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Archive for June, 2011

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Roy Skelton 1931-2011

Posted by Big Boo on June 10th, 2011

Roy SkeltonThis might be logged under my Famous Faces category but really Famous Voices would be more apt. You probably won’t recognise the face of Roy Skelton, and possibly not even his name, but he was the voice of two of the most famous British television puppets of all time. Roy Skelton was both Zippy and George from Rainbow.

Sadly, Roy Skelton has passed away. He suffered a stroke and died at his home in Brighton on June 8th 2011.

Whilst best known for being Zippy and George, a fact which boggles me given the arguments these two puppets sometimes had with each other, and Roy did it all in one go, switching between the voices as necessary, he was also a big contributor to Doctor Who, providing voices for the Daleks, Cybermen and (if you’re a real Doctor Who fan) the Krotons (nope, my Who knowledge isn’t sufficient for them either, you need to go back to Patrick Troughton for them).

I’ll leave you with a little video clip which shows what might have happened had Roy Skelton left the house one morning with his Rainbow hat on, but was actually off to provide voices for Doctor Who…

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Elmer

Posted by Big Boo on June 8th, 2011

Elmer the Elephant by David McKeeMy wife recently came home from work with a bit of a bargain. One of those book companies that come round to businesses with a selection of cut price books each week had a bag full of Elmer books at a muchly reduced price, so she snapped them up for our two and a half year old daughter.

Both my wife and myself had very vague memories of seeing Elmer before, and let’s face it he’s not hard to forget, as he’s an elephant made out of patchwork colours, rather than bog standard elephant grey. I certainly couldn’t remember having read Elmer as a child, and it turns out the reason for that is because Elmer didn’t actually come along until 1989, by which time I had already sat my GCSEs, and multicoloured elephants weren’t part of the English syllabus.

What also caught my eye was the name of the author, David McKee, as he also was the man behind some of the more memorable animated shows from my youth, Mr. Benn and King Rollo.

So, having a child now allows me to catch up with something from the Eighties which I myself missed the first time round, and I must say I’ve been quite enjoying it.

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First Class

Posted by Big Boo on June 6th, 2011

First ClassFirst Class was dubbed “The Video Quiz” by it’s host Debbie Greenwood, which was supposed to reflect the use of videogames as part of the proceedings. Two teams of three kids each representing their respective schools (so they were normally forced to wear their school uniforms), competed against each other in various rounds including playing the afore mentioned videogames, and also more standard quiz fair such as general knowledge or music rounds.

To add to the technology vibe of the show, the good old BBC Micro was used to provide the on screen scores and also one of the rounds, Word of Mouth, which was a variation on the game Hangman, where teams had to guess a word (normally something like the name of a country) by choosing letters. The round took it’s name from the fact that the letters appeared inside a robots mouth.

Whilst never actually seen, the computer was given the name Eugene by Ms. Greenwood, apparently in reference to the name of the chap who programmed the BBC Micro for the show.

The BBC Micro also got wheeled out as the prize of the show, as the ultimate winning team were awarded one of the computers as their prize (Game show prizes were pretty cheap back then, weren’t they?). This prize was reserved for the final champions of the show, as the teams scores were entered on a league table and the top teams came back to compete again at the end of the series.

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Hardwicke House

Posted by Big Boo on June 3rd, 2011

Hardwicke HouseWith the technical innovation that was the video recorder marching into our homes in the Eighties, there was a section of society that were incredibly wary of what this technology allowed people to watch in their own homes. The phrase “video nasty” was born, and was applied to films which were available on video but had dubious content (e.g. excessive violence).

In 1987, this same section of society came down hard on what could perhaps be dubbed a “television nasty”, although in truth this is really quite far from the truth. The show in question was Hardwicke House, an ITV sitcom which caused so many complaints to be made from viewers that it only aired two episodes before being pulled from the TV schedules, and this despite an entire series consisting of an hour long pilot episode and six regular half hour episodes had already been filmed.

Even more surprising is that TV Times magazine, then the only way of finding out what programmes were going to be shown on ITV, had put a lot of emphasis on this show, with it being on the cover and having a feature inside for the week the show went on air.

The show itself was about a rather dysfunctional school, both in terms of the pupils attending it and the staff who taught at it. There was a large cast, the most famous of which was Roy Kinear, one of the UK’s great comic actors. Also featuring as regulars were Pam Ferris (later Ma Larkin in The Darling Buds of May) and Duncan Preston (now on Emmerdale, but who has been in a host of shows including many involving comedienne Victoria Wood). One of the unseen episodes even featured Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson as a couple of ex-pupils who had just been released (escaped?) from borstal.

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Stocking Fillers - Suppliers to Father Christmas
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Arkanoid

Posted by Big Boo on June 1st, 2011

ArkanoidDuring the good old days of 8-bit home computers it was common practice for arcade games to make their way across to the home by way of lots of unofficial copies, many of them written by people at home for fun. For example, Pacman became Munchman, Puckman, Trashman, Gobbler, BigYellowEatingGuy and so on. All of these took the basic gameplay of the original, usually adding nothing except maybe changing the ghosts into something else in the process.

In 1986 Japanese arcade game company Taito did something similar when they released Arkanoid. The game was based heavily on Atari’s earlier Breakout, which came out some 10 years earlier. In Breakout you controlled a bat at the bottom of the screen which you used to bounce a ball around. At the top of the screen were some bricks which smashed when the ball hit them, scoring you points.

Arkanoid took this idea and evolved it, with the main addition being power-ups. Sometimes when you destroyed a brick, a capsule would fall down the screen. If you caught this with your bat (which in Arkanoid was actually meant to be a spaceship called a Vaus, but to all intents and purposes it was a bat) you were awarded a new ability, which ranged from making the bat bigger or smaller, making it sticky so the ball could be caught, splitting the ball into three or my personal favourite, giving you the ability to fire laser bolts to destroy the bricks.

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