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Tuesday, 23 September 2008


Growing up during the Seventies in the UK you couldn't help but be a fan of the glitzy spy shows that often showed on our screens. Most of them were repeats from the Sixties and they were a welcome departure for youngsters in the UK. These exciting glitzy shows with impossibly cool characters were a far cry from most of the drab shows on British Television.

ITC, run by Lew Grade, was responsible for the lion's share of these cult classics and they were often Anglo American productions but there were one or two produced by other companies.

Characters like Napoleon Solo, The Man From Uncle, had such style and grace that the women fell head over heels for him and he was always surviving almost certain death with a sartorial elegance that Dixon of Dock Green could only dream about. He also had the most versatile eyebrow since Roger Moore.

I think it was the ITV that showed Uncle and I remember being a big fan. Another show that was hot was The Avengers but oddly I didn't really like this as a kid and have only become a huge fan later in life. Perhaps the surreal wit and pop culture references were beyond me as a kid ...I think The Prisoner suffered the same fate because as a youngster the show bored me silly. I rediscovered it in my twenties and now it is one of my all time favourite shows.

Danger Man, AKA Secret Agent was a different matter and this show was much more to my tastes. Many think that the character of John Drake was also Number Six in The Prisoner. Sometimes I believe that theory and other times I don't. Danger Man had all the wit and intelligence of The Prisoner but it also had the action and glamour that I so craved as a kid growing up in the drab environs of 1970's Britain. The world these all action men populated did not have regular power cuts and mothers who insisted on watching Coronation Street no matter what was on the other sides. There were only three channels in those days - HTV and BBC 1 and 2.

And the VCR was still a thing of SCI-FI. You could make audio recordings of your favourite shows (which I often did) with tape recorders and listen in bed at night. You could imagine the action in the mind eye - trouble was those tapes always had mum going to make a cup of tea and endless, "Shhhh's".

The Champions was another of ITC's surreal espionage cum science Fiction classics.

The three main characters in the Champions were secret agents with a difference - they had been given super human powers after surviving a plane crash.

Roger Moore had made a big hit with me as The Saint, which still ran at odd times during the 70's, and he was an even bigger hit as Lord Brett Sinclair in The Persuaders. Here he wasn't really a secret agent but a playboy who had been teamed with brash American Tony Curtis and was sent on missions by the mysterious Judge. The show was a huge hit but expensive and Moore was signed as JAMES BOND before a second season could be signed.

The show went but was repeated constantly and still runs today on cable and satellite channels. It also did remarkable business on its DVD release a few years back.

You know, looking back, maybe things weren't all that bad. The BBC was still running original Doctor Who and the original Star Trek was being screened at prime time. Thrilling westerns like Bonanza and The High Chaperal were on most Sunday afternoons and I always slept through Sunday morning and The Waltons...thankfully!


Charles Gramlich said...

Except for Danger man, I also watched quite a few of the shows you mentioned, Man from Uncle, Bonanza, High Chaparell.

Chap O'Keefe said...


I think you'd like Danger Man. I live in a different DVD region from you, but was able to catch up with these old shows a year or so back. The early episodes were B&W and packed an incredible amount of action and plot into scant half-hour running times. The sets and production values were astonishing, too, using the MGM studios at (I think from memory) Borehamwood. The DVD sets came with booklet extras and informative commentary tracks.


Ray said...

I've caught up with some of these shows along with Jason King - did people really run around with big curly hair?
But my fave (The Prisoner aside) is Randall & Hopkirk - better than the re-make.
We went up to Portmerion after the series had been made and visited the home of Number 6. Guess who managed to get himself locked in?



Just as long as you got back out. Agree about Randell and Hopkirk. There's been rumours of a prisoner remake for years and I've heard a big screen movie is in pre-production. I hope it never happens.

Steve M said...

The Persuaders was my favorite. It was on one of the digital channels not that long ago and I still found it very enjoyable.