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Archive for January, 2008

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Game For A Laugh

Posted by Big Boo on January 31st, 2008

Game For A LaughFollowing the news that Jeremy Beadle has just died from pneumonia at the age of 59, I thought it would be apt to mark his passing with the show that first brought him fame in the UK, Game For A Laugh, and paved the way for Beadle to become a household name when it came to anything to do with practical jokes.

Game For A Laugh first hit our screens in 1981, and was hosted by Jeremy Beadle, Sarah Kennedy, Henry Kelly and Matthew Kelly (the latter two of course not being related to each other). The show was a mixture of practical jokes, quizzes, games and stunts that involved members of the general public. As Beadle was always keen on reminding us it was the show where “The People Are The Stars” and the closing catchphrase of the show was “Watching Us Watching You, Watching Us Watching You” which was delivered by each member of the team saying a quarter of it each.

The featured practical jokes usually involved some hapless person had being set up by their spouse, family or work colleagues to be made a fool of, normally by having something nasty happen to them like their car being crushed in front of their eyes (of course, it wasn’t really their car). These were normally prefilmed segments where the person being humilated and the person who set them up were invited to sit and watch the mayhem commence.

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Love Hearts

Posted by Big Boo on January 30th, 2008

Love HeartsEverybody loves Love Hearts, don’t they? Those little fizzy sweets with a little message in red text embossed on the side and surrounded with a heart are just as popular today as they always have been. The sweets were made in different pastel colours, although I think they all had the same flavour – I certainly couldn’t tell any noticeable difference between them anyway.

It was the messages that were the best thing though. You couldn’t eat a Love Heart without reading what the message was first, which was normally something like “LOVE YOU” or “CUTE BOY” or “BE MINE”. For todays modern world they’ve apparently also added some more slogans written in SMS Text Speak, like “LUV U 24/7″, and even regional versions of the sweets, though I believe this was a Valentine’s Day special edition. For example, the Scottish packs featured “BONNIE LASS” as one of the messages!

The sweets have become so engrained in peoples minds now that the manufacturers, Swizzels Matlow (also creators of the Parma Violet) have even created a dedicated Love Hearts website. Here you can buy a wide range of Love Hearts merchandise, including personalised packets for weddings and other special occasions. There is even a little trinket box lined with red satin and containing a single sweet with the message “MARRY ME” on the side, perfect for those wishing to get engaged, although I suspect your intended would like it more if there was a ring inside as well.

It doesn’t end there though, as Firebox have a Silver Love Heart that says “I LOVE YOU” on one side, and the other side can be engraved with your own personal message. There’s also several different Love Heart pendants available, which can be purchased from Amazon (follow the link at the end of this post for details). With Valentine’s Day only a few weeks away, perhaps one of these might solve the problem of what to buy for your sweetheart this year?

Search for Love Hearts items on Amazon.co.uk

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Shake ‘n’ Vac

Posted by Big Boo on January 29th, 2008

Shake ‘n’ VacHas anybody ever used Glade Shake ‘n’ Vac when vacuuming their house? I never understood the thinking behind a product that causes you to make more mess when tidying up around the house. The product was supposed to bring an air of “freshness” back to your carpet, and the way it achieved this was for you to sprinkle something that looked a bit like talcum powder all over the floor, then hoover it all back up again. Maybe it worked, maybe it didn’t, I really don’t know, but the product will always be remembered for it’s well remembered (if somewhat cringingly terrible) television advert.

The advert was aired during the mid 1980’s, and I’m willing to bet most people around my age will remember most of the lyrics:-

It’s all you have to do…
You do the Shake ‘n’ Vac and put the freshness back.
Do the Shake ‘n’ Vac and put the freshness back.
If your carpet smells fresh, your room does too.
Everytime you vacuum, remember what to do.
Do the Shake ‘n’ Vac and put the freshness back.

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Mastermind

Posted by Big Boo on January 28th, 2008

MastermindAs a child I was always confused about the board game Mastermind. I didn’t see how it related to the BBC TV quiz show for eggheads, as it involved guessing codes rather than answering questions about general knowledge or your specialist subject. Of course, the reason is because the two versions of Mastermind were completely different entities, but I was convinced that they must have been the same just because there was a man sat in a chair on the box of the game, and Mastermind the quiz show is famous for the black chair in which the contestants sit whilst they are grilled.

The box depicted a bearded man sat in a chair, with an oriental looking lady in a white dress stood behind him. The man was sat with his hands pushed together fingertip to fingertip in the manner of a typical James Bond villain, just before he pressed the button to drop 007 into a pool of sharks or something equally devious and evil.

The game was a basically a logic challenge for two players. One player made up a secret code of four different colours, and the other player had to guess what it was. They did this by placing coloured pegs in little holes on the playing board. The other player would then put in a number of black and white pegs to mark the other players guess. A black peg meant you had a peg of the correct colour, but in the wrong position, whilst a white peg meant a correct colour in the correct position (or it may have been the other way around – either way it doesn’t really matter). The other player then made another guess based on this feedback, and this continued until either the code was guessed, or the player run out of space on the board to make guesses.

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Stocking Fillers - Suppliers to Father Christmas
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The New Shmoo

Posted by Big Boo on January 25th, 2008

The New SchmooThere’s no denying that Hanna Barbera have created some wonderful cartoons over the years. Scooby Doo and The Flintstones must surely be the cartoon studios two best loved series. However, Hanna Barbera are also guilty of a large amount of internal copy-catting. For The Flintstones there was The Jetsons (luckily The Jetsons was actually quite good though) but when it comes to the basic premise of Scooby Doo – a group of teenagers and their mascot investigating mysteries – things get a little out of hand. Some were good (e.g. Captain Caveman) whilst overs were terrible (e.g. the introduction of Scrappy Doo).

The New Shmoo was one of these teenage investigation cartoons, and lies somewhere in the middle as far as quality is concerned. Here we had three teenagers called Nita, Mickey and Billy Joe, who were accompanied by the Shmoo, a weird white creature that could change it’s shape. It’s normal state looked something like a pure white sea-lion, but it could transform into whatever object it felt would be useful at the time. The Shmoo was voiced by Frank Welker, who always specialised in making unusual sounding characters. He is credited as being Santa’s Little Helper in The Simpsons, and was also the voice of Stripe, the evil Mogwai from Gremlins.

The character of The Shmoo was based on a similar character created by US cartoonist Al Capp for his “Li’l Abner” comic strip in the 1950’s. Apparently the “New” part of the cartoon’s name was in order to distinguish it from it’s original source.

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TV Test Cards

Posted by Big Boo on January 24th, 2008

TV Test CardsWith the plethora of digital TV channels available to us via satellite, cable or even Freeview TV, it seems strange to think that at the beginning of the 1980’s we only had three TV channels to choose from – BBC 1, BBC 2 and ITV. It also seems unthinkable that with such a small number of channels, at certain times of the day we didn’t even have programmes airing on all three. Early mornings and late nights were when TV stopped, and the test card took over.

The test card had several purposes, but the reason it was original conceived was to allow you to check that your TV was tuned in correctly. To this end the average TV test card consisted of a number of bars and boxes drawn in various shades of grey or primary colours. You could use this image to ensure that not only was your TV tuned to the correct frequency for a particular channel, but also that your brightness and contrast settings were correct.

Pictured is probably the best loved test card from British TV. It’s official name is the rather uninspiring Test Card “F”, but for most of us it will always be known as “the girl playing noughts and crosses one”. Many is the time that I would switch the TV on around 8am, put on BBC 2, and be greeted with the little girl (Carole Hersee was her real name fact fans!) and her oddly shaped clown toy playing a game together on a little blackboard. Some people found this image creepy as a kid, and many still do in fact. The recent TV series Life On Mars used this fact to great effect, where Sam Tyler was living a life back in time (the 1970’s as it happens) and was haunted by this little girl on his TV set. Of course, for poor Sam she came out of the TV set too at times…

For a stack of technical details about these test cards, including the newer ones that were created for the BBC’s first widescreen broadcasts, check out Barney Wol’s in depth website. It even points out where you can find mistakes in the construction of the test card itself!

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Pacman

Posted by Big Boo on January 23rd, 2008

PacmanEvery man and his dog must have played Pacman at some point in their life, and if not, then they surely must know who Pacman is. I consider him to be the first real videogame “celebrity”, if I can call a collection of yellow pixels a celebrity. His arcade game debut was in 1980 in the classic game created by Japanese company Namco, and since then he has been the star of countless other games and even a cartoon series.

The game itself is pretty simple to understand. Pacman is a little yellow circle with a mouth who must move around a maze eating little white dots and the occasional piece of fruit to increase his score. Trying to stop him are four ghosts who also wander the maze, and if they catch him then Pacman will lose a life. Pacman can turn the tables however by munching on a much larger dot called a power pill. This makes the ghosts turn blue and run away from Pacman, as he can now eat them. If he manages to devour a ghost, then the ghosts eyes will then be left zooming around the maze trying to get back to the central ghost area where they will be given a new body. If Pacman manages to eat all the dots in the maze, he is presented with another screenful of dots to glutton himself on.

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Pocketeers

Posted by Big Boo on January 22nd, 2008

PocketeersToday there probably aren’t many kids who don’t own a Nintendo Gameboy or one of it’s many variations. Back in the 1980’s such technology was the thing of Science Fiction, so we had to make do with our Palitoy Pocketeers instead (or the less catchily named Tomy Pocket Games in the US).

Pocketeers were hand held games that took the old Christmas cracker “roll-the-balls-into-little-holes” games a step further. Some were little more than larger versions of said cracker novelties, being mazes that you just had to roll one or more mini ball bearings around by tipping the entire toy. Others added little spring loader flippers and pushers to the mix, allowing the player some more interesting ways of interacting with the ball, and the ultimate addition was to have some form of movement thanks to a clockwork mechanism. Best of all though, the Pocketeers range were available at pocket money prices.

The pictured example is one of the games that I owned as a kid, and is called Space Invader (hmm, wonder where they got the idea for that from). A wind up mechanism moved the three stripy barriers from side to side, whilst you attempted to flick your little ball bearing between them to hit the alien mothership at the top of the game. Doing this caused a little score counter to the side of the alien to flip round. As you can see it was pretty simple, yet also surprisingly involved at the same time, as the mechanics of getting the thing to work were quite interesting.

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