Today is brought to you by the letter…Y

Honestly, truly I have not lost my ability to sing my ABC. However, sadly, like with V, I have no TV programme from my youth for X in my A-Z challenge, (no X factor was not an option!) So here I am at Y and an epic failure at the challenge this year!

As I have nothing for Z either, this will be the last post for the challenge, apart from maybe a round up post  of the near misses of shows that might have made the final cut had I had: a) a better memory or b) more time to do multiple posts.

Today’s TV show choice  is actually quite fitting as it happens, as it is all to do with challenges and whether or not they would be met. For today, Y is for that Saturday/Friday night game show…

You Bet!

 

Wow, my memory is shocking. (A theme which has run through these posts!) Before I delved into the archives of You Bet! (a game show where celebrities would bet on unusual challenges performed by members of the public usually under a time pressure), here’s what I remembered about it:

A rap, (how very 80s) which the host used to sing:

Host: Do you want a bet on it?

Audience: You Bet!

Host: Are you sure you want to bet on it?

Audience: You bet!

Host: So don’t fret, get set. Are you Ready?

Audience: You Bet! 

I say ‘host’, only because I had Matthew Kelly in my head as the host (and who did indeed host it), but he hosted it after Bruce Forsyth who was the one who would have sung this chant because I can hear his voice. But I didn’t even remember Bruce Forsyth being on it until I’ve just tuned into an episode on You Tube. Watching it back though now, and he hasn’t sung it yet! Maybe we made it up! Maybe he never sung that at all! (Although I’ve just seen a comment on You Tube from someone else who says he did it in later episodes – so my memory is correct. Hazaar!) Oh and Post Script: Just got to the end of the episode: He did it at the end of every show!

What else do I remember? Well I only ever remember one of the challenges from the shows even though I must have watched countless episodes of You Bet! from 1988 into the early ’90s. It was one which totally amazed me and so has stuck with me. Even now I remember how utterly gob smacked I was by it. In the challenge a man could guess a song (pop/rock etc) being played simply by watching the graphic equaliser bars on a music system! Now, in my 13-14 year old naivety, I believed he could do this for any song at all. However, my more cynical 40 year old self is guessing there would have been a set bank of certain songs he’d learnt the graphic equaliser sequence for  by memory. Not so impressive really, and why I prefer to just remember things my child/teen memory recalls. Talking to Brother Number 2 tonight, his only memory of one of the challenges was one where a man could tell a car just by listening to its door shutting! (Funny the ones we remember kind of link to our individual interests.) But how awesome is that? These are the sort of challenges people would put themselves forward for and the celebrities would back them on.

I also remembered what the studio looked like, but I remember the later logo more than the original one for the show(see picture above). However, as soon as I’ve watched an episode so many things I loved about You Bet have come flooding back to me:

So what didn’t I remember until re-watching?

  1. Well as already stated: the original logo which was a swirly, neon affair with lights pinpointing the end of the letters and was on the You Bet! ‘Betsie’ trophy handed to the challenger if they won. (something else I didn’t recall.)

Bruce with the old style logo. 

2) The whole format of the show: Like the fact that the celebrities backed their challenger (explaining the background and the challenge for them) and then the other 2 celebrities would bet on the challenge by pressing a yes or no light next to them. After that 100 members of the studio audience would vote and this would provide a score for the celebrities. The points would be added to and converted to money for the celebrity’s charity if they won the whole show. If the celebrity lost their own bet they had to do a forfeit. I had completely forgotten about that part of the show. The following week, the forfeit would be shown.

3) Some challenges were not done in front of a live studio audience but out on location with Ellis Ward (a woman who was Bruce’s side-kick on the show and had a very sharp 1980s bobbed hairstyle – and I’d forgotten about her too!)

4) I couldn’t remember the theme tune, despite the fact this has been the factor I usually remember most and has been throughout this series of posts! However, listening to it now I’m not surprised, as it wasn’t especially memorable. But of course I did remember the rap so I wasn’t devoid of all musical memory!

5) Bruce would also back his own challenger and then he had to do a forfeit if the challengers weren’t successful. There was the large voting results board above the audience I’d also forgotten about! All gold and glittery! Seriously how did I even remember You Bet! existed?!😀

I think though that the fact I can’t remember specific details of most shows isn’t a bad thing. I think it highlights clearly how memory is far more linked to how things make you feel than the specifics. You Bet! was a brilliant feel good Saturday night show and it’s obviously stayed with me more for that as much as, if not more, than the content of the show. Although, of course, the challenges were always great and edge of seat stuff and it was always a real family thing to sit back and place our own bets on whether the challenge would be met or not.

And I’m afraid that’s all, folks for this particular challenge. If I’d have had you all bet on whether I’d complete this A-Z challenge at the start, well I don’t think there’d be any money going to charity on my behalf as I’m three letters shy this year! Ah well, I’ve still had fun reminiscing. Hope you have too! And thanks for reading.

Maybe see you back here next April?

Do you want a bet on it?😉

 

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Today is brought to you by the letter…W

Yes, yes, I know V comes after U in the alphabet. I’ve not lost my mind, but as explained in a previous post, I have no TV programmes from my youth starting with V to write about (and I’m also running out of time as April is nearly at a close), and so today I am skipping straight to W. Super cheaty I know.:)

And today we’re back with a humdinger of a freaky piece of kids television for your delight. Brace yourselves and arm  yourselves with a magic wand, for today W is for…

Wizbit

Wizbit (left) and his over-sized white rabbit friend!

“Ha, ha this-a-way

Ha, ha that-a way

Ha ha this-a-way

My oh my!”

Wizbit was probably one of the most bizarre children’s TV shows ever to have been made in Britain. It was, essentially, a magic show hosted by the recently deceased Paul Daniels. It was set in the fictional magical world of Puzzleopolis where every thing  (magic related items such as wands and packs of playing cards), and every body seemed to be made from over-sized foam, even the character of Wizbit himself.

The mystery of  the character of Wizbit for me has always been: what the heck was he? Sure, he was a large yellow, foam cone – slightly reminiscent of a yellow version of the sorting hat in Harry Potter. Maybe he is meant to be a wizard’s hat? I still don’t know! (Ah…Wikipedia tells me he was an alien magician. Yeah..okay.)

Anyway,Wizbit  was joined by his sidekick Wooly the rabbit, who, if memory serves correctly, was a bit dense. Though I might be making that up! No, no I’m not. Check out this episode! Hahaha! – Oh and on this there’s also an evil version of Wizbit – Wozbit! hahahaha!

The odd thing is, once again, my memories of what Wizbit was actually all about is quite vague. I know there was a bog  in it- a talking purple plastic bog at that. Now I used to think bog meant toilet (as it does in slang where I come from), but this taught me a bog was a totally different thing to what I’d believed until I was 11 years old when Wizbit hit our screens! Even then, I probably thought a bog was purple and plastic!  The show was only on for 2 years,  (27 episodes in total apparently) so a short run probably once again ensures my memories are fuzzy. Some might say that’s no bad thing where Wizbit is concerned!

What I do remember of the show was this: Wizbit couldn’t get into (or out of???) Puzzleopolis unless he got past the ‘Gatekeeper’ (a scary woman if I recall correctly) and I think he had to solve a puzzle to do this. There was also a ‘baddy’ with a twirly-whirly moustache I seem to remember and he had a cat called Jinx. I remember the cat’s name because, of course – those of you old/young enough to remember, will recall that at school in the ’80s if someone said something at exactly the same time as you, whoever said “jinxed” first was…er…jinxed! I think it meant you couldn’t speak again forever and ever or something! I wonder if the yoof of today still jinx each other?  Anyway, they are my vague memories of Wizbit, other than the theme tune which (as most of these theme tunes seem to have done) has stuck with me 30 years later and is not vague at all.

Now it is pretty much universally acknowledged that Wizbit was a bit rubbish. In fact looking at the episode I’ve linked to here now – Wizbit was rubbish!😀. Not only that, but Wizbit had a really silly, voice – but knowing me I liked that at the time! It was very weird  and not a top quality kid’s TV show at all, looking back. Nevertheless, for some reason we loved it! Looking at it now, I can’t think what held the draw for me. Perhaps it was purely the oddball nature of it. (There’s a modern kid’s TV show called Bear Behaving Badly which I love now and that’s a bit weird and wacky! The ‘baddy’ on that has a strange, mangy looking cat too, just like Professor Doom has on this with Jinx!). If one thing has come to light doing this challenge, it was that I liked shows which were a bit left of field most of the time! Perhaps it was the fact Wizbit was just so ridiculous. Maybe it was the car-crash TV quality of it. Perhaps I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing! Looking at it now, I’d assume that Paul Daniels and Barry Murray (former record producer for Mungo Jerry – fact fans) were tripping out on something when they came up with Wizbit! (I think most kid’s TV shows are based on some form of hallucinogenic drug!) But Wizbit certainly had that odd, slightly creepy and scary Alice in Wonderland feel about it. Weird that I even liked it then, as I was never a fan of the Lewis Carroll classic.

Finally: Two randomly related to Wizbit memories. Brother number 2 (I think it was) had this Paul Daniel’s magic set for his birthday or a Christmas one year and I can only assume was a direct consequence of watching Wizbit! Maybe it wasn’t, but in my head it is!

And the other random thought I had when doing this post was the other day when Brother Number 1 was trying to guess what programmes I’d be doing for U and W. To give him a clue to this one I said his best friend’s name. This was because, for some loony reason, one of the nicknames for his friend was Wizbit. To this day, a little bit like why I liked this show, I do not know why!

And with that all that’s left for me to do is vanish! So…as Wizbit himself would say…

Ostagazuzulum!

*Vanishes in a puff of smoke!

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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!😀

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?!😀

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.:)

 

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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 crème de la crème 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 – who 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 – fact 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 – The 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 – the 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.:)

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.:)

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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