Sunday, 3 February 2013

One man can make a difference, Michael...

Having found that Lovefilm had recently added the first two seasons of Knight Rider to its 'Instant' service I decided I'd indulge myself in a little rose-tinted-glasses moment. After all, this was one of the TV shows that sort of defined my childhood.
I seem to recall that back in the late seventies American TV shows were a bit of a joke. There was Dallas and Dynasty (or 'Dysentery' as my mum liked to call it) and precious little else to convince us that the US was little more than a giant ego with a big mouth.
In the early eighties though we had an influx of American shows that appealed to those of my generation to such a degree that they became essential viewing. And as most people didn't have a video recorder the streets must have been remarkably free of teenagers on a Saturday evening.
Knight Rider gave us the most exciting talking car since an Austin Maestro told us to put on our seat belt and convinced us that a turbo made a car jump over things at will. It also provided me with my second schoolboy crush in the form of 'Bonnie', played by Patricia McPherson (my first was my second year primary schoolteacher Mrs Robinson).
Around the same time we were given The A-Team. This show was not to be missed despite the fact that every episode was more or less exactly the same. Someone hired the A-Team because the cops were too busy eating doughnuts to be bothered, whereupon the guys would drug BA, put him on a plane, and they'd all fly out somewhere to deal with some tin-pot dictator. They'd get captured and locked in a big room full of enough hardware for BA to build a fully functioning tank using only a gas torch before unleashing thousands of rounds of ammunition without anyone actually getting shot. Hannibal would then celebrate their victory by lighting a cigar and saying "I love it when a plan comes together".
Airwolf was my favourite show at this time. What's not to love when you have the coolest helicopter in the world blowing the bad guys to kingdom come to a background of one of the most memorable theme tunes of its time.
As usual the yanks, not content with making cars and helicopters the stars of the show, went a step too far by trying the same thing with a motorcycle, giving us 'Streethawk'. Oh dear. A bike that could negotiate 90 degree turns in excess of 100mph and could execute a complete backflip by strategic deployment of airbrakes was too much of an overreach and unsurprisingly it bombed.
America also gave us an endless stream of cop and detective shows including Magnum PI, Hunter, Hardcastle & McCormick (awesome theme tune and wicked car), Crazy Like A Fox, and obviously Miami Vice which spawned a whole generation of Don Johnson wannabes complete with white trousers and mirrored sunglasses. Oh no.... I did that.... how embarrassing.....
How could British TV stand up to the onslaught of all these shows? America had the A-Team and Magnum, while we had Dempsey & Makepeace and Miss Marple. No wonder transatlantic TV was largely a one-way street.
Although the transatlantic flow has evened out a bit these days, the US arguably still makes better TV shows than we do. And while Britain has undoubtedly produced some real gems, they become obscured by the avalanche of brain-dead programmes that proliferate the TV schedules like 'Big Brother', 'Help I'm a washed up celebrity give me a job', and 101 shows about doing up houses. Granted America is far from immune to crap TV with plenty of shows giving citizens the opportunity to discuss their most private problems with the rest of the world and beat seven shades out of each other in front of the cameras, but while they continue to provide me with things like House MD, Heroes, and Grey's Anatomy I'll let them off.