Today is brought to you by the letter…U

Hello!

Well it’s day…erm…21. Yes, day 21, though it’s the 26th April so it wouldn’t take a math’s genius or even any child in my maths sets to work out I’m going to run out of days to complete the challenge. But no matter as I have nothing for the letters V, X or Z, so we’re bang on target! Haha! ūüėÄ

Luckily I do have something for U…and this one is a real blast from the past.

Today U is for…

Ulysses 31

In the same vein as Battle of The Planets, I have strong recollections of the theme tune to Ulysses 31 and the cute little red robot character – Nono – but I don’t really have any strong memories of story-lines or what was going on much, but I do know I really liked it! I remember the blue faced characters vaguely too, but have no idea what or who they were!

I’m pretty sure, along with the film Jason and The Argonauts, that all my knowledge of Greek Mythology came from watching Ulysses 31, which is probably not the best place to start, or maybe it is, even if it was set in the 31st Century! I don’t know. However, as Ulysses encounters lots of other figures from Greek mythology who have been given a futuristic twist, it did at least give me an idea of some of the stories of the myths. Given I’ve never studied Greek myths in any other setting or shown much interest in them, I must know Hades and Neptune and Zeus from somewhere, so I can only assume it was from this! Why I never wondered why a robot was mixed up with Greek mythological characters travelling through space, ¬†is one of those wonders of childhood imagination. Kids just accept things! Greek myths in space with little red robots? Yeah, why the hell not?! ūüėÄ

Although the series originally aired in 1981, it didn’t reach British shores until 1985 and only ran until 1986 (so when I was 10/11), but despite my age I think the only reason I don’t have massive memories of it was that it had a short run.

I have to say though, if you’re reading this, you HAVE to listen to the theme tune from the opening titles. It is, possibly (with even the exception of Round The Twist), the best kid’s TV theme tune ever. It’s funky, it’s VERY 80s and electronic, and I always really liked the middle bridge part when Nono comes in and says: ”

“It’s me Nono small robot you know, friend of Ulysses.
It’s me Nono small robot you know, friend of Ulysses.”

So a short post, today as I have such limited memories, though it was a great animated series which I liked a lot and perhaps it’s brought back memories for some of you too. ūüôā

 

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Today is brought to you by the letter…T

Well after a busy and very lovely weekend of wedding celebrations and birthday partying. it’s time to tackle T. I was going to do 2 programmes for T, but unfortunately I have some boring admin stuff for my actual job to do this evening too, so I guess I should get on with that. Today’s characters from today’s TV show from my childhood never had such dreary problems to contend with. Oh no, for today T is for…

Thunder, Thunder, Thunder…

ThunderCats!

Ho!

ThunderCats (the animated series) ran from 1985 up to 1989, so I was getting on a bit in terms of my childhood when it was on as I was between the ages of 10-14. (I’m discovering I was quite a late developer in terms of my TV viewing as a child, and I wonder if this was to do with being the oldest of 5! i.e: TV shows I might not have otherwise bothered with, came under my radar.) I’m pretty certain this one would have been down to Brother number 1 and Brother number 2. One of them had a Mumm- Ra figure (clearly not just me who was obsessed with the villains of 80s cartoons then!)

Anyway, ThunderCats told the story of the Thundarians, who guarded the precious Eye of Thundera (as they lived on, wait for it…Thundera), which was housed in the hilt of Lion-O’s sword mystically named The Sword of Omens. They were always under attack from the mutants led by Mumm-Ra, a mummified sorcerer who would be given a new life if he were ever to possess the Eye of Thundera. Mumm-Ra lived in a sarcophagus where he was decaying, but occasionally came out, breaking ¬†the bonds of his bandages and becoming a more powerful version of himself, though he always needed to return to his coffin to replenish his energy afterwards, which happened especially upon seeing his reflection. So basically ¬†Mumm-Ra was a kind of a mummy/vampire hybrid. -A green, red-eyed mummy vampire.

Mumm-Ra

You will know by now how this goes and you won’t be surprised to hear that Mumm-Ra was definitely my favourite character on ThunderCats – the Third Earth equivalent to¬†Eternia’s¬†Skeletor. He wasn’t as funny or ridiculous as Skeletor, but there was something quite fascinating about his character which used to hold my attention. However, if I had to pick a favourite actual ThunderCat, rather than a mutant, then it would ¬†be Panthro. I think he was the toughest, least cheesy and least irritating!

Of course, all the ThunderCats were alien/humanoid forms of various wildcats. So the leader was Lion-O (who was, oddly enough, a lion). He was kind of like the He-Man of the outfit. He had a sword, he had muscles, wore very little clothing and was very cheesy. Then there was Cheetara ¬†– er – a Cheetah. I guess she’d have been your equivalent to Teela from He-Man character. Tigra was, yes, you’ve guessed it, a tiger – Lion-O’s Man -at-Arms, if you will, and finally, Panthro was a panther. I always thought he was a bit of a BA Baracus type character because, from memory, he always seemed to come in when they needed a bit of braun. I also recall he had a vehicle of some kind which he was in charge of and used to smash through walls and stuff, so perhaps that’s why he reminded me of him.

Lion-O: check out that ’80s Big hair and extendible sword!

My memories of ThunderCats is that it seemed a bit slicker in production than He-man, perhaps on account of it being slightly later when it started. The theme tune and opening credits were certainly slicker, sharper and faster paced than those of He-Man¬†(and as ever with all my favourite TV programmes, memorable to the point of recalling all the lyrics). But also, Lion-O’s sword actually GREW with each shout of “Thunder, Thunder, Thunder, ThunderCats Ho!” He-Man’s sword never grew, though I guess if we’re point scoring The Power Sword did change a pathetic, cringing cat into the wild and mighty Battlecat. Speaking of ¬†wild cats, the ThunderCats, on account of them being wild jungle type cat hybrids I guess, also meant the characters were more athletic than those from Eternia. The action scenes were ¬†based more on their agility rather than use of weapons, (though they did have weapons -Tigra had some whip thing I recall) and so, as a result, were faster paced. Actually, I’m sure Cheetara had something resembling a pole vaulting pole too, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen it so I can’t remember. (Just for info – the way I do these posts is to write from memory and then go and watch on You Tube to see if what I remember is right. If it’s not I leave in what I’ve written though, as it’s fun to see what I remember from 20-30 years ago!)

When I was in Year 6 of Primary school (in my school called Junior 9 as this was 1986/1987) I did a whole project on wild cats and I’m now wondering if this was a direct consequence of liking ThunderCats.¬†We were allowed to choose our own topic, (none of this enforced rubbish kids get nowadays), so maybe ThunderCats is the reason I chose that. I know I used to draw the ThunderCats all the time when I was in Junior 9, as kids in my class found out I could and would put requests in. I think I even sold a few sketches for 10p a time! Hahaha!

Of course, no 1980s animated series would be without it’s irritating little squirt characters. However, ThunderCats went two better than He-man (Orko) and Battle of the Planets (7 Zark 7 whom I actually quite liked though I know most found annoying) as in ThunderCats we had not only Snarf (“Snarf, Snarf” uuuuuuurghhhhh) – a little red and yellow ball of fluff who was just more pointless than a blunt pencil and I assume the ThunderCats’ pet, but we also had to endure WilyKit and WilyKat. Or as I liked to call them WhinyKit and WhinyKat. Can’t remember why, but I’m guessing they must have been a bit whiney!

L-R: Tigra, Panthro (both looking very blue), Lion-O (with a human skin-tone), WileyKit, Cheetara and Wileykat. And up front – Snarf. Their pet something or other.

 

I believe there has been a re-make done of ThunderCats, a bit like they’ve done with ThunderBirds, and although I can watch the ThunderBirds remake quite happily because the original was not of my time, I cannot bring myself to watch a re-hash of ThunderCats for fear of all I remember being soiled and sullied.

My other choice for the letter T was going to be T-Bag, but alas, there is no time.

However, here’s a picture to remember it by!

The original T-Bag (Elizabeth Estensen) and T-Shirt (John Hasler). 

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Today is brought to you by the letter…S

I know it may be expected with my love of all things Muppetry (see posts for F and M,)¬†and given the reference via the title of all these posts, that S should be for Sesame Street, but it’s not as I was never into Sesame Street that much. I loved The Count, he was hilarious, but really that was about it…(though I suddenly have a vague memory of owning The Grouch as a cuddly toy…??)

Anyway, S is not for Sesame Street. No, we’re a bit closer to home and a little more obscure as today, S is for…

Supergran

Gudrun Ure as Supergran

I have extremely vague memories of the actual episodes and premise of Supergran, considering I was between 10 and 12 years of age when it was on. I guess perhaps because it only ran for two series and never repeated. Shows didn’t seem to repeat so much back in the day. Nowadays kid’s TV programmes are on a constant cycle over a period of 10 years – or at least it appears that way to me. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen the same episodes of Octonauts or Peter Rabbit.

Anyway, what I do remember of Supergran is that it was on around Sunday tea time – probably just before Songs of Praise but on ITV rather than the BBC, because I remember there were adverts on. Anyway, for me it’s become one of those TV shows in my memory bank synonymous with the back to school ¬†feeling. ¬†The final small pleasure available at the weekend before returning to the monotony of the school week. I can’t recall whether the weekly Sunday night bath time for us all came before or after Supergran, but it was certainly one of those Sunday rituals when it was on. And as sure as Sunday roast dinner followed church, Supergran either preceded or suceeded our special Sunday tea time of brown bread and butter (brown bread was a treat, kids), home made jam sponge cake dusted with icing sugar, a pot of tea served in proper teacups and saucers and the cr√®me de la cr√®me of the food week: ice-cream (usually vanilla, but occasionally Neapolitan), tinned fruit of some description, jelly and sometimes – joy of joy – Angel Delight! Divided by 7 we didn’t get much, but it was the best treat of the week. (If it was Butterscotch with tinned pears so much the better to my mind.) I’m salivating as I digress…

So yes, Supergran reminds me of all these things. I think it was one of those kid’s TV programmes my mum and dad actually enjoyed watching with us too. No doubt because Supergran was Scottish, and my dad is Scottish, so he probably approved. Added to that, the fact Billy Connolly, another Scot, sang the theme tune, (Superman, Spiderman, Batman, Iceman and B.A Baracus (random!) all mentioned in the lyrics I recall) and Iain (see – spelt the Scots way) Cuthbertson starred, I’m sure added to the appeal.

I did used to think Supergran was a little bit like my own Scottish grandmother – not that my grandmother has Superpowers like Supergran does or goes around skateboarding down streets and stopping criminals in and around Tyneside. (Supergran, despite the tam-o-shanter, Scottish accent and tartan skirt, was filmed mainly in the North East of England and went out over the Tyne Tees network and most of the actors were Geordies other than Ure and Cuthbertson.) But my own granny was, still is, a slight woman with a shock of grey hair and a soft lilting Scot’s accent so there was, to my 10 year old mind, a similarity. My gran also always seemed like a young grandmother ¬†to me – quite trendy and with the times, and so I think that’s also why Supergran reminded me of her. I did used to think it would be cool if my gran could have the Superpowers of Supergran, but alas, as I say, she didn’t.

Even though the show was filmed with real actors (59 year old Gudrun Ure doing the majority of Supergran’s stunts apparently) the opening title sequence was animated, which used to bring it to life before it had even started and I always liked programmes which started with a cartoon. I don’t know why, I just did.

Funny to think actually that Supergran was televised in 1987-1989 and at that time my gran would have been a few years younger than Gudrun Ure was. However, they both seemed like ‘proper’ grandmothers to me despite actually being relatively young. And by that I mean it’s really odd now to think that my mum is actually older now than they were then, and of course she is a grandmother, but I don’t think of her as being one. She hasn’t got the grey hair or anything like that.

(Just a side rambling thought about the effects of time and perspective on age. I guess at 10 years old, my grandmother being in her early 50s was old to me, but now I’m 40, early 50s isn’t all that far off!)

Maybe I’ll discover some superpowers one day so that I can become a Super gran myself. A tartan skirt shouldn’t be too hard to come by, though I think I’ll give the tam-o-shanter and fingerless gloves a miss!

We’ll be on a break from the challenge tomorrow as it’s my brother’s wedding day! So hopefully I’ll be back sometime on Sunday with the letter T. (I’m cutting it fine I realise to fit in all 26 letters by April 30th. *does some quick maths: T on the 24th, U on the 25th, V on the 26th, W on the 27th, X on the 28th, Y on the 29th, Z on the 30th. PHEW! I can still do this!)

TTFN!

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Today is brought to you by the letter…R (part 2)

So yesterday was a mad rush and as such I only got to write about one of my favourite TV shows from childhood for R (Robin of Sherwoodcatch up here), so today I bring you part 2, with two other shows, both children’s TV shows and both quite quirky and unusual. One British and one Australian. (Aussie shows have featured more heavily than I’d have thought they would in this A-Z challenge!) Anyway, we’ll start with my next entry for R which is for…

Rentaghost

L-R Timothy Claypole, Harold Meaker, Ethel Meaker, Dobbin, (don’t know!) ¬†Hazel Mcwitch, Nadia Popov, Rose Perkins and Arthur Perkins.¬†

Oh where to start with Rentaghost?!

“If your mansion house needs haunting just call Rentaghost

We’ve got spooks and ghouls and freaks and fools at Rentaghost

Hear the Phantom of the Opera sing a haunting melody

Remember what you see is not a mystery but Rentaghost”

It was possibly just the oddest oddball of a TV show I ever watched as a child, but I absolutely loved it. A kids’ comedy show from the BBC it was pretty surreal (as I’m beginning to think most TV shows from the late 70s were!) Although Rentaghost ran from 1976 to 1984, I would not have seen the early series with the Mumfords. I only remember Harold and Ethel Meaker and the fact they had an array of strange ‘ghosts’ living at their home, (it might have been their office – shady memories) although the original idea from the first series was that the ghosts were rented out, hence – Rentaghost and so I think that was set in an office run by the Mumfords who rented from Harold Meaker. I only remember the Meakers, though and them always been really annoyed at Timothy Claypole (the jester, and my favourite character who often sat cross legged on the counter top and reminded me a little of my uncle for some reason – not that he used to sit on the counter top!) But Mr Claypole was mischievous, medieval and funny with his little mini magic Mr Claypole on a stick which he would wave around and cast spells with.

Timothy Claypole (Micheal Stanforth) with Dobbin the pantomime horse

He used to materialise and cause havoc at the most inconvenient of times, along with an assortment of other weird and wonderful characters such as Miss Popov (played by Coronation Street’s Sue Nichols). She was Dutch (though sounded more German!) and used to be able to transport herself by sneezing, and she loved Timothy Claypole. There was also Hazel McWitch, Scottish of course, with her glittery cheeks and terrible puns, and then there was the pantomime horse – Dobbin, who I could never fathom out what he was actually doing there! Was he a ghost pantomime horse? I don’t know, but I didn’t really like Dobbin. He irritated me for some reason. ¬†I remember the next door neighbours – the Perkins, Rose and Arthur, and the fact they had this weird glowing flashing amulet type thing which sat on their side table in the hall and granted them strange ‘wishes’. For example if they wanted to ‘spell it out to the Meakers’ about the weird comings and goings, the amulet would glow and they would almost be hypnotised into ACTUALLY spelling ¬†out everything they said! The poor Perkins were simply trying to live their ordinary suburban semi detached lives, but the ghosts at the Meakers would always make sure something strange was happening and Harold Meaker was always having to avert disaster hitting the Perkins. Of course every episode ended in complete disaster, usually with a bemused looking Mr Perkins, a cross Harold Meaker and the ghosts chasing around like headless chickens! Great fun!

Five years after Rentaghost finished though, another weird and wonderful fantasy/supernatural kids show landed on our shores all the way from the land of Oz. And one with probably my all time favourite theme tune to a kids TV programme at that. Yes, R, remarkably is also for…

Round the Twist

“Have you ever? Ever felt like this? When strange things happen,

Are you going round the twist?”

Round the Twist was brilliant with, as I say,¬†the BEST theme tune. ¬†It was cleverer than Rentaghost and, being around on the cusp of the ’90s when it started, probably not quite so unintentionally weird as intentionally weird!

It followed the lives of a widowed dad, Tony Twist, and his three children (two of them teenagers) who come to live in a lighthouse. The lighthouse it seems is haunted and every episode something strange and supernatural happens to one or all of the kids – Linda, Pete (teenage twins) and Bronson their younger brother, but never really in a super scary way. The things which happen were always just so bizarre and surreal that they made me laugh rather than feel spooked.¬†¬†What I really liked about the series (well the first two as I never watched the later two series when the actors playing Linda and Pete left) was that it was kind of like Byker Grove as in there was the usual teen story-lines with Linda and Pete battling crushes and teen friendships, battling with their own identity and growing up as well as always having to get one over on the bullies – ¬†James Gribble and his side kicks, Rabbit and Tiger. The Twists were always seen as outsiders and weirdos because of all the odd things which would happen to them. I think I identified with their slight oddball natures. I liked the character of Linda as she was in to Judo and would regularly see off the bullies. Not with Judo necessarily, but she was tough and single minded. Definitely a teenage girl for another teenage girl to look up to. Pete, by contrast, was a ‘bit of a dag’ (haha – to coin a¬†good teen ’90s Aussie phrase!) and a little wet around the ears a lot of the time! Definitely no teen crush there! ¬†The younger brother, Bronson, was obsessed with smells and trailed around after Pete and Linda a lot.

Bronson, Pete and Linda Twist with the magic dog in the episode: “Without My Pants.”¬†

Some of the stand out surreal storyline moments for me were: The episode where Bronson finds a green baby in the cabbage patch who holds its breath and then turns purple! The episode where Linda finds herself in the past (it was a dream I think) but she gets a really big nose (as she has a complex about the size of her hooter, and the episode exaggerates this feeling she has). The other episode I loved was the one with Pete’s ‘Wunderpants’ which were a pair of ordinary white Y fronts (at least they looked ordinary) but were in fact magical pants (as in underwear not in the American sense of the word). I can’t remember the details, but I’m sure they made him run faster or be able to jump really high or something daft like that!

The wonderful thing about Round the Twist was that there were no rules. You just didn’t know what was going to happen from one episode to the next. What very strange and bizarre adventure the Twists would go on next. I do know I always wished I was with them though! If you want a flavour of what it was like, watch this episode called “Without my Pants”. Just fabulous fun! Enjoy!

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Today is brought to you by the letter…R

Well here we are at r already, and today we have not one but three r’s. Not THE three r’s of Reading, wRiting and ‘Rithmatic (I have quite enough of that in the day job, thanks very much.)

No today we have three television programmes which defined my growing up, and one of them just happens to be my all time favourite TV programme ever. So where better to start than there. Yes, mum, you were right. The first of our programmes for R is…

Robin of Sherwood

The original cast with Michael Praed as Robin of Loxley

If I was to ever go on Mastermind then I think Robin of Sherwood would have to be my specialist subject. Not only did I love this show as a child, but I own all three series on DVD and watch them quite regularly. (Sad confession time!)

But why? What was it about this mid 1980’s take on the old legend that struck a chord with me and is still something I love so much? Well, I guess, first of all it was a family show aired on a Saturday tea time from 1984 until 1986 when I was aged 9-11, so I was probably exactly the right age to appreciate it in all its swashbuckling glory with a young cast who brought old stories to life. There was everything a ‘middle grade’ child (I suppose we’d refer to that age group now – at least we do in terms of the literature market) could want: Action, adventure, great villains, no blood and gore but enough left to the imagination you could invent it; there was magic and mysticism, and even a little romance – which 9 year old girls are just beginning to be interested in of course. (I did have a tiny crush on Micheal Praed naturally!) There were amazing costumes and settings which visually stimulated my imagination and a Clannad soundtrack to die for which just brought the whole thing alive. The right musical score is one of the most powerful elements of a good TV series or film in my opinion. (Think Life on Mars or Ashes to Ashes as another example, or HeartBeat even.)

The characters in Robin of Sherwood were likeable and witty and the story-lines easy to follow. There were stone circles, swords and horses and bows and arrows and fires and fights. There was just nothing to not like about it! I’ve also always been fascinated by history and where we (Brits) come from – how we’re made up, and this period of history (just after the Norman conquest of Britain) has always fascinated me for that reason. So much of our language has elements of French in it brought over in that period. So although Robin Of Sherwood was a TV programme about a legend, the historical element was really quite real and well researched. There were also a lot of other Celtic and pagan legends and myths referred to in the series (with the central one being of the shamanistic Herne the Hunter character played by John Abineri) ¬†and these added something extra to the original stories and enhanced the medieval/religious aspects portrayed. ¬†I have quite a romanticised view of medieval life as a result of Robin Of Sherwood, though of course I know it was actually very harsh, undoubtedly smelly and disease ridden and living in a forest would never be as much fun as it looked on the show!

When I had a binge-watch of my newly acquired DVDs (you have no idea of all the purchases I’ve ever made, how excited I was by these) during the Christmas/New Year season of 2004/2005, it was as though I’d been instantly transported back to childhood. I remembered so many of the story-lines and episodes in such detail, yet they had only ever been aired once at the time. However, everything remained so vivid to me. Watching them, I could remember how I felt the first time around watching some of those episodes.

For example, how shocked and distraught I was when Michael Praed’s Robin died at the end of the second series and having to wait until the third series to find out who the new Robin would be. Those two cross over episodes were so vivid in my memory for some reason. As was the very final episode of the third series (they were supposed to make a fourth, but it never happened), in which Marian stays at the convent because she can’t face the prospect of losing Robin again when she thought he’d been killed. It was such powerful TV, I think because, unintentionally, it was left on a really bitter-sweet ending. A sad ending in fact. It did feel resolved, but it was not in the usual happy-ever-after way you’d expect. As an adult re-watching that, I think it actually makes for extremely powerful story-telling. It’s really emotional knowing the guy doesn’t get the girl at the end after-all. Maybe more realistic and so more gut-wrenching to watch than as a child. It’s hard to say, but I remember feeling sad even back then. However, what was really lovely about the whole story line between Marian and the second Robin (Jason Connery – who I never fancied much on account of him being fair haired as oppose to dark – though I liked both Robins as they were actually different characters – so cleverly done with a weaving of two legends into one). Anyway, what was great about Marian and the second Robin’s relationship was that it was a slow burner ¬†– more real I think – and it was only in that final (double) episode that they’d initially agreed to marry – only for it to never happen! Bloomin’ Richard O’Brien and his Gulnar character causing havoc!

Micheal Praed as Robin Of Loxley

Jason Connery (yes, son of Sean) as Robin Hood (Robert Of Huntingdon) 

Actually, Gulner appeared in a few episodes and he was always one of the characters who stuck in mine and my sibling’s heads over the years. He was more comedic than sinister re-watching as an adult, nevertheless, a great performance by Richard O’Brien.

Robin of Sherwood had a star studded support cast over its run, including Rula Lenska (who played an evil Nun/witch Рwho freaked Brother Number One right out!). She was in the only double length episode shown in one go, The Swords of Wayland and is in my opinion, one of the best, if not most sinister of all the episodes. Other stars included: John Nettles, John Rhys Davies (Gimli from Lord Of The Rings Рfact fans!) as King Richard the Lionheart, Anthony Valentine, Patricia Hodge, Ian Ogilvy, George Baker and Dorothy Tutin, amongst others.

As well as the great cast playing the merry men (Michael Praed/Jason Connery, Judi Trott, Clive Mantle, Ray Winstone, Mark Ryan, Phil Rose, Peter Llewellyn and Jeremy Bullock (who played Boba Fett in the original Star Wars – fact fans), there were of course my favourite villains – The Sheriff of Nottingham, played so brilliantly by Nikolas Grace, his brother, the Abbot Hugo played by Philip Jackson (who appears as Inspector Japp in my second favourite series of all time – Agatha Christie’s Poirot) and Guy of Gisburne played by Robert Addie. The Sheriff and Guy’s relationship was just hilarious and Nikolas Grace did sarcasm so well that he was my favourite character across all three series and I’d always be disappointed if it was one of the episodes which didn’t feature him and Guy of Gisburne.

The Sheriff and Guy of Gisburne

Abbot Hugo played by Phillip Jackson

A recurring character who came in occasionally was the character of King John, played  by Phil Davis (who played Ned Young in one of my favourite ever films РThe Bounty) so utterly brilliantly. He brought a comic insanity to the part which was genius and great to watch. This was definitely part of the success of the series Рthe cast were just brilliant actors and actresses, many young and starting out but who have gone on to be huge stars, like Ray Winstone for example.

Of course the writing was superb too, headed by Richard Carpenter, but bringing on board the likes of a young Anthony Horowitz who now is a best selling author of such series as The Alex Rider books – James Bond spy type novels for young adult readers. Anthony Horowitz actually wrote one of the episodes which was shown nearly 30 years to the day – on Saturday 26th April 1986. And how do I know this exact date? ¬†Well it was 2 days after Brother Number 3 was born (yes he’ll be 30 years old on Sunday, eeek!). ¬†I was 10 years old and, bizarrely, that weekend, my mum had sent myself and my other three existing siblings to stay with two of our teachers whilst she settled back into the house with the new born baby. My sister and Brother Number Four stayed at one teacher’s house and myself and Brother Number One at another teacher’s house. And I have a very strong memory of her allowing my brother and I to watch Robin Of Sherwood. We watched it sat in her lounge with our dinner on our laps (we NEVER ate dinner that way at home!,) so of course it stands out in my memory. (I only knew Anthony Horowitz wrote the episode from Googling it though, I’ll admit!) I do also remember one of the teacher’s dogs knocked either my dinner or my brother’s dinner off our knee. Probably his as my memory is so shaky on the point!

Then, of course, there was the sublime soundtrack provided by Clannad¬†added to all this greatness, which I blogged about in last year’s A-Z challenge. It was this series which got me hooked on the haunting melodies of this Irish folk band, and in fact any Celtic folk music. The tracks they wrote for the series just complimented every bit of action so beautifully. Click on the highlighted link to hear a live medley.

As with all good TV shows from my childhood, myself and my siblings loved to play Robin of Sherwood which I did blog about last year – stories of us galloping around the living room to the Clannad soundtrack like loons, jumping the LP and scratching it. And as in keeping with the whole ‘I’m the oldest, therefore I’m the leader’ thing, I of course was always Robin. My sister could flare her nostrils like Guy of Gisburne which we used to think was hilarious and quite a skill! Haha!

Of course whenever we were taken anywhere near any woods, we would hoon around there, reinacting the opening credits, leaping over fallen logs and having staff fights. In fact I find it difficult even now if I’m in woods not to imagine I’m in Robin of Sherwood and I have been known to have the odd staff fight with either friends or my 7 year old. It’s great fun, without having to live and survive there, Bear Grylls style. ūüôā

Robin Of Sherwood was, in short, a great TV series, which like all good things didn’t last long enough, but perhaps did in that it ended whilst still at its peak. But to quote: “Nothing’s forgotten; nothing’s ever forgotten.” ūüôā

Right, because Robin of Sherwood has taken up so much of my time in this post, I’m going to do this R post in 2 parts with part 2 tomorrow, because I can’t miss the other two programmes out, but it is late now and I have a child to attend to!

TTFN!

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Today is brought to you by the letter…Q

It’s cheat day on the A-Z blog challenge as I haven’t got any favourite TV shows from my childhood to look back on for the letter Q. (No I didn’t ever watch Quantum Leap – much to my shame, or Quincy – not to my shame.)

So, egged on by the suggestion of my sister, I’ve decided that Q is for…

Quiz Shows…well one quiz show in particular and that’s…

Blockbusters

Blockbusters, for those who don’t know, (click on the link on the title if you want to skip my explanation!) was a quiz show which aired in Britain between 1983 and 1993 and, in the British version at least, featured contestants who were sixth-formers, in other words young adults aged 16-18 who would have been studying for their A-levels. Sort of a pre University Challenge warm up¬†but easier. (Ironic considering A-levels tend to be much harder than studying for a degree – well mine were at any rate, but if you’re stupid enough to choose physics A-level when you can’t do maths you reap what you sow.) Anyway, as per usual I digress.

I loved Blockbusters, mainly because I was fascinated by the format of having one person against two. (I think Eggheads works on a similar principal when you get down to one head versus five at times.) But my younger self thought it was really unfair for the ‘whites.’No I’m not been racist – the contestants either played on the white team (the lone contestant) or on the blue team (the pair). Anyway, I couldn’t get my head around how the white ‘team’ could ever win as surely two heads are better than one? But age and wisdom (and ¬†watching the whites win at times) tells me that very much depends on who the two brains belong to. The pay off for being on your own was that you only had to link 4 hexagons on the playing board (vertically) as oppose to 5 horizontally if you were in the pair.

Clearly a situation proving in this case one brainy brain beat two brains! 

The overall idea was that the board of hexagons each had a letter on. (see picture above) The host – Bob Holness – a very genteel older gentleman – ¬†would ask the contestants to choose a letter from the board. A game would start with a random flashing letter, eg S as above, and then Bob would ask a question where the answer would end in S. For example he’d say: Which S is the largest desert in the world? And then the contestants would have to buzz in with the right answer. If they were right then the hexagon would turn the colour of their team. Then they would get the next question¬†(told you it was a bit like University Challenge) and they got to choose the letter. ¬†If they were wrong, control of the board would go to the opposing team. Sometimes a player or players might link all their hexagons in one run, though this was rare. The match was played as best of three and who ever won got to try ‘The Gold Run’. This was harder (and even if you were on the blue team only one of you could do the Gold Run) as each segment had a group of letters and these letters would form the answer. So, for example: GPOG might be ‘Great Pyramid of Giza.’ The contestant would have to start on the left and answer questions to form a gold path across to link up to the right of the board.

The Gold Run Board. So called because the hexagonal cells would turn gold as a contestant got a question correct. 

 

So why does Blockbusters hold memories of my childhood, maybe above other quizzes which I watched? Well it was probably because of the whole famous “I’ll have a P please, Bob” phrase. When a contestant had a turn to choose a letter, this is what they would say (well not just P, any letter.) The “I’ll have a p please, Bob” became a standing pun from the show. Very Carry On! Of course it was meant to be a pun for “I’ll have a pee please, Bob” as though they were asking him to go to the toilet. Sniggers all round.

But it was not the pun which holds the memory – more of a random thread of thought that unravelled from that one phrase. At least I think this is how it happened.

For some reason, and this could have been based on one contestant just one time saying “I’ll have a P please, Bob,” we (that is myself and my siblings) ¬†would say this phrase in a sort of lispy voice which evolved to eventually sound like this: “Hep please, Bob.” Don’t even ask me how. It’s the same weird line and trains of thought that led my eldest brother to be known as Pond and my younger as Spock. The first evolved down this route: Andrew>Andre> Andreas> Pondapaous> Pond. Don’t ask me how. It’s still a mystery to us and we made it up! The second went something like this: Richard>Rick>Rock>Spock-your-bum>Spock (for short obvs.) Again don’t ask why or how – it just did. Kids are weird.

But we did used to make up absolute oddball stuff just by talking (no playing – literally talking about stuff), and these initial ideas would evolve into elaborate stories and characters who we would mimic and tell stories as. So myself and my sister, for example, would lie awake at night making stories up about our friend two doors down and her family, putting them in ridiculous scenarios, just for our own amusement.

So how does this link to Blockbusters? Well I was getting to that. The whole “Hep please Bob” character (who was lispy and pathetic) I think evolved into a whole ‘family’. This was the ‘Ug’ family who were posh and all the family’s names rhymed with Ug. (Ug pronounced long, from the back of the throat – thus: Uuuug with more of an ar sound on the u than an ‘uh’ sound.) So there was Bug and Slug and Jug and Mug etc.. etc… You get the idea. However, amongst the posh Ug family ¬†there was ‘Smelly Coat’ who I believe evolved or was actually the ‘hep please, Bob’ character. At least they had the same voice.

Okay, please don’t get the strait jackets in! We were kids with very over-active imaginations, clearly not enough toys and too much TV!

I said we used to do these things…I remember me and my two best friends doing something similar when on holiday in Snowdonia in 2007. We may have spent practically an entire day whilst walking around admiring the beautiful scenery creating (simply by talking) a soft porn version of the legend of Beddgelert. I don’t know how that started, but I remember laughing an awful lot and that was kind of how it was with me and my siblings when we were kids and used to make up such ridiculous things.

As to whether I’ve got the back story right, I don’t know. But in my head it is Blockbusters which was responsible for the creation of Smelly Coat and the Ug family. If I’ve mis-associated¬†them, I’m sure one of my siblings will put me right. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. Isn’t memory fascinating?

Tomorrow we reach R and I have THREE programmes, because yes, I could just pick one but I cannot miss any of these three out. It just wouldn’t be fair as all three were just awesome. How the heck I’m going to complete three in one post in limited time, I don’t know. But therein lies the challenge!

See you then!

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Today is brought to you by the letter…P

It’s a two for the price of one Monday for the letter P today…if indeed I finish this by the end of Monday as I’ve started rather late…

So we’ll crack on without further ado! And first up today, P is for…

The Perils of Penelope Pitstop

That title itself probably constitutes three Ps! But anyway. This was definitely my all time favourite ‘classic’ Hanna Barbera cartoon. It ran for only 17 episodes between 1969-1970 in the USA ¬†though this was before I was born, so, as with most classic cartoons, I’m assuming it was on throughout the late 70s and 80s too, as that would be when I remember it from. Of course, the characters of Penelope and the Ant Hill Mob also appeared in Wacky Races, which might be why I felt it was longer, but as it was The Hooded Claw who I liked¬†best¬†(yes, yes, it’s that weird villain thing I had again) then Wacky Races never quite held the same draw for me as he never appeared in it. (The Perils of Penelope Pitstop was a spin off show from Wacky Races by the way – fact fans.)

The hapless Ant Hill Mob

In the Perils of Penelope Pitstop, the perils come in the guise of her evil uncle, Sylvester Sneekly (snigger!) who is trying to diddle her out of inheritance. This he does vai the most elaborate disguise (well at least his suit changes colour, he wears a cloak, an eye mask and a hat!) of The Hooded Claw, along with his two henchmen, The Bully Brothers.

 

Spot the difference: The Hooded Claw

vs…Sylvester Sneekly. Seriously sneaky disguise!¬†

He comes up with all sorts of over the top plans to kill Penelope (like tying her to a train track or sending her into a pit of crocodiles, as you do) rather than embezzling her fortune in some more subtle way. Guess it wouldn’t make such a good cartoon for kids that way, would it? Anyway, to me, he was the most hilarious villain with his brilliant evil cackle (which isn’t really that evil – more comical) and I thought he was great! Then there was Penelope of course, always quite helpless when he captures her, but surprisingly ingenious with a nail file! The Ant Hill Mob (a little band of what look like a cross between New York mobsters from the 1920s’30s and the seven dwarfs) always try to rescue her in their pretty useless car – Chug-a-boom – with hapless and hilarious consequences, only to have Penelope usually managing to escape all by herself anyway and having to rescue them. I didn’t really like Penelope I have to admit. I don’t know why. Possibly the way she cried ‘Heulp! Heulp’ was a bit too annoying for me! Or perhaps it was because she was too stupid to notice The Hooded Claw was her uncle in the worst disguise ever! No, my reason for watching ¬†the show was solely to discover what ridiculous plan the Hooded Claw would come up with and to see how The Ant Hill Mob would cock up the rescue. Oh and to see if one day Sylvester Sneekly would actually succeed in one of his ridiculous plots. He didn’t. Obviously! Boooooooooo!

 

And now… on an altogether different track, my second choice for TV gold from my childhood for the letter P is something possibly a little less well known. Another one from the Land of Oz…P is also for…

Pugwall

The Orange Organics! 

Pugwall was an Australian kid’s TV show which aired here around the 1989 mark for a couple of years, so I was about 14/15 years old. It followed the life of 13 year old Peter Unwin George Wall – Pugwall for short – and his quest to become a rock star with his band – The Orange Organics. (As I type this everything is being said in my head in an Aussie accent – a bit like when I wrote about Neighbours!)

Anyway, Pugwall was brilliant. Very similar to Saved By The Bell (a US teen comedy from around the same time, though I think I preferred Pugwall as it was more light hearted)  in that Jason Torrens, who played Pugwall, used to speak to the viewers in little asides from the action (just as Mark-Paul Gosselaar did as Zack Morris).

Jason Torrens talking to the viewer in one of his typical asides. 

It kind of meant you were always rooting for the character whatever was happening, as it made it all feel more personal, like you ¬†were more involved in the programme and invested in the character – I suppose a little bit like when writers address the reader. I kind of liked that element in Roald Dahl’s books and David Walliams does it a lot too. Having the main character talk to us always meant it felt like you were in on the joke, especially as he would often be griping (as teens often do) about his parents. You could identify and empathise completely with him. You could also empathise with him when he was being wound up by his little sister ‘Marmaloid’ (Marion) who,¬†much to Pugwall’s chagrin, got in on the act of making a song with her own band, – well a rap actually – called ‘ThevMarmaloid¬†Rap.’ I can still hear it in my mind! It was awful – intentionally awful mind! *Googles to see if it’s around on You Tube….) Ooh yes…here it is!¬†Gosh I must’ve only ever seen that once yet it stuck in my head! How strange.

Marmaloid – played by Emma Snow

Anyway, ¬†a little bit like Neighbours, Pugwall was always sunny and bright (or perhaps that was just the fashions of the late ’80s into the early ’90s – neon was so in then…!) The show was also focused on Pugwall’s band The Orange Organics and I guess most teenagers dream of being popstars or in bands; I was no different. Pugwall may well have only been living his dream from his basement, but dreams have to start somewhere. Together with his mates – Stringbean, Bazza and Orfo – there was also the complication of a teen romance and love interest in the guise of Jenny. Basically it was a very light-hearted, comedic look at teen life.

Pugwall is a good teenager though who, although rebels a little against his parents, actually holds them in high esteem. He calls his mum Supes as she’s like Superman when she’s cleaning the house – at super speed and he nicknames his dad Herohead.

But of course what stands out ¬†in my memory most about Pugwall, as was often the case for me, was the opening credits and theme tune! “Nobody tells me what to do – no not me!”¬†But he sings those lyrics with the cheesiest grin slapped on his face (no attitude at all) and a badge clad beret worn at a jaunty angle! Hilarious! Loved it so much!

I hope one of the posts for P has given you some unexpected memories to look back on. I wish I’d had more time to delve more into these two in more detail. But if you’d like more reminiscing…well there’s always good old You Tube!

Thanks for reading! ūüôā

 

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