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As a devoted follower of all Enid Blyton’s stories as a young child it was natural that as I became a teenager and started secondary school I would want to read books that reflected this new life experience. So I started on her Malory Towers series and then wondered why my school days weren’t filled with cross-country romps, midnight feasts and stays in the sanatorium with Matron. Perhaps searching for similarities in books that were written by a definite ‘jolly hockey-sticks’ type in the late 1940s wasn’t going to be much help. I would look across the p... read more
You can recognise a child of the 1980s in one very easy move. Go to a crowded place and loudly shout ‘truffle shuffle!’ Anybody who watched The Goonies when they were a kid will immediately go to pull up their jumper to reveal their stomach and start frenziedly wobbling it, before they realise they are now actually a 37 year old chartered surveyor and should probably do a few more sit-ups. Reviews for The Goonies were never as good as I think they should have been, but this was probably because most of the people critiquing it weren’t the audience that the writer or producer (in this case C... read more
‘This is 29 Acacia Road, and this is Eric, a schoolboy who leads an amazing double life. For when Eric eats a banana an amazing transformation occurs. Eric is Bananaman, ever alert for the call to action.’ Never the most stylish of superheroes (he wore boots made to look like banana skins for heaven’s sake) Bananaman was probably the only one who encouraged children to eat more fruit. Just like Mary Poppins inspired a generation of girls to stand outside with their umbrellas, trying to fly (oh, that was just me then was it?) there must have been hundreds of kids who regularly ate bananas, h... read more
I must have watched Romancing the Stone several hundred times as a teenager; constantly rewinding the video (yes, the video - no fancy DVDs back then) so I could get my part just perfect. What’s that? Oh, yes – when I say ‘my part’, I obviously mean ‘my part in my own head’; listening to my teachers drone on at school was made much less painful if I spent the lessons daydreaming that I was Kathleen Turner, facing peril at every turn before being rescued by reluctant hero Michael Douglas. And this was the attractive 1980’s... read more
I’m not sure what the most dreamy thing about television heartthrob Richard O’Sullivan was (and I’m not being sarcastic – I remember having a bit of a crush on him when I was glued to the television watching him as both a dashing highwayman in Dick Turpin and a put-upon father in Me and My Girl); was it the carefully coiffured hair, the slightly uneven smile that revealed a central gap in his teeth, or the open shirts that revealed his manly chest hair? To be fair, it could have simply been his on screen charisma – if ... read more
‘Life is the name of the game, and I wanna play the game with you. Life can be terribly tame if you don’t play the game with two.’ The name of the game in this case wasn’t actually Life, it was The Generation Game. Or to be more precise, the first outing of this much-loved BBC Saturday night game show was entitled ‘Bruce Forsyth and the Generation Game’ – because it was a game show played by two generations of the same family, and it was hosted by Bruce Forsyth. Self-explanatory really. So, rather than appearing on the show with a partner or spouse as... read more
Eminently quotable, and full of both farcical and touching moments, Withnail & I fully deserves its cult status amongst British films. There are so many elements that go into making this a huge success, with the talented cast, the poetical and hilarious script and the locations as a starting point. What other film gives you so many eloquent ways to ask for alcohol? ‘We want the finest wines known to humanity. We want them here, and we want them now!’ ‘I must have some booze. I demand to have some booze!’ It’s London, in 1969. Withnail (Richard E. Grantread more
In the world of sitcoms, the more trapped a character feels, the funnier their situation usually is for the audience. In the case of Steptoe and Son you’d be hard pushed to find a set of circumstances where you would feel more confined. Being stuck in a rundown house with no money and no chance of escape would be bad enough, but add to that mix a father with no personal pride and a desire to repress any aspirations his son might have, and you have a recipe for habitat hell. But, as we’ve just said, that hell makes for great comedy. Harold Steptoe (Harry H. C... read more
If watching a scrawny, perpetually confused looking man blunder through life, continuously breaking things, getting stuck in various objects or starting a domino-chain of catastrophes is your bag, then you are probably a huge fan of Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em. To be fair to its lead actor, Michael Crawford was a superb physical comedian (I say was; he’s a pensioner now but I have no idea if he is still capable of hanging from his car’s exhaust over the edge of a cliff) and without his skill and impeccable timing the show wouldn’t have had half the appeal t... read more
This programme’s theme tune is so well known that if I simply sang the words ‘Postman Pat…’ I bet every single one of you could carry on with the rest of the words. Yes, there we go – I knew it. Apologies for the fact that you’ll be singing it for the rest of the day now though. Aww, is there anybody who isn’t fond of the cheery postal delivery worker and his feline friend? Postman Patrick ‘Pat’ Clifton (no relation to Bernie), and sidekick Jess faithfully deliver the mail around the idyllic English village of Greendale, and at the same time, help out the locals with any problems they may ... read more
If I told you to ‘Naff off, you nerk!’ I’d like to think that you wouldn’t think I was being offensive, but instead paying homage to one of the all-time great British comedy characters, Norman Stanley Fletcher, or ‘Fletch’ to his mates. Alongside Open All Hours, Porridge originated as one of the pilot sitcoms from the BBC Ronnie Barker showcase, Seven of One. Called Prisoner and Escort, it introduced us to ‘habitual criminal’ Fletch (Barker) as he was being taken to start his latest s... read more
Del Boy falling through the bar. Del and Rodney dressed up as Batman and Robin. The attempt at chandelier cleaning. The inflatable dolls. Del reluctantly hand gliding. Rodney having to pretend to be 14 after Del entered his painting in a children’s competition and it took first prize. The entire episode featuring the holiday that Rodney ‘won’ and his participation in The Groovy Gang. Tony Angelino singing ‘Cwying’. The Jolly Boys’ outing. Trigger calling Rodney ‘Dave’. Trigger saying just about anything. The fainting, followed by the celebrating when the pocket watch that had been gathering... read more
Psssh-ti-cooff, psssh-ti-cooff, psssh-ti-cooff…as you already know that’s the unmistakeable sound of Ivor the Engine making his way along the track as part of his job with the Merioneth and Llantisilly Rail Traction Company. A friendly little train, Ivor has the ability to think for himself, drive himself (often when he’s not supposed to) and speak using his whistle. He is an engine with dreams beyond his working day; he would love to sing with The Grumbley and District Choral Society. He gets the chance to do this one day when Morgan the Roundabout (the fairground owner) gives him three pipes... read more
Catchphrase is another of those game shows (I’m thinking of Family Fortunes, Bullseye etc.) where its viewers could often be found in an apoplexy of rage, yelling ‘But it’s SO EASY! Why CAN’T you get it? How can you possibly NOT KNOW what the answer is?’ at the television screen. Yes, yes - I know all about the pressure of answering when you’re actually in the studio, against the clock and with the audience gawping at you, but honestly, Catchphrase’s simplicity often took ‘the bleedin’ obvious’ to a new level. Origin... read more
Despite Hanna-Barbera Productions having a lot of bigger cartoon names in its stable (The Flintstones, Yogi Bear, Top Cat, The Jetsons, Wacky Races and Scooby Doo to name just a few) Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels was by far my favourite. Mostly because I liked repeatedly making my parents jump by standing behind them unnoticed and then screeching ‘Captain CAAAAAAAAAVEMAAAA... read more