GOOD TO ME
Those imported kids' programmes in full
SOME OF THEM WERE DUBBED, most of them were repeated an average of three times a year (despite being nigh on eight million episodes long), and according to Victor Lewis-Smith they were "bought by the mile rather than by the hour, and the music always sounded like Bartok records that had been left out in the sun". Imported childrens' TV Shows are now normally only mentioned in the context of clip programme sneering from the likes of Chris Moyles, but they were still an important part of Cream-era television, taking up entire school holidays, months and months of Saturday morning schedules, and valuable spaces in the weekday slots where Hong Kong Phooey could have been. What's more, some of us even enjoyed them (for the first six episodes of the very first showing, at least).
The only problem is that as there were so many of the things, people now find it hard to tell them apart, and even though they hailed from many different continents they now all get lumped together in a weird form of televisual xenophobia. Not any more, though, as TV Cream proudly presents a handy guide for distinguishing that series with the duck and the laser from that one with the dog and the robot...
THEME TUNE... Nondescript orchestral stirrings
PRINCIPAL CAST... A boy from an ordinary suburban middle class home who befriended some youngsters who lived, unsupervised, in their own Native American-style reservation.
'VILLAINOUS' FIGURE... 'Grown-ups', whose potential awareness of the secret commune would have threatened its very existence.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN... Holland.
DUBBED?... Well, not as such. There was a narrator for the English language version, who could well have been Richard Baker. In fact, none of the characters appeared to speak at all, suggesting that the original had been made with the 'international language of storytelling' in mind.
DISTINGUISHING FEATURES... The prints that the BBC showed appeared to have been tinted with a peculiar hue that lay somewhere between sepia and turquoise.
YOU'RE THINKING OF...THE CHILDREN OF TOTEM TOWN - the ultimate nightmare manifestation of the hippy dream, as a bunch of children make proper use of the liberal ideals that their elders and betters had misused as an excuse to shovel lots of drugs down their throats and indulge in 'free love' whilst listening to Quicksilver Messenger Service. Although they did force the middle class youngster to smoke a peace pipe, which led to a clip round the ear from his mother.
THEME TUNE... An annoyingly 'chirpy' flute motif that made many a youngster want to smash their television, man-who-was-infuriated-by-Bill-Grundy-and-Sex-Pistols style, infused with a pointless 'sad' bit. Fuck those polls that rate it as one of the best TV themes ever. Sung by a choir of whining children in the original foreign language version, which in all honesty is even more annoying. Played over caption cards that looked oddly like design templates for tissue paper packets.
PRINCIPAL CAST... A young girl who gets dragged away from her hillside idyll and her young goatherd chum to live a life of frightful affluence. Based on the novel by Joanna Spyri.
'VILLAINOUS' FIGURE... The adults who persistently did the dragging away honours, and prevented our young heroine from stockpiling bread rolls for a blind grandmother.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN... Germany (not Switzerland, surprisingly).
DISTINGUISHING FEATURES... The young girl in the central role sported a mop of hair so unruly and curly that you could barely see her face.
YOU'RE THINKING OF... HEIDI - pretty much a standard adaptation of the much-loved children's novel, albeit dragged out to a ridiculous length. Made at some indeterminate point in recent media history that could honestly have been any time between the mid-1950s and the mid-1970s, but not to be confused with the BBC's own early 1970s adaptation starring a very young Nicholas Lyndhurst. No, not as Heidi.
TUNE... A 'tortured' soft-rock ballad about
"carrying on together, every step of the way", sung by a man who had
clearly injured his vocal chords shortly before the recording session. For the
second series, the vocals were replaced by a standard-issue 1980s soundtrack
PRINCIPAL CAST... A teenage brother and sister who moved to a new town and had to endure the trials and tribulations of 'fitting in', in addition to saving local beauty spots from redevelopment.
'VILLAINOUS' FIGURE... Local property developer Ashley Wheeler (and his burly gofer 'Rut') in the first series, and merely unfriendly kids in the second.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN... Australia.
DISTINGUISHING FEATURES... The cast. A veritable gallery of future stars from Down Under including Nadine Garner, Annie Jones, Peter O'Brien, and a certain Kylie Minogue. Also, being Australian, the show featured Norman Yemm. It's the law.
YOU'RE THINKING OF... THE HENDERSON KIDS/THE HENDERSON KIDS II - one of a rash of Australian series that were picked up for UK broadcast following the unexpected runaway success of Neighbours, which also included The Zoo Family, Golden Pennies ("see them shining in the sun"), and exhuberant foster home drama Home ("Home! Home! Home! On the other siiiiide"). Shown in a Sunday morning slot by Channel 4, who broadcast both series in full despite one episode containing a massive scratch throughout.
TUNE... A dramatic, galloping orchestral refrain, reworked
over the closing credits as a cheapo Europorn lament.
PRINCIPAL CAST... A boy who broke with tradition by running away from the circus to go back home, and his thicko Peter Tork-alike accomplice.
'VILLAINOUS' FIGURE... Take your pick - the circus (who wanted him back so that they could exploit his sword-swallowing skills), The Shrew (a sinister old lady who was repeatedly outwitted by the duo), and various other equally villainous personages they encountered on their travels. Including one who caught the errant circus boy in a net and uttered the odd phrase: "Now I have you, you slippery fish".
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN... Germany.
DUBBED?... Yes, and with oddly comic and caricatured voices too, which undermined the intended dramatic nature of the storyline.
DISTINGUISHING FEATURES... Syntactically skewed dialogue abounded here.
YOU'RE THINKING OF... SILAS - by far one of the most notoriously over-repeated examples on this list. Fondly remembered by many, although it's quite possible that this is because they were eventually left with no other option than to give up and just start watching it.
TUNE... A dreary string-driven dirge played over pencil
sketches. No expense spared.
PRINCIPAL CAST... A bunch of youngsters shipwrecked on a desert island, without so much as a "Lord Of The Flies"-style troublecauser between them. And the son of the US President, who hears secret SOS messages from them.
'VILLAINOUS' FIGURE... Well, the fact that no-one believes the President's son is hardly 'villainous' as such, and the only time that the stranded youngsters were ever menaced was by the sub-I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here arrival of a snake. Which was duly 'charmed' by the resident weedy-but-musically-gifted kid.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN... America.
DUBBED?... Of course not.
DISTINGUISHING FEATURES... There's very little about this show that could be honestly said to 'stand out'. The fact that ITV used to run episodes without credits, at a push.
YOU'RE THINKING OF... CHILDREN'S ISLAND - unforgiveably dreary goings on that offered very little in the way of genuine excitement. And then they were rescued by... oh, let's say... Moe.
TUNE... A jaunty, catchy piece with swaggering brass,
which needless to say no-one has on tape. You'll be hearing a lot more of this
sort of thing.
PRINCIPAL CAST... Settlers in turn-of-the-century New Zealand and the natives that they have to learn to live in harmony with. Oh, and their children.
'VILLAINOUS' FIGURE... Someone who sold outlawed 'grog' to the Maoris, and in a more abstract sense a volcano that had recently erupted.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN... New Zealand, obviously.
DISTINGUISHING FEATURES... Well, there weren't many children's shows, imported or otherwise, that featured alcohol and volatile geographical features.
YOU'RE THINKING OF... CHILDREN OF FIRE MOUNTAIN - shown endlessly by the BBC in the early 1980s, then given another airing by Channel 4 at the close of the decade. Which is why it's now impossible to get hold of, obviously.
TUNE... Frightening piano-pounding somewhere between Michael
Nyman and John Cale's "The Academy In Peril".
PRINCIPAL CAST... Two 'plucky' youngsters who vowed to get to the bottom of a string of arson attacks in their hometown.
'VILLAINOUS' FIGURE... Bearded, balaclava-sporting, Jimmy Corkhill-lookalike 'Marwick', the fire-raiser of the title who appeared to have a particular loathing for pianos.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN... New Zealand. They specialised in this sort of thing.
DISTINGUISHING FEATURES... The way that the youngsters were given to exclaiming "Marwick!" at the slightest opportunity does tend to stick in the mind.
YOU'RE THINKING OF... THE FIRE RAISER - a late entry in the by then declining genre, but a memorable one all the same. And no, it wasn't called "The Firestarter".
TUNE... A sweeping orchestral evocation of crashing waves, followed
by a desolate, melancholy refrain for strings played over a textbook early 1960s
‘beat’ backing. Full recording includes a solo apparently played
by someone who had mistaken an organ for a typewriter.
PRINCIPAL CAST... A stranded, island-bound and increasingly bearded European and his noble native friend. Oh, and a parrot.
'VILLAINOUS' FIGURE... Hostile natives, shipwrecked mutineers, and the existential tedium of slowly chopping wood in overlong scenes.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN... France.
DUBBED?... And how.
DISTINGUISHING FEATURES... Shown over practically every school holiday, not to mention inter-holiday early morning weekend slots, for the lion’s share of two entire decades.
YOU'RE THINKING OF... THE ADVENTURES OF ROBINSON CRUSOE - perhaps the most famous example of all, indelibly imprinted onto the subconscious of millions of viewers who never even liked it, and a longstanding sore point for those poor unfortunates who went back to school a week earlier than everyone else and always missed the denouement.
THEME TUNE... A massed choir of tuneless Australian kids singing
“one place for children, welcome from all round the world” (and
something about “gum trees, gum trees” too) to the tune of ‘Waltzing
PRINCIPAL CAST... A small army of Antipodean youngsters who spent their spare time roaming around an Adventure Playground-like mini-commune of interconnected treehouses and rope bridges.
'VILLAINOUS' FIGURE... Unfeasibly named local property developer William Wopper, who was intent on demolishing said commune in order to build on the land. Also his superintelligent nephew, the even more ludicrously named Peewee Wopper (“most interesting”), and a couple of bemulletted local ‘larrikins’ whom he roped in to help with his diabolical schemes with predictably comic results.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN... Australia.
DISTINGUISHING FEATURES... Like one of those comic storylines that they used to give the younger members of the Neighbours cast stretched out to the length of an entire series.
YOU'RE THINKING OF... SECRET VALLEY - short-lived but vividly remembered ITV Sunday morning comedy-adventure fare, featuring a number of future minor stars of Home And Away and Neighbours, not to mention the entire line-up of the soap opera-straddling Buchanan family (Beth, Simone and Miles), most of whom have probably long since tippexed it from their CVs.
TUNE... An orchestra attempt to demolish buildings with sheer volume
whilst a Stars In Their Eyes Scott Walker attempts to explain the entire plot
of the programme in 60 seconds flat. Clumsy phrasing such as “hiding in
the bushes was a watchful pair of eyes” and “ruled over by a tyrant
whose face was in a mask” abounded.
PRINCIPAL CAST... Five ‘gifted’ children from all corners of the globe, trapped on an uncharted island with an undiscovered tribe who all seem to speak very good English and whose names all begin with ‘Q’.
'VILLAINOUS' FIGURE... “I am the Q, your master, and ye will obey me”.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN... The Island Of Tambu. Oh, alright then, Australia.
DISTINGUISHING FEATURES... Aside from the fact that there was an episode called ‘Ye Confounded Wheels’, which deserves a round of applause in its own right, the island’s exotic flora and fauna (which included giant man-eating crabs and some seaweed that glowed for some confusing reason or other) deserve a mention, as does the imperious-robes-and-sedan-chair scariness of The Q, and the dartboard-mounted portrait of said ‘baddie’ that the youngsters used for recreational purposes. And oh look, there’s Norman Yemm again.
YOU'RE THINKING OF... THE LOST ISLANDS - A seemingly endless Australian filmed serial co-produced with about two thousand other international broadcasters, which charted the attempts of Tony, Mark, David, Anna and Soo-Ying to either escape from the island or overthrow The Q. They seemed to change their mind each week. ‘Scott Walker’, meanwhile, was more concerned with trying (and failing) to cram all of their names into one line of the song.
TUNE... The opening a brief electronic/soft rock crossover that conjured
up images of long-haired European teenage males in Scorpions t-shirts playing
‘air guitar’; the closing a more traditional synth-flute led slice
PRINCIPAL CAST... A moptopped teenager who traded his infectious laugh for the ability to win any bet (“betcha!”, as he was given to exclaiming in a girly voice that seemed somewhat at odds with his moody adolescent appearance), accompanied in his efforts to regain his giggle by chirpy nun Sister Agatha and seadog-like chef Henry.
'VILLAINOUS' FIGURE... The Baron, a sort of Rutger Hauer/Max Von Sydow figure who wanted to keep the youngster’s laugh for himself, and his sidekick Anotol.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN... Germany.
DUBBED... Yes, with strangely ill-fitting voices.
DISTINGUISHING FEATURES... Primarily that unlike many of its multi-million-episode contemporaries, it managed to stay at least marginally on the right side of watchability throughout. This is made all the more surprising by the fact that there was scarcely any actual ‘threat’ in the storyline other than that The Baron just wouldn’t give the boy his laugh back.
YOU'RE THINKING OF... THE LEGEND OF TIM TYLER - A surprisingly gritty, downbeat and unexpectedly existential series that did away with all of the ‘traditional adventure story’ nonsense for a modern-day morality tale with a vague hint of sci-fi. Effectively the storyline from a late-1970s ‘concept album’ transferred to celluloid.
TUNE... American session musicians rawking their way through a ‘slow
workout’ with plenty of LA Law-style saxophone and squealing electric
PRINCIPAL CAST... A stranded alien Prince (seen emerging from a flying saucer in the opening titles), a sort of yellow flying robot shaped like a hamburger with ‘expressive’ eyes on a flexible shaft (heard describing a dog in scientific terms in the opening titles), and a scruffy mongrel (heard barking in mock ‘indignation’ in the opening titles).
'VILLAINOUS' FIGURE... A sub-Darth Vader cloaked and armoured figure credited solely as ‘Evil Alien’
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN... America.
DISTINGUISHING FEATURES... Well, the robot seemed pretty advanced back in the early 1980s, when “*batteries not included” was a mere note in the margin of Stephen Spielberg’s production schedule. Also ‘starred’ Benji, the dog made famous by the 1970s cinema film series (although not played by the same dog; the original Benji and his lookalike replacement ‘Higgins The Dog’ had both gone into canine retirement by this time), and Christoper Burton, later to resurface as scene-stealing younger brother Rudy in top Corey Haim/Feldman teen comedy License To Drive.
YOU'RE THINKING OF... BENJI, ZAX AND THE ALIEN PRINCE - A rare live action production from Hanna-Barbera, for the most part an inferior Americanised equivalent of the Look And Read serial ‘The Boy From Space’ but enlivened by the quasi-comic inter-species bickering between dog and android.
TUNE... Sub-Argento soft-rock melancholia.
PRINCIPAL CAST... A boy in a bright yellow plastic raincoat and sou’ester, a duck, and an intelligent high intensity light beam.
'VILLAINOUS' FIGURE... The storyline had something to do with the son of a prominent scientist being kidnapped and held to ransom by Machiavellian authority figures. So, clearly, only a duck, a beam of light and a boy wearing inappropriately ostentatious rainwear could save him.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN... Spain
DUBBED?... Yes, but oddly enough it was still possible to make out the original soundtrack beneath the narration.
DISTINGUISHING FEATURES... The entire show was one long distinguishing feature.
YOU'RE THINKING OF... OSCAR, KINA AND THE LASER - The kind of pure willful weirdness that would never get within a mile of children’s television these days, complete with the strangely menacing air and grainy film of European horror cinema. Only shown once, but vividly recalled by all who saw it.
TUNE... A swinging 'big band' affair, better known as
'Living It Up', and performed by none other than Bert Kaempfert.
PRINCIPAL CAST... A mysterious Aristocrat-cum-James-Bond personage, unusually assisted by students and local teens rather than the expected ramshackle assortment of children.
'VILLAINOUS' FIGURE... Scarcely any more menacing than ruthless business magnates intent on swindling their way into ownership of historic buildings or priceless works of art.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN... Belgium. Reputedly the winner of several awards or somesuch over there.
DUBBED?... But of course.
DISTINGUISHING FEATURES... A surprising amount of the on-screen action seemed to take place in and around a windmill, memorable for the fact that it housed neither Windy Miller nor Chris Serle.
YOU'RE THINKING OF... CAPTAIN ZEPPOS - Secret agent espionage-styled chicanery for those who preferred their action to take place within the low-key atmosphere of quiet coastal villages.
TUNE... A jaunty, catchy piece with swaggering brass, which needless
to say no-one has on tape.
PRINCIPAL CAST... Two clean cut youngsters with terrifyingly curly hair (more than enough reason to ignore all the parental advice about eating your crusts, frankly), and their harbourmaster father
'VILLAINOUS' FIGURE... An odd one, this; the series appears to have started out as some kind of running story about the boys and a later-forgotten female friend who were intent on investigating some gold coins that washed up from an ancient wrecked ship, but ran up against a curmudgeonly fisherman who seemed to know more than he was letting on. Then it apparently turned into standalone stories about such exciting matters as fishing floats and old mills, with little or no villainy whatsoever.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN... New Zealand
DISTINGUISHING FEATURES... the main cast were second only to Heidi in the tonsorial unfeasibility stakes.
YOU'RE THINKING OF... FALCON ISLAND - a series that was once notorious for its ubiquity in the ITV regions’ early Sunday morning schedules, but now seems to be barely recalled at all.
TUNE... A miserable dirge. There’s no other word for it. Not
even Andy Crane’s chirpy introductions were capable of diluting its depression-causing
PRINCIPAL CAST... A young boy with a ridiculous name whom the authorities want to take away from his grandfather and put into care.
'VILLAINOUS' FIGURE... Why, the ‘authorities’ of course.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN... Australia
DISTINGUISHING FEATURES... The cast includes Ray 'Brass razoos' Meagher of Home And Away fame, Elspeth Ballantyne of Prisoner/Neighbours fame, and... erm... Sir John Mills. No joke.
YOU'RE THINKING OF... THE TRUE STORY OF SPIT MACPHEE - A very late entry in the genre indeed, broadcast by the BBC in 1989 (from exceptionally ropey film prints that made the colour Andy Pandy look and sound like a remastered DVD) in a cunning antipodean doubleheader with the evening showing of Neighbours. Suffice to say that the two markedly different programmes did not sit together tremendously well.
TUNE... A wistful mass singalong urging viewers to “try lookin’
back more on days that were slower” (when “livin’ came easy
and neighbours were friends”, apparently), played over footage of a paddle
steamer that seemed to be moving forward at the same time as remaining absolutely
motionless. Also contained the helpfully informative refrain “that’s
where they came from, the time that they came from”, in case any viewers
were in doubt.
PRINCIPAL CAST... A teenager ne’er-do-well in a dilapidated straw hat, and the locals that both befriended him and vilified him.
'VILLAINOUS' FIGURE... Initially stuffy schoolmarms and strict aunts, followed by a comedy interlude with some gamblers who ended up tarred and feathered, and in the latter stages a slightly dubious storyline involving the murderous ‘Injun Joe’ and his strangely Elton John-like accomplice ‘Pard’.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN... The United States Of America, y’all.
DISTINGUISHING FEATURES... The appearance of the nasally-advantaged Sammy Snyder giving an Anne Robinson-style wink to camera in the opening credits seems to be indelibly imprinted on the collective memory of a generation.
YOU'RE THINKING OF... THE NEW ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN AND HIS FRIENDS - A suitably cumbersomely-titled amalgamation of Mark Twain’s various novels featuring the teenage drifter and a phenomenal amount of fishin’. Shown an average of two times a year between 1979 and 1986, and it lasted for even longer than the books themselves.
TUNE... A twee piano piece perfectly suited to the dreary self-obsessions
of angsty ‘pre-teens’ in sprawling suburbia.
PRINCIPAL CAST... Aconfusingly endless gallery of the aforementioned angsty ‘pre-teens’ in baseball caps and those t-shirts with numbers on. One ‘Ida T. Lucas’ appeared to be the central character, but there were so many nondescript storylines going on at once that it was difficult to tell.
'VILLAINOUS' FIGURE... None to speak of. ‘Understanding’ was the name of the game here.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN... A Canadian nightmare of upmarket malls and equally upmarket ball parks.
DISTINGUISHING FEATURES... Heavy handed morals crowbarred in at every available opportunity.
YOU'RE THINKING OF... THE KIDS OF DEGRASSI STREET - The stuff of multi-award winning educational drama in its homeland, but carrying very little redolence for audiences over here. See also...
TUNE... A session singer who sounds as though she has escaped from
a contemporaneous Coke advert wails such meaninglessness as “Gee, I gotta
go to school” and “someone’s talking to me - hey! I got a
PRINCIPAL CAST... The Kids Of Degrassi Street, but older. And with the addition of new classmates including sexually prodigious Steph, unconvincing ‘punk’ Spike (basically just a teenage girl with Mike Peters from The Alarm’s haircut), and wisecracking wheeler-dealer Joey Jeremiah ‘Esquire’.
'VILLAINOUS' FIGURE... Move on, nothing to see here. Don’t you know these kids have, like, issues and stuff?
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN... Same as before, just with less outdoor footage.
DISTINGUISHING FEATURES... Slightly racy storylines; so much so, in fact, that a handful of episodes were pulled from their original Children’s BBC slot and instead went out much later as part of “Def II”.
YOU'RE THINKING OF... DEGRASSI JUNIOR HIGH - Essentially Beverly Hills 90210 without the charm, the self-mockery, the pop culture referencing or Shannen Doherty. The Wonder Years did all this with a lot more panache and humour, frankly.
TUNE... A galloping rhythm and dramatic bursts of keyboard, punctuated
with hushed vocalists declaring “you’ve got to fight for what you
want, for all that you believe”. Top stuff indeed.
PRINCIPAL CAST... A vaguely Robert Powell-like Gallic nobleman in a frilly shirt and his slightly Baldrick-like sidekick.
'VILLAINOUS' FIGURE... The ‘Spanish’, who have laid siege to a castle that said frilly-shirted one has vowed to defend.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN... France
DUBBED?... Yes. And, for once, reasonably convincingly.
DISTINGUISHING FEATURES... Later given an irreverent makeover by the team behind the BBC Saturday Morning television show On The Waterfront, who added their own humorous voiceover in the style of Whose Line Is It Anyway? (and, memorably, yelled “shut up!!!” repeatedly over the end theme).
YOU'RE THINKING OF... THE FLASHING BLADE - The English language version of the classic “Le Chevailer Tempete”, which was actually a lot more exciting and interesting than most of the other examples on this list. The absence of an irritating ‘heroic’ child character might have something to do with this. Weirdly, the show also turned into something vaguely akin to Rosencrantz And Guildernstern Are Dead when the dynamic duo were forced to disguise themselves by joining a troupe of travelling players.
TUNE... A nondescript electronic rhythm with a voice endlessly repeating
“Patrik Pacard, Patrik Pacard, Patrik Pacard, Patrik Pacard” over
the top. A bit of a giveaway, that one.
PRINCIPAL CAST... The aforementioned Patrik Packard, a teenager who looks as though he more rightfully belongs in a second division ‘Bratpack’ effort.
'VILLAINOUS' FIGURE... Some scientists who are intent on getting hold of a revolutionary new chemical that will allow crops to be grown anywhere.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN... West Germany, in the days before the Iron Curtain fell. That fact is actually quite relevant to the plot.
DUBBED?... Yes. Careful ‘reworking’ ensured the eradication of newly historically archaic plot details.
DISTINGUISHING FEATURES... In 1992, a magazine-sponsored panel of child viewers adjudged it to be marginally less interesting than Pip And Jane Baker’s Watt On Earth.
YOU'RE THINKING OF... PATRIK PACARD - not seen on these shores until the early 1990s, by which time it seemed as stylistically adrift as a Merseybeat band in 1968, and provoked little bar incredulous mirth.
TUNE... Went “la la loi lo, la la loi lo”, apparently.
PRINCIPAL CAST... A Boy. From Lapland. Remember that, it’s quite important.
'VILLAINOUS' FIGURE... Not as such; this was more of a light-hearted culture clash.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN... Erm, Norway.
DISTINGUISHING FEATURES... Easily confused with the roughly contemporaneous documentary series Land of The Lapps, installed in a similar is-anybody-really-watching-this? timeslot.
YOU'RE THINKING OF... THE BOY FROM LAPLAND - The references-to-nomadic-lifestyle-heavy adventures of the titular boy (more correctly known as ‘Ante’). His interests were listed as including ‘reindeer and jokes’.
TUNE... A rousing tinkly instrumental played over footage of rolling
logs, once as familiar to semi-attentive viewers of daytime television as the
camera shutter sounds from the start of The Sullivans.
PRINCIPAL CAST... Some woolly-hatted moustachioed blokes, a woman who ran a diner and looked a bit like the mother from Happy Days, some kids, and millions upon millions of logs.
'VILLAINOUS' FIGURE... Erm, woodworm? The closest that it go to villainy was rival Beachcomber ‘Relic’, and he was more grumpy than anything else.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN... Canada
DISTINGUISHING FEATURES... How many other series (aside from Two Pints Of Lager And A Packet Of Crisps) feature more wood than they do humans? Also noteworthy for its unusual scheduling, which often saw the series shoved amongst ITV’s midday pre-school programming.
YOU'RE THINKING OF... THE BEACHCOMBERS - A fondly recalled comedy-drama that ran for a staggering 19 years in its homeland, and was recently revived for an updated TV movie which reviewers dubbed ‘Beachcombers 90210’.
TUNE... An undistinguished brass-led effort.
PRINCIPAL CAST... Silas, but older and on a boat.
'VILLAINOUS' FIGURE... This show has the lot - pirates, ghosts, crooked judges, evil twins, treacherous jungles and possibly even a carnivorous kitchen sink too.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN... Germany
DISTINGUISHING FEATURES... Based on a book written by British writer Leon Garfield, and partly set in and around London. And made in German.
YOU'RE THINKING OF... JACK HOLBORN - As dynamic as Silas was slow-moving, and ensuring that child viewers genuinely did have no means of escape from their mutual star Patrick Bach.
TUNE... Bland ‘futurism’; as though the theme from The
Tomorrow People was being replicated by Coldplay in collaboration with some
particularly dull ditchwater.
PRINCIPAL CAST... Alana, a girl from the year three thousand who travelled back in time by accident (and still managed to whinge about it less than Busted did).
'VILLAINOUS' FIGURE... A futuristic convict, catapulted back in time as part of the same failed experiment as Alana.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN... Australia
DISTINGUISHING FEATURES... Alana had a star system tattooed on her face, which supposedly represented some sort of emotional stability mechanism.
YOU'RE THINKING OF... THE GIRL FROM TOMORROW, or indeed its sequel TOMORROW'S END - Reasonable enough sci-fi fare that had the misfortune to arrive a few years after the UK had briefly gone Australian television crazy.
TUNE... Soft flute and tinkly chimes
PRINCIPAL CAST... A spoilt princess, a dashing prince who was turned into a bear, and some sort of mechanical fish thing stranded on dry land.
'VILLAINOUS' FIGURE... An evil dwarf, whose close resemblance to F’toomch from The Young Ones was probably no coincidence
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN... Germany
DUBBED?... Yes, with a single narrator. Judging from the recent DVD releases, the narrator’s sterling efforts have since vanished into archival history.
DISTINGUISHING FEATURES... The entire production looked like a lavish Hollywood musical filmed through a camera with cellophane sweet wrappers stuck over the lens. ‘Hallucinogenic’ doesn’t even begin to describe it.
YOU'RE THINKING OF... THE SINGING RINGING TREE - Originally a full length film, but split by the BBC into an episodic feature, which tried to cram every single hallmark of all known fairy tales into one massive storyline with some of the most gaudy visuals ever witnessed on the small screen (noticeable even from the black and white transmissions). Originally shown as part of the BBC’s Tales From Europe strand, alongside its close relatives The Tinderbox and Rumplestiltskin, and such little-recalled but wonderfully-named delights as The Boy And The Pelican, The Scouts And The Motor Car, The Boys Who Stole The Moon, The Limping Boy, Secret Of The Grey Gull, Summer At Salty Creek, They’ve Stolen The Sea and Dog In Orbit. The Boring Kite, however, only ever existed in David Quantick’s fevered imagination.
TUNE... Syd Barrett sets a James Joyce poem to music. Oh, alright,
we can’t remember.
PRINCIPAL CAST... It’s all very hazy... a princess with golden tresses, who may or may not have leaned out of her window.
'VILLAINOUS' FIGURE... The usual sort of fairytale wicked relatives.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN... It’s all a bit hazy. Czechoslovakia?
DISTINGUISHING FEATURES... Um... erm... something about a soft-focused scene in which a prince had to identify the princess from an identity parade of women with their faces obscured by veils?
YOU'RE THINKING OF... GOLDEN HAIR - Originally released as the b-side to Octopus at the tail-end of 1969, and later featured on the album The Madcap Laughs. An alternate take and an instrumental version appear on the rarities collection Opel. Erm, that’s right, isn’t it?
TUNE... Loungecore horns and acoustic guitars a-go-go with Jackie
Lee sighing over the top about only being able to see the grey of a very sad
and lonely day.
PRINCIPAL CAST... Julia, a young girl who works at prestigious stables looking after equally prestigious horses.
'VILLAINOUS' FIGURE... An endless parade of horse thieves.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN... Yugoslavia.
DISTINGUISHING FEATURES... A good theme song. Something of a rarity around these parts.
YOU'RE THINKING OF... WHITE HORSES - Constantly repeated mild drama aimed squarely at young girls who won’t shut up about wanting to own a horse. A Euro equivalent of Follyfoot, in more ways than one.
TUNE... "La la la, la la la, la la la la la la la"
PRINCIPAL CAST... A gang of pre-pubescent amateur sleuths - Frankie, J.R., Joanne, L'il Bill and James Bond II as 'Doc' - along with their infrequently glimpsed dog Boomer
'VILLAINOUS' FIGURE... Changed from story to story, but usually smugglers or kidnappers of some sort.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN... The US of A.
DISTINGUISHING FEATURES... Where to begin? The trampoline-assisted opening titles, James Bond II as 'Doc' dressed as a 'bellhop', the previous episode recaps played no for obvious reason over footage of L'il Bill and Frankie strolling aimlessly along as the latter played a weird tune on an Ocarina, the cliffhanger that saw the trapped youngsters pontificate on the necessity of eventually having to resort to cannibalism; just about all of it, basically.
YOU'RE THINKING OF...THE RED HAND GANG - Went down like a very heavy lead balloon in its homeland, but for many years a regular feature of the BBC's childrens' schedules. Later inspired its own spinoff "Here's Boomer", which made an ill-fated attempt to elevate the dog to stardom.
TUNE... Lots of wobbling, scraping noises and sine waves.
The sound of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop donating old equipment to a jumble
PRINCIPAL CAST... The inhabitants of two hostile neighbouring Eastern Bloc states
'VILLAINOUS' FIGURE... The government of opressive Steel City, who aimed to subjugate Fortuna with a space-age immobilisation beam
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN... Czechoslovakia
DUBBED?... Oscar, Kina And The Laser style.
DISTINGUISHING FEATURES... The heavy-handed but effective Cold War metaphor was certainly way in advance of drippy storylines about horses and foster homes
YOU'RE THINKING OF...THE SECRET OF STEEL CITY - Like the similarly bleak The Legends Of Tim Tyler and Oscar, Kina And The Laser, this was the point at which overlong dramatisation met political allegory and vaguely plausible science fiction to great effect. Yet weirdly, they were all shown less often than their more boring contemporaries.
TUNE... A jaunty, catchy piece with swaggering brass,
which needless to say no-one has on tape.
PRINCIPAL CAST... A family and their faithful jeep
'VILLAINOUS' FIGURE... A rotating cast of small-time local 'hoons' and 'larrikins'.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN... New Zealand.
DISTINGUISHING FEATURES... Not much to go on, really; it was basically just a case of average Home And Away storylines reworked to feature a crusading motor vehicle
YOU'RE THINKING OF...THE FLYING KIWI - Once ubiquitous last-thing-in-the-summer-holiday-morning-schedules but now, like so many others on this list, the stuff of distant and fragmented memory.
TUNE... A maudlin, sweeping orchestral rendition of 'Greensleeves'
PRINCIPAL CAST... A dog
'VILLAINOUS' FIGURE... Occasional escaped convicts wandered into view, but the natural disaster was this mutt's usual nemesis
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN... America
DISTINGUISHING FEATURES... Not that much in the series itself, more that it was persistently dogged (sorry) by patently untrue rumours about the excesses of animal cruelty that had been visited on its star in the name of getting a good performance
YOU'RE THINKING OF... LASSIE - A seemingly endless weekly dosage of stultifying monotony, distinguished from its close contemporary (ie they were essentially the same programme) The Littlest Hobo by virtue of the fact that the latter had an annoying lachrymose theme song that idiots insist on hailing as the best TV theme ever. And it was Canadian.
TUNE... Fussy, strident guitar picking
PRINCIPAL CAST... A young boy and a supposedly 'dangerous' dog he befriended
'VILLAINOUS' FIGURE... Occasional appearances by the standard issue 'smugglers', but generally nothing more menacing than the traditional boisterous older brother
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN... Belgium
DISTINGUISHING FEATURES... Is that the sound of a Scottish indie band planing their entire career aesthetic?
YOU'RE THINKING OF... BELLE AND SEBASTIAN. Or BELLE AND SEBASTIEN. Or BELLE ET SEBASTIEN. Or BELLE, SEBASTIEN AND THE HORSES. Or whatever people are claiming that it should 'properly' be called this week. Not to be confused with the later, even more lengthy Japanese animated adapatation.
- English version narrated by TJ Worthington. Translated by Jill Phythian. A TVC Film.