Sunday, January 18, 2009

No Strings On Me

It's been a few years since I watched a kids tv show all the way through.  Who said decades ?

Well you're right, decades then. 

Being a channel surfer, I'll sometimes catch one now and then and they're all much too hectic for me now.  Too much like an MTV video where the editors think that lingering on one view for more than 1.5 seconds is boring. To keep the modern teen from switching channel, scenes can only last 1 second and that's why the kids sit hypnotised in front of the set. They ARE hypnotised.

But before I go all grumpy old man again, I'll get to the point. ('bout time.  Shut up)

When I were a lad, ee by gum, my tv world was viewed in black and white.  Actually considering we had a peat fueled fire in our house, my real world was mostly viewed in black and white too.
We had a tin bath in't front room and we took turns......oh hang on, getting carried away a bit now.  Nostalgia, eh ?  Ain't what it used to be.

So back to the tv shows.  When thinking about the frantic series that kids watch now (and then we wonder why so many are hyperactive !), it got me thinking about the gentler shows of my yute.

"Your yute ?" 

"Yes my yute.  When I was growing up"

Apologies to "My Cousin Vinny."  Classic.

Thinking of these gentler shows took me to long forgotten memories about those string and hand puppet shows that were so popular back then.  I don't mean Andy Pandy, Hector's House or The Woodentops. Oh no, they were for the WEE kids, the ones who couldn't quite stand up on their own yet and were still regularly expelling from both ends.

Us big kids were into much more serious shows and for some strange but wonderful reason, most fell into the fantasy/sci-fi genre that I've stuck with over the years. 

I'm mostly talking about Sylvia and/or Gerry Anderson type shows. If I'd been old enough to understand the concept of creators and producers, this husband and wife team would've been my dream parents back then (sorry biological mum and dad).  I started with "Twizzle" with his amazing stretching arms and legs and who had a very non PC friend called Chawky who was a white faced golliwog. And you thought Jim Davidson was original ??  I then moved quickly onto "Torchy The Battery Boy" who was an early 60's energizer kid with a battery inside him and a torch in his head which shone a magic beam that found all sorts of interesting things each week.

I think Gerry Anderson was smoking more than a cigar back in those days.

But the ones that really got me glued to our rented tv set were the out and out string puppet shows like, in date order, Supercar, Fireball XL5, Stingray (not, not Stringray !!) and of course, the daddy of them all, Thunderbirds. These fantastic shows introduced the world to super marionette animation, or FILMED IN SUPERMARIONATION as the opening titles would inform us each week.  I was hooked, lined and well and truely sinkered.

Although Thunderbirds was the most popular show and I did love the whole palaver of the Tracy boys getting from their ultra modern living room into their various flying machines in order to save the world,  it was the less famous Fireball XL5, from 3 years earlier, which was my favourite.

Set in the year 2062, Fireball XL5 was a spaceship commanded by the impressively named, for a puppet, Captain Steve Zodiac. The ship was really piloted by Robbie The Robot who was see through for some reason but was nevertheless my hero. Zodiac was a member of the World Space Patrol (Star Trek's United Federation of Planets please take note) headed by Commander Zero and assisted by Lieutenant Ninety.  Hey when you can't dream up impressive names, give 'em numbers.

The show even had it's own geek, the briliantly named Professor Matthew Matic (Matt Matic..........hilarious) and a little creepy OCD alien called Zoonie the Lazoon who would get into all sorts of mischief and use up lots of airtime when the show was in danger of losing the plot - as there often wasn't one.

But you knew where you were back then. In cowboy series the goodies wore white hats and the baddies, black ones. In Andersons puppet shows, the goodies were caucasian, had wide jaws, thick flowing locks and were built like gym freaks.  The baddies were fat Eastern Europeans, balding and had eyebrows the size (and mobility) of centipedes.

I didn't know it then of course, being only 11, but Fireball XL5 was the only one of these shows that was seen in the US as NBC broadcast it from 1963 till 1965.

After that I followed my tv parents through all their other puppetry shows like Captain Scarlet and Joe 90, who was a 9 year old who would go into a futuristic spinning contraption called the BIG RAT (Brain Impulse Galvanoscope Record And Tranfer - you HAD to ask !) and had knowledge and experience 'pumped' into his head in the time it took to play the groovy music. He could only access this new information when he wore his huge glasses and as I was about 17 at the time, a huge glasses wearer thanks to the NHS and studying for my 'A' Levels, you can see why I took to this show in a big way.

I needed my own BIG RAT and I needed it badly !!

So do yourselves a favour and pop onto YouTube or the online video library of your choice and look up some of these shows. Maybe entire episodes can be found somewhere - the internet is like that. I guess my memories from those shows revolve around the songs and theme tunes which enforces my theory that it's the music from your preteen years that remains with you forever. Maybe it's just me.

Dim those lights again, pop some more corn and even if you can STILL see the strings, enjoy the opening to Fireball XL5 (watch Robbie doing the hard work). Be warned though, the tune will be in your head for the rest of the day.


Jay said...

Ah, the nostalgia!

We didn't watch Fireball xl5 very often, but I remember Thunderbirds, and Twizzle! Torchy was a favourite of Yellow Swordfish's, I seem to remember. I also remember the Woodentops and Bill and Ben, Muffin the Mule, and Andy Pandy. They seemed so magical in those days, didn't they?

And who could forget Space 19999?

Never could get the hang of when to stop adding nines ...

Daphne said...

Aaaah! They knew how to do opening sequences in those days, didn't they? Even the opening needed a longer attention span than that required for any of the actual programmes these days!

Debby said...

Did you say yute?

God I make myself laugh.

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