Tuesday, May 21, 2024

The Wish List: Gogglebox Edition

Not done one of these wish lists in a long while and this is a good opportunity to shine some light on  a few vintage television shows I've been meaning to watch. Trouble is, they're either not available to stream or they're hard to cop on blu-ray. It would take forever noting every television series that I consider worthy of some blu-ray love, but the ones listed below always seem to be recurring in my mind the most.

Blake's 7 (Various, 1978 - 1981)

Considering how Terry Nation, the writer for some of the most revered episodes from the longest ever sci-fi series Doctor Who (1963 - 2024), is so universally praised by fans, it's a huge shame that his own BBC creation, Blake's 7 (1978 - 1981), isn't even available on iPlayer. Other than the Liberator spaceship which looks like it might have been kitbashed with a microphone, and the few clips online of Paul Darrow's anti-hero swagger as Kerr Avon, I can barely remember much of the series other than the very last notes of its theme reminding me a little of Boogie Down Productions' song Illegal Business. The downbeat last episode is still to this very day a controversial subject matter amongst its fans, but that only proves how seriously passionate they still are for a show which ended over forty years ago.

EDIT: Had no idea Terry Nation wrote the story for one of my favourite Hitchcockian thrillers And Soon the Darkness (1970) until making this post.

The Mad Death (Robert Young, 1983)

A rabies outbreak ocurring in the UK appeared to be a real threat back in the day. It was signicant enough for the government to issue warnings over it, including terrifying public information films throughout the seventies and eighties. The 1994 opening of the Channel Tunnel must have been pure fear for some viewers familiar with the BBC mini-series The Mad Death (1983) which aired a decade earlier. Based on a book by Nigel Slater (yes, the poncey food journo and presenter), the TV adaptation was a disturbing drama focused on a potential outbreak. Much like the classic made for television, nuclear holocaust film, Threads (1984), it did not hold back in shocking viewers. If the chilling opening titles weren't enough to leave you in a state of unease, then keep watching for scenes of a child being mauled by rabid dogs, foaming patients dying in their hospital beds, and the brutal culling of man's best friend. For a nation of pet lovers this was considerably shocking for prime time TV.

Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense (Various, 1984)

Kind of funny how so many Hammer fans have a fond memory for its first television outing Hammer House of Horror (1980), but another series repping the moniker, known as Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense (1984) is so largely obscure. That's no fault of their own as its ridiculously hard to find these days without shelling out serious money for an old tobacco tainted DVD collectionm on eBay. "In Possession" is the only episode I remember with some clarity as it contains one of the best twist endings I had ever witnessed in any medium (right up there with Charlton Heston finding the Statue of Liberty, in my opinion). It's too bad Network Releasing went under as this would have been the perfect accompaniment to their fine blu-ray release of Hammer House of Horror.

Dead Set (Yann Demange, 2008)

Dead Set was the brainchild of cultural satirist and Black Mirror creator, Charlie Brooker. Ingeniously captiialising on the popularity of the reality series Big Brother, the mini-series managed to buck the oversaturated landscape of the zombie renaissance by offering some hilarious British social commentary and some of the goriest scenes for a television series at the time. The irony of what's probably the last living humans on the planet are Big Brother housemates was part of its appeal. Dead Set also featured Davina McCall, a former presenter of Big Brother, being one of my fave zombies on screen. It's criminal how this was only ever released on DVD in its home country, but available on blu-ray in both Germany and Spain. Craving this like brains.


Kelvin Mack10zie said...

How have I never heard of Dead Set before? Gah, it's not on E4 anymore 🙁

I didn't see Blake's 7 until it was repeated in the early 90s and my main memory of it is Jacqueline Pearce looking fit as fook 😍

Spartan said...

I think Dead Set is only available on Netflix now sadly. Really regret losing my old DVD of it.

Think I would have remembered Blake's 7 a lot better back in the day if I had caught any of the episodes with Glynis Barber appearing in them.

Kelvin Mack10zie said...

Just copped the Dead Set DVD for £2.93 off eBay.

Me, I want a DVD release of the Kiwi show Betty's Bunch. Shit, someone uploading all the episodes to YouTube would do.

Spartan said...

😀 Ended up doing the same and copped it again for a few pence more.

Is that the Freak from Prisoner Cell Block H in the opening credits?

Kelvin Mack10zie said...

It certainly is. Also features Martin Henderson, Rena Owen, and the bloke who played Santa Claws in Round The Twist.

C4 used to show it Sunday mornings in the early 90s. Never had any kind of physical release, been repeated, or appeared on any streaming services 😭

Spartan said...

On the positive tip, all 43 episodes of Press Gang have been uploaded onto YouTube.

Kelvin Mack10zie said...

👍 ITV's finest

Spartan said...

Co-signed. I had no idea it was written by Steven Moffat until only quite recently.