My Life In TV: Part Seven

Another post and another batch of TV memories.  This is getting difficult to choose what programmes to feature and which to leave out.  I suppose, depending on how long I keep going with this, I could feature every programme I’ve ever seen but, relax, that isn’t going to happen.  Instead, here’s another ten TV programmes that either have fond memories for me or are currently unmissable viewing.

 

WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? (2004-present)

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As a hobby, I’ve enjoyed researching my family history so when this programme began I was immediately hooked.  Following well-known celebrities as they trace their own genealogical roots has proved to be must-watch television.  From the very simple and common family stories to being related to kings and queens of old, WDYTYA never fails to impress.  Even when some of the celebrities taking part don’t interest me, I’ve always found their journey (and that of their ancestors) enjoyable to watch.

WATCH IT FOR: Powerful moments like this one

 

SIMON AND THE WITCH (1987-1988)

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Sometimes, when I’ve been researching these programmes I’m genuinely shocked at just how long ago they were shown.  Take this one, for instance, it’s thirty years old! THIRTY! How is that even possible?  Anyway, I used to watch this all the time purely for the fact that The Witch in question (Elizabeth Spriggs) was just so funny.  Its your standard kids entertainment from that time but with a little added magic.

WATCH IT FOR: A theme tune you won’t be able to get out of your head for days!

 

ON THE WATERFRONT (1988-1989)

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One of those fillers for when Going Live! was on a break, On The Waterfront is a strange beast.  Its a Saturday morning kids show but its also a sketch show-cum-stand up show.  Hosted by Andrew O’Connor, Kate Copstick, Bernadette Nolan and Terry Randall it boasted sketches, musical guests and, arguably its most memorable feature, a dubbed version of The Flashing Blade.

WATCH IT FOR: The Flashing Blade

 

THE GOLDBERGS (2013-present)

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Oh man, I can’t tell you how much I love this show! Its full of nostalgia, pop culture references and lots and lots of laughs.  Its nineteen-eighty-something and Adam Goldberg (Sean Giambrone) is documenting his family’s ups and downs, armed with a video camera,  against a backdrop of one of the most important decades in history.  The whole cast is perfect from George Segal‘s Granddad, Wendi McLendon-Covey‘s smothering matriarch to Jeff Garlin as dad, Murray who tries his best with his ‘moron’ kids Barry (Troy Gentile) and Erica (Hayley Orrantia).  All this, and a wonderful voiceover from ‘future Adam’ Patton Oswalt.  It is, quite simply, a joy to watch and packed full of humour.

WATCH IT FOR: Only the very best of the craziest family!

 

LIFE ON MARS (2006-2007)

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“My name is Sam Tyler. I had an accident, and I woke up in 1973. Am I mad, in a coma, or back in time? Whatever’s happened, it’s like I’ve landed on a different planet. Now, maybe if I can work out the reason, I can get home” – And so began one of the most original and exciting BBC dramas in recent years.  A genius mix of cop show mixed with sci-fi and time travel, Life on Mars tapped into the viewer’s appetite for nostalgia by transporting our modern-day hero, played by John Simm, back to the 1970s, one of the most turbulent decades in history.  There, he meets his new guv’nor Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister) a bullish, stereotype of a seventies TV cop who drinks, smokes and is a bit friendly with his fists.  The pairing is immaculate, as is the supporting cast of historic coppers.  Life on Mars is a work of art, a piece of genius from beginning to philosophical end.

WATCH IT FOR: The Gene Genie

 

SO HAUNT ME (1992-1994)

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Here’s another curious BBC sitcom that appeared to do pretty well but isn’t that well remembered.  Which is odd because I loved it, especially the premise of a haunted house!  A suburban family find out that their new home is still haunted by its previous owner, a middle-aged Jewish woman who died while choking on a chicken bone!  The show, created by Paul Mendelson, starred Miriam Karlin as Yetta, the deceased previous owner who haunts the family of George Costigan and Tessa Peake-Jones.  Its a shame So Haunt Me hasn’t been repeated as I think its one of the funniest sitcoms of the nineties.

WATCH IT FOR: Karlin’s performance stole the show, and thanks to the internet, there are episodes available online.  Here’s a taster

 

KNIGHT RIDER (1982-1986)

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There is probably no more iconic vehicle from the 1980s than the sleek, black Trans Am KITT (voiced by William Daniels) from Knight Rider.  David Hasselhoff might have been the lone crimefighter taking on the bad guys but the car was the star.  In much the same vein as the other iconic 80s action shows Street Hawk and Airwolf, Knight Rider relied on the state-of-the-art technology to help solve crimes aided, of course, by a human to do all the leg work.  Complete with one of the best theme tunes of the decade, Knight Rider has stood the test of time, even if some of the human acting hasn’t!

WATCH IT FOR: That iconic theme tune

 

DUCKTALES (1987-1990)

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Every now and then a song pops into your head, a little earworm that takes you all the way back to your childhood.  I get that with a lot of pop music but the kind of tune that takes me right back is the theme to a cartoon like this one.  I still know all the words and have woken from a slumber many a time with this tune lodged in my brain.  Scrooge McDuck and his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie basically protect Scrooge’s fortune from ne’er-do-wells with the aid of pilot Launchpad.

WATCH IT FOR: The best sing-a-long you’ll have today!

 

WIN, LOSE OR DRAW (1990-1998)

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As daytime game shows go, Win, Lose or Draw was right up there with, say, Lucky Ladders and CrossWits.  It was entertaining fluff and it kept me watching, which I suppose is the idea, right?!  Originally hosted by Danny Baker then Shane Richie, Bob Mills and, one of my personal favourite incarnations of the show, Liza Tarbuck who hosted a late night version.  Two teams, made up of celebs and a member of the public (male vs. female) would take it in turns to draw clues against the clock for their teammates to guess. I think its about time for a revival!

WATCH IT FOR: Look! A full episode online.  God bless you, internet!!

 

dinnerladies (1998-2000)

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Just thinking about this programme makes me laugh.  The late, great and much missed Victoria Wood knew how to write people.  Normal, everyday working people like the ladies who worked in the canteen of a busy factory.  The conversations were never groundbreaking but they were real and very, very funny.  Everyone knew somebody like Bren, Dolly, Jean, Anita and Twinkle.  The comedy was warm and sometimes broad, especially when Bren’s mother (played to perfection by Julie Walters) turned up.  Every single character worked and had the best lines, a talent of Wood’s to share the quality of her work with her ensemble.  The world is a poorer place without her but all the more rich for her being here and creating such masterpieces.

WATCH IT FOR: Sublime writing and wonderful characters

 

 

There you go, another batch of ten TV memories to ponder.  Hopefully I’ve included a broad mix of genres which is what I grew up watching.  I’m off to delve into the vaults for more examples of lost gems and TV gold.  Until the next time, don’t touch that dial…

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My Life In TV: Part Six

You’d think it would be difficult to remember all these programmes from way back when, but it isn’t.  Once you start thinking about one thing, something else pops in your mind and then leads you on to somewhere else.  The list of programmes I intend to feature is growing daily and the only difficult part is how to space them out into some sort of pleasurable reading matter.  Hopefully, that’s what I’m doing!  Once again, there are programmes from my childhood as well as a few modern shows that are simply sublime viewing.  More of one of those types later, but first…this:

THE PERILS OF PENELOPE PITSTOP (1969-1971)

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Sylvester Sneekly is racecar driver Penelope Pitstop’s legal guardian.  He disguises himself as the evil Hooded Claw with the intention of killing her for her fortune.  Penelope is aided by her Wacky Races co-stars The Anthill Mob who, unintentionally, come to her rescue and foil the Claw’s dastardly plots.  Penelope was my first TV crush (long before Sarah Greene and Heather Locklear) and I think that’s why I hold this programme so close to my heart.

WATCH IT FOR: The opening titles (“I’ll get you, Penelope Pitstop!”)

BOB’S FULL HOUSE (1984-1990)

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Quiz show based on the very British tradition of Bingo, hosted by the master of the game show Bob Monkhouse.  I used to love watching this and I can’t even put my finger on the reason why.  I think it probably has to do with Monkhouse who was a master of his art, putting contestants at their ease whilst at the same time holding together a big money game show.

WATCH IT FOR: With thanks to the internet, here’s a full episode for you to enjoy!

SIMON & SIMON (1981-1989)

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Another one of those classic 80s American dramas where the two leads couldn’t be more different yet somehow manage to work together.  This time, brothers A.J. and Rick Simon run a private detective agency.  A.J. (Jameson Parker) is a slick, suited man with a taste for classic cars while Rick (Gerald McRaney) is his less refined older brother with a taste for cowboy boots and pick-up trucks.

WATCH IT FOR: The opening theme tune

NO OFFENCE (2015-present)

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At the time of writing, the second series of Paul Abbott‘s No Offence has just come to a blistering end.  This is a stunningly brilliant piece of writing, acting and all round production.  Set on the wild streets of Manchester, the officers of Friday Street get embroiled in the most dangerous and sometimes not so dangerous crimes while simultaneously trying to keep their home lives stable.  The language is strong, sometimes crude, and always witty and on point.  If you never see another police drama in your life, you have to see this one.  It’s the dog’s doodahs!

WATCH IT FOR: The sublime writing and performances

THE FLUMPS (1976)

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Another blast from the past that is probably best remembered for it’s theme tune rather than the content.  A family of cute, furry creatures sing songs and read stories.  It is simple yet endearing television which, although only 13 episodes long, has lasted in the memory for over forty years.

WATCH IT FOR: That very, very catchy theme tune

HOME AND AWAY (1988-present)

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Don’t hate me but this has always been one of my guilty pleasures, the lives, loves and relationships of the residents of Summer Bay.  For almost thirty years, this Australian soap opera has tackled every kind of subject matter from teenage pregnancy to religious cults and everything inbetween.  Some very famous actors have graced the beaches of Summer Bay and have gone on to have successful careers outside the soap but their loss has never really knocked the popularity on longevity but, like every good soap (and life, for that matter) people come and people go and life moves on…

WATCH IT FOR: Apart from the sunshine? The singalonga theme tune

RENTAGHOST (1976-1984)

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Harold and Ethel Meaker live in London and run ‘Rentaghost’ where they hire ghosts out to the public.  Their next door neighbours hired a private detective and later a psychiatrist because they were convinced the Meaker’s were nuts.  Some of the memorable ghosts were Timothy Claypole, a court jester; Hazel McWitch a Scottish witch and Nadia Popov, a Dutch ghost with hayfever.  This was broad farce and, at most, a very disruptive pantomime that kept viewers watching for over 50 episodes.

WATCH IT FOR: The brilliant theme tune

DANGERMOUSE (1981-1992)

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Few words go together better and conjour up more memories than Cosgrove-Hall.  The masterminds behind some of the best children’s television for a generation.  None more so than the greatest detective of them all, Dangermouse (David Jason) and his trusty sidekick, Penfold (Terry Scott).  This cartoon had everything.  Wit, humour, brilliant characters and, of course, an outstanding theme tune!

WATCH IT FOR: It’s brilliance and also for the amazing theme tune

ALFONSO BONZO (1990)

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Billy Webb is a young boy who likes to swap things with his school friends.  One day he meets an “Italian exchange student” Alfonso Bonzo (Alex Jennings) who also likes to swap things (a student who exchanges things!) and soon the pair set out on a series of adventures with the swaps having real disadvantages as well as advantages.  Is Alfonso all he appears to be?  This is one of those curious programmes that you either know or don’t know.  I used to love watching it (and it’s Alfonso-less follow up Billy Webb’s Amazing Story) but these days, I only remember the theme music.

WATCH IT FOR: The theme tune (skip to 6:06 to hear it)

 

RUSS ABBOT’S MADHOUSE (1980-1985)

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This was what I think of as proper Saturday night entertainment.  Bonkers comedy sketch show from the mind of Russ Abbot, full of bizarre characters and an excellent supporting cast featuring Bella Emberg, Les Dennis, Dustin Gee, Sherrie Hewson and Jeffrey Holland.  Abbot’s characters ranged from Brooke Bond (a James Bond-esque secret agent); Cooperman who, along with Emberg’s Blunder Woman, took the mickey out of superheroes whilst allowing Abbot to indulge in a Tommy Cooper impression.

WATCH IT FOR: Cooperman!

 

There you go, another batch of TV treasures from the vaults.  I know not all of them will appeal to everyone, but I’m sure some will trigger some happy memories (or maybe bad ones, who knows?!) like they did for me.  Until the next time…don’t change that channel!

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My Life In TV: Part Five

The more I delve deeper into my memory for television programmes that have made an impact on me in some way, the more I seem to remember others that I have long-since forgotten.  As cathartic as this process is, it is also somewhat distracting…I’m not writing what I should be writing!  Not that I’m worried, I’m having a blast bringing back all these memories.  Hopefully, they are evoking some memories with you too!

 

CINEMATTRACTIONS (1989-1991)

I can’t seem to find a photo to represent this programme, probably because it was tucked away in the graveyard shift of the schedules and didn’t really catch anyone’s attention.  I mostly remember it because it previewed the films that were released in Hollywood some six to eight months prior to being shipped across the channel.  It was like I had access to secret information on new films and got to see clips before anyone else.  The format was simple, basically a clip-show of new films and a chart rundown.  Narrated by the awesomely named Charlie Tuna, it’s theme tune was the main theme from The Golden Child.  A tune I hummed for years before knowing where I knew it from!  There are a couple of clips online from the show but nothing much, which is a shame because I loved this show, and the similar show that followed: Cinema, Cinema, Cinema.

WATCH IT FOR: The opening titles

 

DOCTOR WHO (1962-present)

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For generations, the adventures of a man and his many companions travelling through time in an old police box have delighted audiences around the world.  The beauty of the show is in the regeneration.  Having one timelord reach the end of his path and simply replacing him with a new actor who, in turn, brings a new perspective to the show.  It’s popularity is proven in the fact it has been around for over 50 years and doesn’t look like slowing down any time soon.

WATCH IT FOR: The classic theme tune(s)

 

STREET HAWK (1985)

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It’s hard to believe this programme only lasted for one, short, 13-part series.  It had everything you needed from an 80s action drama.  A desk-bound cop fighting crime with the help of his genius computer expert buddy and a prototype combat vehicle.  What’s not to love?  Plus, you have the benefit of one of the coolest theme tunes in TV history!

WATCH IT FOR: Tangerine Dream’s classic theme tune

 

INSIDE No. 9 (2014-present)

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A cross between Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected and The Twilight Zone, Inside No. 9 brings back the glory days of anthology television series with all the weirdness you would expect from the creators of The League of Gentlemen.  Each story, masterfully told within half an hour, takes you beyond what you expect it to be and executes the most sublime of twists each time.  Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton have created a wonderfully surreal and macabre set of characters that live long in the memory.

WATCH IT FOR: Just watch it because, honestly, it is superb!

 

KATE & ALLIE (1984-1989)

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In my opinion, the USA produced some of the best sitcoms during the 1980s.  Some of the best characters, theme tunes and future stars all appeared in the memorable comedies, much like this one.  The basic set up sees two recently divorced friends (Kate & Allie) move in together with their respective children and form a tight-knit unit to make it through life.  Jane Curtin and Susan Saint James were perfectly cast as the two leads who dabbled in both comedy and drama throughout the 122 episode run.

WATCH IT FOR: The very memorable theme tune

 

YOU SHOULD BE SO LUCKY (1985)

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Now, here’s one of those TV shows that pretty much nobody else remembers apart from me (I’m amazed there’s even an entry on IMDb for it!).  To be fair, all I can really remember about it is the cheesy theme tune and the fact that it was ‘hosted’ by Colin Bennett (Mr Bennett from Tony Hart’s Take Hart and Hartbeat) as Vince Purity!.  From what I know, its supposed to be a take on the old end of pier shows featuring stage school kids playing giant snakes and ladders as well as the odd musical act thrown in for good measure.  Apologies though, for once you hear the theme tune you probably won’t get it out of your head for quite some time!

WATCH IT FOR: That theme tune! (Sorry)

 

CHOCKABLOCK (1981)

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Chockabloke (Fred Harris) and Chockagirl (Carol Leader) check in to help the Chockablock computer to learn songs and rhymes.  Two Play School alumni take the lead in this curious pre-school tv show with the trippy theme tune and the awesome car that I really, really wanted to drive (even though I was only 5!).  I remember very little, apart from the theme tune, but thanks to the glory of YouTube, there are episodes available online.

WATCH IT FOR: This full episode!

 

HARDCASTLE AND McCORMICK (1983-1986)

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Here’s another one of those 80s action dramas that appears to have been lost in the mists of time.  For years I thought I’d made this show up because nobody else remembered it!  It’s your classic odd couple working together type of thing; a retired judge (Brian Keith) and his last defendant (Daniel Hugh Kelly) team up to solve crimes.  Two things I remember the most about this show is the rocking theme tune and the obligatory cool, unique sports car (a very sleek Coyote). It ran for three series but seems to have been forgotten for the best part of thirty years, which is a crying shame.

WATCH IT FOR: The theme tune with added gratuitous shots of the Coyote!

 

BYKER GROVE (1989-2006)

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The lives and relationships of a group of children who are part of a youth club in the North East of England. For a kids show it was pretty hard-hitting with drugs, teen pregnancy and homosexuality just some of the storylines but it was also full of great humour and fabulous characters.  Some of the stars have gone on to bigger and better things (Ant & Dec perhaps the most famous) but it still remains close to many people’s hearts as a beacon of youth drama from the BBC.  Plus it had a catchy theme tune!

WATCH IT FOR: The drama, fun and theme tune

 

SHERLOCK (2010-present)

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A modern retelling of the classic detective novels sees Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson solving crime in 21st century London. Created by Steven Moffatt and Mark Gatiss, this is Sherlock for a new generation.  Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman sparkle as Holmes and Watson with added support from Una Stubbs as Mrs Hudson, Rupert Graves as Lestrade and Louise Brealey as Molly Hooper.  Earlier episodes, to me, are better as it sort of lost its way in recent episodes, tidying up messes of plotlines that detracted from what the viewers actually wanted – Holmes and Watson solving crimes – and not bogged down in soap opera.  Don’t get me wrong, I still love it and there are shining moments in all episodes but I think it needs to get back to its roots in order to stay fresh and of the moment.

WATCH IT FOR: Cumberbatch and Freeman

 

Phew! Another batch of TV oddities for you to ponder.  Apologies for the break between posts but life kind of got in the way…I’m still clinging to the wreckage and dragging myself back up and that starts here, writing and creating.  Please feel free to comment (be nice) and maybe share your own memories of these and those of my previous posts, I welcome your input and thoughts.  I’m off to dig around in my mind palace for more lost gems…see you around!

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My Life In TV and Film: Halloween Special

Get your ‘spook’ on with this special edition taking a look at the scary films and Halloween episodes from days of yore! What follows is a less-than-comprehensive view of TV and film through the Halloween season.  One of the more obvious choices has already been covered in a previous blog post so, sorry, no Ghostwatch here…

IT’S THE GREAT PUMPKIN, CHARLIE BROWN (1966)

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The Peanuts gang celebrates Halloween, with Linus hoping that, finally, he will be visited by The Great Pumpkin; while Charlie Brown is invited to a Halloween party.  Beautifully innocent and great fun!

WATCH IT FOR: The animation, music and charm

HOCUS POCUS (1993)

After three centuries, three witch sisters are resurrected in Salem Massachusetts on Halloween night, and it is up to two teenagers, a young girl, and an immortal cat to put an end to the witches’ reign of terror once and for all.  The three leads, Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker clearly relish their witchy personas which makes for a hugely entertaining seasonal comedy.  Omri Katz and a young Thora Birch play the brother and sister heroes who must battle with the witches to save the town.

WATCH IT FOR: The witches thoroughly enjoying themselves

HOME IMPROVEMENT – “I WAS A TEENAGE TAYLOR” (1996)

It’s Halloween, and the pranks begin. Brad and Randy begin with a head in the microwave, Tim and Jill follow up with actor playing a mysterious visitor. Brad and Randy find out and pretend to be frightened, causing Tim and Jill to worry.  Home Improvement, like most American sitcoms, make the most of Halloween and go all out in celebration.  This is one of the better ones and features a great guest appearance from Larry Hankin.

WATCH IT FOR: Spooky goings on at the Taylor household!

STEPTOE AND SON – “SEANCE IN A WET RAG AND BONE YARD” (1974)

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Albert (Wilfred Brambell) comes in late one night having got involved with séances and local medium Madame Fontana, who communicates with the dead via her spirit guide Geronimo. Harold is sceptical and messes about when Albert produces a Ouija board. However Madame Fontana comes to the house to give a séance, along with Dorothy, a widow Albert hopes to marry. Through Madame Fontana the old couple discover that their late spouses want them to marry. Harold’s (Harry H. Corbett) cynicism leads to the discovery that Albert has told Dorothy he is very well off and the medium is actually her daughter working a scam. Albert has a lucky escape.

WATCH IT FOR: The whole darn thing!

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984)

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Several people are hunted by a cruel serial killer who kills his victims in their dreams. When the survivors are trying to find the reason for being chosen, the murderer won’t lose any chance to kill them as soon as they fall asleep.  When I was a kid, my brother (who is 9 years older than me) used to rent videos from the local Jack Beanstalk.  I watched a lot of films I really shouldn’t have done at such a young age including this one.  It scared the bejeesus out of me and I couldn’t watch it again for many, many years.  Robert Englund‘s portrayal of Freddy Krueger is one of the most iconic and is probably the reason a lot of people didn’t sleep during the latter part of the 1980s!

WATCH IT FOR: Well, if you dare, watch it….but, you know…just don’t fall asleep!

PAUL DANIELS LIVE AT HALLOWEEN (1987)

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Here’s another one for you that scared the crap out of me as a kid! Not your usual programme to scare you but I think the production of the show was such that it created genuine fear in me.  In particular the final illusion where Daniels attempts to escape from an iron maiden.  This is the one thing I remember from this, and the fact it was shown on Halloween as well.  Thankfully, the illusion is available to view online (see link below) and was a success but in 1987, the show ended without the audience knowing whether it had been a success or not – a genius piece of television in my humble opinion.

WATCH IT FOR: The iron maiden illusion

TOY STORY OF TERROR (2013)

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Woody and the gang are held up at a roadside motel and members of the group start to disappear from everywhere. Woody and the gang set about getting to the bottom of the mystery. This is an excellent homage to horror movies told in a family friendly way.  The tension is racked up and it looks stunning.

WATCH IT FOR: Combat Carl

DON’T GO TO SLEEP (1982)

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This is a made-for-TV-movie about a young girl who begins to see the ghost of her sister who died in an accident a year earlier.  I have very vague memories of this film apart from one scene that haunted me for years.  The young brother is retrieving a frisbee from the roof of the house when an unseen force charges towards the attic window and knocks him to the ground, killing him.  I couldn’t find out the name of the film or from where this particular scene came from until the advent of the internet gave access to a library of resources.  The film as a whole is pretty unremarkable and only features here because of said memory of it.  Thankfully, courtesy of YouTube, the whole film has been uploaded and THAT scene that scared the crap out of me for years is there for all to see.  Its not terribly frightening anymore but it still sent a shiver down my spine.

WATCH IT FOR: Skip along to 54:14 for the start of my nightmare

MICHAEL JACKSON’S THRILLER (1983)

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At the time of it’s release, this 13 minute pop video was unique.  No commercial motion-picture directors directed music videos but, with the Thriller album off the number one slot in the charts, something had to be done to regain the momentum.  Enter John Landis, director of An American Werewolf In London who co-wrote the screenplay with Jackson.  Parodying Hollywood B-movies and other horror films, Thriller became a cultural phenomenon, often cited as being a watershed in music video production.  As an eight-year-old kid, watching this video scared the crap out of me which I think, to some extent, was the purpose.  As I got older I began to appreciate the sheer quality of the production and, of course, the legendary dance sequences and Vincent Price ‘rap’.

WATCH IT FOR: That dance!

THE INCREDIBLE HULK (1978-1982)

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A brilliant scientist, Dr. David Banner, is working on an experiment that goes wrong and finds himself turning into a big, green monster when put under extreme stress.  As a child, this is probably the one tv programme that scared me the most.  Notably for the transformation from Banner to The Hulk, the music and the way Banner’s eye changed first! But also, because my brother had a giant poster of The Hulk on his bedroom door which freaked me out no end!!  Bill Bixby was excellent as Banner, the mild-mannered scientist who wanted to help people with his experiements.  He was the perfect antidote to Lou Ferrigno‘s Hulk, the huge green monster who lurked inside him.  The formula for the show was simple but effective thanks to Bixby’s calm, measured performance in which you could trust that if you made him angry, you really wouldn’t like it!

WATCH IT FOR: Metamorphis! The music!

QUANTUM LEAP – “The Boogieman” (1990)

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Dr. Sam Beckett leaps into the life of gothic horror novelist Joshua Ray.  Strange things soon begin to happen. Then they get worse until something unexpected happens!  There are lots of spooky symbolisms going on here, as well as a particular nod to modern horror writing but this episode belongs to Al and his……no, not going to give it away!

WATCH IT FOR: The Devil?

THE SIMPSONS TREEHOUSE OF HORROR (1990-present)

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I couldn’t have a Halloween special without mentioning The Simpsons classic episodes.  Taking the form of an anthology, usually featuring three mini-episodes within one show, The Treehouse of Horror episodes have provided some of the best Simpsons moments.  In my humble opinion, the first Treehouse was the best, if only for the brilliant depiction of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven in which we see Bart as the eponymous Raven but the following Treehouse episodes have all provided the opportunity to take The Simpsons out of their usual daily lives and into the realm of fantasy, horror and science-fiction.  Spoofing many genres and movies as only The Simpsons can!

WATCH IT FOR: Nevermore!

So, there you go…I hope there are enough scares in there to keep you going this Halloween! Like I said, its not a comprehensive list, just a few special moments that I wanted to share.  There are so many others I wanted to post here, like the classic Bela Lugosi Dracula or the original Halloween movie.  Alas, they will have to wait for another year.

Don’t have nightmares, do sleep well…

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Normal service will resume shortly…

Music by John Williams

He is one of the most successful film score composers of all time with 47 Academy Award nominations and five wins.  He has scored numerous movie and television soundtracks from Land of the Giants to Amazing Stories and Fiddler on the Roof to Lincoln.  His music is instantly recognisable and is known throughout the world and, in a career spanning over six decades, he shows no sign of slowing down.  Lucky for us…

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John Towner Williams was born in New York on February 8th 1932 to Esther and Johnny Williams.  In 1948 he and his family moved to Los Angeles where John attended North Hollywood High School, graduating in 1950.  He later attended the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) before being drafted into the U.S. Air Force in 1952.  After his service ended in 1955, he moved to New York where he studied at the prestigious Juliard School.  During this time he worked as a jazz pianist in New York’s many clubs and eventually studios, most notably for composer Henry Mancini.

After his studies at Juliard and the Eastman School of Music, Wililams returned to Los Angeles where he began working as an orchestrator at film studios.  Among other composers, Williams worked with Bernard Herrmann, and Alfred Newman Williams was also a studio pianist, performing on film scores by composers such as Jerry Goldsmith, Elmer Bernstein, and Henry Mancini. Williams recorded with Henry Mancini the film scores of 1959’s Peter Gunn, 1962’s Days of Wine and Roses, and 1963’s Charade.  Williams (often credited as “Johnny Williams” i.e., John Goldfarb, Please Come Home (1965)) also composed the music for various TV programs in the 1960s: The pilot episode of Gilligan’s Island, Bachelor Father (1959-1960), the Kraft Suspense Theatre, Lost in Space (1965–68), The Time Tunnel (1966–67), and Land of the Giants (the last three created by the prolific TV producer, Irwin Allen).

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Williams’ first film composition was for the B movie Daddy-O and his first screen credit came two years later on Because They’re Young.  He soon began to gain notice in Hollywood for his versatility in jazz and symphonic music.  He was nominated for his first Academy Award for Valley of the Dolls (1967) and was nominated again for 1969’s Goodbye Mr. Chips.  His breakthrough came in 1971 where he won his first of five Academy Awards for his score to Fiddler on the Roof.  Williams grew to prominence in throughout the 1970s thanks to his scores for Irwin Allen’s movies The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno as well as Earthquake for director Mark Robson.

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In 1974, Williams was approached by director Steven Spielberg to compose the score for his first feature The Sugarland Express.  They teamed up again a year later for Jaws, a score that is widely regarded as a classic of the suspense genre which garnered him his second Academy Award and his first for original composition.  Thus began one of Hollywood’s most successful collaborations.  Following his work on Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Spielberg recommended his friend to George Lucas, who was looking for a composer for his adventurous science fiction epic Star Wars.  The film went on to become one of the most successful films of all time, and Williams’ soundtrack won him another Academy Award.  Williams would also score the following films in the Star Wars universe, earning more nominations along the way.

In 1978, Williams worked with Richard Donner on Superman, a score that also became one of the most memorable in cinema history before rejoining Spielberg for the Indiana Jones films and E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial (for which Williams won a fourth Academy Award).  His collaboration with Spielberg continued through the eighties and nineties where he won his fifth Academy Award for the sombre score to Schindler’s List, regarded as their masterpiece the film won a further six awards in 1993, including the first for Spielberg as director and producer.

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His scores for Spielberg films The Adventures of Tintin and War Horse saw his 46th and 47th Academy Award nominations making him the most nominated musician in history and the second most nominated overall (Walt Disney has the distinction of being the most nominated of all time with 59). His 48th nomination came with Lincoln, Spielberg’s biopic of the US President.

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As well as his film and televison scores, Williams has also been comissioned to compose music for NBC news, the Statue of Liberty’s rededication and music for four Olympic Games.  He regularly conducts with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and performs concerts at the Hollywood Bowl.  In addition to his Academy Award tally, Williams has also won 3 Emmy’s, 4 Golden Globes, 22 Grammy Awards and 7 BAFTA awards.  He has been inducted into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame and the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame.  His music is known globally and is among the most famous pieces of music ever known.  In 2016 he will be presented with the AFI Lifetime Achievement Award, the first time a composer has been given this honour.

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Not only is John Williams one of the most successful composers of all time, his music has touched lives and generated feelings and moods.  He has inspired us, made us cry and compelled us to think and to listen.  But, above all, he has entertained us and continues to do so with yet another big score on the horizon: Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, it looks like his music will be around for a long time to come.

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My Life In TV: Part Four

I’m having to keep myself in check by not posting too many ‘modern’ posts, even though there are some amazing tv programmes of the past few years that have made an impact on me.  I really wanted this to be a trip down memory lane with the occasional up-to-date post thrown in for good measure.  Its also quite difficult to trawl through my scramble of a mind palace for all these gems but so far, I think I’m doing pretty well…

AMERICAN GOTHIC (1995-1996)

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Visit Trinity, South Carolina, a small town with more chills than charm. Sheriff Lucas Buck (Gary Cole) won’t let anyone – including local doctor Matt Crower or the determined Gail Emory – stand in the way of his evil plans.  This is one of those shows that tried to cash in on the success of offbeat dramas like Twin Peaks but ultimately failed.  At the heart of the show is a stunning performance from a young Lucas Black as Caleb Temple, a boy who’s life is turned upside down in the first episode when his sister is murdered by the sheriff and his father is subsequently accused and later commits suicide.  There are dark, supernatural elements to the show which, I think might have been a little ahead of its time for some viewers.

WATCH IT FOR: The dark and supernatural story

COCKLESHELL BAY (1980-1986)

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Charming animated series about two children, Robin and Rosie, who have moved with their family to the seaside town of Cockleshell Bay in order to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big city, where they open a guest-house.  From the genius company of Cosgrove Hall, and narrated by the legend that is Brian Trueman, this series first appeared on hit kids show Rainbow before being given its own slot.  Just hearing the music transports me back to my childhood…

WATCH IT FOR: The opening titles

NCIS (2003-present)

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The cases of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service’s Washington DC Major Case Response Team, led by Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon).  Not your run-of-the-mill procedural, NCIS has warmth, depth and lots of energy.  Its thanks mostly to great casting and writing that this show is one of the most watched tv shows in the world.  Creator Donald P. Bellisario (Quantum Leap, Magnum) has given us a show that has seen major cast changes but has never really faltered in its stories.  David McCallum, Pauley Perrette, Michael Weatherley and Sean Murray are the team that have Gibbs’ back at every turn.  The chemistry between the cast is perfect which also lends to the success of the show.

WATCH IT FOR: The opening titlesthe head slaps

EARLY DOORS (2003-2004)

The Grapes is a typical pub in Manchester, hidden away in the back streets that is fighting extinction while still entertaining its regulars.  Everybody knows everybody’s business and the daily chat involves temporary traffic lights and circuses.  What makes this programme so special is the warmth that writers Craig Cash and Phil Mealey bring to each and every character.  There isn’t one person in the pub who doesn’t have a story or who doesn’t remind you of someone you know.  The conversations feel real as do the situation they find themselves in.  Finding humour in the mundane comes easy to Cash, who found fame on The Royle Family and he’s assembled a cast of amazing actors who make you care about them.  Mark Benton and Lorraine Cheshire as Eddie and Joan; Rodney Litchfield as Tommy and Peter Wight and James Quinn as Phil and Nige, the two coppers who spend more time drinking than patrolling the streets; John Henshaw as Ken, the owner of the pub who holds it all together as well as the usual suspects of pub regulars.  Running for just two series of 12 episodes in total, Early Doors is one of the best of the modern sitcoms and an underrated gem.  “To the regiment! I wish I was there!”

WATCH IT FOR: Eddie and Joan

TJ HOOKER (1982-1986)

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Sgt TJ Hooker (William Shatner) is a hard-as-nails veteran who, partnered with rookie Vince Romano (Adrian Zmed), patrols the streets picking off the scum of Los Angeles.  Heather Locklear and James Darren complete the cast as Stacy Sheridan and Jim Corrigan.  The show usually tries to be gritty and realistic but often ends up looking like a spoof of cop shows of the past.  The only reason this show sticks with me is Heather Locklear in a uniform – one of my first tv crushes! – and the awesome theme tune.  But I always think of my dad who referred to Shatner’s running and jumping as “The 90-yr-old cop”.  Ahh, great memories!

WATCH IT FOR: Heather Locklear (obviously!) and the theme tune

FRIENDS (1994-2004)

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One of the biggest sitcoms of all time, Friends was a phenomenon.  A whirlwind of beautiful, funny people; characters to fall in love with and ten years worth of quotable episodes.  Ross (David Schwimmer) and Rachel (Jennifer Aniston); Chandler (Matthew Perry) and Monica (Courtney Cox) and Joey (Matt LeBlanc) and Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) have become part of our lives and its the chemistry of the six leads that really makes this show work so well.  It still works today, over ten years since the last episode was shown, and that is testament to a great programme.  You can watch and rewatch the episodes in any order and at any time of the day.  Friends will always be there for you!

WATCH IT FOR: The funniest moments…ever!

BERTHA (1985)

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Bertha is the best machine at Spottiswood & Co. When programmed right, she can produce just about anything. All the employees at the factory lover her and almost treat her like a real person.  I used to love watching this as a kid, was a big fan of narrator Roy Kinnear.

WATCH IT FOR: Theme tune

MANIMAL (1983)

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One of the more bizarre entries in the eighties tv canon.  Simon MacCorkindale stars as Dr Jonathan Chase, a British college professor at a New York university who had the ability to transform into any animal.  He used this ability to help fight crime (as you do!) To be honest, looking back at it, Manimal was way, way, way ahead of its time. But, alas, nobody watched it so it was canned after only 8 episodes.  Just think what could have been…

WATCH IT FOR: The batshit crazy opening titles

FILM… (1972-present)

You can forget your Jonathan Ross and your Claudia Winkleman (why, God, why?) There was, and to me still is, only one presenter of the Film… programme – Barry Norman!  Although it was scattered around the tv schedules, I still managed to learn almost everything I know about film from the master critic.  On set reports, interviews and clips of the latest releases, Film… taught me how to appreciate the moving image more than any other programme before or since.  Thank you Barry Norman for your wisdom and for bringing this most amazing of art forms to life for me!

WATCH IT FOR: The best damn theme tune ever!

PLAY SCHOOL (1964-1988)

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Stories, fun, and things to make and do for pre-school children.  There only a couple of generations who understand when you mention the words “square window” or “humpty and big ted”.  This was children’s television at its very finest.  Presenters who were like the best aunties and uncles you ever had and a set of stuffed co-presenters who often stole the show just by sitting there (or falling over!).  Brian Cant, Derek Griffiths, Fred Harris, Johnny Ball, Floella Benjamin…the list is endless of the talent that taught pre-school kids how to count, read and be the very best they could be.  Long since gone, but never forgotten, Play School was consigned to the children’s tv heaven in 1988 and into our hearts forever.

WATCH IT FOR: The opening titles

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And there you have another batch of childhood memories, wrapped neatly with a bow and presented to you for your pleasure!  There are more to come but before Part Five there will be a special Halloween edition featuring spooky shows, Halloween episodes and seasonal specials…stay tuned!

My Life In TV: Part Three

The more I think about the television programmes that I used to watch as a child, the more that come floating back into my memory…some are, thankfully, alive and kicking online thanks to those who kept endless hours of videotapes and have since uploaded them to YouTube.  I am one of those who has endless hours of videotapes but, as yet, haven’t progressed to uploading any…but there’s plenty of time for that.  We have other matters to contend with!

THE PRETENDER (1996-2000)

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This one is a mystery to me.  On the surface this story of a specially gifted man, with the ability to instantly master any skill, escaping from a secret agency and travelling the country taking on a different jobs and helping strangers should have been much bigger than it was.  Even though it ran for four series and a couple of TV movies, The Pretender appears to have been largely forgotten and that, to me, is a crime.  A hugely entertaining and extremely underrated action drama, it stars Michael T. Weiss as Jarod and Andrea Parker as Miss Parker, the woman forced with the task of bringing Jarod back.  I have nothing but fond memories of this show and am sad that its not been repeated anywhere or, for that matter, available on DVD here in the UK.  I think a Pretender resurgence is much needed and it starts now!  Google it, YouTube it and spread the word.  There are Pretenders among us…

WATCH IT FOR: The opening set-up

GRANGE HILL (1978-2008)

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Classic kids drama set in a London comprehensive school that launched a thousand careers.  A generation of kids grew up with the antics of the students at Grange Hill, reflecting everyday life and struggles that teenagers faced.  The brainchild of Phil Redmond, it went on to tackle sensitive issues as teenage pregnancy, abuse and drugs – the latter being responsible for a hit record and a trip to the White House.  Characters such as Tucker, Zammo, Gonch, Mr Bronson, Mrs McCluskey are all ingrained in our memories as is the show itself, harking back to the halcyon days of old.

WATCH IT FOR: The original theme tunethe updated theme tuneJust Say No

HOME IMPROVEMENT (1991-1999)

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One of my absolute favourite sitcoms, Home Improvement follows the daily trials and tribulations of Tim Taylor, a TV show host raising three mischievous boys with help from his long-suffering wife, loyal co-host and genius neighbour.  Based on the stand-up routines of its star Tim Allen, this is a show for all the family.  Its funny, touching and, with the added set up of having a show within a show, it is fresh and inventive.  With a cast that includes Patricia Richardson as Tim’s wife, Zachary Ty Bryan, Johnathan Taylor Thomas and Taran Noah Smith as their three sons and Richard Karn as Al Borland, Tim’s co-star on Tool Time it ran for almost a decade and over 200 episodes.

WATCH IT FOR: The opening titles and Tim’s wise neighbour, Wilson

THE EQUALIZER (1985-1989)

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“Got a problem? Odds against you? Call the Equalizer. 212 555 4200”  This was the basic set-up for the show starring Edward Woodward as Robert McCall, a retired intelligence agent turned private detective.  The violence on the show was, at times, gratuitous and somewhat over the top but it appeared to be firmly in reality thanks to Woodward’s compassionate portrayal of the hero. He was often joined on his crusades by Mickey Kostmayer (Keith Szarabajka) who usually ended up doing the leg work and the full-on action stuff.  It was rare to have a British lead on an American show, but Woodward more than managed to handle the role.

WATCH IT FOR: Stewart Copeland‘s theme tune

HARTBEAT (1984-1994)

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Tony Hart was the best art teacher you never had at school.  He had already been a fixture on British tv screens from Vision On and Take Hart, the latter of which I vaguely remember thanks, in part to the introduction of Morph!  But it is Hartbeat that I remember fondly from my childhood.  Although I never could (and still can’t) draw, I was fascinated by Hart’s style.  His delivery was that of a kindly uncle who would show you how to draw the simplest of things and then show off by creating a massive outdoor piece from bits of scrap metal or some such.  He was often joined by Margot Wilson and Colin Bennett as the bumbling caretaker Mr Bennett.  But it was Morph and the Gallery that became the mainstays.  Plus Hart’s endearing charm.

WATCH IT FOR: Hart’s skills

MATT HOUSTON (1982-1985)

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The classic tale of a wealthy Texas businessman who moves to California and dabbles in his favourite hobby of private investigation.  This appears to be another one of those shows that nobody else remembers but I loved it, especially because its star Lee Horsley was one of those wise-cracking super cool private eyes that I love so much.  Flash cars, penthouse apartment and oodles of beautiful women around him.   Can’t believe there aren’t more people around who remember this show…maybe I lead a sheltered life and spent too much time watching cheesy US programmes!

WATCH IT FOR: The opening theme

THE BIG BREAKFAST (1992-2002)

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The one tv show that was guaranteed to wake you up in the morning!  The ship that launched a thousand stars including Chris Evans, Gaby Roslin, Johnny Vaughan, Denise Van Outen, Liza Tarbuck and many others.  It was bright, noisy, funky and very much of its time.  Its what the early 1990s needed, a fresh wake-up call to counteract the stuffy news lead programmes that had taken over the airwaves.  Phone in competitions, celebrity guests and space aliens! What more could you possibly need first thing in a morning?!  I have to say, on a personal note, the glory days of this show don’t lie with Evans and Roslin.  For me, Vaughan, Van Outen and Tarbuck are the ones I remember.  Creating catchphrases, games and memories I still refer to today!  Long since gone, the weekday schedule between 7am and 9am is very dull in comparison!

WATCH IT FOR: The theme tune

SCHOOL OF COMEDY (2009-2010)

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Children pretending to be adults in funny situations has ‘trainwreck’ written all over it but School of Comedy succeeds where most others would have failed.  The success lies with the charm and chemistry of the leading troupe of up-and-coming stars.  Its funny, rude and absurdly bizarre in places.  Its what would have happened if Bugsy Malone had done stand-up!  Will Poulter, Jack Harries, Charlie Wernham, Beth Rylance and Ella Ainsworth take turns playing odd characters in ever odder situations.  But its Poulter who shines brighter, from his performances here it was clear he was destined for bigger things.

WATCH IT FOR: Max Brown‘s perverted museum curator; white van men

THE RED HAND GANG (1977)

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A bunch of precocious kids calling themselves The Red Hang Gang solve mysteries in their neighbourhood and getting themselves into trouble.  It was short-lived but has managed to remain strong in the memory mainly due to the funky theme tune.  I recently purchased the DVD and have relived the whole cheesy series.  It doesn’t disappoint, even though it is extremely dated now!

WATCH IT FOR: That funky theme tune!

EERIE, INDIANA (1991-1992)

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Marshall Teller’s family moves to the small country town of Eerie, Indiana (Pop. 16,661). There, Marshall discovers that Eerie, as he puts it, “is the center of weirdness for the universe”. Elvis lives there, so do a pair of twins who stay young by sleeping in Tupperware, and many other strange things. Each episode, Marshall and his friend Simon collect evidence about the creepy things that happen there.  This harks back to the days of the great anthology series’ The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits where the odd and bizarre exist in an element of reality.  Omri Katz and Justin Shenkarow are superb as the two leads in this offbeat kids show that isn’t just for kids!

WATCH IT FOR: The opening set-up

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Another countdown bites the dust…come back soon though, there’s plenty more where that came from!