My Life In TV: Part Twenty Eight

They think it’s all over…it is now!  Well, the excitement of the FIFA World Cup is over and, although football didn’t come home (for England) we are on the home straight for this particular incarnation of My Life In TV… With just a couple of editions left before the movies take over again, I’m considering ‘resting’ it for a while and just concentrating on the films.  Of course, I may change my mind once I post Part 30 so I wouldn’t pay too much attention to me!  Anyway, that isn’t getting the job done, is it…?

 

THE FLYING DOCTORS (1986-1992)

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I’ve always been partial to an Australian drama and this one, shown here in the UK on a Saturday evening, was one of the better ones as well as being a favourite of my mum.  Based in the small town of Cooper’s Crossing, the Royal Flying Doctors Service operates all across the outback, taking flight when the roads are almost non-existent.  Full of familiar faces from previous Aussie soaps, The Flying Doctors combined the drama of medical emergencies with the humour of everyday life.

WATCH IT FOR: Opening / Closing Theme

 

3-2-1 (1978-1987)

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The mere mention of this quiz-game-entertainment show brings to mind the show’s booby prize, Dusty Bin; Ted Rogers‘ three-finger salute and, of course, the most baffling of clues.  Based on a Spanish show (Uno Dos Tres), this staple of ITV’s Saturday night schedule ruled the airwaves.  The show saw three couples slowly eliminated over the course of quiz rounds before the final showdown where a series of end-of-the-pier acts would perform before providing the contestants with unfathomable clues to the prizes which would include the booby prize that they would hope to avoid.  The show ran out of steam in the mid-eighties and, sadly, Rogers’ career failed to live up to the heady heights of this behemoth.

WATCH IT FOR: A full episode from 1981

 

DES O’CONNOR TONIGHT (1977-2002)

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This variety-style chat show, hosted by one of Britain’s most successful entertainers, Des O’Connor, originally aired on the BBC (1977-1982) before finding a home on ITV (1983-2002).  Des was famous for his laid-back style of interviewing, and for his enthusiastic enjoyment of fellow comedians, often giving new comics their first taste of television.  The show also became infamous after fellow comedian Stan Boardman told a joke about the German aircraft manufacturer, Focke-Wulf, but made it sound like a swear word.  This resulted in a barrage of complaints and put an end to live broadcasts of the show until the 90s.  ITV axed the show in 2002 and Des hosted the last edition on Christmas Eve of that year.

WATCH IT FOR: A chat with Joe Pasquale

 

HART TO HART (1979-1984)

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Television loves a detective.  What it also loves is an amateur detective and this show had two of them.  Husband and wife team, Jonathan (Robert Wagner) and Jennifer (Stefanie Powers) Hart are self-made millionaires and often find themselves up to their necks in murder.  Aided by their gravel-voiced butler, Max (Lionel Stander) and cuddly canine, Freeway, the Hart’s provided a loved up version of crime fighting that has long since been forgotten.  When the series ended in 1984, a total of eight TV movies followed between 1993 and 1996.

WATCH IT FOR: Series intro

 

TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED (1979-1988)

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While Roald Dahl is famous for bringing joy to children through his fantastical novels, he also managed to put a good deal of fear into the hearts of adults, too with this classic anthology series.  Each week Dahl would be sat in his armchair next to the fireplace and introduce a story that would often involve a sinister twist at the end.  Some of these stories, featuring some of the big named stars of the day, have lived on in viewers’ memories – I remember one particular story involving Elizabeth Spriggs, a rug and a polished floor – just as much as the show’s iconic theme tune, composed by Ron Grainer.

WATCH IT FOR: A full episode

 

GAME FOR A LAUGH (1981-1985)

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Practical jokes and pranks have long been a staple of Saturday night television over the years, and this one became one of the first of a new breed.  Originally presented by Matthew Kelly, Henry Kelly, Sarah Kennedy and Jeremy Beadle, the show was pretty much a Candid Camera-style programme featuring elaborate pranks performed on unsuspecting members of the public.  The four unlikely hosts would end each week with a twee catchphrase that they would say in turn in true light entertainment fashion.

WATCH IT FOR: One of the pranks!

 

THE MOVIE GAME (1988-1995)

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Here’s one of the few kids TV quiz shows that I actually wanted to take part in.  I’ve loved everything to do with film for as long as I can remember so this movie-based game show was right up my alley! Originally presented by Phillip Schofield, the show was later fronted by Jonathon Morris and John Barrowman.  The format was pretty simple, three teams of two kids answer questions about films in order to win film-related prizes.  I watched very little of it once Schofield left but I still hold it close to my heart, despite never applying to be on it!

WATCH IT FOR: A Barrowman episode!

 

HAPPY DAYS (1974-1984)

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For the first couple of seasons, Happy Days (created by Garry Marshall) was just an ordinary 1950s-set sitcom about an average family, the Cunningham’s – Howard (Tom Bosley), Marion (Marion Ross), Richie (Ron Howard) and Joanie (Erin Moran).  But, due to failing audiences in the second series, the show was reworked to include more of the peripheral characters – Ralph (Don Most), Potsie (Anson Williams) and the iconic Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzirelli (Henry Winkler) –  and it soon became America’s biggest hit.  The show was responsible for spawning Mork and Mindy and made huge stars out of its cast.

WATCH IT FOR: Opening titles

 

HILL STREET BLUES (1981-1987)

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This ground breaking drama from creator Steven Bochco became one of televisions most-loved cop shows.  A true ensemble piece, it follows the lives of a police precinct and all those who inhabit it.  Gritty storylines and true-to-life characters you could invest your time in, Hill Street Blues blazed a trail for every cop drama that followed.  Making household names out of its cast, the show was regularly nominated (and won) for Emmy’s and Golden Globes and with a theme tune by the prolific Mike Post, it is highly regarded as the benchmark for television drama.

WATCH IT FOR: Those iconic opening titles

 

GRUEY (1988-1989)

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I’ll be honest, most of this programme has evaporated from my memory, only really existing due to its earworm of a theme tune.  This kids show starred Kieran O’Brien as the Stephen “Gruey” Grucock who, along with his friends Wooly (Danny Collier) and Quidsy (Ayesha Husain) would get themselves into mischief and scrapes.  Its been largely forgotten (not just by me) and I think its about time it found a new home on one of the many channels out there, or even on a DVD release.

WATCH IT FOR: Clip, featuring the end titles and theme

 

Well, there you have it, better late than never.  Another edition bites the dust and there were some truly interesting pieces of TV on offer this time, don’t you agree?  Everything is now back on track so Part Twenty Nine will be here before you know it.  In the meantime, if you’ve enjoyed what you’ve seen here today please do feel free to get in touch in the usual ways, I’d love to hear from you.  Until next time…

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“Let’s be careful out there”

 

 

 

 

 

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TV Heroes: Mike Post

Think of any of the big American television shows of the past forty-five years and, chances are, the theme tune was composed by Mike Post.

Born in San Fernando, California in 1944, Post’s music career began cutting demos, writing and producing songs for bands and singers in the sixties.  Her first major breakthrough came at the age of 23 when he won his first Grammy for producing and arranging the Mason Williams instrumental hit ‘Classical Gas’.  Later he played guitar on Sonny & Cher‘s ‘I Got You Babe’ as well as producing the first three albums for Kenny Rogers and the First Edition.

His television career got started when he was made musical director of The Andy Williams Show at the tender age of 24 this lead to another, albeit short-lived, assignment where he was introduced to Stephen J. Cannell.  This meeting lead to Post’s first major hit as a composer, The Rockford Files.  Not only was the show a success but the theme tune was played on the radio, made it into the charts and earned Post a second Grammy.

Post often collaborated with Pete Carpenter on shows such as Rockford, Hardcastle & McCormick, Riptide, The Greatest American Hero, Hunter, Magnum PI and The A-Team.  Their partnership continued until Carpenter’s death in 1987.

Post won further Grammy awards for his themes to the hit drama shows Hill Street Blues and LA Law while Murder One became is his first Emmy win.  He was also the go-to composer for Donald P. Bellisario, Steven Bochco and Stephen J. Cannell.  Working with Dick Wolf, Post composed themes for the Law & Order franchise, including the iconic “dun-dun” sound.

Even though some of the shows themselves have faded from memory, his themes for them have become as popular and well-known as those of the great composers, finding their way into our psyche and ensuring a legacy that will live on for generations to come.

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TV HEROES – MIKE POST

My Life In TV: Part Twenty Seven

Apologies for the lateness of this edition, I got swept up in the World Cup and neglected my duties.  I’ll try not to let it happen again…maybe!  That being said, its now time to take another trip down memory lane and revisit some of the television programmes that helped shape my square eyes.  This time around we have out of this world animation, computer nerds, side glances to camera and a speedy superhero.  Enough talk, we’ve got work to do…

 

THE LITTLEST HOBO (1979-1985)

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One thing I didn’t realise until I started researching was that this was a remake of a 1963 series of the same name.  Both shows are essentially the same, a wandering, homeless dog stops off from time to time in a different town to help the locals with whatever problems they’re having.  As intelligent dogs go, Hobo was on a different level, always managing to solve crimes, fight off attackers and help those in need all without the aid of speech or opposable thumbs!  The most memorable element of this show, though, has to be the catchy theme tune, “Maybe Tomorrow”, composed and sung by Terry Bush.

WATCH IT FOR: A full episode!

 

HARRY HILL’S TV BURP (2001-2012)

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TV Burp was one of the most successful and most mental television programmes in recent years.  Fronted by Harry Hill, it took a look back at the week’s TV and pretty much ripped it to shreds, in a good way.  Hill’s observations were likely to be the same that we, as the audience, were shouting at our tele every day.  Featuring ‘TV Highlight of the Week’, ‘FIGHT!’, ‘Poetry Corner’ and the side-glance to camera, this was the show to watch every Saturday night.  With all that’s on TV right now, its surely time for a return?

WATCH IT FOR: A full episode!

 

STIG OF THE DUMP (1981)

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I have very vague recollections of either reading this book, or having it read to me, while at primary school.  I also have similar memories of this television adaptation starring Grant Warnock as Barney who, while at the local rubbish dump, discovers a teenage caveman, Stig (Keith Jayne).  The two become friends, learning to communicate without talking, and begin to understand where each other comes from.  It was remade in 2002 but this is the one that I remember.

WATCH IT FOR: First part of the first episode

 

LAND OF THE GIANTS (1968-1970)

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From producer extraordinaire, Irwin Allen, Land of the Giants came hot on the heels of Allen’s previous big hitter, Lost In Space.  Here we find the crew of spaceship Spindrift get themselves lost in a strange cloud in space and land on an alternate version of Earth where the inhabitants are giants.  Gary Conway and Don Matheson lead the cast that also features Don Marshall, Deanna Lund and Heather Young.  My only memory of watching this is during the many repeat showings on Sunday afternoons where it was alternated with Lost In Space.

WATCH IT FOR: Opening theme (by John Williams)

 

WACKY RACES (1968-1970)

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The home of Dick Dastardly and Penelope Pitstop, Wacky Races is another slice of genius from Hanna-Barbera.  A series of car races across America featuring some of the weirdest vehicles and driver combinations.  Race rules are virtually non-existent but that’s beside the point.  The joy of this cartoon comes from seeing Dastardly defeated by his stupidity and the other drivers.  It holds a special place in my heart due to the fact that my first crush was on Penelope Pitstop!

WATCH IT FOR: Opening titles

 

REMINGTON STEELE (1982-1987)

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Stephanie Zimbalist stars as private eye Laura Holt who has to invent a fictitious boss in order to attract more clients.  Pierce Brosnan enters her world as a nameless thief who assumes the identity of said boss and the two begin working together.  I mostly remember this show for Brosnan but for the majority of the audience it was the sexual chemistry between the two leads.  The show ran for five seasons – the fifth being shortened after Brosnan was virtually signed, sealed and delivered as the new James Bond only to have NBC order more episodes and thus diverting his fate for a few more years.

WATCH IT FOR: Series trailer

 

BUTTON MOON (1980-1988)

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The thing that amazed me most about Button Moon is just how many episode there were.  I have been convinced for years that there had only been 12 and it was on a constant repeat cycle.  I have since found out that there were significantly more than that made.  Over 90 episodes of this children’s puppet show with a theme song written and performed by the then husband and wife team of Peter Davison and Sandra Dickinson.  I seem to remember this showing alongside Rainbow on weekday lunchtimes as I would be able to walk home from primary school for my dinner, watch a bit of tele, and go back to school!

WATCH IT FOR: A full episode!

 

INSPECTOR GADGET (1983-1986)

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I used to love watching this cartoon.  Inspector Gadget (voiced by Don Adams), an inept bionic police inspector bumbles his way through his cases while his niece and dog do all the real investigative work!  While the stories themselves are largely forgotten, the thing about Gadget is, well, his gadgets.  With a shout of “Go-go-gadget…” an array of tools would emerge from his coat to help aid his work.  Add to that a cracking theme tune and you’ve got the perfect combination.

WATCH IT FOR: Opening theme tune!

 

WHIZ KIDS (1983-1984)

 

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This short-lived show could probably be filed under “ahead of its time” as it was right at the very start of the computer age as we know it.  A group of computer hackers use their skills to work as amateur detectives.  What’s not to love?  Richie (Matthew Labyorteaux), Ham (Todd Porter), Jeremy (Jeffrey Jacquet) and Alice (Andrea Elson) were often assisted by news reporter, Llewellen Farley, Jr (Max Gail) in this sadly forgotten slice of American television.

WATCH IT FOR: Delightfully 80s opening titles!

 

THE FLASH (2014-present)

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Now I’m not the biggest fan of superheroes and comic books but I have to say that this show totally sucked me in right from the start.  Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) is a police forensic scientist in Central City but, after being struck by lightning he wakes from a coma with super speed.  With his new powers he sets out to find the man who killed his mother and, in turn, creates a whole heap of trouble along the way.  With strong support from Candice Patton, Danielle Panabaker, Carlos Valdes, Tom Cavanagh and Jesse L. Martin, The Flash is one of the few superhero TV series that I actively sought out, binge-watching the first four seasons in just over two weeks!

WATCH IT FOR: Season one intro

 

And there you have it, another edition bites the dust.  Superheroes, space explorers and side-glances all combine to bring you a slice of my life in TV.  I do hope you’ve enjoyed what you’ve seen here today, please feel free to get in touch (even if you haven’t enjoyed it, at least then I’ll know who to avoid *smiley face*) I’d love to hear from you.  Hopefully the next edition won’t take as long (blame the World Cup!) but, rest assured, there’s still plenty more to come!  Until next time…

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“Until tomorrow, I’ll just keep moving on”

 

 

 

 

My Life In TV: Part Twenty Six

Previously on “My Life In…”

This whole thing began in May 2014 when I decided to compile my very own list of favourite movies.  This was swiftly followed in the August of that year by the very first My Life In TV… I only take you down this brief memory lane for it has occurred to me that this very post, Part 26 of my televisual odyssey, is my 100th post in total on this blog. A blog that began in 2012, very simply, as a means for me to share my poetry and the odd piece of longer-form writing.  The fact that the Film and TV side of things has taken over has become somewhat of a personal albatross paradox.  A burden that I detest and love in equal measures.  Its one of those things that I really wish I hadn’t started but at the same time, can’t imagine not completing…if there ever will be a completion!  That’s not on my radar at the moment, though, there’s still plenty of work to do in the meantime…

 

DASTARDLY AND MUTTLEY IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES (1969-1970)

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Dick Dastardly and his canine sidekick, Muttley are now World War I flying aces who, along with the Vulture Squad, try and fail to stop Yankee Doodle Pigeon from delivering messages to the enemy.  A spin-off from Wacky Races, this was a completely silly Hanna-Barbera cartoon that owes much to the relationship between Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote.  A smart bird evades capture from a bunch of inept idiots.  The show is usually known as either Catch The Pigeon or Stop The Pigeon, probably due to its extremely earworm-worthy theme tune “Stop The Pigeon” that I guarantee you won’t get out of your head for days!

WATCH IT FOR: Sorry…Theme Tune!

 

BRUSH STROKES (1986-1991)

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Karl Howman plays Jacko, a painter and decorator with an eye for the women.  He likes them and they always seem to like him, too.  Will he ever find his true love, though?  Written by John Esmonde and Bob Larbey, the men behind The Good Life, Brush Strokes followed in the tradition of British sitcoms with a loveable rogue at the helm.  Mike Walling, Gary Waldhorn and the late Howard Lew Lewis co-starred in one of the last of the ‘classic’ British comedies.

WATCH IT FOR: Theme tune – Because Of You by Dexys Midnight Runners

 

AMAZING STORIES (1985-1987)

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Steven Spielberg presents a series of truly fantastical and, indeed, amazing stories that form the basis for this anthology series.  In much the same vein as The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits, each episode is a standalone story.  Each week a cast of established actors would appear alongside a roster of young, up-and-coming stars.  The stories themselves were usually of the fantasy variety that Spielberg had made his own mixed with supernatural and mystical elements.  Cutting edge filming techniques and animation were used in this wonderfully offbeat series that really does deserve a repeat viewing.

WATCH IT FOR: Opening credits

 

SMALL WONDER (1985-1989)

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The Americans always seemed to do these extremely off-the-wall sitcoms very well.  This bizarre show was one of the weirdest.  A robotics engineer creates a robot modelled on a little girl and then tries to pass her off as an adoptive daughter.  Dick Christie, Marla Pennington and Jerry Supiran star as the family with Tiffany Brissette as Vicki, the small wonder of the title.  I have very vague memories of watching it and only really remember it for the robot storyline anyway.  Definitely one for the “What on earth?” category!

WATCH IT FOR: Opening titles with traditionally cheesy theme song!

 

WHOSE LINE IS IT ANYWAY? (1988-1998)

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Actors and comedians perform improvised sketches based on suggestions from the studio audience.  In true parlour game fashion, and hosted by Clive Anderson, this show was a huge hit on Channel 4 back in the day and proved a fertile ground for either fledgling or established performers.  Tony Slattery, Josie Lawrence, Ryan Stiles and Greg Proops to name just a few who became household names.  I always remember it being so funny and, because of the improvisational nature of the show, quite erratic and manic which only added to the hilarity.

WATCH IT FOR: A full episode

 

LIGHT LUNCH (1997-1998)

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Before they were queens of the Bake Off (and before they ruined The Generation Game!) Mel & Sue hosted their own daytime show.  Light Lunch was a live, cookery-cum-chat show that was the perfect vehicle for this comedic pair.  Featuring top chefs and celebrity guests, Light Lunch soon evolved and was replaced by Late Lunch (1998-1999) keeping much the same format only for an early evening timeslot.  Complete with a house band (“Steve, Matt, Dylan and Dan!”) that had a different pun-related name each episode, Light/Late Lunch was unmissable for me.  Its just a shame that Mel & Sue haven’t been able to replicate this magic in their other shows.

WATCH IT FOR: A full episode from 1997!

 

GENTLE BEN (1967-1969)

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Even though this programme was made in the sixties, it became a staple of British television in the eighties when it was shown as part of the BBC’s children’s television output.  Following the adventures of a Florida Everglades game warden, Tom Wedloe (Dennis Weaver), his wife Ellen (Beth Brickell), their young son Mark (Clint Howard) and Mark’s tame bear, Ben.  Gentle Ben was always on our screens, usually during the school holidays and was one of those very family-friendly shows that TV just can’t seem to get right these days.

WATCH IT FOR: Opening titles

 

CHALLENGE ANNEKA (1987-1995)

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Most of the television programmes today that focus on completing a massive project in a limited amount of time have much to thank this show for.  Challenge Anneka (created and presented by Anneka Rice) would see Rice given a task to complete, usually within only a matter of days, and would then have to convince local businesses to take part for free.  The projects were mostly for a charitable cause and would often get the local community involved.  It was such a great programme to watch, not only for Rice’s enthusiasm but also for the drama of getting the thing done in time.  The show was revived by ITV in 2006 for two specials with an eye to produce more, but subsequent ideas were scrapped.

WATCH IT FOR: A full episode

 

WYCLIFFE (1994-1998)

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Set in the glorious surroundings of Cornwall, this police drama was one of my mum’s favourites.  Not only for the scenery but I think she was rather taken by Jack Shepherd, who played the eponymous detective.  As British cop shows go, Wycliffe is one of the more subdued and cerebral.  It is very much about the solving of the crime, the knowledge of the detectives and, of course, the gorgeous scenery.  One of the things that stands out for me, though, will always be the haunting theme tune that will sometimes creep into my head when I least expect it!

WATCH IT FOR: Opening titles

 

THE BANANA SPLITS ADVENTURE HOUR (1968-1970)

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This was trippy! The Banana Splits were a fictional rock band made up of four furry animals (Fleegle, Bingo, Drooper & Snorky) who would host live-action and animated features amid their own sitcom-like show.  The live-action serial Danger Island, was shown along with cartoons of Arabian Knights and The Three Musketeers, with the all the live-action stuff being directed by Richard Donner.  It was fast, offbeat, psychedelic and completely bonkers.  With a theme tune that fit the manic nature of the show, The Banana Splits has since become one of a long line of cult kids’ TV shows.

WATCH IT FOR: That fabulous opening/closing theme tune!

 

There you have it, blog post 100 and Part 26 of my television odyssey.  I think you’ll agree there are a couple of fine entries here as well as the weird and wonderful.  If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve seen here today, please feel free to get in touch I’d love to hear from you.  Here’s to the next 100 posts and, hopefully, some more weird and wonderful TV programmes from days gone by!  Until the next time…

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“Nab him, jab him, tab him, grab him…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TV Heroes: Donald P. Bellisario

As one third of an unofficial triumvirate of great American, single initial television writers and producers that includes Stephen J. Cannell and Glen A. Larson, Donald P. Bellisario has been responsible for some of the most successful and iconic TV shows in recent times.

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A veteran of the US Marine Corps which would later inspire much of his work, Bellisario was born in Pennsylvania in August 1935, would earn himself a bachelors degree in journalism and enjoy a career in advertising before the bright lights of Hollywood beckoned.

It was while working alongside his contemporaries that Bellisario developed the techniques and style that would go on to inform his shows.  With Cannell he co-produced Black Sheep Squadron before co-creating the smash hit Magnum, PI with Larson.  As with the majority of Bellisario’s characters, Magnum was a veteran of the Armed Forces, serving in Vietnam before becoming a private investigator.

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Following on from Tales of the Gold Monkey, Bellisario then created Airwolf.  Like Magnum before him, Airwolf’s main protagonist, Stringfellow Hawke, also served in Vietnam and was also a test pilot which stood him in good stead for his work on the high-tech military helicopter.

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In 1989 and after being inspired by reading a novel on time travel, Bellisario created Quantum Leap.  A sci-fi drama following a top scientist as he travels through time putting right the things that went wrong.  The show was famous for putting its hero, Sam Beckett, into often awkward situations but it gained some criticism for the Season 5 opener, Lee Harvey Oswald.  This particular episode was inspired by Bellisario’s own experience of serving alongside Oswald in the US Marine Corps during the 1950s.

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In the mid-nineties Bellisario created the Navy legal drama JAG which ran for ten seasons and would later spawn the massive NCIS franchise.  Bellisario would remain as show-runner on NCIS until his retirement in 2007 while still maintaining his executive producer credit.

Although he may have retired, his legacy of outstanding shows continues for generations to come.

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TV Heroes: Donald P. Bellisario

 

 

 

 

 

My Life In TV: Part Twenty Five

Another day, another list of television programmes that I’ve enjoyed over the years.  In this batch of ten we find talking animals, talking movie stars and a legendary talk-show host as well as some cult classics along for the ride.  Not all of these shows will be to everyone’s taste but where would we be if we all liked the same stuff, right?  Anyway, enough of my yakking, we’ve got work to do…

 

SURGICAL SPIRIT (1989-1995)

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This is one of those British sitcoms that seems to have been largely forgotten in recent years.  Its a shame as, from what I can remember, it was really very funny and cleverly written.  Nichola McAuliffe stars as the sharp-tongued, super surgeon Sheila Sabatini who, while being brilliant at her job, manages to rub everyone up the wrong way.  Duncan Preston co-stars as Jonathan, her anaesthetist.  While some programmes are repeated ad infinitum, this one seems to have dropped off the radar.  Surely its about time it got another shot?

WATCH IT FOR: A clip from Series 4

 

THE RACCOONS (1985-1992)

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I always used to associate The Raccoons with Christmas, perhaps it was always shown during the school holidays then, but its probably down to the fact that one of the four feature-length films that preceded this series was a festive special.  The Raccoons itself is a fun cartoon focussing on the friendships between Ralph and Melissa Raccoon and their friend and roommate, Bert.  Fighting against the evil Cyril Sneer, a greedy aardvark millionaire, the friends learn mostly about environmental issues as well as friendship and teamwork.  The show also featured one of the best theme songs ever written for television! (scroll down to the end…)

WATCH IT FOR: Opening intro

 

THE KRYPTON FACTOR (1977-1995)

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Here’s a quiz show with a difference.  Not just testing the contestants general knowledge but also their mental agility and physical skills.  Hosted by Gordon Burns, The Krypton Factor was a big hit for ITV and was one of those programmes that I actually remember watching along with the family, sometimes playing along with the observation rounds and secretly wanting to have a go on the assault course!  Here, much like Only Connect (only without the physical exertion!) brains are championed rather than the usual fluff that modern game shows tend to go for.  It was rebooted a few years ago but the least said about that, the better!

WATCH IT FOR: That assault course!

 

AS TIME GOES BY (1992-2005)

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Now here’s a lovely British sitcom that my mum absolutely loved! (I must admit to being quite partial to it myself!)  Its a gentle romantic comedy which sees two old flames reunited many years after they were separated during the war.  Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer play the star-crossed lovers with so much realism that you’d think they were an actual couple.  Each comes with their own grown-up family and reunite to make up for lost time.  It is a gem of a sitcom that doesn’t require slapstick or rude humour to make you laugh.  Pure and simple comedy.

WATCH IT FOR: Outtakes!

 

CHORLTON AND THE WHEELIES (1976-1979)

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When the complete history of animation is written there must surely be a whole chapter, if not volume, dedicated to the work of Cosgrove-Hall.  Anyone who grew up in the 70s and 80s will be aware of their genius.  This stop-motion animation was one of their first and its not hard to see why its stood the test of time.  Following the adventures of a friendly, if somewhat dim, dragon called Chorlton who, along with the rest of the inhabitants of Wheelie World, must fend off the evil plans of Fenella the Witch.

WATCH IT FOR: A full episode!

 

INSIDE THE ACTORS STUDIO (1994-present)

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As a lover of film and television, this programme instantly appealed to me when I first saw it.  Actors, directors and writers talking about their life and careers in front of a studio audience of young hopefuls.  Host James Lipton puts the guests at ease with his soft-spoken voice and is armed with a pile of cards full of questions.  Some of the biggest names in Hollywood have taken a seat opposite him and revealed more about themselves than most other interviews can ever dream of.  Sure, its slightly sycophantic and the Americans love to whoop and holler at every opportunity but this show is well worth hunting out if you can find it – usually on Sky Arts.

WATCH IT FOR: Tom Cruise talks about ‘Magnolia’

 

CAMBERWICK GREEN (1966)

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As iconic children’s television programmes go, this one is way up there.  Created by Gordon Murray and featuring the narration of the late, great Brian Cant, Camberwick Green ran for just thirteen episodes.  Each story begins with a music box, out of which a particular character emerges whose story we then follow.  Considering the run was so short, it has become so well loved over the years from repeated airings on TV.  The stories were simple and well told, the songs were catchy and the whole thing was just beautifully made.  If you’ve yet to sample the delights of Murray’s work, you really should seek it out.

WATCH IT FOR: Dr Mopp

 

STEP BY STEP (1991-1998)

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If you’ve been keeping up with this blog for a while you’ll know that I’m a sucker for a cheesy American sitcom.  There are none more cheesy and schmaltzy than this one!  Patrick Duffy and Suzanne Somers play Frank and Carol, both single parents with three kids who meet and spontaneously marry forcing their families to live together.  The usual chaos ensues and, ultimately, life lessons are learned.  I seem to remember this always being shown on daytime TV during the school holidays.  What surprised me most about looking back at it was how long it actually ran for!

WATCH IT FOR: A typically cheesy theme song!

 

MOCK THE WEEK (2005-present)

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This topical panel show featuring comedians taking a side swipe at the days current events has been a mainstay on British TV for over a decade.  Hosted by Dara O’Briain and featuring Hugh Dennis it takes two teams of three comedians and throws newsy stories at them to crack jokes about.  It has long been a home to up-and-coming comics as well as the established ones and has sometimes come under attack for not featuring enough female comics on the panel.  But, aside from all that, its a show that I rarely miss, if only to see the best round of the quiz – Scenes We’d Like To See!

WATCH IT FOR: Rejected Exam Questions!

 

LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN (1993-2015)

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For a long time we here in the UK were unable to see this show.  I’d heard about it, and about its predecessor Johnny Carson, and had always wanted to see it.  Not until maybe the late nineties/early noughties when ITV2 began airing it the day after it had been shown in America did we actually get a chance to see what the fuss was about.  I love this talk show format, so pitifully attempted here, and David Letterman seemed, to me, to be the perfect host.  The way he delivers a line, a joke, talks to the guests like they’ve just stopped by for a drink.  Not forgetting his interaction with Paul Schaffer and the CBS Orchestra and those stupid pet tricks.  For some reason ITV didn’t continue showing Late Show for that long, so I had to resort to watching clips online.  Letterman may have retired from late night TV but the show continues in its own way but, for me, there’s only one!

WATCH IT FOR: Dave’s best guest – Bill Murray!

 

There you folks, another edition bites the dust.  I’m wondering now whether I’ve gone too heavy with the animation this time around and, while I think about it, I’ve doubled up on the talk shows as well.  Oh, well, never mind, its my blog I can do what I want!  Anyway, that’s enough of my inner monologue…if you like what you’ve seen here today, please feel free to drop me a line and let me know, I’d love to hear from you.  If you haven’t then I think you should find something else to amuse yourselves!  There’s still plenty more to come so, until next time…

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“Joaquin, I’m sorry you couldn’t be here tonight”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Life In TV: Part Twenty Four

Well, here we go again…another edition of my epic televisual odyssey wherein I look back at all the TV programmes that I’ve loved, enjoyed and that have shaped my very being over the years.  I’m always amazed at just how many great programmes have slipped my memory as I delve deeper into my mind palace and retrieve them.  This time around there are a couple of cult classics, famous double acts and at least one theme tune that you’ll be singing for days…so without further a do, let’s go to work!

 

CHIP ‘n’ DALE RESCUE RANGERS (1988-1990)

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After appearing in 23 animated short films, Disney‘s mischief-making chipmunks, Chip ‘n’ Dale, were elevated to their own starring vehicle.  Here they take on the guise of detectives/crime-fighters, leading a team on various adventures.  Featuring a catchy theme tune and witty scripts, the show ran for three series and racked up 65 episodes and is one of those Disney cartoons that I still hold great affection for.

WATCH IT FOR: Theme tune

 

A TOUCH OF FROST (1992-2010)

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For many years David Jason was known for playing comedic roles so it was somewhat of a career change for him to take on the more serious persona of shabby detective Jack Frost.  Jason plays Frost with all the gravitas and depth you’d expect from an accomplished character actor yet always manages to bring the warmth and humour to what was sometimes a gritty cop show.  Ably assisted by DS Toolan (John Lyons) and reporting to Superintendent Mullet (Bruce Alexander), Frost might solve the cases in his unconventional manner but always gets the job done.

WATCH IT FOR: Opening titles

 

VIC REEVES BIG NIGHT OUT (1990-1991)

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There was a lad I went to school with who was obsessed with the programme when it first started.  At the time I didn’t get it but, after a short while (and probably following the success of ‘Born Free’) I gave it another chance and understood what this schoolmate saw in this anarchic show.  A surreal parody of the variety show format, Big Night Out brought Reeves and Mortimer to a wider audience and gave us their cast of odd characters and catchphrases.  It was probably still a little too ground-breaking for my taste but I soon tagged along for the wild ride.  The show was revived at the end of 2017 for a 25th anniversary show with a new, full series to follow.

WATCH IT FOR: “You wouldn’t let it lie!”

 

GARTH MARENGHI’S DARKPLACE (2004)

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This is one of those programmes that, I think, was way ahead of its time and, therefore, left some members of the audience bemused.  The idea is that famed horror writer Garth Marenghi (Matthew Holness) has unearthed his long-forgotten 80s hospital drama series, Darkplace and is now sharing it with the world in all it’s shlocky, camp glory.  Richard Ayoade, Matt Berry (the best voice on television!) and Alice Lowe co-star in what is basically a parody of all the cheap, terrible cop shows that dominated the 1980s.  It does take a while to get your head around the format and the fact that its actually supposed to look like this but once you do, it really is a treat!

WATCH IT FOR: “Witchy woman wittering”

 

TREASURE HUNT (1982-1989)

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This was such a good show, wasn’t it?  I don’t think I appreciated it at the time but it was such good tele. ‘Skyrunner’ Anneka Rice (and later Annabel Croft) takes to the skies in a race against the clock to get directions to treasure.  Members of the public are solving the clues back at base with the host, Kenneth Kendall and adjudicator Wincey Willis.  The clues take Anneka across the country and, sometimes, further abroad.  Featuring a very memorable theme tune as well, Treasure Hunt was delightfully simple to watch and enjoy.

WATCH IT FOR: A full episode from 1987

 

SPATZ (1990-1992)

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This kids’ sitcom was one of a few shown during the 80s and 90s that had an American vibe to it.  Set in a fast food restaurant based in a shopping mall in London, Spatz focussed on the lives of the Canadian owners and their staff of misfits.  Jennifer Calvert, Vas Blackwood and Joe Greco starred this mad, fast-paced comedy.

WATCH IT FOR: A full episode!

 

DICK SPANNER, P.I. (1986-1987)

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This stop-motion animated spoof of the pulp private detective films was produced by the legendary Gerry Anderson and featured the voice of regular Anderson collaborator Shane Rimmer as the eponymous shamus.  22 six-minute episodes were originally broadcast as part of the Sunday morning ‘youth’ programme Network 7 on Channel 4 and was also given a late-night slot on the same channel.

WATCH IT FOR: Intro

 

FRAGGLE ROCK (1983-1987)

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From the genius mind of Jim Henson comes this fantastic piece of cult television puppetry that follows a group of furry creatures, known as Fraggles, as they learn about each other and their fellow companions on Fraggle Rock.  This programme has since become a cult hit thanks to Henson’s creativity but also to its wonderful theme tune and unabashed joyous feeling.  Everyone should see this at least once in their life.

WATCH IT FOR: That theme tune!

 

THAT PETER KAY THING (2000)

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Before he became one of Britain’s biggest funny men, Peter Kay co-wrote and acted in this hilarious and sometimes painfully heart-breaking documentary style show.  One series of 6 stand alone episodes featuring a cast of disparate characters from the mind of Bolton’s finest.  Picked from Kay’s own life, these stories feature a working men’s club (the basis for Phoenix Nights), a bingo worker, ice cream men and the world’s oldest newspaper boy.  Funny, touching and right on the button for rounded characters, That Peter Kay Thing won the Best New TV Comedy at The British Comedy Awards and turned Kay into a household name.  This deserves to be seen again, if only to see where it all began.

WATCH IT FOR: The Ice Cream Man Cometh

 

TFI FRIDAY (1996-2015)

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TFI Friday was one of those shows that seemed to define a specific period of time.  In this case, the mid-nineties and the brash, laddish humour and music that went with it.  I wasn’t always partial to some of the guests but what appealed to me was the energy of the thing.  This was chat/variety show like no other.  Hosted by Chris Evans it was bright, loud and raucous.  Anybody who was anybody took a seat opposite Evans to sell their wares, promote their films or to play their music.  It was, for a short time, unmissable on a Friday night.  The show was brought back in 2015 for a revival but, as expected, the original spark had gone.  You can’t always recreate the magic that went before it.  Lightning doesn’t always strike twice!

WATCH IT FOR: The first episode!

 

There you have it!  Another eclectic batch of TV gems from the archive of my mind (and the actual archive!).  I think you’ll agree that there are a couple of absolute diamonds in this group as well as the obligatory rough spots but that’s all part of the fun.  If you’ve enjoyed this edition please do let me know, I’d love to hear from you.  Let’s all meet up again soon and do it again, shall we? Until next time…

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“What’s on the end of the stick, Vic?”