So, a friend challenged me to the latest Facebook fad, ‘Name 10 TV shows that have influenced you.’ I can’t resist the chance to talk about things I love, so here I go.
“I reversed the polarity of the neutron flow.”
How can I not love the show? As Craig Ferguson put it, the triumph of intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism. Action, adventure and the most terrifying theme tune that 9 year old me had ever heard, at least before Chocky. I don’t remember a bit about that show, other than I raced to change the channel when it began. I still remember my first encounters with the good Doctor, the end of Ep 2 of The Sontaran Experiment and Ep 1 of The Deadly Assassin, which stuck with me for years, as did my crush on Sophie (Ace) Aldred.
I still prefer the classic series to the new, the cliffhanger format and nostalgia stick with me more. There’s something I adore about crap special effects and the mad ambition to try to do things they clearly didn’t have the time and budget for. That BBC low budget charm has even snuck into how I run RPG’s, as I now have trouble stopping myself from making jokes about crap special effects and reusing extras. I adore it when it’s great and when it’s rubbish, sometimes especially when it’s rubbish.
The Late Show (ABC)
“At Pissweak World, where every week, is Pissweak!”
Ah, Champagne comedy. I adored this show as a teen, and felt like the only one in my age group who knew of it during the first season.There’s moments that have stuck with me for decades – Pete Smith singing Dude Looks Like a Lady, Shitscared, the re-voicing of classic shows Rush and Bluey (The police drama, not the cartoon dog) and the reveal that Shirty, the Slightly Aggressive Bear was being played by Hando from Romper Stomper. My father and I bonded over westerns as a young’un, and my mother and I bonded over watching this. You could say I went from “Fill your hand, you son of a bitch!” to “My orders simple, a shitload of dim sims.”
Yes, some of it has confusing references and parts have aged horribly (There’s a couple of pieces of blackface that even as a kid I thought was ill-advised), but the Play School gag in The Olden Days kills me every time.
“We want information, information, information.”
This was one of these shows I’d heard about for years, but never seen, a bit like The Aunty Jack Show. Iron Maiden wrote songs about it, it’s been referenced in The Simpsons an it was seen as a landmark event. Upon watching it, it’s even stranger than described, with a finale that allegedly caused the TV channel’s switchboard to melt down from angry viewers calling to ask what the hell they’d just watched.
A secret agent resigns, is drugged and wakes up in a mysterious Village, where everyone is known only by numbers. And he is Number 6…And then shit gets weird. Multiple escape attempts, psychological warfare, super computers and a security system that has a massive balloon that swallows people. It’s an experience and then some.
“He’s amazing, he’s fantastic, he’s the greatest secret agent in the world!”
The Thames TV ident that played before this is seared into my brain. The mix of comedy, references to other shows, shattering the Fourth wall and the occasional blizzard of puns, it just makes me so happy. It’s also my wife and I’s longest running dispute, owing to her clearly wrong preference for Roger Ramjet.
I choose to believe this is where my love of spy films came from and going back to the show as a adult led me to get more of the jokes. The new version is well worth watching as well, with Stephen Fry making a wonderful Colonel K.
“Goodies, goodie goodie yum yum…”
Looking back on the show as an adult, I’m surprised we were allowed to watch it, but with the innocence of youth (And some aid from ABC censors) we managed it. There was a couple of years of my childhood where weekday afternoons were this, Monkey and Doctor Who, with Danger Mouse and Banana Man to fill in the gaps. Those were wonderful days.
A reminder: this show once killed a man from laughter.
“It was the dawn of the Third Age of Mankind…”
I came to the show somewhat out of order, a friend introducing me to season 1, just as season 5 began to air here. I was trying to suppress questions about what had happened to that character while frantically collecting tapes to fill in the gaps. It was the first show I’d seen with a long running arc, a five year plan of series creator J Michael Straczynski,
who wrote every episode of seasons 3 and 4 and all but one from season 5, a feat to my knowledge no other writer has achieved. Oh, and Neil Gaiman wrote the missing season 5 episode.
There was a reading from the show at my wedding, having made my now-wife watch it while we were dating. The finale hits me with so much emotion I’ve only managed to watch it 3 times. For perfect endings it’s up there with Blake’s 7 and Angel for me. The show is also where I got my love of mandarin collar shirts, which continues to this day. And I’d put Peter Jurasik and Andreas Katsulas against any actors on TV, then or now.
The Daily Show
A comedy news show that left it’s viewers better informed than some news channels, it also introduced me to the likes of (Former co-host of The Bugle podcast) John Oliver, Stephen Colbert (Who’s speech at the 2006 White House Correspondents Dinner has to be seen to believed) and Samantha Bee (Who’s current show Full Frontal is just as glorious).
This made the list for many, many reasons, not just for the time that they got a gospel choir to tell a Fox News higher up to go fuck himself. *chef kiss*
The Young Ones/Bottom
“This calls for a very special blend of psychology and extreme violence.”
The Young Ones introduced me to Motorhead, and for that reason alone means I have a lot of love for it. It was filthy, anarchic and frequently shattered both the Fourth Wall and any and all sitcom logic.
It ties with Bottom, which was Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson basically playing fouler versions of Rik and Vyv. It doesn’t rate as quite highly for me, but for the live shows where actors spent seemingly half the show trying to make the other corpse make me giggle far more than they should.
“Mike Moore has this network’s support right up until the day we sack him.”
From the team behind The Late Show, this was a ferocious satire of current affairs TV shows that hit screens just as my left wing awakening began. It was filmed and broadcast on a short deadline and was frequently ripped from the headlines.
The team have continued with films like The Castle and The Dish, and shows such as Utopia, but the less said about Funky Squad the better.
“It’s cold outside, there’s no kind of atmosphere.”
The show that made Patrick Stewart think of suing, till he laughed. It’s also responsible for me yelling “Smeg!” at several jobs, with varying levels of confusion and/or horror at what I’ve just yelled. I came into the show in it’s golden years, seasons 3 to 6. It continues to this day, though I’m not up to date with the current run.
3 million years into the future, the last human left alive is a curry and beer swilling slob, a creature who evolved from his cat and a hologram of his dead bunkmate. Equal parts love letter to and parody of sci fi TV, moments from that immediately latched into my skull on first viewing and haven’t left.
So yeah, that’s my 10 shows. Honorable mentions include Leverage, Stargate SG-1, Banana Man, Get Smart, Life on Mars, The Colbert Report and Media Watch. I refuse to challenge any others, but if you want to, go for it.
Be seeing you…