Classic shows that have almost been forgotten, as well as shows that should probably have been forgotten
The story of Merlin and King Arthur has been around for centuries, so it’s not surprising that every so often, someone wants to retell it*. Most recently, we’ve had the BBC series Merlin, but there have been numerous other retellings including the Sam Neill mini-series Merlin, the movie Excalibur, the Clive Owen historical, King Arthur, and mild American 70s sitcom Mr Merlin.
Back in the 80s though, there was a more subtle adaptation of the myth set in modern times. Starring Patrick Malahide (Minder et al) as the Merlin-esque ‘Magnus’ and Stephen Dillane (Hamlet, Spy Game, Welcome to Sarajevo) as Nick, the King Arthur of the piece, The One Game posited the question: “What would have happened if Arthur had been made King with Merlin’s help – and then Arthur had kicked him out?”
This being the 80s, however, for the retelling Nick was the MD of a games company and Magnus was the creator of his best-selling game, thrown out and sent to a mental asylum after he couldn’t handle Nick’s rejection of his newest invention. Magnus escapes from the asylum and using his near-magical skills, steals all Nick’s company’s assets and plans his further revenge.
What made The One Game so interesting and worthy of being described as a Lost Gem was its then-unique concept: during the course of the four episodes, set over a Bank Holiday weekend, everyone Nick meets – including friends and loved-ones – and everything he does and comes across may be part of ‘The One Game’, a live-action and possibly deadly game invented by Magnus to teach Nick a lesson.
It was only ever shown once on ITV1, was released on DVD but is no longer available. It’s The One Game and it’s a Lost Gem. Here’s the the opening titles to the second episode, Saturday, complete with theme tune sung in Patagonian Welsh and annoying 80s narrator recapping just enough of the plot for you to know what’s going on.