In much the same way that film has been a big influence on my life, so has that little box in the corner of the room. Television. For years it was my saviour, my babysitter, my friend. I knew that at certain times on certain days my friend would be there to entertain me. From a very early age right up until the present, it has been a constant in my life…I fear sometimes though, maybe too constant! So, without much fanfare I bring to you My Life In TV…
QUANTUM LEAP (1989-1993)
Scientist Dr. Sam Beckett finds himself trapped in the past – “leaping” around from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong. Donald P. Bellisario has a strong track record of bringing high-concept tv shows to the screen and this was pretty much as high-concept as it got. An everyman scientist, played by Scott Bakula, tests the theory that a man can time travel within his own lifetime but vanishes within that timeline. His only help is his good friend Admiral Al Calavicci, Dean Stockwell, who appears in the form of a hologram that only Sam can see and hear. Al is Sam’s link to the present, bringing information that can help change history for the better. What is great about Quantum Leap is the fact that its pretty much a different story every week but with the same theme of a man trying to find his way home whilst helping those who can’t help themselves. The show ran for five seasons, winning countless awards along the way and establishing itself as a cult favourite, thanks mainly to the chemistry of the two leads. Time waits for no man…except one!
WATCH IT FOR: Intro and theme
GREEN WING (2004-2007)
An offbeat comedy from the team behind ‘Smack the Pony’, set in a hospital, and is very much character-based, with storylines involving a staff liasion officer who hates people, a humourless consultant who thinks he’s funny, and a handful of sexual predators and inadequates. This is one of those programmes that you either love or hate. I loved it because it was so different and the characters were so unbelievably riddiculous that it was funny. The writing and directing style also made this programme stand out but it was the oddball cast of characters that really made it. From Stephen Mangan‘s self-absorbed surgeon to Mark Heap‘s predatory Dr Alan Statham via Michelle Gomez‘s people hating staff liasion officer and all the other crazy members of staff at possibly the worst hospital in the world!
WATCH IT FOR: Mark Heap’s scene-stealing performances
This programme is almost as responsible for my upbringing as my parents were. Even though it was never explained how a grown man ended up living in the same house as a giant bear, pink hippo and strange zip-faced creature, I can always remember walking home from primary school for my lunch, sitting down with a boiled egg mashed up on a plate with soldiers and watching Geoffrey and the gang sing songs and tell stories. Along with their neighbours (again, another story unexplained) Rod, Jane and Freddy (previously Rod, Jane and Roger) these people brought fun to a whole generation of kids.
WATCH IT FOR: One of the best theme tunes ever!
The BBC gives over a whole evening to an ‘investigation into the supernatural’. Four respected presenters and a camera crew attempt to discover the truth behind ‘The most haunted house in Britain’, expecting a light-hearted scare or two and probably the uncovering of a hoax. They think they are in control of the situation. They think they are safe. The viewers settle down and decide to watch ‘for a laugh’. Ninety minutes later the BBC, and the country, was changed, and the consequences are still felt today. At the time of broadcast, this made for TV film caused outrage and, as a result has never been repeated. Played as a live broadcast, the story is fictional with elements of truth, but some viewers thought it was real. Personally, as a shy seventeen-year-old, I was scared to death of it – especially one particular moment involving a ‘shadow’ behind a curtain! I purchased a copy on DVD and relived the nightmare all over again, although not quite as scared as I was originally, it still packs a punch a remains at the forefront of terrifying television moments.
WATCH IT FOR: Pipes!
Speaking of terrifying television moments, this programme had me gripped and, at the same time, scared me! Based on the novel by John Wyndham, Chocky is the story of a schoolboy who develops a friendship with an extraterrestrial being. Two more series followed, Chocky’s Children (1985) and Chocky’s Challenge (1986) but in my mind, this remains the better of the three. Complete with creepy theme tune and scary grown-ups, this is still one of my all time favourites!
WATCH IT FOR: The creepy theme tune
PHOENIX NIGHTS (2001-2002)
What started out as a single comedy episode in That Peter Kay Thing, Phoenix Nights rose like the proverbial to become a huge sitcom sensation. Working men’s club owner Brian Potter (Peter Kay) is determined to make the Phoenix Club the best in Manchester but he’s up against it with his staff. Entertainments manager Jerry ‘St. Clair’ Dignan (Dave Spikey) and a rag-tag bunch of mismatches. What makes this stand out is the writing and the performances which, although creating a fictitous and larger than life setting, manage to keep everything firmly in reality. You can believe these people exist. No wonder its still highly regarded now and still making people laugh.
WATCH IT FOR: There are so many reasons to watch but personally, I think this is one of the finest pieces of sitcom ever written just skip along to 18:52 for the scene I’m talking about!
THE A-TEAM (1983-1987)
Four veterans of the Vietnam war, framed for a crime they didn’t commit go on the run and underground where they help people while still outrunning the military. 1980s television didn’t come much bolder or brasher than The A-Team, a knockabout boys own action adventure series from Stephen J. Cannell. Riddiculed by the critics for being unrealistic and dumb but adored by the public, the story of Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith (George Peppard), Lt. Templeton “Faceman” Peck (Dirk Benedict), Sgt Bosco “BA” Baracus (Mr. T) and Captain H.M. Murdock (Dwight Schultz) captivated audiences over five seasons and countless car chases, fist fights and ‘makes’ that got them out of trouble and away from the army. Popularity flagged by the final series (a much poorer season than the previous) and it ended in 1987 but it still remains one of the highlights of the mid-eighties action series’ that dominated the schedules.
WATCH IT FOR: The theme tune
DEMPSEY AND MAKEPEACE (1985-1986)
James Dempsey (Michael Brandon) was a tough New York cop who got himself into a lot of trouble by killing his partner during a corruption investigation. With things too hot for him in New York, Dempsey was seconded to London’s elite SI10, where he was assigned to work with Detective Sergeant Harriet Makepeace (Glynis Barber), under the supervision of Chief Superintendent Spikings (Ray Smith). Dempsey found British police methods slow and infuriating, and his new colleagues considered him a violent maverick, entirely too attached to his .357 Magnum. The immediate antagonism between Dempsey and Makepeace was countered by a strong physical attraction, and while they fought continuously, they made a good, effective team. A solid, action drama with a classic fish out of water scenario that delivered on story, action and romance. I absolutely adore this show and it helps that Makepeace was a bit alright to look at!!
WATCH IT FOR: Theme tune
JAMIE AND THE MAGIC TORCH (1976-1979)
When Jamie shines his Magic Torch on the floor of his bedroom a hole appears, leading Jamie and Wordsworth the sheepdog to the psychedelic fantasy world of Cuckooland. This was one of the more trippy of children’s cartoons, again brought to us from the genius brains of Cosgrove Hall and narrator Brian Trueman. Forever ingrained in the memory for the amazing theme tune and the fact that it was so bizarre, Jame and the Magic Torch is a true piece of telly awesomeness.
WATCH IT FOR: The trippy opening theme tune
THE MORECAMBE & WISE SHOW (1968-1977)
Possibly one of the finest comedy duos in the history of the world, Eric Morecambe & Ernie Wise dominated the television landscape throughout the late sixties and seventies. But it wasn’t always that way; their first tv show was universally panned, something that Eric never forgot as he kept one review on him for the rest of his life: Definition of a television set – the box they buried Morecambe & Wise in. It wasn’t until writer Eddie Braben came aboard that the pair really developed into the comedy heroes we know and love. The sketches became more familiar, the responsibility to the audience was shared and the legends were born. The pair moved from the BBC to ITV in 1977 but its the BBC years that forever define their true genius.
WATCH IT FOR: The sketches, the jokes, the plays what Ernie wrote – just watch it!