After-school ABC TV in the eighties rules

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 16th November 2010.

Growing up in the eighties, I have vivid memories of racing home from the school bus every afternoon to make sure that I didn’t miss a moment of the ABC’s early evening programming. Now this was well before pay TV where kids (and stoners) have access to cartoons all day every day. There was only one timeslot each day for the latest Japanese anime series followed by an endlessly repeated BBC show.

I recently attempted to revisit some of my childhood favourites to see if they still held appeal. The results were disappointingly mixed. Perhaps I should’ve left my rose coloured glasses on.

At four thirty, my afternoon TV fest usually started with a dubbed Japanese cartoon. My favourite was Star Blazers, a space opera that focused on the journey of the starship Argo and its crew to Iscandar, a planet with the resources to save Earth from the evil blue skinned Gamilons. Star Blazers was one of the first animated series to have major storyline arcs and an episodic structure. In my head, the show ran for months and months. In reality there were three seasons with a total of seventy seven episodes.

I bought the season one box set this year. I made it through two episodes before the box was put on the shelf for eternity. The show is humourless and overly dramatic with terrible voice acting. Just add Kate Ritchie and you’d have Cops LAC.

Other animated shows from that timeslot include Astro Boy and Voltron. The latter was a daily toy commercial and it certainly worked on me. Between my brother and I, we had the complete set of lions that joined together to form Voltron, a giant robot warrior. If I had a time machine, I wouldn’t try to prevent JFK’s assassination, I’d go back and tell my ten year old self to keep those Voltron (and Star Wars) toys in their boxes. Mint toys from that era are worth a fortune.

At around five o’clock, the BBC shows would start. Metal Mickey was a sitcom that starred a man in a giant robot costume. Every episode would end with a “hilarious” disaster where the very clumsy robot would accidentally smash through Styrofoam walls to blatantly canned laughter whilst the catchy theme jingle played. The show is available on DVD in the UK but after catching a few clips on YouTube, I decided against paying big bucks to watch an expressionless robot who occasionally says something funny. Insert your own Kate Ritchie joke here.

Doctor Who was on perpetual repeats in this slot too, usually from the Tom Baker era and in my mind, usually The Ark in Space story. You know, the one with the dodgy giant space caterpillars. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to sit through that one, but I’ll never look at bright green sleeping bags the same way again. I really enjoy the new Who, but I probably could live without another journey to the alien planet where the balsa wood walls shake every time you walk past them.

The Goodies and The Kenny Everett Video Show also usually aired just before Peter Russell-Clark’s Come and Get It, a five minute cooking show that signified the end of the kiddie programming for the evening. I still adore Tim, Graeme and Bill. I own several Goodies DVDs and could probably watch their exploits on repeat and find something new to laugh about each time. I’ll also perform the Funky Gibbon song on request.

The Kenny Everett show was an interesting choice. It’s a racy sketch comedy starring a gay comedian featuring the sexy and nubile Hot Gossip dancers. What perfect programming for kids. Actually, that might explain an awful lot about my sense of humour, and my dancing. I look forward to putting a few Kenny Everett DVDs on my Christmas wish list.

OK, so my tastes have changed a lot since then but at the time, these shows caught my imagination and probably influenced my growth, or lack of, somehow.

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