They think it’s all over…it is now! Well, the excitement of the FIFA World Cup is over and, although football didn’t come home (for England) we are on the home straight for this particular incarnation of My Life In TV… With just a couple of editions left before the movies take over again, I’m considering ‘resting’ it for a while and just concentrating on the films. Of course, I may change my mind once I post Part 30 so I wouldn’t pay too much attention to me! Anyway, that isn’t getting the job done, is it…?
THE FLYING DOCTORS (1986-1992)
I’ve always been partial to an Australian drama and this one, shown here in the UK on a Saturday evening, was one of the better ones as well as being a favourite of my mum. Based in the small town of Cooper’s Crossing, the Royal Flying Doctors Service operates all across the outback, taking flight when the roads are almost non-existent. Full of familiar faces from previous Aussie soaps, The Flying Doctors combined the drama of medical emergencies with the humour of everyday life.
WATCH IT FOR: Opening / Closing Theme
The mere mention of this quiz-game-entertainment show brings to mind the show’s booby prize, Dusty Bin; Ted Rogers‘ three-finger salute and, of course, the most baffling of clues. Based on a Spanish show (Uno Dos Tres), this staple of ITV’s Saturday night schedule ruled the airwaves. The show saw three couples slowly eliminated over the course of quiz rounds before the final showdown where a series of end-of-the-pier acts would perform before providing the contestants with unfathomable clues to the prizes which would include the booby prize that they would hope to avoid. The show ran out of steam in the mid-eighties and, sadly, Rogers’ career failed to live up to the heady heights of this behemoth.
WATCH IT FOR: A full episode from 1981
DES O’CONNOR TONIGHT (1977-2002)
This variety-style chat show, hosted by one of Britain’s most successful entertainers, Des O’Connor, originally aired on the BBC (1977-1982) before finding a home on ITV (1983-2002). Des was famous for his laid-back style of interviewing, and for his enthusiastic enjoyment of fellow comedians, often giving new comics their first taste of television. The show also became infamous after fellow comedian Stan Boardman told a joke about the German aircraft manufacturer, Focke-Wulf, but made it sound like a swear word. This resulted in a barrage of complaints and put an end to live broadcasts of the show until the 90s. ITV axed the show in 2002 and Des hosted the last edition on Christmas Eve of that year.
WATCH IT FOR: A chat with Joe Pasquale
HART TO HART (1979-1984)
Television loves a detective. What it also loves is an amateur detective and this show had two of them. Husband and wife team, Jonathan (Robert Wagner) and Jennifer (Stefanie Powers) Hart are self-made millionaires and often find themselves up to their necks in murder. Aided by their gravel-voiced butler, Max (Lionel Stander) and cuddly canine, Freeway, the Hart’s provided a loved up version of crime fighting that has long since been forgotten. When the series ended in 1984, a total of eight TV movies followed between 1993 and 1996.
WATCH IT FOR: Series intro
TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED (1979-1988)
While Roald Dahl is famous for bringing joy to children through his fantastical novels, he also managed to put a good deal of fear into the hearts of adults, too with this classic anthology series. Each week Dahl would be sat in his armchair next to the fireplace and introduce a story that would often involve a sinister twist at the end. Some of these stories, featuring some of the big named stars of the day, have lived on in viewers’ memories – I remember one particular story involving Elizabeth Spriggs, a rug and a polished floor – just as much as the show’s iconic theme tune, composed by Ron Grainer.
WATCH IT FOR: A full episode
GAME FOR A LAUGH (1981-1985)
Practical jokes and pranks have long been a staple of Saturday night television over the years, and this one became one of the first of a new breed. Originally presented by Matthew Kelly, Henry Kelly, Sarah Kennedy and Jeremy Beadle, the show was pretty much a Candid Camera-style programme featuring elaborate pranks performed on unsuspecting members of the public. The four unlikely hosts would end each week with a twee catchphrase that they would say in turn in true light entertainment fashion.
WATCH IT FOR: One of the pranks!
THE MOVIE GAME (1988-1995)
Here’s one of the few kids TV quiz shows that I actually wanted to take part in. I’ve loved everything to do with film for as long as I can remember so this movie-based game show was right up my alley! Originally presented by Phillip Schofield, the show was later fronted by Jonathon Morris and John Barrowman. The format was pretty simple, three teams of two kids answer questions about films in order to win film-related prizes. I watched very little of it once Schofield left but I still hold it close to my heart, despite never applying to be on it!
WATCH IT FOR: A Barrowman episode!
HAPPY DAYS (1974-1984)
For the first couple of seasons, Happy Days (created by Garry Marshall) was just an ordinary 1950s-set sitcom about an average family, the Cunningham’s – Howard (Tom Bosley), Marion (Marion Ross), Richie (Ron Howard) and Joanie (Erin Moran). But, due to failing audiences in the second series, the show was reworked to include more of the peripheral characters – Ralph (Don Most), Potsie (Anson Williams) and the iconic Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzirelli (Henry Winkler) – and it soon became America’s biggest hit. The show was responsible for spawning Mork and Mindy and made huge stars out of its cast.
WATCH IT FOR: Opening titles
HILL STREET BLUES (1981-1987)
This ground breaking drama from creator Steven Bochco became one of televisions most-loved cop shows. A true ensemble piece, it follows the lives of a police precinct and all those who inhabit it. Gritty storylines and true-to-life characters you could invest your time in, Hill Street Blues blazed a trail for every cop drama that followed. Making household names out of its cast, the show was regularly nominated (and won) for Emmy’s and Golden Globes and with a theme tune by the prolific Mike Post, it is highly regarded as the benchmark for television drama.
WATCH IT FOR: Those iconic opening titles
I’ll be honest, most of this programme has evaporated from my memory, only really existing due to its earworm of a theme tune. This kids show starred Kieran O’Brien as the Stephen “Gruey” Grucock who, along with his friends Wooly (Danny Collier) and Quidsy (Ayesha Husain) would get themselves into mischief and scrapes. Its been largely forgotten (not just by me) and I think its about time it found a new home on one of the many channels out there, or even on a DVD release.
WATCH IT FOR: Clip, featuring the end titles and theme
Well, there you have it, better late than never. Another edition bites the dust and there were some truly interesting pieces of TV on offer this time, don’t you agree? Everything is now back on track so Part Twenty Nine will be here before you know it. In the meantime, if you’ve enjoyed what you’ve seen here today please do feel free to get in touch in the usual ways, I’d love to hear from you. Until next time…
“Let’s be careful out there”