Weird old title sequences: Alias the Jester (1985)

Back in the 70s and 80s, Cosgrove Hall was a powerhouse of children’s TV. Creator of Chorlton and the Wheelies, Danger Mouse, The Wind in the Willows and Count Duckula, it dominated animated independent TV for the best part of those decades.

One minor little blip – although not necessarily on quality grounds – that’s largely been forgotten was 1985’s 13-part series Alias the Jester, which followed the adventures of a time traveller by the name of Alias and his dog-like companion Boswell. After their malfunctioning ship gets stuck in the Earth’s magnetic pole, they crash-land in a Middle Age kingdom called Houghton Bottoms, ruled by (a) King Arthur and his Queen Edith. Taking up a secret identity as Alias the Jester, he gains employment at the court and befriends the bumbling court wizard Meredith.

However, when the situation called for it, Alias instantly changed back into his red uniform, which enabled him to fly, and gave him a degree of super strength, which used to face the various villains of the show, each episode inevitably ending with Arthur firing Alias and Meredith.

Here’s the title sequence, which is a weird old combination of 80s pap music and utterly unhelpful scenes from the show.

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Classic TV

Nostalgia Corner: The Changes (1975)

Call it a sign of the times, but in the 1970s, people assumed the world was headed for disaster. Quite what that disaster was going to be varied. It might be a virus that wiped out the world’s population (cf Survivors), intelligent computers taking over (cf Colossus: The Forbin Project), man-made inventions (cf Doomwatch), complete ecological breakdown caused by over-population (cf Soylent Green) or the ubiquitous nuclear war – actually, that was more of a 60s/80s thing.

One thing that was very rarely seen as being a problem likely to cause the apocalypse, however, was magic. That was until the 1975 10-part BBC children’s show The Changes, based on Peter Dickinson’s The Weathermonger series of books.

Imagine waking up one day and suddenly every piece of machinery or technology in the country is emitting a strange noise, a noise that makes anyone who hears it – including you – become violent and destroy the machine. Well, that’s what happens to teenage schoolgirl Nicky Gore and, in fact, the rest of the world (or at least England). It doesn’t take long, but soon all of society falls apart and regresses to the middle ages, and even the mention of technology is forbidden.

The only people who appear unaffected by the noise are those who work on the land, very young children and Sikhs. Why? Well, it’ll take you 10 episodes to find out, or I’ll tell you after the jump.

Here’s a wee snippet and you can watch the entire series after the jump as well. Interesting title sequence twist: there were entirely different theme tunes for the start and end credits, one modern and exciting, one medieval-esque, and a new one again for the end credits for the final episode. Fun, hey?

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Weird old title sequences: ITC shows (1970s)

And so we round off our look at the majestic rise and fall of ITC, a company that dominated TV for three decades. Last time, we looked at the shows of the 60s, a decade when ITC was at the height of its powers; this week, we’ll look at its slow descent.

Things started well at first with the marvellously cast – if not marvellously scripted – The Persuaders!, starring Roger Moore and Tony Curtis, which is a candidate for the show with the best theme tune and title sequence in TV history.

With high production values, actual location filming and an all-star cast, it looked like ITC was on to something good.

Unfortunately, The Persuaders! didn’t rate very well in the US, so didn’t get a second series. So instead, ITC concentrated on two half-hour formats to replace, that followed similar lines: The Protectors, with Robert Vaughn from The Man from UNCLE and Nyree Dawn Porter, and The Adventurer.

The Protectors had a fabulous theme tune and song by Tony Hatch, but its half-hour format really killed the scripts.

The Adventurer, however, was saddled with the somewhat ego-centric Gene Barry from Burke’s Law and The Name of the Game, a sub-Persuaders theme tune by John Barry and some truly dreadful scripts.

After that, it was left to ITC mainstay Gerry Anderson to maintain the ITC tradition. But having done so well with puppets in the 60s with shows like Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet, after the interim show The Secret Service

…he was ready to move on to full live-action with first UFO then Space: 1999, both of which I’ve already covered, neither of which lasted more than two seasons.

After that, Lew Grade was ready to move on to mini-series such as Jesus of Nazareth and movies like Raise The Titanic and The Medusa Touch. Which meant the death nell for ITC was sounded in 1980 with the very un-ITC, very low-key story of village life, Shillingbury Tales, starring the likes of Robin Nedwell and Diane Keen.

And that, unfortunately, was that for ITC after three decades at the top. But along the way, it did give us some very fabulous – and sometimes very weird – title sequences.

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Weird old title sequences: ITC shows (1960s)

Last time in Weird Old Title Sequences, we looked at some of the ITC shows of the 1950s. This week, we’re going to move forward a decade to the 60s.

Now ITC produced some of the most iconic TV shows – and title sequences – of the 60s. It was in this decade that ITC really flourished as a company and where the genre of show known as the ‘ITC show’ crystallised. I’ve already covered quite a few of those shows in some depth: The Avengers, The Prisoner, The Champions and The Baron. But that’s just the tip of the ITC iceberg. So after the jump, we’re going to run through some of the most popular ITC shows’ title sequences, as well as the sequences of some shows that are perhaps not as well remembered.

So brace yourself for the fabulous, iconic title sequences (with equally fabulous title themes) of Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, Department S, Man in a Suitcase, Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased), The Saint, Danger Man, The Strange Report, and Jason King. There are probably more I could add to that list: what others would you include?

Incidentally, for a good(ish) overview of ITC shows, you could try Cult TV: The Golden Age of ITC, which I reviewed all of half a decade ago. Sigh.

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Weird old title sequences: ITC shows (1950s)

ITC – Lew Grade’s production company – dominated ITV schedules for the best part of two decades. Starting out in the 1950s, it wasn’t until the late 70s that ITC eventually closed its production business.

To list every single ITC show would take forever (or a quick link to Wikipedia and even that’s incomplete), so instead, I thought I’d give you a few of the best title sequences from the best shows that ITC came up with in the 1950s, including the iconic The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Adventures of Sir Lancelot (with William Russell from Doctor Who), The Buccaneers with Robert Shaw, Ivanhoe with Sir Roger Moore and The Invisible Man with… well, they never gave his name…

Now, in a lot of cases, ‘best’ ain’t saying much. They’re all of a muchness, quite brief and don’t have proper themes (since in most cases those used to run over the end credits). You’ll have to wait until I hit the 1960s before they start to get good. But they’re a little bit of history and just watching a sponsors logo will give you an idea of how much TV has changed in 60 years.