Reviews

77 SUNSET STRIP (1958)

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Show ImageDeveloped from two television movies Anything for Money (1957), and Girl on the Run (1958), 77 Sunset Strip (created by Roy Huggins who also devised Maverick and The Rockford Files) featured a firm of Hollywood PI's run by Stu Bailey (Efrem Zimbalist Jnr -father of Remington Steele's Stephanie) and Jeff Spencer (Roger Smith). However, both leads were overshadowed by Edd Byrnes as jive talking parking lot attendant 'Kookie', who worked at the next-door restaurant called Dino's. At the height of his popularity Byrnes' fan mail reached 10,000 letters a week and programme makers Warner Bros. issued a 'Kookie Speak' glossary ('making the long green' -making money, 'piling up the Z's' -sleeping, 'dark seven' -a bad week). When Byrne's walked out after failing to agree a new contract he was replaced for a while by Troy Donohue, however he did return and was promoted to partner in the 77 Sunset Strip agency, although by this time -1963, the series was nearing the end of its sell-by date. Drastic changes were made to save the ailing show with Jack (Dragnet) Webb was brought in as Executive Producer and William Conrad (later to star as Cannon) as Principal Director. For this season Zimbalist's character became a freelance investigator travelling the globe on a no-expenses-spared budget, his offices were no longer on Sunset Strip and he had a new secretary, Hannah (Joan Staley). The new format failed to revive the shows fortunes and it was axed in 1964. Efrem Zimbalist Jnr went on to star in another US hit show, The F.B.I.

THE SAINT (1962)

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Show Image Simon Templar had charmed his way through a series of best-selling novels and a modestly successful series of 1940's Hollywood movies, before ultimately finding his immensely successful home on the television screen. Leslie Charteris originally tried to develop his modern day Robin Hood character for television some years before, but it was Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman, backed by TV mogul Lew Grade, who finally secured the rights for the series (See accompanying article for a more in-depth account). After offering the part to televisions Danger Man - Patrick McGoohan, it was finally decided that ex-knitting pattern model Roger Moore would don the famous Saintly halo. Moore played the part of Simon Templar (the initials ST giving rise to his nom de plume), with great style from 1962 to 1969, in the process helping to ensure that the series became one of the flagship successes of Grade's television empire, as well as bestowing almost overnight international stardom on its innately charming and handsome leading man.

When the series finally reached the end of its natural life, Moore went on to star as Lord Brett Sinclair, in a brief series with Hollywood legend Tony Curtis (The Persuaders 1971-72), before finally taking over from Sean Connery as Ian Fleming's James Bond in the movies. (A move which would earn him the distinction of being the longest serving, and most financially successful incarnation of the Bond character to appear in the series thus far). The Saint did not appear in colour until 1966 when Moore co-purchased the rights to the show. Seen in numerous countries around the world it is believed that the series earned in excess of £350 million. Two subsequent television attempts to revive the series starring different actors (Return of the Saint 1978-79 by ITC, starring Ian Ogilvy and The Saint 1989-90 by LWT, starring Simon Dutton), and an ill-received big screen version starring Val Kilmer, have each failed to recapture the publics imagination in the way that the original series did, leaving Roger Moore's portrayal as the definitive version.

SAM (1973)

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Show ImageGritty drama set in Yorkshire which, over three series, followed the fortunes of Sam Wilson from boy to man. After his father set sail to Canada with another woman 10 year old Sam and his mother, Dora (Barbara Ewing), were forced to settle in the small mining community of Skellerton. There young Sam's life revolved around his close relatives, grandfather, aunts and uncles all of whom faced various hardships such as unemployment or poverty. By the age of 14 Sam was forced to earn a living by working down the mines, but eventually he rebelled against his expected fate and ran away to sea. He eventually returned, took a job in an engineering factory, married Sarah Corby and settled down in the town of Golwick, although he never forgot his roots or the hardships he faced through the 1930s and 1940s. The young Sam Wilson was played by Kevin Moreton in series one whilst the grown-up Sam was played by future Taggart star Mark McManus.

THE SANDBAGGERS (1978)

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Show ImageOne of the most original, honest, witty and fascinating series running from 1978-80, Yorkshire Television's The Sandbaggers about the world of professional secret agents, centered round a covert elite operations section of British Intelligence commonly known as the S.I.S. (Secret Intelligence Service). Nicknamed 'Sandbaggers' their leader, Neil Burnside, was having more and more to deal with British bureaucracy than enemy agents. The series was set contemporaneously when the Cold War was still in full swing. The series was known for showing the realistic side of international espionage. It was not at all like the glitz and glamour of James Bond, but a grim, lonely, thankless world, often bogged down in office politics. Unlike his glitzy counterpart James Bond, Burnside wasn't concerned with being suave and bedding dozens of women in every country. The tools of his trade were more low-tech than high. His team of agents didn't use lasers concealed in cigarette lighters, or pen-sized walkie-talkies, but rather a desk covered with unfinished paperwork and stale cigarettes. The agent's battles didn't take them to far off exotic locales, instead to British government offices. At best, the work of the Sandbaggers is dirty, ugly and thankless. At worst, it could leave them stranded anonymously in a dank prison behind the Iron Curtain for the rest of their lives. For most of the time, the Sandbaggers operated in a shadowy world of midnight rendezvous, border crossings, prisoner exchanges and double cross. (Review: Bob Furnell)

SAPPHIRE AND STEEL (1979)

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Show Image Atmospheric but low budget fantasy series from the pen of P.J.Hammond and starring former New Avengers girl Joanna Lumley and Man From U.N.C.L.E. agent David McCallum, as the enigmatic 'Time Agents' who would appear from nowhere to repair ruptures in the time continuum. The first story really set the tone for the next five-(there were six in all): whilst Robert Jardine is doing his homework every clock in the house stops ticking. Robert runs upstairs to tell his parents only to find his young sister alone in her bedroom, mother and father it would appear, have vanished. Enter two strangers, Sapphire, a beautifully elegant woman with a pleasing nature and the ability to turn back time for a few seconds-and Steel, like his name suggests, cold and hard and with an aptitude to offend with his no-nonsense unemotional approach to work. Together and with the help of the children the two time agents work out that the house is the focal point for a tear in time itself, the trigger being an old nursery rhyme 'Ring-a Ring-a Roses' (from the time of the Black Plague), recited by the young girl, Helen.

The stories vary in their episode length but curiously none of them have titles, being referred to as 'Adventure One,' 'Adventure Two,' etc. Two is the tale of a ghost hunter who, whilst trying to make contact with the spirit of a World War One soldier, unleashes a melevolent force. Three concerns a tower block that is occupied by observers from the future, and Adventure Four focuses on an evil force trapped in an old photograph. Adventure Five takes place at a 50th Anniversary party in which the past breaks through, making the present day nothing more than a distant memory and finally, in Six -Sapphire and Steel find themselves the target at a 1948 service station. Behind the scenes the series was beset by problems. At first it was disrupted by a long television strike and finally became a victim of ATV's loss of franchise, therefore no more than the six stories were ever made. The entire collection is available on DVD. Sapphire and Steel is a perfect example of what can be accomplished without any 'flashy' special effects and stands up well to the test of time.

SARA & HOPPITY (1962)

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Show ImagePopular black and white children's puppet series that was shown as part of the children's television slot Small Time about a young girl (Sara Brown) whose parents run a hospital for toys. One day an old man brings in a broken toy and Sara decides to adopt him as her very own. His name is Hoppity (because he has one leg shorter than the other) and he was found in a Goblin Ring, which means he tends to be very very naughty. Sara & Hoppity was based on characters created by Roberta Leigh (Twizzle, Torchy the Battery Boy) and had appeared in print in four titles, the first of which was written in 1960. The puppets were made by Jack Whitehead, who had previously worked on Muffin the Mule and The Invisible Man. Associated Rediffusion paid £700 per episode and the first was broadcast in early 1962. New episodes ran for a year but the series was then shown in repeats until around the early 1970s. The first episode still exists, having been stored with the entire series of Roberta Leigh's next project Space Patrol. For those (and there have been many) who have requested the words to Sara's song ... it goes like this:

Sarah Brown has a toy as naughty can be
And he'll start to sing if you wind-up his key
He'll sing and he'll dance, all over the floor
And when he stands still then you wind him some more

Dear old Hoppity, naughty Hoppity
There is no toy more naughty than he
Dear old Hoppity, lovely Hoppity
He sings 'Diddly-Dum' and he sings 'Diddly-Dee'

Sarah Brown has a toy as naughty can be
And he'll start to sing if you wind-up his key
One leg is much shorter but give him a chance
And he'll show you how he can manage to dance

Dear old Hoppity, naughty Hoppity
There is no toy more naughty than he
Dear old Hoppity, lovely Hoppity
He sings 'Diddly-Dum' and he sings 'Diddly-Dee'

THE SATURDAY SPECIAL (1951)

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Show Image Following the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, television established itself as a serious medium as well as a serious alternative to sound radio. The 1950s became a golden age for children's television under Freda Lingstrom and Owen Reed who succeeded her. During this period many people who were to become household names in both adult and children's television first appeared on the early afternoon shows aimed at younger audiences. The Saturday Special was no exception and it was here that artist and illustrator Tony Hart was first seen and Harry Corbett's Sooty got his first regular TV spot before going on to conquer children's TV. Saturday Special was hosted by Peter Butterworth (later of Carry On fame) as Mr Chadwicke-Bugle, a night watchman who would always be interrupted by a visitor to whom he would tell a story. Butterworth was ably assisted by his wife, Janet Brown, who would also provide a musical number. Also appearing regularly was John Hewer who later went on to portray Captain Bird's Eye in the fish finger commercials. The series also had some puppets; Porterhouse was a parrot (operated by his creator Sam Williams) who was voiced by Peter Hawkins and the other puppet was called Merlin. The scripts were written by Shaun Sutton, an actor, writer and producer who went on to become head of the BBC Drama Group between 1969 and 1981. The Saturday Special appeared on alternate Saturday's between 1951 and 1953. The show rotated with another popular children's series; Whirligig.

THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL (1955)

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Show Image Based on the book by Baroness Orczy, Marius Goring starred as English nobleman Sir Percy Blakeney (Goring was also one of the producers on the series), whose alter-ego of The Scarlet Pimpernel was an ally to the French aristocracy facing the guillotine. In order to carry out his covert operations, the Pimpernel had to be a master of disguise, which gave Goring the chance to appear in a variety of costumes as either a Parisian flower seller, a Chinese decorator or a court official in the days when George the Third ruled England in heart if not in mind. Goring entered the role with immense enthusiasm, having already played the part in a 1949 radio production. 'I enjoyed playing the Pimpernel,' he said at the time. 'He embodies everyone's idea of a hero; a man who, for no personal gain, risked his life for the innocent. It's a strange thought that his antagonists were the people who shouted, "Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite!"' In contrast to his dashing hero persona, Sir Percy was weak and foppish, always cleverly deflecting suspicion of his true identity, which made the story perfect fodder for a spoof by the 'Carry On' team in 1966. In more serious tone it was revived in the late 1990's by the BBC as an action adventure series starring Richard E. Grant.

SCOOBY DOO WHERE ARE YOU? (1969)

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Show Image Something of a cult classic, Scooby Doo, Where Are You? was originally the brainchild of Fred Silverman, who, as the head of CBS daytime programming in 1969, wanted a cartoon series that would be a departure from the superhero genre and delve into the area of comedy. What Silverman envisioned was a cross between a popular 1940's radio programme 'I Love A Mystery' which was about three detectives, and a 1959 sitcom 'The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis', about a scatterbrained teenager and his friends. Silverman presented his idea to Hanna-Barbera who in turn assigned the task to writers Ken Spears and Joe Ruby. What the writers came up with was a story of four teenage detectives who travelled the country in a van (called the Mystery Machine), solving mysteries and getting out of dangerous situations. A Great Dane accompanied the foursome on their travels but was not a leading character. The show's first working title was 'Mysteries Five' before being presented to Frank Stanton, president of CBS, as 'Who's Scared?', a new Saturday morning cartoon for the fall of 1969.

However, Stanton rejected the show on the grounds of the artwork being too scary and unsuitable for it's intended, young audience. The same night that the show was rejected Fred Silverman took a flight back to Los Angeles, and, whilst relaxing to the sound of Frank Sinatra's 'Strangers in the Night' through his earphones, the line "Scooby-dooby-doo" struck him with sudden inspiration. It was there and then that Silverman decided to call the programme Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? and make the dog the star of the show. And so the idea was developed with Scooby taking the lead, accompanied by human companions Shaggy (a bumbling teenager who kept the star of the show well stocked in his favourite Scooby-Snacks), Velma (the brains of the team), Daphne (always the first in trouble) and Freddy (the leader of the group) as they travelled the country unearthing criminal goings on, which more often than not involved the bad guys dressing up as ghosts or ghouls in order to commit their crimes. One way or another (and not always with Scooby's help as he was usually the first to run for cover), the gang managed to solve the mystery and put an end to the criminal's activities. The series, which leant more towards comedy than mystery, premiered in September 1969 and became a massive hit for CBS, who, in 1972, changed the format in order to create The New Scooby-Doo Comedy Movies. After seven years with CBS, Scooby moved to ABC where he continued his adventures well into the 1980's. In these later seasons Scooby was joined by his pup nephew, Scrappy-Doo, and occasional guest spots from a whole host of his canine relatives.

Blessed with a perfect basic format, central characters who were simply but brilliantly designed, allied to expertly judged vocal performances, Scooby-Doo has gone on to become an iconically seminal cartoon series whose influence is subtly acknowledged by even such modern prime time genre classics as The X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Alongside The Flintstones and The Simpsons, Scooby-Doo (made into a major motion picture) is regarded as one of televisions animated classics.

SCRUBS (2001)

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Show Image This medical comedy-drama earned a loyal fan base that kept the series going for nine seasons on two networks. Created by Spin City producer Bill Lawrence, it was set at fictional Sacred Heart Hospital. Young attending physician John Michael "J.D." Dorian was the main character; he narrated each episode and told the story from his own point of view. His best friend was Christopher Turk, a chief surgeon; the two had a very close relationship-or "bromance," in the lingo of the era. Sarah Chalke (Roseanne) played fellow intern Elliot Reid, who had a on-again, off-again romance with J.D. Perry Cox was a supervisor who constantly berated J.D. as a way to get him ready for the real world of medicine. Other characters included head nurse Carla Espinosa, who eventually married Turk; hospital official Bob Kelso who was more concerned about the bottom line than the patients; and the "Janitor" who had an adversarial relationship with J.D. (The Janitor's real name was never disclosed.) Unlike some series, Scrubs allowed its characters to grow and change during its run. But while critics loved the results, the ratings were only adequate; its peak was the second season, when it ranked 14th among all series. Still, NBC kept renewing Scrubs-but after seven seasons, the network finally let it go. ABC then picked up the series (not surprisingly, since the show was produced by ABC's studio). The show returned in early 2009 as a mid-season replacement, and the May 6th episode ("My Finale") was expected to be the final one. But ABC renewed Scrubs for a ninth season, and Bill Lawrence revamped the show to cut costs by changing the focus from the hospital to the classroom. Turk and Cox returned as professors to a class of new medical students; even J.D. returned for a few episodes. But the revamped Scrubs was nowhere near as satisfying as the old format, and fans stayed away. Zack Braff probably summed up the final season best in a message to his fans on Facebook: "Many of you have asked, so here it is: it appears that "New Scrubs", "Scrubs 2.0", "Scrubs with New Kids", "Scrubbier", "Scrubs without JD" is no more. It was worth a try, but alas... it didn't work." (Review: Mike Spadoni)