Daily Archives: April 1, 2009

A Word From Our Sponsors… Morecambe And Wise Fiddle With Their Joysticks

So, it’s the dawn of videogames. 1978. Well, maybe not the dawn… but you’re still in your pyjamas and you certainly haven’t had your breakfast yet.

Your name is Mr Atari and you have this cool new electronic machine, the Atari VCS (later renamed the 2600).

Gone are the days of TV games that only involved bouncing a little white square from one end of your TV screen to the other using bigger white rectangles.

Now people can play in the comfort of their own homes all (well, some) of the videogames they have, up until now, had to spend 10p a time on in the sleazy arcade over in the rough side of town, while trying to ignore that dodgy guy with the greasy hair, the glasses held together with sticky tape, the long, dirty raincoat and the body odour – who always stood just ever-so-slightly uncomfortably close to you while you were playing Galaxian.

Admittedly, the graphics on the TV versions of the games were much worse, most of the colours had disappeared and the iconic but very uncomfortable joystick left you with RSI for life after about 20 minutes’ use (or it would have if RSI had been invented in 1978). But apart from all that, it was EXACTLY like playing the arcade originals.

So, you have this cool machine and you want to market it to  young, trendy, tech-savvy buyers in the UK – the question is, who do you hire to star in the TV adverts..?

Who, exactly, comes up with the answer Morecambe and Wise..?

It’s a strange choice. There’s no denying that their popularity was at its peak in the 70s and nobody is suggesting that Eric and Ernie were anything but very, very funny.

But they had been around for decades even then and were hardly cutting-edge or trendy in any way. So would you really want your new, high-tech, state-of-the-art electronic device associated with a couple of middle-aged music-hall comics-turned-TV stars?

Maybe hiring them was meant more as a means of validating and demystifying such a revolutionary, unfamiliar product in the eyes of  older, sceptical parents who may have been baffled by the technology and suspicious of this gizmo – make it look safe and familiar, in other words, by associating it with the safest and most familiar celebrities of the day.

After all, the parents were the ones whowere going to have to fork out £99 (plus £14.95-£29.95 for each game cartridge) to get it as a Christmas present for their kids (and £99 was a lot of money 31 years ago. The Choob is not clever enough to work out what it would be in today’s money… but I suspect it would be, ooh, loadsamoney).

So if even old fogeys like Eric and Ernie liked having a go on it, it couldn’t be all bad, could it..?

And I guess it worked. The VCS sparked the home videogame boom that has ultimately led to the Wii, the PlayStation3 and the XBox360.

So, in a way, Morecambe and Wise are directly responsible for controversial, violent games such as Grand Theft Auto and Manhunt. It’s a funny old world. Don’t tell the Daily Mail…

This week’s classic ads are particularly nostalgic for the Choob as the Atari VCS was the second videogame console I ever owned (the first was a first-generation Grandstand TV game, similar to the one on the right).

Sigh. Now I feel old.

Anyway, here, then, are a few of those bizarre, anachronistic Morecambe and Wise Atari adverts (wonder what Ernie’s hi-score at Defender was…).



Filed under A Word From our Sponsors

Blake’s 7 Teleports Back Onto BBC1

The Beeb’s classic sci-fi series Blake’s 7 is heading back to BBC1, possibly as early as this Winter.

The revival of the fondly-remembered drama had been a closely guarded BBC secret but the news leaked out early this morning.

Blake’s 7, which ran for four seasons – 52 episodes – between 1978 and 1981, was created by Terry Nation.

Set in a dystopian future in which Earth is ruled by a oppressive, dictatorial Federation that keeps the population in a drug-induced subservient state, the show told the story of a group of criminals who, under the leadership of idealistic rebel Roj Blake (played by Gareth Thomas), become a team of intergalactic freedom fighters battling to liberate humanity from their oppressors.

Nation also created Doctor Who’s deadliest foes the Daleks and the 1970s post-apocalyptic drama Survivors, which was itself given a 21st-century makeover last year on BBC1 (a second series will air later this year).

That show’s success, and the massive popularity of the revived Doctor Who, is said to have convinced Beeb bosses that a Blake’s 7 revival could be another ratings-winner.

With satellite channel Sky One’s new version of Blake’s 7, announced almost a year go, in limbo, the BBC were able to reach a licensing agreement with the current rights holders and move ahead with their own updated version.

Producer Paolo Rilf said: “Doctor Who showed the BBC that not only is there an audience with a renewed appetite for TV sci-fi but also that some of their classic shows still have a lot of life left in them. Survivors provided further proof of that and Blake’s 7 was the obvious choice for the next revival.

“The production team are also big fans of the new Battlestar Galactica, which was a revolutionary update of a TV show that took the relatively shallow, superficial  original series and transformed it into a show with amazing depth and social relevance to our own present-day world. What they achieved with their show has been a big influence on our development of and plans for the new Blake’s 7.

“On some level, Blake and his crew were terrorists, albeit fighting for a just cause against an evil regime. Their struggle gives us a a mirror in which we can reflect and examine our own struggles in a post 9/11 world where the war on terror is an all-too-real part of our lives.”

He added: “Our plan is for a two or three-part miniseries to reintroduce the show to viewers and, depending on how that performs, a full series could follow. We hope to start casting in the next few weeks and film during the summer, with broadcast sometime before Christmas.”

Stars believed to have been approached about roles in the show include Stephen Fry, comedian Peter Serafinowicz, Peep Show’s Robert Webb and Red Dwarf actor Robert Llewellyn.

Rilf was cagey about revealing any plot details “as the initial scripts are being polished as we speak” but, in news that will delight long-time fans, he said: “We hope to have more than one of the stars of the original series reprise their roles and play a major part in the new version.”

It seems likely that Paul Darrow, who played amoral cynic Kerr Avon (right) in the original version of the show, will return as he was most fans’ favourite character and has been heavily involved with a number of aborted revival attempts over the years.

Other possibilities include Michael Keating as cowardly thief Vila Restal, another fan-favourite, and Jacqueline Pearce as the ruthless villain Servalan (below).

It also means that the revival will be some sort of sequel to the original rather than a remake or reboot that ignores the previous show’s continuity. That means the writers’ first challenge will be to resolve the ending of the original show, which was one of the most shocking TV cliffhangers ever seen.

First, Blake returned after two years’ missing from the show, only to be shot and killed in a tragic misunderstanding by a paranoid and increasingly unstable Avon, who had been leading the crew in Blake’s absence. Then Vila and all of Avon’s other crewmates were apparently gunned down by Federation guards.

Only Avon himself was left standing at the end, surrounded by armed guards, and as he raised his gun, the screen faded to black, several shots were then heard being fired and the credits rolled for the last time.

Blake’s 7 is the Choob’s all-time favourite show and I’ve long dreamed of the day when it would return but, of course, with filming not even started yet, it would be extremely foolish to get too excited about a revival just yet, given how often we’ve been disappointed by similar announcements over the years.

But if this does pan out, then this day could prove to be one of the best in the history of TV. Mark it in your diary and keep your fingers crossed!

EDIT: Okay, so since this page is still picking up quite a few hits, I feel obliged to remind all readers who stumble upon it to remember that it was written a while ago (look and see the date at the top if you don’t believe me) and bear in mind that timing is everything. That is all.


Filed under Classic TV, TV News