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Some of the best articles on the blog. Typically, these have a picture. It's a low entrance requirement, I know.


February 9, 2012

Old Gems: Starman (1986-1987)

Posted on February 9, 2012 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Robert Hays as Starman

Back when I wrote about The Invaders, I mentioned the genre of the "fixing-up wanderer" that was popular in the 60s and 70s:

Whether it was The Immortal, Branded, Coronet Blue, The Fugitive, The Incredible Hulk, Kung Fu or any of the others, the format was essentially the same and designed to allow shows to be broadcast in any order during syndication, re-runs, etc, without anyone getting lost: a man (it was always a man) would travel from town to town, doing his best to evade some horrible authority or person chasing after them; he'd try to stay low profile, but sooner or later, he'd discover some drama in the town that needed fixing. The situation would get fixed and the hero would move on to another town for the next episode, typically without anything happening that would change the overall show format (unless it was the first or last episode of a season).

Now the genre didn't die out altogether in the 80s. Occasionally, it would resurface, sometimes mutated through intermingling with another genre. In the case of Starman, we have the marriage of "fixing-up wanderer" with the movie tie-in.

Back in 1984, Starman was a lovely little John Carpenter movie that starred Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen. Bridges played an alien who comes to Earth after intercepting the Voyager 2 space probe and its invitation to visit to us. He takes the form of Karen Allen's dead husband and they go on a road trip together so that Bridges can get a lift home from another bunch of aliens.

Along the way, Bridges' alien learns all about humans and their ways - including emotions and this Earth-thing we call love - and at the final instance reveals that Allen is now pregnant with a child who will be hers and both his and her late husband's. When the child grows up, he will be a teacher to humanity. And it's all very tear-jerking and lovely:

So that's 1984, driving around in a late 70s Mustang, coming to Earth thanks to a space probe launched in 1977. Everyone got it?

Right, let's fast forward a couple of years to 1986 and ABC wants to adapt the movie into a TV series. Rather than start from scratch, the show also fast forwards 15 years into the future… to 1986. So everything in the movie apparently happened in 1971 or earlier.

Huh. Okay. How's that work exactly?

Anyway, that minor logistical issue aside, the story is that the Starman's son is now 15 but has been abandoned by his mother (now played by Buck Rogers in the 25th Century's Erin Gray - yes, the producers couldn't afford any of the original cast) to foster parents who have just died. Realising his son is in trouble, the Starman comes to Earth and assumes the form of another dead human - this time dead photojournalist Paul Forrester, played by Airplane!'s Robert Hays. Together, he and Starman Jr travel together around the country, fixing people's problems while they search for Erin Gray - all while being chased by the same federal agent, now played by Michael Cavanaugh, who gave the Starman such problems in the movie.

Here are the titles - I have to confess it's slightly new to me, too, since I only saw a dubbed version in French while I was on holiday there. As with most dubbed shows of the era, it seemed better when it wasn't in English:

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February 7, 2012

Review: The Almighty Johnsons (SyFy) 1x1

Posted on February 7, 2012 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The Almighty Johnsons

In the UK: Thursdays, 10pm, SyFy
In New Zealand: Already aired. Season two coming soon

New Zealand has pedigree when it comes to fantasy TV. There was Children of Fire Mountain in the 70s and the award-winning Children of the Dog Star back in the 80s. But you'd be forgiven for thinking that's where it ended.

Not so. For now we have The Almighty Johnsons, a winsome little comedy-drama from the creators of New Zealand show Outrageous Fortune (which became Scoundrels in the US) about four brothers who are the reincarnations of Norse gods. Which ones, what powers they have and why they're stuck inside the bodies of a bunch of New Zealand lads - well, that's something we learn all about during the first episode… as well as who wants to kill them.

Here's a trailer.

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February 2, 2012

Lost Gems: The Ascent of Man (1973)

Posted on February 2, 2012 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Jacob Bronowski.jpg

Well, as 'Lost Gems' go, you can't get much more 'Lost Gem'-ier than The Ascent of Man, the 65th official most important programme in the history of British television. Made in 1973, it was the follow-up and some might say companion series to Kenneth Clark's Civilisation, which looked at evolution of Western culture and art. In it, Brains Trust member Jacob Bronowski discussed the history of science, starting with the evolution of man (and, of course, woman) and working its way through early human society to modern times.

And it was, quite simply, breathtaking.

Here's a clip of the show and the then-controller of BBC2 and the man who commissioned the series, Sir David Attenborough, to tell you all about it. Then after the jump, you lucky people, all 13 episodes of the series.

Continue reading "Lost Gems: The Ascent of Man (1973)"

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