that August then was never seen again. Una McLean is still working in radio at 85 with a long history of pantomime and character parts behind her. She was married to Callan's Russell Hunter from 1991 until his death in 2004 and received an MBE in 2006.
Sunday, 7 June 2015
Watched : 1 March 1974
For reasons which are now lost to me we didn't have any proper lessons the day after the general election of February 1974. We were just herded into the hall and there we watched the results unfolding for most of the day. God knows what OFSTED would have had to say about that.
Before the election I had a vague idea who Ted Heath and Harold Wilson were as regular faces on the evening news who were in some way involved in running the country. I don't think I'd heard of Jeremy Thorpe before. My understanding of the election was similarly limited . My parents wanted the Conservatives to win, most of the boys at school seemed to support Labour and the Liberals had very few seats although one of them was just down the road in Rochdale. Although Littleborough is now included in the Rochdale constituency, at the time it was in one called Heywood and Royton , a fairly safe Labour seat occupied by Joel Barnett ( of Scotland funding formula fame ).
All I can really remember about it is the lads cheering whenever "Labour win" flashed up and eventually joining in because it was the best fun to be had as the day dragged by.
As any politics student will tell you the result was inconclusive and after Heath and Thorpe failed to reach an agreement Wilson took over and went to the country again in October scraping a bare majority. By that time we had changed schools and as a new building our new one wasn't on the list of polling stations so there was no extra holiday. I was aware that it was something unusual to have two elections in one year but otherwise the second one largely passed me by.
Watched : 28 February 1974
Scene was aimed at teenagers and flitted between drama and documentary usually with quite a hard edge. It wasn't something we watched at primary school so in the normal run of things I would have missed this documentary episode, subtitled All That Glitters and focussing on my favourite band The Sweet ( in the charts with Teenage Rampage at the time ) . However this was broadcast on General Election Day and as our school was needed for a polling station we had the day off. Thanks Ted !
The 20 minute film captures the band at their peak, little more than 6 months before the fateful nightclub brawl which set Brian Connolly off on a downward spiral. They're seemingly united and talking about moving into the albums market, a goal they were not destined to achieve though there were still hit singles to come.
The narrator , one Sarah Ward , adopts a Valerie Singleton school marm tone , occasionally stating the very obvious - "and - they want you to keep buying their records in the future ! " ( No shit , Sherlock ? )
It's enthralling throughout and poignant to see Brian in his prime, healthy and able to speak coherently. Other highlights are an incendiary live version of Hellraiser which certainly answers the enduring question as to whether they were a serious rock band and Steve Priest asking a Top of the Pops make-up girl if she can find a little black moustache ( to round off his gay Nazi ensemble ).
Now did I ever watch Scene again ? Well www.broadcastforschools.co.uk has a full list of episodes and nothing else jumps out at me. The documentaries stopped altogether in 1992 . The last drama under the Scene banner was made in 2007. I'm not sure there was ever a formal announcement that it was being discontinued but I guess that's the case.
Saturday, 6 June 2015
First watched : Monday 28 January 1974
I'm now reaching a stage where these serials are starting to emerge in sharper clarity through the murk , able to recall plot details and scenes ( though not always accurately as we'll see ) unaided. Carrie's War stands out as the archetypal ( not quite the most memorable ) serial from that period where we had tea on a tray in the living room.
Carrie's War is perhaps the best known novel by the prolific children's author Nina Bawden who died nearly three years ago. It was based to some extent on her own experiences as an evacuee in rural Wales during the Second World War. Carrie is 12 and sent with her brother Nick to a remote village where they end up living in a shop run by a cold, ultra-strict miser Mr Evans and his submissive sister Auntie Lou. Another sister Mrs Gotobed lives on a farm with a disabled relative Mr Johnny, a benign witch Hepzibah and now a fellow evacuee Albert Sandwich ( who is what we would now call a geek ) and that quickly becomes a refuge from Evans's austere regime. My mum used to come in and watch it with us because she'd been evacuated from Manchester to Blackburn.
It was compelling because it put the children in a strange situation, uncertain of what the future held and subject to the whims of a scary figure though there are thankfully no hints of sexual abuse in the story. The story reaches its climax with a death and a genuinely spooky scene with apparent grave consequences.
Until a year ago I had carried a memory of one of the last scenes when the children leave by train , Mr Evans waves them off then folds up with grief that they've gone out of his life. Then I watched it again on YouTube and it's not there. Aubrey Richards nicely underplays the scene , walking away, hunched and diminished, while the train's still at the platform. I've remembered the scene's emotional impact accurately but perhaps got the details mixed up with something else.
Perhaps inevitably the young actors didn't become stars. Juliet Waley ( Carrie ) did move into adult roles as an actress, notably in nursing soap Angels where she had a three year run, but after appearing in the BBC's adaptation of The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe in 1988 she just vanished. Andrew Tinney who played Nick had a minor part in The Pallisers that same year but ended up an accountant instead. Tim Coward who played Albert is known for this alone.
Another adaptation was made in 2004 with Alun Armstrong as Evans and there was a successful stage production in 2009.
Friday, 5 June 2015
First watched : Uncertain
I haven't the faintest idea when I first watched this dreadful programme which breached the gap between the tea time news and the evening schedule. It started in 1969 and ran through to the middle of 1983. It incorporated a twenty minute to half an hour local news section where the broadcast would be handed over to the regional studios, rather testily by growly anchor man Michael Barratt with the words "Now, news and views from your own area as we go Nationwide !"
Despite Barratt's surliness that section would often be more interesting than the anodyne magazine programming that followed. It was like a televised version of the Reader's Digest and came to be defined by the awkward links between serious and trivial subject matter. The only time I ever deliberately tuned in was when they did preliminary features on possible candidates for the British Rock and Pop Awards. The most famous feature of all was when they allowed in a stupid old man to demonstrate his claim that he could jump on an egg without breaking the shell. The sixtysomething guy , in short shorts and muttering to himself , had four or five trial "attempts " before claiming he'd clipped the egg with his heel on the fifth go. It's still hilarious to watch for the hostess's aghast response : "That's it is it ? That's the jumping on the egg ?". She knew immediately it was going to haunt them.
Critics uniformly derided the programme and it was savaged by both Monty Python and Not The Nine O Clock News , being the subject of one of Rowan Atkinson's rants from the audience in the latter. For all that, nearly all the presenters lived to see another day on TV, some of them still prime time faces today . It was finally axed in favour of the more sober Sixty Minutes in 1983 not long after its signature presenter Frank Bough had decamped to Breakfast TV.
Thursday, 4 June 2015
Watched : 16 January 1974
This was a one off fly on the wall documentary about The Osmonds' 1973 UK tour. Besides on-stage footage you saw them relaxing offstage , being interviewed by Michael Aspel and Ed Stewart and running away from the hysteria as fast as their legs could carry them. You also saw some of the logistics through discussions among the band's staff, the venues' people and the police and of course there was plenty of footage of hysterical teen girls.
One scene that disturbed me at the time was of a wall collapsing at Heathrow Airport and a girl being pulled away with blood streaking down her face. Seeing it again on YouTube with the benefit of colour, it's actually her long hair that's fallen around her face and her distress is post-orgasmic rather than injury-related. In fact no one was seriously injured in the incident as is explained to a concerned Alan Osmond ( who comes across as a thoroughly nice guy ) as they leave the airport. Oh well that's one childhood memory exploded .
The film also includes some wonderful little glimpses of the old Belle Vue Amusement Park in Manchester , the venue for many a day out in the mid-seventies but now all but obliterated. Even without that , Osmondmania seems an awful long time ago now; all those screaming girls will be in their mid-fifties , doubtless telling their granddaughters that Beiber isn't a patch on Donny. And of course, they're right.
First watched : Uncertain
I first saw this long-running show after I started watching Coronation Street because it was on just before it on a Wednesday. It was quite a frustrating thing to watch as a kid because I usually didn't know much about the week's subject so after the tension-filled opening when Eamonn Andrews jumped out on him / her , my interest in the programme usually deflated rather rapidly.
This was particularly the case when the subject wasn't a sportsperson or entertainer but some do-gooder e.g cancer survivor and subsequent campaigner Pat Seed and you'd get a parade of people you'd never heard of giving stilted tributes for half an hour. You can't imagine anything like that getting a prime time slot today.
Of course the programme was glib and superficial and skated over any awkward episodes in the subject's life.
It started on BBC1 in 1955 and ran until 1964 when Eamonn Andrews defected to ITV. Thames resurrected it with Andrews resuming as host . When Andrews died in 1987 Michael Aspel took over. That's round about when I stopped watching Corrie so I guess this fell out of my viewing schedule too.
It moved back to the BBC in 1994 though still produced by Thames and I did catch the odd episode. I remember Mike Rutherford and Christopher Cazenove being featured but it seemed even more superficial than I remembered it with a bias towards bringing in tenuously linked celebrities rather than friends and relatives . The last episode I can recall watching featured ahem Stuart Hall ( minus under age lady friends of course ) and I remember him having to fake enthusiasm for Alistair McGowan coming on to do an impression when it looked suspiciously like they'd never met before.
It was axed as a regular series in 2003 but there has been a one off special with Trevor McDonald to stroke Simon Cowell's ego in 2007. I'm certainly glad I missed that one.
Wednesday, 3 June 2015
First watched : Uncertain
U.F.O. was Gerry and Sylvia Anderson's first fully live action drama series. It concerned an organisation called SHADO operating from a base disguised as a film studio ( Pinewood of course ) and a watching outpost on the moon in the 1980s. Its purpose was to protect earth from alien attack. The aliens themselves had no physical form and advanced their aims from abducting and /or controlling human hosts. All this sounds very Captain Scarlet and similar cost considerations affected the series.
However having human actors rather than marionettes did allow for more interesting human drama to compensate for the limited special effects. Ed Bishop played the scowling commander Straker while Gabrielle Drake provided some eye candy in a purple wig and skin tight costumes. The series had a dark adult tone ; the day would often be saved with grave consequences for some of those involved . Because of this there was some confusion over when to schedule it; different ITV companies either put it in the 17.20 pm older children's slot or the weekend morning slot often allocated to other Anderson series.
26 episodes were made between 1970 and 1971. A second series was planned and pre-production work well advanced when disappointing viewing figures in America caused its cancellation. Many of the ideas for the new series were recycled and used in the subsequent Space 1999.
Tuesday, 2 June 2015
First watched : Uncertain
My first exposure to Tarzan was through this TV series which was made between 1966 and 1968 and shown on ITV here in the early seventies. The character was played by Ron Ely , a physically impressive stud if not much of an actor. For the series Jane was dumped as his companion in favour of a young boy called Jai. It's best remembered for Ely's insistence that he perform all his own stunts despite a lack of any training and the catalogue of injuries he suffered as a result.
Ely went on to star in the famously awful film Doc Savage - Man of Bronze ( which didn't stop me going to see it ) and later became a reasonably successful writer of detective fiction.
First Watched : Uncertain
This bridging cartoon series between The Flintstones and The Simpsons was written for adults but ITV scheduled it in the 17.20 pm time slot. Tom Bosley provided the voice of Everyman Harry Boyle having to contend with his three kids, fat feminist Alice, long-haired slacker Chet and young capitalist Jamie not to mention mad neighbour Ralph, a rabid anti-Communist waiting like Reginald Perrin's Jimmy for the balloon to go up. Although a lot of it went straight over my head I did find it enjoyable. It ran between 1972 and 1974.