TV Heroes – Brian Cant 1933-2017

If you are of a certain age his was the voice that carried you through your childhood.  Whether it be in front of the camera in Play School or as narrator on Camberwick Green, Trumpton or Chigley, the late Brian Cant was the epitome of what is was to be a children’s television presenter – warm, friendly and engaging.

Presenters Brian Cant and Chloe Ashcroft.

BRIAN CANT

Brian Cant was working as an actor for BBC Schools when he heard that auditions were being held for a new children’s television programme.  Play School (1964-1988) was a series aimed at pre-school audiences and was to be shown on the new BBC2 channel.  At his audition, Cant was asked by the show’s creator, Joy Whitby, to get into a cardboard box and pretend to ‘row out to sea’.  He fished from this cardboard boat and caught a wellington boot full of custard.  He was hired as a presenter and stayed with the programme for 21 years, becoming a firm favourite among fans with his voice being heard over the famous opening titles to the show.

His work on Play School lead directly to his working on a new animated series from Gordon Murray, Camberwick Green (1966).  The Trumptonshire Trilogy also featured Trumpton (1967) and Chigley (1969).  Cant provided the narration for the series’ as well as singing all the songs.  These three programmes have all become iconic, cult favourites thanks mostly to Cant’s soothing voice.

 

Later he became a co-host of Play Away, a sister programme to Play School that was aimed at slightly older children.  Play Away was the slightly naughtier sibling that felt a little bit more anarchic to the more serene Play School.  It played host to rising stars of British television including Tony Robinson, Anita Dobson and Jeremy Irons.

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Then, in 1980, Cant presented the cult classic Bric-A-Brac.  Cant played the shopkeeper in a dusty, old Bric-A-Brac shop where he would focus on a different letter of the alphabet in each episode.  The show often made use of alliteration and tongue-twisters to help it’s young viewers learn to read and write.

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More shows followed including Dappledown Farm and Jay Jay The Jet Plane, as well as appearances in Doctor Who and presenting The Great Egg Race.  Alongside his early television roles, Cant also appeared in the films The Sandwich Man (1966) and A Feast At Midnight (1995) in which he co-starred with Christopher Lee.

As a cult figure of entertainment, Cant parodied his role as a narrator in The Organ Gang as part of This Morning With Richard Not Judy from Lee and Herring.  He also made an appearance in the music video for Orbital‘s DVD The Altogether.

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In 2010 he received the special award from Children’s BAFTA in recognition for his services to children’s television over the decades.  And, although diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 1999, he continued to make fleeting appearances on television, most recently in the daytime drama Doctors.

Brian Cant’s legacy is one of nostalgia as witnessed as the news broke today of his passing.  Twitter is awash with fond memories and reverie of his work.  To a generation of children he was the babysitter, the uncle and the friend who made everything feel better.  His distinctive voice a trigger to the vaults of time when life was simple and television made a difference.

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BRIAN CANT – 1933-2017

 

 

TV Heroes – Stephen J. Cannell

The first in a new, occasional series of side-blogs celebrating my heroes of television.  Those people who have, in some way or another, made an outstanding contribution to the medium.  This first part celebrates an icon of American action shows…

 

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STEPHEN J. CANNELL

Producer, writer, novelist and occasional actor, Stephen J. Cannell is famous for creating some of the most iconic television series’ in a generation.  Starting out as a freelance script-writer for Ironside and Columbo, Cannell soon found a full-time gig as writer on the fourth series of police drama Adam-12 before going on to create his own shows.  The first big hit, The Rockford Files (1974-1980), he co-created with Roy Huggins and which starred James Garner as Jim Rockford, an ex-con who now works as a private detective.

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In 1979, Cannell formed his own company, Stephen J. Cannell Productions.  The first show produced under this new banner was the short-lived Tenspeed and Brown Shoe starring Ben Vereen and Jeff Goldblum.  This was soon followed by more the successful The Greatest American Hero, The A-Team, Hardcastle & McCormick, Riptide and Hunter.

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Cannell also worked as an occasional actor in his own series, Renegade where he played “Dutch” Dixon.  He also had a regular role as himself in the comedy crime drama Castle, opposite Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic.  In 2010 a feature-film version of The A-Team was made and he acted as producer and creative consultant on the project which wasn’t as big a success as was expected.  One of his other shows, 21 Jump Street, was also remade as a movie in 2012 with a sequel following in 2014.

Perhaps the most recognisable part of his career was his production company’s logo that appeared at the end of his shows.  It shows him typing, ripping a piece of paper from the typewriter and throwing it in the air.  It has been much parodied in recent years in such shows as American Dad!, 30 Rock, Family Guy, Garth Marengi’s Dark Place and The Simpsons.  What is remarkable about his career is that Cannell was dyslexic, appearing in a documentary in 2009 to talk about his struggles as a writer with the condition and how he felt it had enriched his life.

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Stephen J. Cannell died on September 30th 2010 from complications of melanoma.  He leaves behind not only his childhood sweetheart and three children, but a legacy of great television shows that will be enjoyed by generations to come.

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STEPHEN J. CANNELL 1941-2010

 

 

My Life In TV: Part Thirteen

Previously on My Life In TV…

There were the usual eclectic choices and rarely seen gems including hilarious aliens and swashbuckling dogs! The further into the memory banks I go the more long-forgotten programmes I remember and then the list gets longer…

 

BOTTOM (1991-1995)

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Continuing the brutal humour of their break-out hit The Young Ones, Adrian Edmondson and the very-much-missed Rik Mayall return in Bottom.  It’s crude, rude and anarchic and extremely funny.  Eddie and Richie, two flatmates on the dole in London, spend the majority of their time being extremely violent to each other and coming up with plans to find women who want to have sex with them.  The humour is broad and the show is noted for it’s violent slapstick but it is, in essence, a very funny sitcom about two people who think they have a much higher social status than they do.

WATCH IT FOR: “You’ve been drinking, haven’t you?”

 

DAVE GORMAN: MODERN LIFE IS GOODISH (2013-present)

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Comedian Dave Gorman looks at life in a different way using his trusty Powerpoint presentations.  Most episodes take a very simple situation that we all encounter and Dave turns it on it’s head to reveal the absurdity of life.  QR codes, questionnaires, giving your name in certain coffee shops and Home Under The Hammer all come under scrutiny but it’s the Found Poems that are the real star of the show.  Dave loves to trawl the lower half of the internet and take all the comments left and turn them into works of art set to music.  If you haven’t seen this show then I must urge you to seek it out because it really is very funny, intelligent and will leave you thinking that, you know what, modern life is good-ish!

WATCH IT FOR: One of the Found Poems

 

WHO’S THE BOSS? (1984-1992)

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There was a sort of golden era of sitcoms in the USA during the 1980s, almost every show that came out was a comedy and a hit.  Most were carbon copies of each other but some came along that were just a little bit different.  Former professional baseball player Tony (Tony Danza) and his daughter Samantha (Alyssa Milano) move in to the home of high-powered businesswoman Angela Bower (Judith Light) and her son Jonathan (Danny Pintauro) where Tony has recently taken the job of housekeeper.  Most of the comedy comes from the role reversal situations and different class Tony and Angela share.  As with all 80s sitcoms there is great support, this time in the shape of Katherine Helmond as Angela’s mother, and a catchy, if somewhat cheesy, theme tune.  I used to love watching this growing up, not least because of the crush I had on Alyssa Milano!

WATCH IT FOR: That theme tune

 

KYTV (1989-1993)

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The say comedy is all about the timing.  KYTV came along at the perfect time, right at the beginning of satellite television in the UK.  KYTV is a parody channel that specialises in being quite naff and cheap.  Angus Deayton, Geoffrey Perkins, Helen Atkinson Wood, Philip Pope and Michael Fenton Stevens take on a variety of guises as the often inept hosts and presenters of the channels output.  It’s funny, satirical and very underrated.  I enjoyed watching this when it was shown on the BBC and often wish it was repeated again.

WATCH IT FOR: The joys of the internet, there’s a full episode here

 

GOTHAM (2014-present)

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Rather than another Batman origin story, here we see the rise of Detective Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) in the years before the Caped Crusader rose to prominence.  I’ll admit to being a little sceptical about this show and it did take me a while to warm to this reimagining of the famous story.  I persevered, though, and have been rewarded with a show that is both gritty and dark while still maintaining the comic book vibes.  David Mazouz plays the young Bruce Wayne while Sean Pertwee is Alfred Pennyworth, his trusty guardian and butler.  Among the many stand-out performances throughout the series so far, Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin absolutely steals the show.  The only trouble I have with the show is that Channel 5 here in the UK is so far behind and, at the time of writing, we are still awaiting the screening of series 3!

WATCH IT FOR: The New York Comic-Con trailer for Season 2

 

THE VICE (1999-2003)

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This is one of those dramas that television does so well.  Uncovering the seedy side of London’s sex trade while at the same time giving us fully-rounded and real characters.  Ken Stott, who, for a long time, seemed to be the go-to actor for this type of role, stars as veteran copper Inspector Chappell.  Chappell heads the Met’s vice squad which sometimes falls under the spell of the dark side itself.  This isn’t for the faint-hearted, the stories included deal with very sensitive subjects and doesn’t shy away from it either.  There is fine support from an array of up-and-coming actors: Marc Warren, David Harewood, Caroline Catz and a particularly sinister turn from the late Tim Pigott-Smith.  Plus, the theme tune is a corker – Portishead “Sour Times”

WATCH IT FOR: There are full episodes online – like this one!

 

MIKE & ANGELO (1989-2000)

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The story of a friendly alien living with an American boy in England!  During the 1980s, UK television was full of this kind of sitcom.  Aimed at children and shown on weekday afternoons, the programmes usually featured outrageous situations and slapstick comedy and often tried to recreated the US-style of show.  Mike & Angelo was one of the more successful (and better) ones.  Over the course of the show’s lifespan there were two Angelo’s (Tyler Butterworth and Tim Whitnall) and a number of Mike’s and supporting characters but the majority of the humour was the same.  Alien doesn’t quite understand the human way of life…with hilarious consequences!  I quite liked it, even though looking at some of the episodes online I wonder why!

WATCH IT FOR: The full, first episode!

 

DIAGNOSIS MURDER (1993-2001)

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The beauty of this programme is the fact that it is still shown today, endlessly on some channels, yet I can still watch it.  The wonderful Dick Van Dyke stars as Dr Mark Sloan, a man who often finds trouble and has to enlist the help of his detective son, Steve (Barry Van Dyke) to solve the crimes.  It’s a light-hearted crime show, very much in the family entertainment bracket rather than some of the more gritty procedurals on TV at the moment.  Much like Murder, She Wrote (1984-1996), Diagnosis Murder features famous guest stars and improbable coincidences but is great fun.

WATCH IT FOR: Theme tune

 

MAGNUM, P.I. (1980-1988)

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Thomas Magnum (Tom Selleck) is an ex-Navy Captain and Vietnam Special Ops veteran who resigned his commission and ‘retired’ to Hawaii where he works as a private investigator.  Magnum’s life on the Hawaiian islands seem idyllic but there is always plenty of murder and intrigue to keep him busy.  Magnum resides at the lavish estate of renowned author Robin Masters and is kept company by Higgins (John Hillerman) who patrols the estate with his two Doberman dogs, Zeus and Apollo.  Higgins often helps out with Magnum’s cases, as do T.C. (Roger E. Mosley) and Rick (Larry Manetti).  The show was a massive hit and won many awards.  It’s fondly remembered for the great cast as well as Magnum’s Ferrari and the excellent theme tune from the legendary Mike Post.

WATCH IT FOR: That theme tune!

 

BATMAN (1966-1968)

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It seems only fitting that the last word in this rundown goes to the late, great Adam West who forged a career playing the Caped Crusader on television.  Whereas Gotham takes the focus away from Bruce Wayne and concentrates on Jim Gordon, this is all about Wayne and Dick Grayson/Robin (Burt Ward).  Long before he became the Dark Knight, Batman was as camp as Christmas.  Full of everything the sixties had to offer, this show was more comic book than an actual comic book.  Part of the joy of this series, apart from West’s iconic performance, was the ability to attract some of the biggest names in Hollywood to appear as guest villains.  Vincent Price, Cesar Romero, Burgess Meredith, Roddy McDowell, Frank Gorshin among many other wonderfully cheesy performances.  It was, essentially, a giant pantomime on the small screen and still wows viewers to this day.  The sad news this week that Adam West had passed away only reinvigorated the show’s popularity and brought about an outpouring of grief from the show’s many fans who declare that West is their Batman.  I can’t argue with that, even though I’m of a much later generation, as I grew up watching the repeats and loved the camp, cheesy and outrageous plots.

WATCH IT FOR: The best of West

 

There you go, another countdown of the television programmes that have somehow made an impact on me.  It’s good fun rummaging around the archives to find the right clips or pictures to depict the show and the whole process has brought back a lot of memories.  If you like what you see please feel free to drop me a line, I’d love to hear from you.  Until next time…

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“Come on, Robin, to the Bat Cave! There’s not a moment to lose!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Face Is Familiar…

Another in my occasional series of features about the hard-working actors and actresses who have impressive CVs but whose names you don’t quite know…

 

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BRUCE McGILL

Bruce McGill is one of the main reasons I decided to take on this side series of blogs.  His career is a spectacular one and you no doubt recognise him but you probably don’t know his name.  I first became aware of him as a fan of Quantum Leap in which he played pivotal roles in both the pilot episode and the last ever episode.  This role in the last episode almost implied he was an omnipotent presence in Sam Beckett’s leaping around in time.  Making you wonder if he was God and in control of Sam’s efforts.

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But long before he was offering sage advice to time travellers, McGill was working as a jobbing actor finding cult fame playing D-Day in National Lampoon’s Animal House in 1978.  Over the years he has been a regular face in many big films including The Last Boy Scout, Cliffhanger, Timecop, The Insider, The Sum of All Fears and Collateral to name just a few.

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Perhaps, though, he is most known for his recurring role in the hit television series MacGyver in which he played Jack Dalton, the eponymous hero’s best friend and comic relief.  Always a regular face in episodic television series like Law & Order, Home Improvement, Babylon 5 and Walker, Texas Ranger, for seven series he played Boston detective Vince Korsak in the popular crime drama Rizzoli & Isles.  He also had a recurring role in The Cleveland Show.

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With over 150 entries on IMDb and showing no signs of slowing down, McGill most recently appeared on screen in a supporting role in NCIS.  Always reliable and prolific, McGill’s humour and delivery mark him out as one of the best actors you’ve never heard of.

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FACE IS FAMILIAR – BRUCE McGILL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Life In TV: Part Twelve

Here we go with another batch of television memories that have, in their own way, made an impact on me.  I enjoy looking back through the archives and trying to remember the programmes I used to watch and those that I’d completely forgotten about.  There are some great shows here and some that are not so great but I still love them!

 

THE HIGH LIFE (1994)

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The only thing I don’t get about The High Life is how it only managed one series of six episodes.  It deserved a hell of a lot more than that.  Maybe the surreal humour was a bit too ahead of it’s time back in 1994, who knows?  This Scottish sitcom takes us behind the scenes of a fictional small airline where we meet the crew including Alan Cumming, Forbes Masson, Siobhan Redmond and Patrick Ryecart.  Like I said, there is some surreal humour and some very funny lines, not to mention the all-singing all-dancing opening title song that will stick in your brain for days (or years, in my case!).

WATCH IT FOR: The magnificent opening title song

 

SARACEN (1989)

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Here’s a curiosity from the late eighties that seemed, on paper at least, to have everything going for it.  An action/thriller based around secret agents, surveillance and bodyguard protection.  Created by Clapperboard‘s Chris Kelly, Saracen is largely forgotten these days mainly due to the narrow range of plot devices and low budget, but it remains one of those obscurities that I remember watching and enjoying.  There were rare repeats on cable and satellite television and the whole series (including the feature-length pilot episode with different cast members) is available on DVD.

WATCH IT FOR: Thanks to the internet, this opening sequence lives on

 

MACGYVER (1985-1992)

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The 1980s brought us some fantastic action shows from across the pond, many of which I’ve already included, and this one is no exception.  Richard Dean Anderson plays the title character, a secret agent with a scientific mind and the ability to turn mundane objects into weapons.  It had a great attitude and style (MacGyver’s voice over often filling in the blanks on the technical stuff) and, coupled with a spectacular theme tune from Randy Edelman, ran for 139 episodes over 7 series.  To MacGyver something has gone into pop culture as the everyman takes a simple paper clip and tries to pick a lock or defuse a nuclear bomb!

WATCH IT FOR: Those opening titles and that theme tune

 

REAPER (2007-2009)

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On his 21st birthday Sam Oliver (Bret Harrison) discovers that his parents sold his soul to the devil before he was born and now he must serve as a bounty hunter, tracking down evil spirits and demonic souls that have escaped from Hell.  Along for the ride are his best friends Sock (Tyler Labine), Ben (Rick Gonzalez) and Andi (Missy Peregrym).  Ray Wise plays The Devil, a part he was surely made for.  It’s a shame it only ran for a couple of series as this show was really good fun and very funny.

WATCH IT FOR: This original channel promo tells you everything you need to know!

 

BROADCHURCH (2013-2017)

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This drama quickly became the television event of the decade thanks to the brilliant writing (Chris Chibnall) and central characters of Hardy (David Tennant) and Miller (Olivia Colman).  A seemingly quiet seaside town is rocked to it’s very core when a young boy is murdered and the media whips everyone into a frenzy.  The quality is in the detail and we see the investigation from beginning to end, taking in the local community and their secrets.  There has never been another programme quite like this.  Sure, there are a dozen police dramas knocking around but not on the same scale as this.  I used to refer to this on Twitter as #ShiftyLocals because you could bet your bottom dollar that you would be accusing everyone at some point.  Its testament to the writing that kept you guessing right up to the end.  Quality.

WATCH IT FOR: Hardy & Miller

 

MORK & MINDY (1978-1982)

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The brilliant, and much-missed, Robin Williams plays Mork from Ork, an alien who lands on Earth in an egg to investigate human behaviour and report back to his superiors.  He finds himself lodging with Mindy (Pam Dawber) whose life is never the same again.  Much of the humour comes from Mork’s fish-out-of-water scenarios and the reaction from people around him.  It’s a spin-off from the popular sitcom Happy Days where Mork turns out to be villainous and part of Ritchie Cunningham’s dreams.  It was daring, original and extremely funny and needs repeating on television very soon!

WATCH IT FOR: Theme tune

 

SCARECROW AND MRS. KING (1983-1987)

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Kate Jackson (Charlie’s Angels) plays housewife Mrs. King who is handed a package one day by a secret agent, Lee Stetson a.k.a. The Scarecrow (Bruce Boxleitner) while he is running from bad guys.  He must then track her down before the bad guys do.  The majority of the show’s appeal was the inevitable will-they-won’t-they storyline between the two characters which often detracted away from the spy side of things.  The two leads are perfect together and I really enjoyed this show when it was on and think it deserves at least another repeat showing.

WATCH IT FOR: Opening titles

 

DOGTANIAN AND THE THREE MUSKEHOUNDS (1981-1982)

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As a kid there were a few cartoon series that seemed to go on forever.  Around The World With Willy Fog, Ulysses 31, The Mysterious Cities of Gold and this one, loosely based on the classic novel by Alexandre Dumas.  Basically it’s The Three Musketeers but with dogs instead of humans.  I remember very little of this show other than it was shown during the Children’s BBC strand and had a theme song that never really leaves you!  I’m not even sure whether I saw it through to the end.

WATCH IT FOR: I make no apologies for this – The theme tune – you’re welcome!

 

OUT OF THIS WORLD (1987-1991)

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I just had a meltdown!  This show is thirty years old!  THIRTY!! Anyway, this was one of those American imports that used to be shown in the school holidays that I watched religiously.  Evie Garland (Maureen Flannigan) who lives at home with her mum, Donna (Donna Pescow), inherits special powers on her 13th birthday due to the fact that her father, Troy, is an alien.  She could pause and un-pause time and transfer herself from one place to another.  As usual, the supporting characters often just showed up for no real reason – the local Mayor (Doug McClure), Donna’s brother, Beano (Joe Alaskey) – but on the whole it was about Evie getting herself out of the trouble she put herself in.

WATCH IT FOR: Theme tune

 

THE ENFIELD HAUNTING (2015)

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Behind the doors of a seemingly normal house in North London there lies a deeply disturbing and terrifying entity.  Based on real events in 1977, this three-part mini-series tells the story of a working class family struggling to deal with whatever is behind these bizarre events.  Timothy Spall plays Maurice Grosse, a psychic investigator who is called in when the Hodgson’s experience strange goings-on in their home.  He calls in the help of fellow investigator Guy Lyon Playfair (Matthew Macfadyen) and the two of them discover darkness like nothing else.  These two give outstanding performances, as you’d expect, but it’s young Eleanor Worthington-Cox who absolutely steals the show and was, quite rightly, nominated for a BAFTA for her performance.

WATCH IT FOR: She’s gone

 

Another batch of television programmes from years gone by, and some that are a little more recent.  Watching some of these clips online have really sparked the memories and I’ve enjoyed re-watching some of them.  If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve seen here, please let me know, I really would love to hear from you.  Get in touch through this or come follow me on Twitter.  Until then, though, it’s time to go…

3314930d255a0eb13c478b007b399156“Oh deary me!”

 

 

 

 

My Life In TV: Part Eleven

After a short hiatus to bring you more eclectic gems from the film archives I return to my television countdown.  I think, probably more than My Life In Film…, revisiting the television programmes of my youth (and my not-so-youth) has stirred up more memories.  These were the shows that kept me company, fired my imagination and, sometimes, forced me to hide behind the sofa!

 

CRIMINAL MINDS (2005-present)

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The FBI’s Behavioural Analysis Unit (BAU) is made up of an elite group of agents and profilers who seek out the most dangerous serial killers and criminals.  Usually called in by local police forces, the BAU try to predict the next move of the unknown subject (unsub) before it occurs.  The episodes feature some pretty gruesome crimes but is never sensationalist about it which is one of the appeals of the show.  The other being the close-knit cast and the fact that when long-standing cast members leave it doesn’t really affect the show.  It is still one of the best crime shows on television which often casts a light on the darker, seedier side of life.

WATCH IT FOR: Profiling the unsub!

 

ALAN DAVIES: AS YET UNTITLED (2014-present)

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This programme has such a simple format but it works so well.  Comedian Alan Davies chairs an informal chat with four guests without a script or any questions.  All he has is maybe one or two facts about them which often act as the starting point to a free-form conversation that can go anywhere!  The idea is that by the end of the show they will have come up with a title for that particular episode from something that has been said over the course of the show.  It’s a brilliant and fun programme that is a welcome relief from the usual chat-show style format and offers the guests the chance to be a little more open than they probably would on any other set.

WATCH IT FOR: One of the many anecdotes

 

PETER KAY’S CAR SHARE (2015-2017)

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A supermarket organises a new car share scheme that sees Assistant Manager, John (Peter Kay) forced to drive Promotions Rep, Kayleigh (Sian Gibson) to and from work every day.  The two co-workers couldn’t be more different.  John is fairly strait-laced and formal whereas Kayleigh is slightly rebellious and unpredictable but their friendship grows stronger as they journey to work listening to the radio.  Who knew that a comedy about two people in a car would become such a massive hit?  Simple is idea but utterly genius in it’s writing and performances, Car Share won two BAFTAs and the hearts of the nation.  Some say Kay was wrong to end the show after just two series and 10 episodes but I think it’s a stroke of genius.  Leave them wanting more!

WATCH IT FOR: Dogging?

 

CRACKER (1993-1996)

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Writer Jimmy McGovern is renowned for creating hard-hitting dramas and he didn’t mess around with this one.  Robbie Coltrane plays Fitz, a forensic psychologist who assists the police with their difficult cases.  He drinks, smokes and is abrasive but always gets the job done.  Christopher Ecclestone, Geraldine Somerville and Lorcan Cranitch play the cops who have to deal with Fitz and his ways.  It often hit hard with it’s storylines and was sometimes controversial (especially with Robert Carlyle as a guest star) but we needed it back then and we still do.

WATCH IT FOR: Carlyle’s outstanding performance

 

RANDALL AND HOPKIRK (DECEASED) (1969-1971)

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Jeff Randall (Mike Pratt) and Marty Hopkirk (Kenneth Cope) are private investigators who specialise in divorce cases but their lives are changed forever when Marty is killed in a hit-and-run incident.  But then Marty comes back as a ghost in order to solve his own murder.  From Dennis Spooner, creator of Man In A Suitcase and The Champions, this supernatural drama hits every mark.  It’s both dramatic and funny and the two leads are well-matched along with Annette Andre (Marty’s widow).  The series was remade in 2000 with Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer but lacked the charm of this original.

WATCH IT FOR: The opening titles

 

CHOCKY’S CHILDREN (1985)

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A year after the original series, Chocky the extra terrestrial returns to help his friend Matthew (Andrew Ellams).  This is what great children’s television is all about, a great story (created by John Wyndham) and a great cast (James Hazeldine & Carol Drinkwater as Matthew’s parents).  The story sees Matthew carted off to his Aunt’s house in the country where he meets Albertine and they soon discover they can communicate with each other without talking.  The authorities from the first series are soon hunting them to find the secret behind Chocky.

WATCH IT FOR: Trailer

 

MESSIAH (2001-2005)

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Two bodies are discovered, horrifically mutilated, and DCI Red Metcalfe (Ken Stott) is assigned to find the killer but finds himself in a terrifying nightmare.  This is what happens when television takes a chance.  A gruesome and brilliant serial drama that takes the form of four mini-series from creator Boris Starling.  Stott is, as always, magnificent as Metcalfe, just one of the many dour, troubled detectives he’s played over the years.  Neil Dudgeon is also top-notch as Duncan Warren, Metcalfe’s detective partner who joins him on this gripping journey.  It’s not for the faint-hearted but it really is worth a watch if you get the chance, if only for Stott’s brilliance.

WATCH IT FOR: Metcalfe

 

ANIMANIACS (1993-1998)

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This is one of the smartest, funniest cartoons ever made.  The three main characters are more like old vaudeville stars with their rapid delivery of lines and smart humour and songs.  The animation, as you’d expect, is spot-on and the cast of supporting characters including Pinky and The Brain and The Goodfeathers are just as wacky.  Throughout the series there are references to old films and classic animations which just adds to the classy style of the show.  A superior cartoon that isn’t just for kids!

WATCH IT FOR: One of the many clever songs – Yakko’s World

 

RECORD BREAKERS (1972-2001)

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Children’s television in the eighties was full of nuggets of brilliance like this.  Family entertainment that also educated.  Records attempts were featured every week as part of The Guinness Book of Records and people took part in the daring and ridiculous in order to get themselves in the book.  The legendary Roy Castle hosted alongside Cheryl Baker (Bucks Fizz) while Norris McWhirter adjudicated proceedings.  Over the years many records were broken, including nine world records by Castle himself.  After Castle sadly died in 1994, the show continued but, in my opinion, the heart and soul had gone.

WATCH IT FOR: One of the many brilliant record attempts by the awesome Roy Castle!

 

THE BILL (1984-2010)

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Uniformed officers and detectives from Sun Hill police station fight crime on the streets of London.  What started out as a single drama called Woodentop, The Bill became one of the longest-running dramas on television with it’s fully-rounded characters and gripping storylines.  When the show eventually came to an end it had notched up over 2000 episodes and created stars of many of the main cast and supporting actors.

WATCH IT FOR: The iconic theme tune

 

And, as the feet walk away from the camera, we close this edition of My Life In TV… an eclectic mix of serial killers, zany cartoon characters and ghostly detectives.  I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface here with these programmes, there are, as you’d imagine, lots more to come.  If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve seen, please drop me a line.  You can either leave a message on here or find me on twitter: @Shadow_Chaser – I’d love to hear from you!  Until the next time…

9648b987a5fcea1119294299abd502cd“If you wanna be the best, and you wanna beat the rest, dedication’s what you need”

 

 

My Life In Film: Part Twenty

Can you believe it?  Part twenty!  At the end of this there will be 200 films in this countdown of my favourites.  I was just looking through the list I’ve accumulated so far and was shocked to find a couple of absolute classics that I’ve missed!  Don’t worry, that error has been rectified, so settle in for some more eclectic cinematic treats!

 

KUFFS (1992)

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This is one of those curious films that nobody else seems to remember, and there’s probably a very good reason for that!  It isn’t the greatest film ever made, nor is it the worst (I’ve seen plenty of those in my time!) but it is an interesting one.  Teen heartthrob Christian Slater plays George Kuffs, a guy who isn’t really going anywhere in life, who loses his job and finds out his girlfriend (Milla Jovovich) is pregnant.  He visits his older brother, Brad (Bruce Boxleitner) to ask for a loan but Brad is suddenly killed and Kuffs finds himself taking over Brad’s police patrol special district (Yeah, I know!.  Ultimately, this film (which was written specifically for Slater) fails because it doesn’t really know what it’s trying to be.  It’s funny, slightly irritating (Kuffs talks to camera a lot!) but it does have some great music on the soundtrack.

WATCH IT FOR: The trailer!

 

THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994)

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Here’s a classic example of the power of home video sales turning a relatively disappointing run at the box office into a massive, global success.  The Shawshank Redemption, while only doing modest business in cinemas became a phenomenon that saw it nominated for 7 Academy Awards (sadly, going home empty handed) and continually atop Greatest Film polls.  Based on a short story by Stephen King and directed by Frank Darabont, it’s the tale of two men, imprisoned together for many years who find solace and hope in one another.  Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman are on spectacular form as are the rest of the stunning cast.  This film will uplift you, even though the subject matter might not.  It really is a sensationally brilliant film.

WATCH IT FOR: Opera

 

WORKING GIRL (1988)

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Melanie Griffith is frustrated secretary Tess McGill, struggling to find her way in the world of big business in New York.  When her boss, played by Sigourney Weaver, breaks her leg on a skiing holiday, Tess gets her chance to shine.  She teams up with investment broker Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford) to reach a deal.  But then her boss returns!  This wonderful comedy from director Mike Nichols showcases Griffith’s hitherto unseen acting chops and gives us a chance to see Ford and Weaver in rare comedic roles.  To top it off, there’s the best Oscar-winning song ever from Carly Simon!

WATCH IT FOR: “A head for business…”

 

BATMAN RETURNS (1992)

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It was, perhaps, almost inevitable that Tim Burton would return to the dark streets of Gotham City following the huge success of Batman (1989).  Michael Keaton returns as the Dark Knight and his alter ego Bruce Wayne, as does Michael Gough as his trusty butler, Alfred.  This time around, though, there is more evil in the city in the shape of The Penguin (Danny DeVito), Max Shreck (Christopher Walken) and the delectable Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman.  It is an admirable sequel that sometimes falls apart trying to manage multiple villains (although not as bad as the later sequels) but on the whole it is just as enjoyable as the original.

WATCH IT FOR: Meow!

 

STEPPING OUT (1991)

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Did somebody say “Curveball”?  Well, I probably wouldn’t have given this film a chance had it not been for my sister and her love of all things Musicals.  It’s a surprisingly delightful film that only gets better on repeat viewings.  Liza Minnelli plays Mavis Turner, a former Broadway star who now provides tap dancing lessons to a group of misfit performers, including Julie Walters and Bill Irwin.  As they dance together, they begin to realise that they’re not that bad and find themselves taking part in a charity dance recital.  Stepping Out delivers everything you’d expect from a great underdog story and lifts the spirits.

WATCH IT FOR: The trailer

 

YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974)

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The brilliant, and much missed, Gene Wilder plays the grandson of the infamous scientist, Dr Frankenstein.  He is a neurosurgeon trying to put his family’s legacy behind him when he finds out that he has inherited his grandfather’s castle.  Upon arrival he discovers his grandfather’s notes on reanimation and soon the family legacy is brought back to life.  Wilder wrote the script and offered it to director Mel Brooks while the two were working on Blazing Saddles with the stipulation that Brooks not appear as it would distract the audience.  It is, quite rightly, a classic comedy thanks, in part, to the fabulous cast.  Marty Feldman as Igor (with his moveable hump!), Teri Garr as Inga and Cloris Leachman as Frau Blucher, but it is Peter Boyle as The Monster who steals the show.

WATCH IT FOR: Puttin On The Ritz

 

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL (2003)

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What started out as a ride at Disneyland has turned into a leviathan of a movie franchise with a fifth entry due in cinemas any day now.  This first film, though, is the best of the lot by far.  Orlando Bloom plays Will Turner, a blacksmith who crosses swords with the eccentric pirate “Captain” Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and join forces to search for Will’s true love, Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) who has been kidnapped by the feared Captain Barbosa (Geoffrey Rush).  This is swash-buckling at it’s best from director Gore Verbinksi and legendary producer Jerry Bruckheimer.  The quality of the sequels diminished but this original, and best, shows what Hollywood can do when it cares about a subject.

WATCH IT FOR: The first appearance of Jack

 

FORREST GUMP (1994)

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Ask most people and they would probably tell you that Forrest Gump shouldn’t have won the Best Picture Oscar in 1995.  Popular opinion would suggest either Pulp Fiction or the aforementioned The Shawshank Redemption should have taken the prize.  That’s how it goes sometimes, The Academy “makes mistakes”.  I’m happy it won, to be honest, because it’s a beautiful film, if somewhat over sentimental.  Tom Hanks plays the eponymous hero, a simple man with a low IQ who just happens to have participated in some iconic moments in history.  Sentimentality aside, Forrest Gump is a beautifully imagined fable reminiscent of the Golden Age of Hollywood.  Director Robert Zemeckis uses every trick and technique in the book to bring Forrest’s stories to life while the supporting cast of Sally Field, Gary Sinise and Myketi Williamson add substance to his tales.

WATCH IT FOR: Forrest and Bubba talk shrimp!

 

THE EXPENDABLES (2010)

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The Expendables is all-action, gung-ho, boys-own nonsense and I love it!  Sylvester Stallone directs and leads an all-star cast of action superstars that cross the generations.  The plot, inconsequential as it is, sees a CIA operative hire a group of mercenaries to eliminate a dictator and rogue CIA agent.  The main draw, though, is the first time that Stallone share the screen with his 80s action contemporaries Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce WillisJason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren and Mickey Rourke are among the other iconic stars taking part in the action.  The two sequels (so far!) take the numbers higher and the quality lower, but that’s beside the point.  The point is action and fun, and this film has both!

WATCH IT FOR: Old friends!

 

SCHINDLER’S LIST (1993)

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Schindler’s List proved that director Steven Spielberg can do more than just fantasy and action adventure films.  It’s a more personal film than anything he had made previously, focussing on the horrors of the Holocaust.  Liam Neeson is Oskar Schindler, a usually greedy businessman who becomes an unlikely humanitarian when he discovers his Jewish workforce is being persecuted by the Nazis.  Everything about this film is immense, from the black and white cinematography, the outstanding performances (Ralph Fiennes and Ben Kingsley shine) to the heart-breaking John Williams score.  The film garnered 7 Academy Awards, including the first for Spielberg, but it’s the film’s legacy – The Shoah Foundation – that is the true winner here.

WATCH IT FOR: The List Is Life…  You need to watch it anyway as it stands as a learning tool for future generations…

 

And there you have it – 200 films!  There are more but, for now, this is where the list ends.  I will be returning to it at a later date once I’ve gathered a little more research and searched the memory banks!  I’m also looking into doing a shorter list of films that I really don’t like that much.  It seems only fair to share the yang to my ying (or vice versa!).  Until we meet again I’m off to reanimate a few corpses, maybe!

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“You poor guys.  Always confusing your pistols with your privates”