Hello, A-Z fans! It’s day 2 of the April blog challenge (here’s what I’m doing this year and yesterday’s A post if you’re on Catch Up or Plus One), and today there’s a two for the price of one bargain basement buffet special for Saturday. You lucky lucky ducks! (This may happen quite frequently, be warned readers, because there are some TV shows from my childhood which can’t be left out just because they happen to begin with the same letter.)
And don’t forget to click on the links for the theme tunes (something I forgot to do yesterday for The A Team)!
So, we’ll start with the first TV show from my childhood represented by the letter B with…
B is for…
Battle of the Planets
“Battle of the Planets! G-Force! Princess! Tiny! Keyop! Mark! Jason! And watching over them from Centre Neptune, their computerised coordinator, 7-Zark-7! Watching, warning against surprise attacks by alien galaxies beyond space. G-Force! Fearless young orphans, protecting Earth’s entire galaxy. Always five, acting as one. Dedicated! Inseparable! Invincible!”
For years and years I couldn’t recall the name of this piece of animated gloriousness. In fact I was beginning to wonder if I had actually imagined it when I tried explaining it to my siblings, none of whom seem to have much recollection of it. But thanks to the dawn of the Internet and Google, I soon re-discovered it and with it my sanity that I hadn’t imagined it all! I figure I must have been at least 9 or 10 when I first discovered Battle of The Planets, as I had a right crush on Mark. He’s the one in white and blue if you’re wondering. (I also had a crush on cartoon Spiderman back in the day. Okay, yes, I’ll hold my hands up. I had a weird thing for tight-costumed, animated cartoon males. And I remember women saying to men who had a crush on Jessica Rabbitt that they were odd – see it’s not just men!) Anyway, not only did I have a crush on Mark, I wanted to be Mark. You’d think I’d want to be Princess, right? Wrong. I think I’ve always wanted to be male. I’d probably be gay if I was though!
The illusion about Mark was slightly ruined for me a couple of years ago when it was revealed to me by Roger Jackson on Twitter (hi, Roger!) that it was Casey Kasem (he who did the voice of Shaggy in Scooby Doo) who voiced Mark! I don’t think I’ve quite felt the same since that little revelation.
However, I loved the adventures of G Force, a bunch of ordinary orphans who transform into their alter egos of Mark, Jason, Keyop, Princess and Tiny protecting the galaxy from their main arch-nemesis, Zoltar – a field commander for the evil organisation Spectre. The thing which struck me about Zoltar was that he appeared to be wearing lipstick, but this was the late 1970s so quite possibly he was. And to my young mind, defined his evil-ness!
Anyway, G force (a pre-requisite to the dreadful Power Rangers in a way if you think about it) travelled around primarily in the coolest ship known as The Phoenix which had the ability…wait for it…to turn into flames!
I thought this was so beyond cool. Still do.
And the other character I loved, even more than Mark, was 7-Zark-7. A cute (to me at least) robot type thing who was slightly reminiscent in looks to R2D2, but with the sarcastic, comic wit of C3PO. His job was to fill in the narration (as much had been adapted from the original Japanese animation Gatchaman) whilst flirting with the voice computer ‘Susan’. (My sister’s name so always made me chuckle!)
Having borrowed a DVD box set from a friend a few years ago though, it became obvious to me how much had been cut and chopped and changed. It made no sense! Clearly my young self did not worry about that as I was too busy gawping at Mark to worry about plot and the gaping holes in them!
Nevertheless, Battle of The Planets holds a warm, fuzzy memory in my mind of simpler times and better cartoons than are made now. But we all think that about our childhood shows, don’t we?
Next up… (yes, remember I said there’d be two TV shows today!)
B is also for…
Or should that be…*coughs, adopts best Geordie accent… “By’er Groove”
Would you just look at that early 1990s gear?! This was so on the money in terms of what was fashion in Britain then. I always thought we were badly dressed, but looking at this, no worse than this lot here! Baggy, yet high waisted denim light-wash jeans with even baggier neon coloured T-Shirts tucked in! Lovely.
Byker Grove was a teen drama set in a youth club (Byker Grove) in the North East of England. Following the adventures and storylines of various teen characters, it was very much like a soap opera for the youth of Britain at the time. It ran on the BBC between 1989 and 2006. I had stopped watching by about 1994 as by then I was 19 and I was 31 in 2006! So when I talk here about Byker Grove I’m really referring to the first few years of its inception. Or as I like to call them “The P.J and Duncan years.”
I was 14 when Byker Grove started and became instantly hooked. The first series concentrated heavily on a storyline between Geordie bad boy, Gill (hard ‘G’ and who quickly became known to us as ‘Gull’due to how posh girl southerner Julie from Wimbledon pronounced his name) and aforementioned Julie when she moves to Newcastle and becomes smitten with his bad boy image. In a storyline very reminiscent of Sandy in Grease, Julie tries to impress Gill by shaking off her good girl image and they end up having a turbulent teenage relationship. The show dealt with, over it’s long run, with all sorts of controversial teen issues from drugs and petty crime to divorce and bullying and of course the infamous paint ball injury storyline. There was resident bitch, Donna, who was vile to most people, (you loved to hate her), but always kept in check by her best friend Nicola (‘Ni’ola’!) played by Jill Halfpenny who I really wanted to be. She was beautiful. She still is. Then there was brother and sister ginger-duo Fraser and Spuggie; Gill’s side-kick, Winston, and who could forget the Grove’s youth manager Geoff with his very distinctive mutton chop sideburns? Later on there was Debbie and Gemma (Nicola’s younger sisters) as well as the likes of Speedy and Charlie. (They really had a thing about names ending in eeeeeeee!)
The great thing about Byker Grove and those first few series for me, was that the actors were my age and so I’ve grown up alongside them. The two most famous actors to have come from the series of course being the now Saturday evening light entertainment comedy duo Ant and Dec. (Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly), Donnelly being a month older than I, and McPartlin a month younger. Of course I wouldn’t have been me if I didn’t have some sort of crush/obsession with someone on the show and for me it was baby-faced Declan Donnelly who played Duncan (‘Dun’un’ if you’re pronouncing it proper Byker Grove style.) With his oh-so-of-the-moment 90’s ‘curtains’ hairstyle, he was also a good guy with a softer side in the series and so I think that was for me part of the appeal of his character as I often felt sorry for his luckless way in love. (I’d have helped him with that, obviously!)
My favourite ever story line with these two was when they formed a ‘band’- Grove Matrix- after also hosting a pirate radio show. The band consisted of P.J and Duncan, Marcus (Mar’us), Winston and Barney. Don’t even ask me how I remember all their names, just seeing their pictures brought it all flooding back! Anyway, this dabble into the musical foray during the show of course foreshadowed the duos mid nineties pop explosion onto the UK chart scene with such classics as Let’s Get Ready to Rhumble! I say classics plural though I’m struggling now to think of any other hits they had! The story line in the show culminated in one of its cheesiest moments when they performed Rip it up (Tonight I’m Free) at ‘The Grove’ for P.J’s birthday party. I thought it was the best thing since sliced bread at the time, and remember video-taping it and watching it over and over! Saddo that I was.
And here’s the link if you too want to laugh at what on earth I ever liked about this! (Or revel in it’s absolute ’90s greatness!)
Nowadays, I like Ant and Dec, but I no longer have the crush on Declan Donnelly. It was definitely of its teenage time. I did once date someone called Duncan though (just for a short while) and it took me all my will power not to say his name in a mock Geordie accent!
Once Ant and Dec left Byker Grove, I lost interest in the series, but probably more for the reason that, like they, I’d simply outgrown it. They moved on into adulthood as did I, but the show ran for another twelve years. Quite incredible really.
So what about your favourite programmes beginning with B? Did you like these, or was there something else which ignited your childhood heart?
Thanks so much for reading. Check in again tomorrow, when we’ll delve, predictably, into the letter C. 🙂