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)
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)
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)
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?
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)
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)
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
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
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)
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)
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…
“If you wanna be the best, and you wanna beat the rest, dedication’s what you need”