2022 minus 43: Ten shows from the 60s and 70s I’ve recently watched

Posted: 19 November 2021 in 2022 minus, television, ten things
Tags: , , ,

One of the inevitabilities of being stuck in the flat during lockdowns this year and last has been that I’ve been watching some ‘old’ telly. ITV4 and Drama and a couple of other channels have bought the rights to, and have been showing, tv shows from – oh, gods, I can’t believe I’m actually writing these words – fifty or more years ago. I mean, yeah. 1971 was sixty years ago.

I mean, it’s tough enough watching Top Of The Pops from back then, but there are a lot of shows that I watched in part to see how well they’d aged, and in some cases to see how poorly.

So, the usual reminder for all of these Ten Things… they’re not the best, nor necessarily my favourites. They’re just Ten Things/Subjects I like… at the time of writing, or in this case ten things I’ve been watching.

1. The Saint
If there’s ever a show that typifies the period, and the period in television, it’s surely The Saint. I was a huge fan of the books, both the collections of short stories and the novels. But I’m pretty sure I encountered Simon Templar for the first time on telly. The plots weren’t exactly labyrinthine, and usually involved Templar, played of course by Roger Moore in a role he was made for, saving some young woman from one bad fate or another. They were fun shows, and occasionally showed the Templar of the books, but only occasionally.

(As I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown to have less patience with adaptations that don’t, y’know, actually adapt the books nor even the characters. It’s just a character with the same name and not a lot else.)

The Saint is fun though, and it’s a pleasant way of passing an hour. But not much more.

(I have fond memories of Ian Ogilvy’s stint in Return of the Saint, but I suspect it’s aged very, very badly)

There was an attempt to revamp the character fairly recently. I quite liked the promo for it, but I’ve no idea what happened to the show.

2. Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)

I genuinely expected this show to have aged far, far more than it has. You could remake it now with exactly the same scripts, exactly the same wardrobe, and better production values and it would work as a period drama.

Most of that is down to the partnership between Mike Pratt as Jeff Randall, a private investigator in London, and Kenneth Cope as Marty Hopkirk, his deceased former partner who comes back as a ghost to… help him. At first it’s merely to solve his own murder, but then he’s stuck on the ‘mortal plane’. Oh, and mustn’t forget Annette Andre as Hopkirk’s widow, and all the fun that goes along with her slowly recovering from the loss of her great love (which is greeted by Hopkirk with sorrow then mild annoyance that she’s moving on with her life.)

It’s a fun show; the effects for the time are great and the puzzlment of both Randall and Hopkirk as they discover both their new relationship and what ‘the rules’ are for Hopkirk moving forward.

The scripts are cracking, the dialogue is fun and watching their relationship evolve is huge fun.

(There was a reboot with Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer in 2000, played for comedy; the less said about that, the better, although it might have worked had Reeves played Randall and Mortimer played Hopkirk, instead of the other way around, and upped the drama and lowered the comedy. If they’d have remade the show in other words instead of fucking around with it.)

This is from the pilot of the original, when Randall discovers Hopkirk is still around…

Star Trek
Yeah, I’m about to be heretical. I realised I hadn’t actually seen the original series for years, so when they reran it, I watched most of them.

OK, so the remastered effects work fine, and the scripts are fine. And the plots, for the most part, when they’re not being crassly ‘contemporary’ and ‘relevant’ are also fine. Some of them are flat out amazing. But… the acting. The acting often… isn’t fine. Nimoy is wonderful, always. Kelley is great, almost always. And Nicholls is rarely anything but fantastic. But… Shatner? Sorry, but I found myself watching the show despite Shatner, and the same applies to Doohan.

You can’t help but pay respect to the show for what it spawned but of the more than sixty episodes, there are maybe a dozen and a half I actually enjoyed watching. Which saddens me, immensely.

And since you’ve all probably seen every clip that exists about Star Trek, here’s an evolution of Warp Speed in Star Trek.

4. The Persuaders
Now, if you’re looking for a show that’s aged, very, very badly… you can’t do better than this show. I loved it when I watched it at the time; both Roger Moore and Tony Curtis seemed, to me, to be having loads of fun. Learning later that they didn’t much like each other, and indeed each regarded the other as lazy may have tarnished my enjoyment.

But what topped it off was discovering there were basically three plots the entire time, and most of them involved either one of them being mistaken for someone else, or getting involved with some affair or another against their wishes, but what the hell, we’re here now so we may as well...

The original idea, only kept for a handful of episodes after the pilot (which is good, and remains good) was that they were highly resourceful, very intelligent men who were successes at what they chose to do but they were rich and bored and… wastrels. So they get blackmailed by Laurence Naismith’s retired judge into going after people who ‘got away with it’. Could have been a great show. The first couple of episodes looked like it was going to be a great show.

And then they threw away any sense of seriousness and went for the comedy, and slapstick comedy at times. A decent idea, with decent actors.… thrown away.

Oh, and the plots, dialogue, attitudes and costumes have aged horrendously. (I’m not sure how a show made a decade after The Saint has aged far more than that show did, but bloody hell it did…)

Two saving graces: one episode in which there’s a double of Moore’s character wandering around, which had a first class mystery and resolution, and one episode where Curtis’ character meets up with a childhood friend… who turns out to be a contract killer. And Moore and Curtis fall out over it. Genuine drama, genuine conflict. Very well portrayed.

Oh, and the opening titles which are clever as hell.

(And while this would never happen, I kind of liked this ‘update’ of them…)

5. Blake’s 7
I mentioned above that I watched Star Trek for every reason other than the acting of the main character. I can’t say the same about Blake’s 7. The ”main’ character – Blake (Gareth Thomas) when the show starts, then Avon (Paul Darrow) – was never less than screen grabbing, for entirely different reasons, but the acting of all the  major protagonists and antagonists were fantastic, throwing themselves completely into the ‘seriousness’ of the show’s premise.

The scripts were great, the plots were… on-and-off great. The production values were less than great most of the time, although the props were great, the Liberator‘s hand guns looked fantastic and I wanted one when I was a kid. Hell, I want one now.

The show was dark as hell more than half the time and the ‘goodies’ lose as many times as they won. And while the goodies were the goodies, the people you were supposed to root for, sometimes they didn’t make it easy.

It’s a show that’s ripe for a reboot, and I’d love to see one.

6. The Protectors
This show should not work. I repeat; it should not work. Three impossibly smart, glamorous (for the time) private investigators working around the world, being hired for [half hour] missions, for a tv show whose prime thing seems to be showing how many different places around that world they can show.

And yet it does. I wouldn’t put it all down to the opening and closing titles, but I’m not not putting it down to the opening and closing titles.

7. The Champions
The Champions is utter rubbish from start to finish, with plot holes in every episodes you could drive a truck though, wooden acting (when the baddies aren’t chewing the furniture) and for secret agents with super powers – gained when they crash their plane in the Himalayas – they’re not very, erm, secret.

I love it. Every episode is silliness and deftness and utterly stupid. And bad enough to enjoyable fun.

8. The Fugitive
I don’t think I’d ever seen the show until it started being shown over lockdown. I mean, sure I’d probably seen the odd clip here and there and I knew the story of course. But my main familiarity with it was through the movie.

So I watched it. It’s surprisingly good, given its very basic plot structures and how often some basic plots are repeated; I can definitely see where Kung Fu and The Incredible Hulk got most of their ideas from. David Jansen is superb; no surprise there, he usually was in anything, and the Javert-like Inspector Gerrard (played by Barry Morse) was superb in the role he was handed.

It was everyone else in the show; I struggled to give the slightest toss about any supporting characters, and in the end, I just gave up the struggle. This was probably my biggest disappointment. I wanted to like this show, but in the end… I didn’t.

9. Perry Mason
Now this was a show I was actively looking forward to when they announced it was being run. And, sadly, though not on the same level as The Fugitive, there was that same ‘I genuinely don’t care about the case of the week, nor the fate of the characters who appear’.

I liked Della Street, and Paul Drake (more than I’d expected to) and very much liked the resident District Attorney Hamilton Burger, but to my astonishment, I really didn’t like Perry Mason much at all. A superb lawyer, sure, but not someone I’d want to spend much, if any, time in the company of.

(I find it genuinely odd how much my views were influenced, and not in a good way, by the TV movies. That Perry Mason was someone I’d like to have known, as I would that Della Street.)

10. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Everything a british spy tv should be. Everything the Gary Oldman movie got wrong, this got right and Alex Guinness was probably the best George Smiley there will ever be (though it continues to amuse me that Guinness at first didn’t think he was suitable for the role and suggested Arthur Lowe for the job).

Add in the cast from heaven and you have a show I could watch once a month for the rest of my life and still find something new every time.

One thing that’s rarely spoken on, even by those who rightly praise the adaptation to the skies: how cleverly the ‘last episode…’ opening to every episode after the first is. They re-show the final scene of the previous episodes… but shot from a different angle. I’ve never seen it done elsewhere and my gods it off-balances you every bloody time.

Superbly done.

OK, one more bonus bit of whimsy from the past. The ‘directors commentary’ on a classic kids’ tv show from when I was growing up: Mary, Mungo and Midge. There is no reason for me to include this other than pure silliness. But that is, of course, among the best reasons for doing anything.

If you enjoyed this Ten Things, I’ve done others, less ‘about me’ ones which are probably more pleasant to read…

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 slowly approaching.

I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s