Back in the early Eighties Britons looked on enviously at the the US with their huge range of TV channels, whilst we had a paltry three. Not only did the Americans have far more channels but they also had this curious idea of having actual TV programmes shown in the early hours of the morning. We just had test cards and pages from Ceefax.
In 1983 things changed, and we were treated to breakfast TV. First the BBC started with Breakfast Time, and soon after ITV followed suit with TV-am. The BBC took the lions share of the viewers, and poor old TV-am limped along, ratings dropping lower each day. What could save them?
A puppet Rat perhaps? Nah, surely not. Well, yes it did. Roland Rat Superstar was initially created to introduce some cartoons for the kids during the normal running of the TV-am programming, but in Summer 1983, with just a pink Ford Anglia and a meagre budget, Roland became a bit of a legend. During the summer holidays Roland and his gerbil chum Kevin were given half an hour to entertain the kiddies, and in so doing stopped TV-am from going under.
History lesson out of the way then, I’m pleased to announce that Rat On The Road, that first true slice of Roland at his best, is to be released on DVD on November 15th 2010, and I’ve had the pleasure of taking a sneak look at the disc before release. The memories came flooding back!
The main part of the disc is a condensed version of those first Rat On The Road shows. The original format was that Roland and Kevin travelled to different parts of the country every week, exploring different aspects of the chosen city each day. This disc takes some of the highlights of the series, and splices them together with Roland, Kevin and Errol the Welsh hamster (who ironically doesn’t get to visit Cardiff at the beginning of the series), reading extracts from Roland’s diary of the trip.
One thing that did surprise me a little on watching this disc was how my memories of Roland and Kevin were a little wrong. I always remembered Roland being a bit stupid really, and Kevin being the clever one, but on rewatching it seems that Roland was cleverer than I gave him credit for, and Kevin was rather more foolish than the sensible fellow I remembered him being.
The disc also has a bunch of extra features which are worth a mention. There’s a commentary, initially given by David Claridge, creator, writer and performer of Roland and his friends. This section of the commentary is actually quite interesting, fleshing out the story of how Roland came to be and how he became TV-am’s saviour. Later, David is booted off by Roland, and he, Kevin and Errol proceed to reminisce (if a puppet is able to do that) about their adventures.
Also on the disc is a video of Kevin singing Summer Holiday (why no Rat Rapping, especially since the music is used elsewhere on the disc), a stills gallery, which given it has a commentary is actually worth watching, and a rather nice making of documentary, which takes great pride in pointing out that everything it shows you is stuff you’ve seen a million times before on other making of documentaries!
The disc is being released for a shade under a tenner, so with Christmas round the corner it might make a nice little stocking filler for an old rat fan. Alternatively, keep your eyes peeled on this very site, as we’ll be running a competition to win a copy very soon!Buy Rat On The Road at Amazon.co.uk