Posts Tagged ‘TV’

To celebrate their 60th anniversary on the air in the UK, ITV gave us The Sound of ITV: The Nation’s Favourite Theme Tune. As I only spotted one children’s programme on the list (Thunderbirds) I decided to celebrate my own wasted youth with a top ten list.

Though many, MANY classics were shown on this channel when I were a nipper (including X Men, TMNT and those awesome Disney Club cartoons) I’ve decided to stick with the programmes made for or by ITV. Also I’m not really considering the shows themselves – just the opening themes, as those were often the best bits. I mean, does anyone remember anything about Spatz apart from the piano tune and the little man tap dancing on the burger? Nope, didn’t think so.

Anyway, here it is – the Top Ten CITV Theme Tunes.

  1. Button Moon

Ah, here’s one that lulled many of us to sleep as babies as we drifted through space on our adventures with Mr Spoon. This sweet, surreal theme was composed by Doctor Who’s Peter Davison and his then wife Sandra Dickinson.

  1. Woof!

This show had a fun premise – a ginger kid that turns into a dog whenever his nose itched or the plot demanded it. This jolly harmonica tune was always the perfect soundtrack for walkies.

Speaking of dogs, there was another show that I desperately wanted to add to this list but, thanks to my own stupid rules, I’ll have to skip. *Sighs* if only there was some tenuous link I could exploit just for the sake of…

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IT COUNTS! I’M COUNTING IT!

  1. Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds

Catchiest. Theme. EVER. Trust me, it will NEVER leave! Merciless earworm aside, this is also notable as one of the only kid’s TV themes I can think of with a booze reference (“They drink their beer and swear they’re faithful to the king.” Yup, I learned from the best!) And no, that trick where you throw an apple and slice it mid-air will NOT work with a plastic toy sword, as the younger me discovered to her bitter disappointment.

  1. The Raggy Dolls

“It’s not much of a life when you’re just a pretty face/Just to be whoever you are is no disgrace.” What a lovely sentiment! And one we don’t hear nearly enough. This theme was written and sung by Neil Innes of Bonzo Dog Band fame, who many will also remember as the leader of Brave Sir Robin’s Minstrels from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

  1. Count Duckula

You know what? I could have made a top ten themes from the old Cosgrove Hall productions alone. Step forward the Del Boy-voiced Count Duckula, everyone’s favourite vegetarian vampire. And yes, he could absolutely kick Edward Cullen’s sparkly ass!

  1. Bangers and Mash

Knees up! Rockney duo Chas and Dave were the brains behind this opening tune, which set the tone for the antics of the troublemaking chimps. PLEASE someone tell me that’s mud they’re flinging!

  1. Trap Door

“Berk! Feed Me!” Combining traditional animation, Claymation and that unforgettable Vincent Price-esque opening, Trap Door was always destined to be a cult classic. Why? Say it with me now… ‘cause there’s somethin’ down there!

  1. Supergran

“Is there anyhin’ she cannae do?” This showed kids something that, seeing as I had two of them myself, I knew to be true – Scottish grannies are some of the toughest buggers you’ll ever meet. And if this wasn’t Scottish enough already, they got the Big Yin himself, Billy Connolly, to sing the theme. Oan yirsel son! *weeps small tear of national pride*

  1. Danger Mouse

The high notes! The fanfare! The explosions that would make Michael Bay shit himself with glee! Danger Mouse had an exhilarating theme that held strong for a whopping ten series. For an 80s British kid’s show, that’s pretty impressive. Fun fact – this programme also inadvertently gave us an earlier entry on this list – yes, Duckula was originally created as a villain for Danger Mouse. A reboot of this series is due to start airing this year and I’m very curious to see how ol’ DM holds up. That’s “Donnie Murdo” if you ever caught the Gaelic dub!

  1. Knightmare

HELL YEAH! One of the greatest themes, nay, greatest THINGS I remember from childhood. Knightmare was an adventure/game show set in a sprawl of blue screen dungeons where the vast majority of children playing would die horribly (see the infamous Hall of Flying Buzzsaws.) I’ll admit that I loved it so much I practised following directions while wearing a bucket on my head and wrote in asking to be a dungeoneer. I was too young, as it turned out, but I did get a letter back from the Dungeon Master himself, Tregard.

This is the original version of the theme. Doesn’t it just get you fired up for adventure with those pounding hooves, awesome 80s animation and epic hero charging theme? Well, it didn’t last. Eventually the classic opening was swapped for a version that sounded more like Knightmare: The Daytime Soap Opera. Fools.

One more thing!

Time for an honourable mention: The Dreamstone.

I didn’t count this one as the opening credits were mostly narrated exposition BUT the end credits featured the goddamn London Philharmonic Orchestra! I couldn’t get a clip of them on their own, but the sequence used for them kicks off here just before the two minute mark. Enjoy!

Want more? Did I miss something? Check out CITV’s Old Skool channel on YouTube. And yes, they have Knightmare!

kirby-draws-terry-2Goodbye Mr Pratchett. Goodbye to the warm, funny and altogether brilliant mind that brought us Discworld – a book series that’s as old as I am.

But this wasn’t the first thing that rushed to my mind when I heard the sad news. For me, he’ll forever be remembered as the author of a wonderful series of children’s novels, often known as “The Bromeliad” or “The Nome Trilogy.”

Truckers – along with its sequels Diggers and Wings – follows a race of small, humanoid beings (“Nomes”) as they journey through our world. Their quest takes them through countryside, a department store, quarries and airports, ultimately looking towards outer space. It’s a big adventure with some big ideas about society, religion and the human condition.

Much of Pratchett’s distinctive humour comes from the Nomes’ worldly interpretations as they hold a mirror to our strange human ways. Many live beneath the floors of a department store and worship its founder “Arnold Bros Est. 1905” as a deity. In-store slogans are taken literally and spouted as religious dogma by those in power. When Masklin and his band of country dwellers arrive off a lorry, many outright deny their existence, quoting the Word of Arnold:

All Things Under One Roof. Therefore there can be NO outside. Therefore you people are NOT from it!”

This doesn’t bode well with the “Thing” (the Nomes’ black box recorder and supercomputer), who intercepts a message announcing the store’s impending demolition.

How can Masklin persuade the Nomes to evacuate when they believe that nothing exists beyond their five-storey utopia? And even if he does convince them, can he get them to stop grumbling long enough so that they might actually work together?

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Stories about little folk have been told before; in Gulliver’s Travels, The Borrowers and even by Pratchett himself in The Carpet People. But it’s done so perfectly in the Nome trilogy, as the titular beings observe human life through their own special lens and ultimately ask “why are we here?” They develop a sense of purpose through exploration, technology (particularly vehicles) and books, all of which guide them to the place they truly belong. Or, to be more accurate, a place that truly belongs to the Nomes.

What I loved as a kid (and still do) is how silly characters behave when confronted with any challenge to the status quo. The presence of “Outsiders” sparks tantrums from authority figures, while others pretend they can’t see them at all. Eventually the Stationeri – essentially the store’s Vatican – are convinced of the impending doom and must reconcile their crises of faith to battle for their species’ survival. They’re also challenged by an Outsider named Grimma, who refutes the accepted notion that “women can’t read“ because ”their brains get too hot.” She proves them wrong, eventually becoming the most avid reader in the tribe. Guess who my favourite character is!

masklinIt was through Cosgrove Hall’s stop motion adaptation of that I first discovered the series Terry Pratchett’s Truckers (between this, Knightmare and Bad Influence I was a CITV kid and proud!) It’s a faithful adaptation, lovingly animated with great voice acting. It also features one of the best examples of dark humour ever televised; Nome funeral rites, complete with pointy hats and ceremonial fishing rods. Fun fact – I noticed on IMDB that the voice of the Abbott (Michael Horden) also did some voice work on some of my other childhood favourites – Labyrinth and Watership Down. Funny how it all seems to tie together! The full series of Truckers is available on DVD and I can heartily recommend it to absolutely anyone.

Another fun fact – Pratchett’s BBC News obituary might have pinpointed the inspiration for the Nome stories:

“He [Terry] vividly recalled a visit to London in 1954 when his mother took him to the Gamages department store in Holborn.

The small boy was overcome by the bright lights and vast range of toys. “Lots of my future writing started to happen on that day,” he later said.”

truckers1I have very fond memories of watching Truckers with my little sister at my Gran’s, who bought me the series on video because I loved it so much (thanks Gran – say hi to Terry for me!) Afterwards I read the books, which were even better, and waited patiently for the next TV series, which sadly never came. Such a pity, especially as the second book Diggers is mainly Grimma’s story. I’d love to hear her make the speech where she explains her fascination with the bromeliad flowers – an idea that changes her entire world view and provides the analogy that is the namesake of the whole series.

Great fiction like this makes us ask these questions ourselves. Will we be like the frogs living life inside one giant flower? Or will we venture beyond the petals and explore all the wonders the universe has to offer?

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Thank you Terry Pratchett for sharing your worlds, your ideas and your marvellous humour with us all. But in the wise words of Arnold Bros Est. 1905, “Everything Must Go.”

Rest in peace Lx

I’m going to preface this with a piece of information that may cause shock and alarm: I didn’t grow up with Star Trek

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I know, I know. Well, I’ve been getting into TNG in a big way lately and will be discussing my most and least favourite episodes, starting with one that had me in two minds – “Skin of Evil”. Spoilers ahead, if you’ve somehow arrived at the party even later than me!

TNG: Season One struggles to find its feet, which is understandable. It’s not easy crafting an identity while following in the footsteps of a cult phenomenon but when it succeeds, the results are quite special. In spite of its inconsistencies Season One did keep me hooked and left me wanting more. Personally, I’d rather watch a show with hits and misses than one that takes no risks.

With that in mind, on with the episode in question…

RIP Lt Tasha Yar

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“Skin of Evil” is notable for the death of a major character. I liked Tasha, so I was obviously a bit miffed when she kicked the bucket. Strong female characters written against type have always appealed to me so I was pleased to see a woman in charge of security and tactics. I’m not saying that her female colleagues don’t have their own strengths but the roles of Counsellor Troi (empath, emotional support) and Dr Crusher (healer, mother) are very much rooted in the traditionally feminine.

Yar, by contrast, was a tough cookie who could hold her own in a punch-up. Her manner and stance just seemed to exude confidence and you could tell how seriously she took her job. Denise Crosby managed to bring enough cheer and heart to make her character both relatable and likable, as well as a paragon of triumph over adversity. Yar endured a brutal adolescence on a colony gone feral (two words – “rape gang”) where she managed not only to survive but to rise to a prestigious career in Star Fleet – kudos to her for taking control, turning that fear and anger into courage. Even getting enrolled in Star Fleet is no easy task, as a certain tea-drinking captain will testify.

Yes, I’m aware that Crosby asked to be released from her contract and that’s what led to her character being written out of the show. All the same, Tasha Yar was a great gal full of potential and seeing her cut down in her prime was nothing short of tragic.

Armus (a.k.a. "that blob-monster-thing")

Armus (a.k.a. “that blob-monster-thing”)

It wasn’t just the fact Tasha died; it was the way it happened. This was no showdown with the Big Bad or even a mid-level sub boss. Armus was a TNG “Monster of the Week” and a fairly shit one at that. The design looks more like a throwback to the original series and just listen to him speak: those are the words of a petulant toddler read by a goofy pantomime troll. He strikes Yar down near the beginning of the episode for no real reason, granting her demise no honour or purpose. At first you don’t quite realise what’s happened, even when Doctor Crusher confirms her status. It’s only when she’s back on the ship, desperately trying to revive Yar’s lifeless body that the truth finally hits. Yes, she’s dead. And she deserved better.

“Anyone can be killed”

On the other hand, an unceremonious death in the line of duty seems “real”, perhaps uncomfortably so, and I can’t help but applaud such a bold move. Back in the day, we’d watch TV safe in the knowledge that the goodies would beat the baddies and all would turn out well. However, this safety net of convention can turn the action stale, as we take for granted that our heroes will leave each battle unscathed and that the status quo will be restored by the closing credits. Once a character dies, all bets are off – the stakes are raised and the threats get serious. From now on you’ll be glued to the screen when those phasers start firing, hoping your favourite character can make it out alive.

Cruel and abrupt TV deaths are more common nowadays; consider Game Of Thrones (where I snagged that quote) or the works of Joss Whedon, whose philosophy is “don’t give the audience what they want – give them what they need”. It’s all well and good to write fun space adventures but TNG’s substance (as with all good fiction) comes from facing the harsh realities of life and exploring the human condition. Nothing does this quite like a death. It’s up to the rest of the characters to rationalise what happened and to carry on in their friend’s absence while contemplating their own mortality. Pointless as it seemed at the time, Yar’s sudden departure left an impact and she would by no means be forgotten the following week.

We’ll Always Have Worf

Yar and Worf - BFFs

Yar and Worf – BFFs

I wish (as did Crosby) that more scenes had been written for Yar and Worf, those two unlikely kindreds. They couldn’t be more different on the surface but they’d shared many of the experiences that made them strong. Both had that warrior’s spirit and knew they’d eventually meet death with eyes wide open. There was a sense of mutual respect between them, plus you couldn’t help wonder who’d win in a figh

Given their similar roles, perhaps the Enterprise just wasn’t big enough for both of them. Eventually one character would have had to develop in another direction (and they weren’t exactly the most pliable types) or face being made redundant in the group dynamic. Instead Worf succeeds Yar’s post; a fitting choice as we know he’ll do Tasha proud, carrying on her work with pride, care and honour. I’m sure she’d rest a little easier too, knowing the ship is still in good hands.

And the rest?

I’ve talked at length about Tasha Yar but have said very little about the rest of the episode. To be honest, not much else is memorable apart from seeing Riker dipped in tar (my flatmate pointed out that it was really Jonathan Frakes doing the stunt) and Troi’s empathic experience. It was at this point I started to warm to her character; the idea of “feeling” someone die is a powerful one and you’ve got to admire her bravery in offering to sacrifice herself for her comrades. Finally there’s Data’s exchange with Picard about the nature of grief which, seeing as I love Data to bits, I found deeply moving.

Much as I’ll miss Tasha, she left with a bang instead of a whimper in an episode that made a bold break from convention. Yar out.

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