TV Heroes: Glen A. Larson

Much in the same way that Stephen J. Cannell programmes dominated the television screens through the 70s and 80s, the work of Glen A. Larson was seen by millions of viewers around the world.  From westerns to sci-fi, Larson’s output was as broad and prolific as anyone else and his shows are some of the most loved of all time.

Larson’s career began as a member of the vocal group The Four Preps who had success with songs such as Big Man and Down By The Station.  Larson, along with one of the Preps, David Somerville and a session singer, Gail Jensen, co-wrote The Unknown Stuntman, the theme tune to one of Larson’s biggest hits, The Fall Guy.

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Larson’s first writing credit came on the popular television series The Fugitive for Quinn-Martin productions.  He later signed a production deal with Universal Studios where his first hit series was the western Alias Smith and Jones, which many believe to have been inspired by the classic Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  Soon after, Larson began helping to develop The Six Million Dollar Man where he became one of the shows executive producers.

Next he secured a then unheard of sum of one million dollars per episode to produce one of his most ambitious projects, Battlestar Galactica.  Despite the generous budget, the series was cancelled after only one series.  He fared slightly better with his next project, though, and also re-used some of the props from Battlestar Galactica in the process.  Buck Rogers in the 25th Century is based on a 1928 comic book character and sees Gil Gerard as the eponymous hero, frozen in space for 500 years and woken to a strange new world.

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, Richard Hatch, Lorne Greene, Dirk Benedict, 1978 - 1979. (c) Universal Televis

Arguably, the 1980s saw Larson’s most successful period, beginning with co-creating Magnum, PI alongside Donald P. Bellisario.  Magnum would run for eight series and made a star out of Tom Selleck.

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At the same time, Larson created The Fall Guy, an action series about the life of a Hollywood stuntman who also doubles as a bounty hunter.  Similar action series followed in the form of Automan, Manimal and The Highwayman, although they were less than successful.

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The biggest show in Larson’s portfolio was undoubtedly Knight Rider.  Starring David Hasselhoff as Michael Knight, a modern crime fighter ably assisted by his talking car, KITT.  Knight Rider ran for four series but has since become a classic of the genre, despite a number of attempts to reboot the series.

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Battlestar Galactica was remade in 2003 for a mini-series which then turned into a hugely successful, long-running series in 2004.  Although Larson himself wasn’t involved in the production, he was credited as a ‘Consulting Producer’.  Since the show ended there has been talk of a feature film but, as yet, all attempts have stalled.

In later years, and after some legal disputes over ownership rights, Larson was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus, eventually succumbing to the disease in November 2014.

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I grew up watching most of these shows and I still enjoy watching them to this day.  There is rarely a day when you don’t see the Glen A. Larson name on the credits of a television programme somewhere.  Its testament to his creativity that these programmes live on, long after the theme music ends.

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Glen A. Larson 1937-2014

 

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My Life In TV: Part Twenty Three

Here we go again, folks with another fun-filled, action-packed instalment of My Life In TV… which is brought to you today by the letter ‘G’ and the number ‘2’.  Once again I’m digging around the television archives to bring you some of the programmes that have helped to shape me and have made that all important impact on me in some way or another.  Not all of them will be appreciated by everyone but that’s not the point, is it?  But please don’t ask me what the actual point is, because I have no clue!  Anyway, enough of this yakking, we’ve got work to do…

 

THE CANNON & BALL SHOW (1979-1988)

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I’ve made no secret that I’m a huge fan of Cannon & Ball and have always loved their style of humour.  I remember sitting down every week to watch this, their comedy/variety show, with the family and laughing my head off.  Tommy and Bobby come from that dying breed of comedians, you know the ones that worked their socks off treading the boards and stages of working men’s clubs and theatres up and down the country.  Their act was, like most double acts of the time, quite simple.  Straight man versus the idiot but where the straight man was often more stupid than the idiot.  The show featured sketches, celebrity guests and music icons and cemented the pair as television royalty.  I had the pleasure of seeing them live at Stockport Plaza in 2006 and they did not disappoint, still leaving the audience begging for mercy! Rock on Tommy, that’ll do for me!

WATCH IT FOR: You must remember this…?!

 

GAMESMASTER (1992-1998)

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I was never a huge gaming fan.  The first computer we had was an Aquarius (anyone? anyone?) and then, much later, a Commodore 64.  Even then we didn’t have many games for it yet I still found myself watching Gamesmaster in the nineties.  Even though I wasn’t playing any of these computer games it was still a fun show to watch.  Dominik Diamond hosted (with a brief turn from Dexter Fletcher) while the actual Gamesmaster himself was a disembodied Sir Patrick Moore.  It was vibrant television, exciting and fresh for the time, I just wish I’d been more interested in the subject matter.

WATCH IT FOR: A full episode from 1992!

 

DUNGEONS & DRAGONS (1983-1985)

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Speaking of games I wasn’t really interested in, here we have Dungeons & Dragons, a cartoon based on the extremely popular board game of the same name.  A group of kids find themselves thrown into a fantasy world where they must arm themselves and find a way home.  This is one of those cartoons from the eighties that I remember watching but have no recollection of actually seeing all the way to the end.  Did it ever finish?  Did they get home?  Who knows?  It was on forever and I sort of enjoyed it, despite knowing absolutely nothing about the source material.

WATCH IT FOR: Opening theme / Closing theme

 

ALCATRAZ (2012)

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Here’s another one of those shows that you can file under ‘One-Season-Wonder’ –  a collection that is getting rather crowded – which is a shame because I think this one had a lot of potential.  In 1963, all the prisoners and guards suddenly disappear from the notorious Alcatraz prison.  The reappear in the present day where a secret agency is hired to find them.  Starring Sarah Jones, Jorge Garcia and Sam Neill, Alcatraz was an interesting show with an intriguing premise that just didn’t seem to connect with an audience.

WATCH IT FOR: Intro

 

THE WONDER YEARS (1988-1993)

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Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be, but The Wonder Years showed that, through the right kind of rose-tinted spectacles, nostalgia could be something very special.  Told through the narration of his older self (Daniel Stern), Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage) recalls the highs and lows of his teenage years in the 1960s and 70s.  Heart-warming, funny and sometimes very sentimental, The Wonder Years was, for a short while, unmissable television.

WATCH IT FOR: Opening theme

 

GIVE US A CLUE (1979-1992)

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You couldn’t get more British than this, a game show where two teams of celebrities play Charades.  Originally hosted by Michael Aspel (1979-1984) the show hit its stride with Michael Parkinson in the hot seat.  The two teams, male versus female, were captained by Lionel Blair and Una Stubbs (later to be replaced by Liza Goddard.  I still can’t hear her name without singing it in the style of the show’s theme tune!) would take it in turns to mime the clues to their teammates against the clock.  Over the years it has been given a bit of stick for being cheap and cheesy but I always hold it in great affection.

WATCH IT FOR: A full episode from the 90s

 

CHILDREN’S WARD (1989-2000)

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What I hadn’t realised until I started researching was that Children’s Ward was actually a spin-off from the classic kids’ drama anthology series Dramarama.  Created by Paul Abbott and Kay Mellor, its a grown-up drama series for kids set on a children’s ward of a fictitious hospital.  We see the daily dramas of the various patients and staff and, like most programmes of the day dealt with current issues.  It was also a hotbed for emerging acting talent – just take a look at the extensive cast list on IMDb and you’ll see all manner of famous faces who once cut their teeth on this show.

WATCH IT FOR: Part of the first episode!

 

COUNT DUCKULA (1988-1993)

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Here’s another popular spin-off from an equally popular original show.  Count Duckula (voiced by David Jason) originally started out as an antagonist for the ace super spy, Danger Mouse.  Here, though, he gets top-billing in a Cosgrove-Hall cartoon loosely based on the legendary story of Count Dracula, only this time instead of a blood sucker, Duckula was a vegetarian!  I was a huge fan of Danger Mouse and was just as much a lover of this brilliant programme.

WATCH IT FOR: Intro

 

THE MARY WHITEHOUSE EXPERIENCE (1990-1992)

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This was one of those sketch-shows from the 90s that everyone talked about in school the next day.  It was funny and rude and you knew your parents wouldn’t understand it.  Starting out on radio, The Mary Whitehouse Experience were Steve Punt, Hugh Dennis, David Baddiel and Rob Newman, two comedy duos who came together and brought us endlessly quotable comedy and topical humour.  It’s a shame there’s nothing else like it on television right now, its much missed!

WATCH IT FOR: History Today

 

THE REAL GHOSTBUSTERS (1986-1991)

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The original Ghostbusters movie in 1984 was a huge hit so it was almost inevitable that there would be spin-offs and sequels.  This animated adventure sees our four intrepid heroes continue busting ghosts and not being afraid of them in a weekly animated form.  Although it lacks the class of the movie’s cast, the voice artists here do a grand job.  This was one of those cartoons that I couldn’t miss and it also spawned a range of action figures, two further animated shows and a huge cult following.  Bustin’ of this calibre really makes me feel good!

WATCH IT FOR: Intro

 

There you go, another batch of ten television programmes that bring back all the memories and feels.  I’ve sort of broken one of my own rules this time by having three animated shows on one post but I just couldn’t resist when they are so good!  This edition also features a couple of those dreaded earworms that I swear will be in your head for days (maybe even longer, sorry!) but that’s all part of the fun, right?  If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve seen here today, please do get in touch and let me know.  If you haven’t, then keep your opinions to yourself, I’m a very sensitive soul.  Until next time…

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“Milky! Milky!”

 

 

 

 

 

My Life In TV: Part Twenty Two

Welcome back.  The joy of doing this is that, over the course of the months it takes to compile, write and post, I find that I’m discovering new programmes and remembering more of the old ones.  This edition, for example, has a true modern classic as well as a couple of cult favourites and forgotten gems.  There is also at least one that I’m pretty sure nobody else will remember watching – I’d almost forgotten about it myself!  Anyway, enough of my waffling on…it’s time to play the music, it’s time to light the lights…we’ve got work to do!

 

RED RIDING TRILOGY (2009)

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This three-part adaptation of David Peace‘s Red Riding Quartet novels is set in Yorkshire over the course of a number of years – 1974, 1980, 1983 – and the intertwining stories of murder, corruption and greed.  Andrew Garfield leads a starry cast that also includes Sean Bean, David Morrissey and Paddy Considine.  It’s a gripping story, nicely spread out across the three feature-length episodes, that also touches on true events.  As far as I can remember it hasn’t been repeated which is a shame as it is one of those important pieces of drama that I don’t think enough people got to see first time around.

WATCH IT FOR: Trailer

 

STRANGER THINGS (2016-present)

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I’d heard a lot about this show and I’d seen all the memes online so, when I got the chance, I signed up to Netflix (originally to catch season 3 of Gotham!) and binged the whole lot.  This programme is right up my street.  It smacks of nostalgia and harks back to all the films and TV programmes I grew up watching.  A group of friends – Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin and Noah Schnapp – come face to face with the weird and wonderful supernatural forces in their hometown of Hawkins.  Add in some shady government types and a girl (Milly Bobbie Brown) with special gifts and you’ve got yourself an absolutely brilliant modern classic.  I can’t wait for the third series, if only to hear more of the excellent soundtrack!

WATCH IT FOR: Who you gonna call?

 

THE LOVE BOAT (1977-1987)

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I have very vague memories of this particular show.  The main one being the great theme tune by Jack Jones but I think, unfairly, this programme is best remembered as a bit of cheesy fluff.  Set aboard the cruise ship Pacific Princess and featuring a wide array of passengers in search of love and exotic locations, The Love Boat is one of those quirky, comedy shows that, even if you never watched it, you certainly know about it.

WATCH IT FOR: Opening titles

 

THE GLADES (2010-2013)

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Another quirky detective drama from across the pond, this time starring Matt Passmore as Jim Longworth, a former Chicago cop who moves to Florida and joins the state police force.  Fish-out-of-water stories are very popular and this is one that doesn’t dwell too much on that aspect other than Jim’s sometimes unconventional methods of work.  I really enjoyed this but, like with most programmes, it sometimes got itself bogged down with will-they-won’t-they situations.  Apart from that, it’s well worth a look if you happen to catch it.

WATCH IT FOR: Trailer

 

THE MYSTERIES OF LAURA (2014-2016)

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I think some reviewers would class this show as “offbeat” and, to be fair, it is just a little bit.  It’s a comedy/drama/mystery starring Debra Messing as the eponymous Laura, a homicide detective in New York who juggles her work with her home life raising twin boys.  At the same time she is forced to work alongside her ex-husband, played by Josh Lucas.  This is good, honest television.  Fun to watch without being too heavy.  It’s a shame it only lasted for two series, I would have liked to see where things went.

WATCH IT FOR: Official trailer (minor spoilers)

 

ELLEN (1994-1998)

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As ground breaking television shows go, this hit sitcom pretty much beats the lot.  Based on the stand-up routines of Ellen DeGeneres, this comedy not only broke moulds, it threw those moulds away.  Ellen plays a neurotic bookstore owner who, along with her outgoing friend Paige (Joely Fisher), insecure photographer Adam (Arye Gross) and her layabout cousin Spence (Jeremy Piven) fight their way through life’s dramas.  This show was pivotal for many reasons, not least for the ahead-of-its-time “coming out” episode which, at the time, created hostility among sponsors and the show’s network, ABC, received a bomb threat.  That one episode paved the way for countless other series to write confidently about sexuality and to begin breaking new moulds.

WATCH IT FOR: “The Puppy Episode” (part one of the ground-breaking episode)

 

KNIGHTMARE (1987-1994)

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Knightmare is one of those truly cult phenomenon television programmes of the 1980s that viewers still hold close to their hearts.  It’s a Dungeon and Dragons style game show that puts young contestants into a computer-generated world where they must work together to solve puzzles.  They are helped out by Treguard, the Dungeon Master (played by Hugo Myatt) who offers assistance and tries to steer them in the right direction.  Although this type of game never appealed to me, this programme was unmissable!

WATCH IT FOR: Opening theme tune!

 

THE LAZARUS MAN (1996)

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Here’s a programme so rarely mentioned that I can hardly find any video evidence online.  Robert Urich stars as a man who pulls himself out of a grave shortly after the American Civil War.  He has no memory of his life, all he has is Northern gold and a US Army revolver.  He calls himself ‘Lazarus’ and sets out on a journey to find his past.  The series was renewed for a second season but the production company decided to cancel after Urich was diagnosed with cancer, even though Urich himself had declared himself still able to work.  The lawsuit was eventually settled but the series was never renewed.  I don’t think it has ever been shown since, I’ve certainly never seen a repeat, and I doubt it’s even available on DVD.  There are bits available online, but not enough to show off the creativity of this show.

WATCH IT FOR: Partial episode

 

BREAD (1986-1991)

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The writer, Carla Lane, was a genius at bringing northern working class life to the screen.  Here, with the Boswell family, she brought us what it was like living in a deprived area of Liverpool in the 1980s.  As with all Lane’s work it is both touching and brilliantly funny.  Jean Boht stars as Nellie Boswell, matriarch and fearsome leader of her eclectic brood.  While none of the family are in gainful employment, they each manage to work the system and can afford to live quite comfortably for the area they live in.  Despite cast changes, the show ran for seven series and over seventy episodes, leaving an indelible mark on the television landscape.

WATCH IT FOR: Opening titles

 

THE GOLDEN GIRLS (1985-1992)

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A sitcom with four older women as the lead shouldn’t have worked at the time but its a credit to the writing and performances that The Golden Girls was a massive hit.  Dorothy (Bea Arthur) lives in Miami with her mother, Sophia (Estelle Getty) and friends Blanche (Rue McClanahan) and Rose (Betty White) where they all find their way through life and their advancing years.  Over the course of its seven season history, The Golden Girls won 11 Emmy and 4 Golden Globe awards and is regarded as one of the best sitcoms of all time.  Add to that the best theme tune and you’ve got yourself a winner!

WATCH IT FOR: Some funny moments

 

And another batch of television gems floats on by, and what a batch they were!  A couple of classics, a modern masterpiece (in my opinion) and one more that has been lost to the archives of history.  If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve seen here then please feel free to drop me a line, either here or come find me on Twitter, I’d love to hear from you.  I’m off to visit the Upside Down so, until next time…

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“She’s our friend and she’s crazy!”

21 Years Later…

I’ve already written here before about losing my dad to Cancer when I was 21.  I revisited the story last year on the twentieth anniversary of his passing but something dawned on me this week as his 21st approaches.  This year he will have been dead for half of my life.

Most years I can get through the anniversary with the customary mention on my social media page and my own private commemoration.  But, as this 20th April approaches, I find myself coming to the realisation that for half of my life I haven’t had a Dad.  I’ve not bought a birthday or Father’s Day card and I’ve very rarely used the word ‘Dad’ in general conversation, unless it’s when I’m talking about him with family and friends.  This might not seem like a big deal to most but this kind of thing baffles my little brain.

I was 21 when Dad died, I’m 42 now.  I’m not a mathematical genius but I understand that sum.  I’ve lived the past twenty-one years without him.  Half my life.  I know I keep saying it but it’s true.  Half my life.  Half.  My.  Life.

I’ve been through some pretty traumatic things in the past twenty-one years and most of the time I’ve wanted to turn around and see my dad’s comforting face and feel his reassurance that everything will turn out okay.  Sometimes, and I know this sounds crazy, I do feel it.  I can almost smell him around me.  That faint aroma of cigarette smoke mixed with Old Spice and Brylcreem.  I suppose part of that is the want for him to still be there sparking the memory of his presence, I get that.  Sometimes, though, I just need him.  The physical him.

What I guess I’m trying to say is that, even though I’ve spent half my life without him, I also got to spend half my life with him.  I got to have him read to me; to make things for me and to annoy me when he didn’t understand the teenage me.  He was there for all the good times and the sad.  Sure, there are things he never got to see but there always will be.  You can’t change that.  It’s inevitable that there will be times in my life where I’ll wish my dad could be there as well as the times I’m glad he’s not around to see.  That’s what happens when you lose someone you love.

To be honest, I don’t know what I’m trying to say with this post.  I realised the half-my-life thing and felt compelled to share it.  I love my dad, always did, always will.  I wish I’d told him so more often but there’s nothing I can do about that now.  All I can do is keep his memory alive.  Maybe watch The African Queen every so often, or attempt to build a coffee table only to realise all the legs aren’t the same length and try to rectify this by systematically going from leg to leg, shortening them until all that is left is just the top of the table!

Bless him, he tried.

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Fate’s Wide Wheel

“Theorizing that one could time travel within his own lifetime, Doctor Sam Beckett stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator – and vanished.  He awoke to find himself trapped in the past, facing mirror images that were not his own, and driven by an unknown force to change history for the better.  His only guide on this journey is Al, an observer from his own time, who appears in the form of a hologram that only Sam can see and hear.  And so Doctor Beckett finds himself leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong and hoping each time that his next leap… will be the leap home”

 

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I had never been a fan of science fiction growing up.  My heart lay with the action heroes like James Bond or Indiana Jones.  I’d seen Star Wars and the like but they didn’t get my heart pumping or my mind racing.  That was until I discovered an American sci-fi show that had just begun airing over here on BBC2.  That show was Quantum Leap and it blew my tiny, little mind.

Up until that point I had never thought to ask the bigger questions or even dared to consider possibilities beyond our own existence.  Yet here was a television programme that, almost immediately, had begged to ask me one simple question.  What if you could travel through time and change history for the better?  Where would you go?  Where could you go?  In the case of Quantum Leap you could, theoretically, travel through time within your own lifetime.  This fascinated me.  I didn’t understand any of it but it fascinated me and, watching that very first episode had me hooked.

A person’s life is like a length of string; one end represents birth, the other represents death. If one were to tie the ends of the string together, their life becomes a loop. Next, by balling the loop together, the days in one’s life would touch one another out of sequence. Therefore, jumping from one part of the string to another would allow someone to travel back and forth within their own lifetime, thus making a “quantum leap” between each time period

The brainchild of television legend Donald P. Bellisario (Magnum, PI, Airwolf, JAG, NCIS) Quantum Leap followed Dr Sam Beckett (played by Scott Bakula), a brilliant physicist and creator of Project Quantum Leap, who steps into his own experiment and vanishes.  Aiding Sam on his journey is his best friend and collaborator, the cigar-chomping womaniser Admiral Al Calavicci (Hollywood veteran Dean Stockwell) who, while still at base somewhere in New Mexico, appears as a hologram that only Sam can see and hear.  At first, Sam’s brain is confused – swiss-cheesed, as Al refers to it – and he has very little memory of who he is, let alone the strange reflection in the mirror.  With information from the project’s super-hybrid computer, Ziggy, it is determined that Sam has leaped into this specific person’s history in order to right a wrong of some description.  The fun of the story comes from Sam working out ways to get to the crux of the problem, correct the mistake and leap out.

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It’s a fantastic premise for a series, leading to a brand new set of stories and characters each week held together by the relationship between Sam and Al as well as Sam’s desperation to find a way home.  Bakula is brilliant playing Sam who, in turn, also gets to play many different characters that Sam leaps into whether they be a fighter pilot, baseball player, lounge singer or single mother.  One week he could be playing piano, the next he could be singing in an all-girl group.  The possibilities were endless, just as long as they fell under the rules of the show.  Stockwell, on the other hand, a veteran of Hollywood since his childhood, showcased his own special set of skills as the Pancho Villa to Sam’s Don Quixote.  If you want to see the perfect example of this, then you must seek out the episode M.I.A. which floors me every time.  Stockwell gives a flawless acting masterclass and is testament to the quality of character he brought to the show.

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The show had picked up steady viewers of the years and, by the time of the fifth and final series, had amassed a cult following as well as numerous awards.  The final episode, “Mirror Image”,  saw Sam leap through time and space as himself, landing in a bar at the very moment of his birth.  Throughout the show’s lifetime, Sam and Al had questioned whether the leaps had all been random or whether someone, or something, else had been pulling the strings.  In Mirror Image, these questions are asked again as Sam, facing his own reflection for the first time, begins to wonder if he had the ability to take himself home and just subconsciously chose to continue leaping to help others.  As a fan of the show, I found this episode particularly moving as, one the one hand I was willing the show to continue but at the same time I wanted Sam to find his way home.  Ultimately, though, the goodness in Sam’s heart won through.

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I became obsessed with Quantum Leap.  I watched every episode, I even recorded them onto VHS (I still have them!).  I bought the books, the novelisations and the CD soundtrack.  I even managed to get hold of one of the comic books.  Even now, twenty-five years since it ended, I can still sit and watch them.  Sometimes the whole thing will be repeated on a cable channel and I’ll sit and watch them over again.  Recently, I decided to have my own QL marathon and sat and watched my DVDs over the course of a couple of weeks.  I even found my peace with Series 5 which I had unfairly scoffed at as being the poorest season.  There are some real gems of episodes in that series.  Truly.

Quantum Leap pushed the boundaries of what was possible for a weekly TV show.  Tackling difficult subjects like rape and racism, some of which were not being highlighted by prime-time television.  Bellisario wanted to make a modern anthology series and was inspired by movies such as Heaven Can Wait and Here Comes Mr Jordan to create a truly original series.  In recent years there have been rumours of a reboot, a continuation and even a feature film (In October 2017, Bellisario confirmed at the L.A. Comic Con that he has finished a script for a feature film).  Whatever happens, I’m sure Dr Sam Beckett is still out there, putting things right that once went wrong and still working on a way to get home.

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“Oh boy!”

My Life In TV: Part Twenty One

Can you believe it?  The last time I ventured into the television archives for this blog was way back in August of last year.  Since then, my focus has been on the film aspect of this thing but now we’re back to concentrate our attentions on the box in the corner of the room.  I’ve said many times before that, as well as film, television has played a major part in my growing up.  Watching all the kids’ programmes before and after school, graduating to more adventurous fare before developing and acquiring my own tastes and choosing what I do and don’t watch.  With that in mind, let us wander now into the void of televisual past and explore those shows that have either been long-forgotten or are still just as fresh today.  Don’t turn that dial, we’ll be right back…

 

STRANGE LUCK (1995-1996)

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Here’s a peculiar one to start this new run off with.  A show with a high-concept plot device that lasted for only 17 episodes.  D.B. Sweeney stars as Chance Harper, a freelance photographer, who has the odd ability to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  This strange luck began when he was the sole survivor of a plane crash when he was a small child.  Pamela Gidley and Frances Fisher co-star in a show that ultimately failed due to poor ratings and, I suspect, for having only the one main idea to run with.  I enjoyed it while it lasted, but it has since become one of those shows that has been lost among the archives of one-season-wonders.

WATCH IT FOR: There are full episodes on YouTube, like this one!

 

THE UPPER HAND (1990-1996)

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There has been a long history of the UK and US translating each others sitcoms, with varying degrees of success.  This one, a remake of Who’s The Boss?, was one of the better versions to hit our screens.  Joe McGann plays Charlie Burrows, who takes the job of housekeeper for affluent divorcee Caroline Wheatley (Diana Weston).  Caroline shares the house with her young son, Tom (William Puttock) and her femme fatale mother, Laura (Honor Blackman).  Charlie moves in along with his daughter, Joanna (Kellie Bright).  If you remember the American original, you’ll know that the majority of the humour comes from the class divide along with the added sexual chemistry between Charlie and Caroline.  It was a good, honest, British sitcom, despite its roots, that was a big hit.  I think its about time for a repeat showing, don’t you?

WATCH IT FOR: Opening theme

 

ROOKIE BLUE (2010-2015)

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The television schedules have always been kind when it comes to the new recruits on the police force.  As viewers, we must enjoy the sheer terror of stepping out of the training academy and onto the mean streets.  Rookie Blue follows a group of such fresh recruits on their journey to becoming fully fledged cops.  Missy Peregrym, Gregory Smith, Enuka Okuma, Travis Milne and Charlotte Sullivan star as the aspiring officers in this enjoyable, if not ground-breaking, police procedural.

WATCH IT FOR: Season 1 trailer

 

WILL & GRACE (1998-present)

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Will & Grace are back! After over a decade off screen, the hit US sitcom returned to thunderous applause and acclaim.  It’s not surprising really, in it’s heyday the show was one of the biggest around and broke moulds in the industry.  Centred on the lives and loves of four New Yorkers – Will (Eric McCormack), Grace (Debra Messing), Jack (Sean Hayes) and Karen (Megan Mullally) – and their daily struggles to survive as gay and straight in the nineties.  Fast forward to the new era and its like they’ve never been away.  The writing is just as fabulous as it was before and, with the current political and activist climate, it couldn’t be more necessary to see it return.

WATCH IT FOR: The return of Will & Grace!

 

BULLSEYE (1981-1995)

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It seems fitting that this programme should appear in the return of the countdown following the recent deaths of both host Jim Bowen and series regular Eric Bristow.  Bullseye is a typically British game show that sees contestants play darts for prizes.  A team of two – one dart player and one non-player – go head to head with other teams in order to win Bully’s special prize at the end of the show.  Professional darts players would also take part for charity.  The series originally ended in 1995 but was given a short-lived revival in 2006 fronted by comedian Dave Spikey.

WATCH IT FOR: Jim counting out the winnings!

 

ONLY CONNECT (2008-present)

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You couldn’t get any more different from Bullseye if you tried.  Only Connect is a devilishly difficult quiz that tests the grey matter as well as forces you to use lateral thinking to solve the clues.  Hosted by Victoria Coren Mitchell, it sees two teams of three pit their wits against each other in a series of rounds to find connections to a series of seemingly random clues.  Its an addictive watch as well as being quite frustrating when you realise that your brain doesn’t work the same way as others!

WATCH IT FOR: An example of one of the rounds

 

BANANAMAN (1983-1986)

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As superheroes go, this one is one of the weirdest to ever emerge from the shadows.  Young Eric eats bananas and becomes the dim, but ultra-strong, Bananaman who, with the aid of his trusty companion, Crow, fights crime.  Featuring the voice work of comedy legends The GoodiesGraeme Garden, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Bill Oddie – Bananaman is bonkers but I always enjoyed watching it as a kid.

WATCH IT FOR: Intro

 

THE OTHERS (2000)

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Here’s another one of those ‘one-season-wonders’ that, in my mind, should have been given a second chance to shine.  Student Marian Kitt (Julianne Nicholson) discovers she has the ability to see through to ‘the other side’ and is subsequently brought to the attention of college professor Miles Ballard (John Billingsley).  Ballard introduces Marian to The Others, a group of people who also have similar abilities.  I’m still amazed that this show only lasted for one series of thirteen episodes, I really enjoyed watching it when it was shown here in the UK.  I don’t think its ever been repeated here either, nor has it been released on DVD which I think is a shocker.  Thankfully, the episodes are (currently) online so I suggest you seek them out while you can.

WATCH IT FOR: Opening titles

 

ER (1994-2009)

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This was ground-breaking television when it first aired in 1994.  Created by Michael Crichton, it centres on the lives and careers of the medical staff in a Chicago emergency room.  The good days and the bad, all manner of ailments and traumas are brought to life.  The show was also responsible for kickstarting a few very successful careers including George Clooney, Noah Wyle and William H. Macy to name just a few.  Over three hundred episodes and a whole medical dictionary of slang in the vocabulary later, ER remains one of the very best medical dramas ever seen.

WATCH IT FOR: Doug and Carol

 

WAREHOUSE 13 (2009-2014)

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I was late discovering this little gem of a series but I’m so glad I eventually found it.  It’s so much fun.  Two Secret Service agents, Pete (Eddie McClintock) and Myka (Joanne Kelly), after saving the life of the US President, are whisked off to the secretive Warehouse 13 where their skills are put to good use locating missing supernatural artefacts.  They are joined by warehouse caretaker Artie (Saul Rubinek) and tech-savvy agent-in-training Claudia (Allison Scagliotti) in this hugely entertaining sci-fi romp.

WATCH IT FOR: Series 1 opening titles

 

And there you go, we’re back up and running!  A fresh batch of television gems ready for your perusal.  There are a couple of forgotten shows in this run that I think deserve a little more love than they originally got.  If nothing else, they deserve a repeat showing on one of the many channels we have now!  Anyway, if you’ve enjoyed reading through this little edition of My Life In TV… then please feel free to drop me a line, I’d love to hear from you.  Until next time…

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“You get nothing in this game for two in a bed”

 

My Life In Film: Part Thirty

Here we go, part thirty of my cinematic odyssey comes to you courtesy of a couple of legends and one of the most recent films to feature in the list so far.  At the end of this there will have been 300 films featured.  Not all of them are classics in the traditional sense but they are to me.  As usual, My Life In Film… will take a short break while I return my attention to the next batch of television programmes that have made an impact on me.  But before that happens, we’ve still got some work to do…

 

CASPER (1995)

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Based on the Harvey comic and cartoon series, Casper sees Bill Pullman as Dr Harvey, a recently bereaved paranormal expert, move to a new town with his teenage daughter, Kat (Christina Ricci).  Harvey is hired by the owner of a mansion who believes it to be haunted and wants the spooks gone so she can claim her ancestor’s hidden fortune.  This is a delightfully enchanting film that doesn’t go too mawkish or sentimental and deserves a lot more love, especially for James Horner‘s beautiful score.

WATCH IT FOR: Kat meets Casper

 

YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES (1985)

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This is one of those films that, over the years, has amassed a strong cult following.  It’s not surprising really, being based (very loosely) on the youth of a certain master detective.  Nicholas Rowe stars as the young Sherlock who meets a young John Watson (Alan Cox) while they are both at an elite boarding school.  Soon they discover some strange goings on and decide to investigate, getting into all sorts of adventures.  One great bit of trivia, this film features the very first appearance of a fully-CGI character, animated by Industrial Light and Magic and overseen by John Lassetter in an early credit for the behemoth that is Pixar.

WATCH IT FOR: That groundbreaking piece of CGI

 

CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (2002)

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Leonardo DiCaprio takes the lead here as Frank Abagnale, Jr, a resourceful high school kid who goes on the run from the feds after defrauding millions of dollars, all in the name of recouping the money his father lost to the IRS.  Doggedly pursued by FBI agent Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks), Frank poses as an airline pilot, teacher and doctor before being extradited for cheque fraud.  Director Steven Spielberg brings a light, old-fashioned Hollywood-style to proceedings while still maintaining the pace of a heist movie.

WATCH IT FOR: Frank and Carl cross paths

 

THE FIFTH ELEMENT (1997)

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This wild and colourful sci-fi adventure from Luc Besson (Nikita, Leon) sees Bruce Willis play a taxi driver who finds himself caught up in the search for a legendary weapon.  It’s a visual treat for the eyes but sometimes falls short on plot and storytelling.  Willis is his usual wisecracking, sarcastic, action hero self while able support comes from breakout star Milla Jovovich and recent Oscar-winner Gary Oldman.

WATCH IT FOR: Shootout

 

THE INCREDIBLES (2004)

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Pixar movies have taken over the world and proven that animated films are often bigger and better than live-action.  This one, featuring voice work from Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter and Samuel L. Jackson, sees a family of superheroes trying to live their quiet, suburban lives but who get sucked back into the crime-fighting ways in order to save the world.  Its fast-paced, full of action and comedy and is, quite possibly, one of the best animated movies ever made.  This summer, after fourteen years, a sequel is finally due to be released!

WATCH IT FOR: “No capes!”

 

EASTER PARADE (1948)

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In this classic MGM musical, Fred Astaire plays Don Hewes who, along with his partner Nadine Hale (Ann Miller) perform a very successful dance act.  But when Nadine decides to go it alone, Don takes it upon himself to train the next girl he sees and turn her into his next dance partner.  That girl is Hannah Brown (Judy Garland) and pretty soon the two of them are the talk of the town.  Its an age-old romantic musical with performances from two legends at the top of their game.

WATCH IT FOR: A couple of swells!

 

CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN (2003)

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This is one of those heart-warming family comedies that just make me smile.  Tom Baker (Steve Martin) and his wife, Kate (Bonnie Hunt) are at the head of a huge family of twelve children.  When Kate has to go out of town for a book tour, it is left to Tom to take care of the kids.  Although there is plenty of slapstick elements and silly humour, Cheaper By The Dozen is a good, old-fashioned comedy that warms the cockles of any a cold heart.  A sequel followed in 2005 but this, to me, is the better of the two.

WATCH IT FOR: Preparing dinner!

 

FOUL PLAY (1978)

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Here’s a comedy/thriller that seems to have been forgotten by many.  It’s a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously while at the same time emulating the great films of Hitchcock.  Goldie Hawn plays a shy librarian who gets caught up in a bizarre mystery that sees her fending off killer albinos and savage dwarves.  With the help of San Francisco cop Chevy Chase, the two begin an adventure and soon fall in love.  This film very rarely sees the light of day on television, I don’t think I’ve seen it for years, and is one of those rare movies that have slipped by the wayside.  It’s a shame, because it is a great deal of fun.

WATCH IT FOR: Trailer

 

SWITCHBACK (1997)

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Here’s an interesting one.  This film did very little to dent the box office or the rental market but, and I don’t know how, I discovered it on VHS and it has remained one of my firm favourites ever since.  Dennis Quaid stars as Frank Lacrosse, an FBI agent who is on the hunt for his kidnapped son, taken by a dangerous serial killer who slaughtered the babysitter.  Quaid is excellent as the distraught father and dogged investigator who will stop at nothing to find his son.  Jared Leto, Danny Glover and R. Lee Ermey provide solid support in this sadly-forgotten thriller.

WATCH IT FOR: Trailer

 

BABY DRIVER (2017)

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I believe this is the most recent film to feature in this list of (now) 300 films.  It’s not hard to see why.  I’ve said before that Edgar Wright is one of the most exciting filmmakers of this generation, combining witty dialogue, sharp editing and camera work with banging soundtracks.  With Baby Driver he takes this to a whole new level.  Ansel Elgort plays the eponymous hero, a hearing-impaired getaway driver for a crime boss who gets coerced into driving one last job.  It’s fast, sharp and exciting as you’d expect from Wright, but Baby Driver amps it up and is much more of a kinetic musical.  Jamie Foxx, John Hamm and Lily James co-star in one of the most breath-taking films I’ve ever seen.

WATCH IT FOR: Chase scene

 

And that’s a wrap on this edition, 300 films down already and there’s still so many more to feature.  As I said at the start, My Life In Film… will be taking a break while I return to My Life In TV… but, rest assured, it will be back!  If you like what you’ve seen here, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and spread the word, I’d love to hear from you.  Until the next time…

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“Was he slow?”