The juggernaut that is my TV odyssey rolls on and we find ourselves faced with Part Eighteen. A couple of entries in this edition brought back some nice memories as well as the usual bouts of nostalgia that something like this invokes. So, without a further or a do, let’s get the road on the show…
BLANKETY BLANK (1979-2016)
The beauty of the original series’ of Blankety Blank was the fact that it was so naff and appeared to be cheap. This was highlighted by the hosts – Sir Terry Wogan, Les Dawson and Lily Savage (Paul O’Grady) – who constantly referred to the prizes as cheap tat. The basic idea of the show is two members of the public answer a question with a word (or words) missing and a panel of six celebrities try to guess what the member of the public will say. I have to say that I loved watching this, especially with Wogan and Dawson in charge, because of how naff it was. It wasn’t supposed to tax the brain but it did effect the funny bone. Memorable moments included Kenny Everett breaking Wogan’s microphone and Dawson’s apparent disdain for the show as a whole. The Lily Savage revival was ok and it has been attempted again since but none compare to the mighty Wogan and Dawson for sheer brilliance.
WATCH IT FOR: Full episode in which Kenny Everett takes over!
This was one of the most successful and popular television shows in the world. At its peak, it aired in over 148 countries, running for 11 series and over 200 episodes. Focussing on the lives of a group of lifeguards on a busy resort beach, Baywatch starred David Hasselhoff as Mitch Buchanan, head lifeguard and the man in charge. I could sit here and talk about plotlines and story but to be honest, nobody watched the show for that. It was all about the beaches, bodies, babes and cheesy slow-motion running in and out of the water. How it lasted as long as it did still baffles me but that didn’t stop me from watching every week. A couple of spin-offs after it was cancelled did little to reignite the legend of the show, nor did a big screen remake.
WATCH IT FOR: Opening/Closing titles (includes slow-motion running!)
FINDERS KEEPERS (1991-1996)
Based on the original American game show of the same name, Finders Keepers was a hit children’s game show fronted by Neil Buchanan. In a giant set of a house, two teams of kids raid the rooms in search of hidden objects. It was fast-paced and manic, full of everything kids TV was popular for in the 1990s, including silly string, streamers and confetti. The show was revived in 2006 with Jeff Brazier but this, earlier and much better version is the one everyone remembers.
WATCH IT FOR: A full episode!
When people think of the best chat show hosts here in the UK there is usually only one name that comes up – Michael Parkinson. As a journalist, Parkinson was used to interviewing people for a living so when it came to having his own programme it was an obvious choice. His guests ranged from the biggest names in Hollywood to the brightest stars of sport with writers, singers and comedians thrown into the mix, too. The show came to an end in 1982, to be replaced by Wogan, only to return in 1998 with bigger names in the hot seat. Parkinson featured some of the most infamous and notorious interviews in television history – Meg Ryan, anyone? – but for all the awkward meetings there were countless others that brought joy to the viewers. The format is much missed from our screens but the shows live on thanks to the internet and occasional repeats on the BBC.
WATCH IT FOR: Parky meets Rod Hull and Emu!
SEAQUEST DSV (1993-1996)
Sometimes, sci-fi shows can be too ahead of their time. SeaQuest DSV is one such programme. Set in a future where mankind has colonized the oceans, Roy Scheider stars as Captain Nathan Bridger who is assigned to protect the oceans and explore the underwater frontier. The show suffered poorly in the ratings and, when it returned for a second series, the format was drastically changed which angered Scheider as well as other cast members who were expected to relocate. A third series (SeaQuest 2032) did little to change things and it was cancelled. I think intentions were good, to make an ecological-friendly sci-fi series that would trigger people into thinking about world events, but the execution just didn’t work. Not after the first series, at least.
WATCH IT FOR: Opening theme tune
LONG LOST FAMILY (2011-present)
Here’s one to tug on the heartstrings. Nicky Campbell and Davina McCall present stories of people looking for family members who have been lost through adoption. When the trail runs cold, the Long Lost Family team take over and work through the red tape and difficult searches to reunite families. In what could have quite easily been a sickly, schmaltzy ‘Surprise, Surprise’ style effort, it manages to bypass all that to focus entirely on the people conducting the search and the subject of their investigations. It’s a truly uplifting programme, often inducing tears at the reunions, handled superbly by all involved. Do yourself a favour. Watch it and feel good about humanity.
WATCH IT FOR: The most recent episode (02/08/2017)
MAD ABOUT YOU (1992-1999)
I always had a soft spot for this American sitcom. I think, for me, it was the chemistry between the two stars, Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt. They sparkled together, riffing off each other and making you believe they were a newly married couple. The writing, as you’d expect from these types of shows, is razor sharp and brilliantly funny and all the performances are just note-perfect. This is one of the best of US sitcoms that needs to be repeated, if only to be reminded of how good it was.
WATCH IT FOR: Opening credits
THE RUTH RENDELL MYSTERIES (1987-2000)
Here’s another one of those programmes that I used to watch with Mum. She was always a huge fan of murder mysteries and crime dramas and watched all of them. This one, which I always assumed was called The Inspector Wexford Mysteries, was particularly good. The drama, based on the writings of Ruth Rendell, follow Chief Inspector Wexford (George Baker) and Inspector Burden (Christopher Ravenscroft) as they investigate the seedy underworld of rural England using traditional methods of police work. At times it can seem quite slow in pace but that’s the beauty of it (something I didn’t really appreciate when I first watched it). There’s no need for high-speed car chases or gruesome murder scenes. Everything you need to know is in the story. It’s one of the most perfect of crime dramas ever made.
WATCH IT FOR: The gloriously British theme tune
WATT ON EARTH (1991-1992)
Another long-forgotten children’s sci-fi show from the 90s, Watt On Earth was written by Doctor Who alumni Pip and Jane Baker and featured an alien, Watt (Garth Napier Jones) hiding out on Earth in the home of Sean (Tom Brodie). Watt can transform into objects, usually getting the transformation slightly wrong, during a process known as transanimateobjectifcation. It was a great show (from what I remember, at least) and I think it deserves at least another showing somewhere, or a DVD release. Until then, there are episodes available online.
WATCH IT FOR: The first episode!
8:15 FROM MANCHESTER (1990-1992)
A Saturday morning children’s programme shown when Going Live! was on holiday, The 8:15 From Manchester was presented by Ross King and Charlotte Hindle, later joined by Dianne Oxberry in the second series. It was the usual mix of imported cartoons, games and guests that had been done by the other shows but this one came from the BBC studios in Manchester. A game show, The Wetter The Better, was filmed in Blackpool and the show’s theme tune came from top indie band Inspiral Carpets. After two series it was replaced by the far inferior Parallel 9.
WATCH IT FOR: Inspiral Carpets theme tune!
There goes another collection of long-forgotten television gems, some better than others but all of them hold a distinct place in my memories. Whether they take me back to my childhood or they keep me watching now, these programmes are special. I hope you’ve enjoyed strolling down memory lane with me and that you continue to do so – there are plenty more where these came from! I’d love to hear from you – you can get in touch in the usual way, on here or via Twitter. Until the next time…
“For 50 blanks we have…”