Part of the fun I have looking back at all these long-forgotten programmes is the research and finding either clips or full episodes online. Sometimes I can get lost in the nostalgia and forget why I was there in the first place. Anyway, before I lose myself in the reverie again…
SUPER GRAN (1985-1987)
There’s not much I actually remember about this programme other than the brilliant theme tune, written and performed by Billy Connolly. Granny Smith (Gudrun Ure) is your typical elderly grandmother, until she is accidentally hit by a magic ray that transforms her into Super Gran. With these new powers she fights crime in Chiselton, namely Scunner Campbell (Iain Cuthbertson) and his henchmen.
WATCH IT FOR: Billy Connolly’s awesome theme tune
WORZEL GUMMIDGE (1979-1981)
I’ve got mixed emotions about this one. On the one hand I used to love watching it because Jon Pertwee was just brilliant, yet on the other hand I remember being terrified of it, especially when Worzel changed heads. Worzel was a scarecrow made by The Crowman (Geoffrey Bayldon) that, living on Ten Acre Field, could come to life and get himself into all sorts of scrapes. Helped by brother and sister John and Sue, Worzel would vie for the attentions of Aunt Sally (Una Stubbs) and would often be found pining for a “Cup ‘o tea an slice ‘o cake”. He changed heads to suit whatever adventure he found himself in or for a task that needed doing. It was a charming yet somehow terrifying programme that spawned a language of its own – Worzelese.
WATCH IT FOR: A nice collection of theme tunes to enjoy!
MIDNIGHT CALLER (1988-1991)
In San Francisco, ex-cop Jack Killian (Gary Cole) hosts an overnight radio talk show where he is known as The Nighthawk. Taking calls from those in danger at night and solving crimes during the day, Killian often found himself back in the realm of his old job and coming up against opposition from former colleagues. Often hard-hitting and controversial, Midnight Caller was usually relegated to late night here in the UK so I don’t think it’s that well remembered, which is a shame. “Goodnight America…wherever you are”
WATCH IT FOR: The sultry opening theme tune
THE MYSTERIOUS CITIES OF GOLD (1982-1983)
This French-Japanese animation ran for 39 episodes and became a hit during weekday afternoons on Children’s BBC where singing along with the theme tune became a regular thing! The story focuses on Esteban, a young boy who joins a voyage to the New World in search of his father and the lost Cities of Gold. He is joined by Tao and Zia on his quest and the three of them set off on an unforgettable journey.
WATCH IT FOR: One of the best theme tunes of the 80s!
WILLO THE WISP (1981)
Here’s a little gem of a cartoon, voiced by the brilliant Kenneth Williams. The ghostly light of Willo the Wisp acted as narrator for these stories set in Doyley Wood and featuring the weird and wonderful Mavis Cruet, Arthur the caterpillar and Evil Edna, a witch in the form of a walking, talking television set. Add to this a beautiful theme tune and you have 5 minutes of pure joy right before the evening news heralded the end of children’s tv for the day!
WATCH IT FOR: Again, thanks to the internet there are full episodes online, like this one!
Detective Sergeant Rick Hunter (Fred Dryer) is your typical maverick LA cop, breaks the rules but gets the job done. He’s partnered with the equally maverick Detective Sergeant Dee Dee McCall (Stepfanie Kramer) and together, they crack crime on the mean streets of LA. Created by Frank Lupo (The A-Team) and featuring many of the familiar traits of hit shows of the time, Hunter often hit hard but still had the undercurrent of sexual chemistry between the two leads.
WATCH IT FOR: The opening theme tune, featuring Hunter’s catchphrase “Works for me!”
A spin-off from the hugely successful Phoenix Nights, Max & Paddy’s Road to Nowhere sees the two hopeless doormen from the Phoenix Club set out on a road trip like no other. Peter Kay and Paddy McGuinness reprise their roles as the eponymous doormen and taking on writing duties to boot. Kay also directs the series that sees a gaggle of cameos and musical numbers among other memorable moments. There might only have been 6 episodes, but they are six perfect little road movies all by themselves.
WATCH IT FOR: The excellent theme song
THE BARON (1966-1967)
Now, I know what you’re going to say. I’m far too young to remember this programme and, yes, you’d be right but I do remember it being shown as I was growing up and then much later on ITV4. The Baron is from the ITC, the same company that brought us such gems as Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, The Prisoner, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) among many others. Steve Forrest is John Mannering, an antiques expert and part-time undercover agent. I only really remember one episode (“The Maze”) where he loses 24 hours of his life and has to try and piece it all back together. Oh, and another great theme tune!
WATCH IT FOR: Oh man, the full episode of The Maze is online!!
BLACK BOOKS (2000-2004)
Channel 4 always seemed to have a knack of bringing us the finest sitcoms. This is no exception. Created by Dylan Moran and Graham Linehan and starring Moran as Bernard Black, owner of a small bookshop who has no interest in books or the customers that buy them. Bill Bailey plays his assistant, Manny, who Bernard hires to help do his accounts but he ends up more like his butler/servant. Then there’s Fran, played by Tamsin Greig, who owns the bric-a-brac store next door – The Nifty Gifty – and happens to be Bernard’s oldest friend. The humour is based around trying to make Bernard more socially active, but these often fail, and the growing friendship between the three leads. Featuring early cameos from future stars, Black Books is a gem of a sitcom that keeps on giving each time you watch it.
WATCH IT FOR: Bernard and Manny
MR BENN (1971)
Mr Benn is one of the shows that you think there are more episodes than were actually made. The fact that it has been repeated on an almost constant loop for over forty years probaly has something to do with that. But, alas, there were only 14 episodes ever produced about the quirky Mr Benn and his adventures in the costume shop. With narration provided by the voice of a generation, Ray Brooks, and created by David McKee, Mr Benn rightly stands as one of the finest children’s animations of all time.
WATCH IT FOR: Why not watch a full episode? The Spaceman
And there you have it. Another bundle of nostalgic television shows that span the decades and the memories. There are loads more still to come, plus I’m working on a couple of ideas for extra pieces to share with you, so stick around and don’t touch that dial…!