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Archive for the ‘TV – Miscellaneous’ Category

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Sapphire and Steel

Posted by Big Boo on March 20th, 2009

sapphire-and-steelIf you were the sort of person who used to hide behind the sofa when watching Doctor Who then you’d better build a barricade out of the cushions as well if you watch Sapphire and Steel!  Whilst it may not have been a kids show it was shown in the early evening so I definitely remember watching the show.  I may not have understood much of it at the time, but it certainly left a big impression on me.

Sapphire (Joanna Lumley) and Steel (David McCallum) were “elemental forces” who were assigned to clear up problems in the space-time continuum.  OK, this was a bit of a misnomer, as neither sapphire nor steel are elements, but ignore that because the show itself was otherwise very cleverly written, and was capable of scaring the willies out of you quite easily.  The idea was these substances could take human form to solve problems, with the aid of their special powers.

Sapphire was able to control time, winding it back for brief periods and sensing when time wasn’t quite flowing the way it should.  Steel on the other hand was strong and had a very cold demeanour, so it was just as well he was partnered with Sapphire.  During their adventures we also met other agents including Silver, who was a very jokey, laid back character who obviously had a bit of a thing for Sapphire, and Jet, who was a large muscley black guy!  More were mentioned in the title sequence, but we sadly didn’t get to meet all of them.

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Posted by Big Boo on March 3rd, 2009


I still remember my first exposure to teletext.  It would have been the early eighties when I went to visit one of my uncles.  He had just got a new TV (which he rented from Radio Rentals) and it made our TV at home look old fashioned.  Whereas our TV had big push buttons to change channels and was encased in wood, my uncles new telly was made of plastic and came with a remote control.

This was the first time I had ever seen a remote control, and I was initially fascinated how this little box, with no wire connecting it to the TV, could switch the channels.  Impressed, my jaw hit the ground when my uncle pressed one of the other buttons and BBC1 was replaced by a page of text with the magical sounding word CEEFAX written in big yellow letters across the top.

Ten minutes later I had learned how this amazing new feature worked, and I spent the rest of that evening glued to the TV exploring all the various pages available.  My excitement grew when I realised that flicking the TV over to ITV gave me a whole new set of pages called ORACLE to explore.  When it became time to go home, I didn’t want to leave, and spent most of the journey home asking Mum and Dad if we could get a TV with teletext.

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Are You Being Served?

Posted by Big Boo on February 27th, 2009

are you being servedWith the news that Wendy Richard has died from Cancer this week I thought I’d remember what I consider her finest role from the 1980’s.  No, not Pauline Fowler from EastEnders, although that did start in the eighties.  I am of course talking about Miss Brahms, the “pretty one” from Are You Being Served?

Are You Being Served? was a BBC situation comedy that ran from 1972 to 1985, and was primarily about a group of shop assistants who worked in the clothing department of Grace Brothers department store.  It is one of those sitcoms that these days is considered crass and not politically correct, but at its peak would attract 22 million viewers.  You don’t get viewing figures like that any more!

The clothing department of Grace Brothers was split in two halves, with the left hand side of the set being women’s clothes and the right side mens.  The male counter was primarily run by Mr. Humphreys (John Inman), who was as camp as could be and is best known for his “I’m free!” catchphrase.  Captain Peacock (Frank Thornton) was presumably in charge, and liked to let every one know this, although he rarely seemed to serve anybody himself.

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Posted by Big Boo on February 2nd, 2009

Prior to the 1980’s if you switch on your TV before around 9am you would likely be met with a test card transmission, as unlike today British television didn’t air 24 hours a day as it does now.  In the early 1980’s the powers that be decided to take a leaf out of American television’s book and begin broadcasting during the early morning when people were having their breakfast and getting ready to go to work.

The BBC were first to begin when on January 17th 1983 the first edition of Breakfast Time was aired.  Featuring noted presenter Frank Bough sat in front of a rather garish orange and yellow sunrise logo made from horizontal lines with bent ends, it was popular but a little too stuffy for me as a kid, as it seemed to be little more than endless news reports, although I did like the little blue clock that was permanently on screen in the bottom right hand corner.

A couple of weeks later, on February 1st, TV-am started airing on ITV with their show Good Morning Britain, although it was no means a blinding success, despite a rather impressive title sequence featuring sky divers and aerial footage of loads of people (and pigeons) forming words.  Unlike me, the rest of the nation seemed to prefer Breakfast Time’s more serious approach than that of TV-am, despite an initial strong line up of presenters including David Frost, Angela Rippon, Anna Ford and Michael Parkinson.

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Stocking Fillers - Suppliers to Father Christmas
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Posted by Big Boo on January 16th, 2009

minderMinder was one of the most popular dramas of the 1980’s, and indeed Arthur Daley (played by George Cole) was voted second most popular UK TV character as recently as 2005 – he was beaten to the top spot by Coronation Street’s Stan and Hilda Ogden, which I suppose is fair enough since they were well known even if you never watched Corrie at the time.

Anyway, Minder was about the aforementioned Arthur Daley and his minder Terry McCann (Dennis Waterman).  Arthur was a bit of a wheeler dealer who frequently got himself into trouble by trying to take advantage of various gangster types, and it was up to Terry to make sure Arthur came to no harm.

Terry was a former professional boxer who ended up in prison for commiting GBH and attempted armed robbery.  When he gets out of prison he buys a car from Arthur, and soon finds himself with little option but to work for Daley as he finds getting a job elsewhere difficult.  Despite being in prison Terry is a loyal and honest person who always looks out for Arthur, even when most of the trouble Arthur brings is of his own making.

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Posted by Big Boo on December 9th, 2008

Hi-De-Hi was an immensely popular sitcom made by the BBC during most of the 1980’s. A pilot episode was aired on News Years Day 1980, so it was in fact one of the very first TV shows of the decade! The first series proper began the following year and from then it ran until 1988. It was written by David Croft (‘Allo ‘Allo) and Jimmy Perry.

The show was set in a 1960’s holiday camp called Maplins, based heavily on the concept of Butlins which was an incredibly popular family holiday destination during that era.  The show followed the antics of the various members of staff on the camp at the fictional town of Crimpton-on-Sea as they kept the holiday makers entertained.

The first series opened with the camp getting a new Entertainments Manager in the form of Jeffery Fairbrother (the late Simon Cadell), an archaeology professor who had grown tired of academia.  This put him in charge of all the entertainment staff, or Yellow Coats, which was a job that he tried to run fairly and openly, but usually meant he got taken advantage of.  He was recently divorced, and this meant he found himself prey to the romantic advances of Gladys Pugh (Ruth Madoc) who was the camps sports organiser and chief Yellow Coat.  So strong was this on screen relationship in the nations mind that the pair made a TV advert for Cadbury’s Wispa that made it appear they were an item off screen too.

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Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World / World of Strange Powers

Posted by Big Boo on September 3rd, 2008

Arthur C Clarke’s World of Strange PowersI recently rediscovered the World of Strange Powers series on TV channel The Paranormal Channel (one of the darker undiscovered corners of the Sky lineup I guess). At heart I’m a bit of a Fox Mulder, I want to believe, so to speak. I can’t say I definitely believe that aliens, ghosts and bigfoot exist, but I like to think that there’s a possibility they just might, and would love to see some evidence that proves they do. I think, for better or worse, it must have been this show that first sparked my interest in all things weird and spooky!

Anyway, on seeing the show on my TV planner I just had to watch it again, and it’s just as I remembered it. The spooky theme music and the image of the crystal skull in the middle of an eye used to chill me as a child, whilst curled up on the sofa watching intently, and it still sends a tingle down the spine even now. The weird distorted picture of Mr. Clarke sat on some rocks at the end of the titles also unnerved me as a child.

Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World first aired in 1980 on ITV, and was narrated by TV newsreader Anna Ford. The show consisted of Arthur, usually filmed walking along beaches in Sri Lanka, putting forward the idea that some weird or freaky thing could potentially exist. This series dealt with legendary creatures such as Bigfoot or giant squids, and with eye witness and expert accounts painted a picture of some of the strange animals that just might exist on this planet of ours. At the end Mr. Clarke would appear again to sum things up. I always got the impression that, just like I did, Arthur secretly hoped that these oddities could actually exist, even though there was no strong evidence to suggest they did.

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Posted by Big Boo on August 29th, 2008

ALF - Gordon ShumwayWise cracking alien ALF hit our screens in 1986, and to this day is one of my favourite US sitcoms. It ran for four series and also spawned a film entitled Project ALF, and told the story of an alien who’s home planet Melmac had been destroyed and was now living on Earth, hiding out with an average American family called the Tanners.

ALF was of course a puppet, though an extremely well made and believable one. He was created by Tom Patchett and Paul Fusco, and indeed Fusco was also main puppeteer. Ocassionally, as on the title sequence, a full body shot was required which was achieved by having a dwarf actor in a suit.

The name ALF wasn’t actually the name of our alien chum, instead it was an abbreviation for Alien Life Form. Whilst the Tanners insisted on calling him ALF, his real name was actually the rather more ordinary sounding Gordon Shumway. After Melmac had been destroyed ALF found his way to Earth by tracking a radio signal. Willie Tanner (played by Max Wright) was the head of the Tanner clan, and he had a HAM radio setup which was what ALF had detected and followed to Earth.

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