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  • Writer's pictureG R Matthews

Not quite 80s TV

When 80s TV was good, it was very good.

I don’t count Dallas in that… I mean, what were the writers thinking? It was all a dream and the Man from Atlantis… sorry, Bobby Ewing steps out of the shower. Were we really all in Pam’s dream for the whole of the last series… and if so, he has the most boring dreams of any person on the planet (and also the most PG rated!)(And have I just admitted to watching Dallas… damn!)

13 episodes… just 13 were made of Man from Atlantis (late 70s, so maybe, with a squash and a squeeze, we can include and even if you don’t want to, I do and I’m the one doing the writing it, so I win). The first American show to be shown in China (according to Wiki), this one series dealt with a man who had lost his memory, but had webbed feet and hands, could breathe underwater and was strong. A superhero series, by any definition, that we don’t remember so much anymore. I have a halcyon haze of happiness regarding this series, but I haven’t seen it since it was on telly (30+ years ago?).

At this1 point, some of you are thinking of the Six Million Dollar Man, based on the book Cyborg by Martin Caidan. Some of you older folks are recalling, through the misty memory of years gone by, childhood summers where you ran incredibly slowly and yet were, in your imagination, outpacing a car. Or leaping great heights. Or maybe (with just your right arm) throwing an enemy (your mate who didn’t get to be the hero this time round) through the air. All of it accompanied by a strange sound effect – I can’t translate it into words, it is too iconic. Watch the video instead.

Hey, 80s, not 70s. Back on track!

Spiderman, the TV series. How could I forget that? 1977, so not the 80s. I’ll get to them, I promise. Anyway, Nicholas Hammond, straight from his success in The Sound of Music, took on the role Peter Parker and just like the comic books he gets bitten by a spider. It stays true to a few other aspects as well; Peter must make his own web-shooters, Aunt May is there (different actress every time) and J Jonah Jameson (friendlier than the comics) makes a lot of appearances. Disappointingly, to my memory, there were no real super-villains for him to battle, mostly gangsters and once, I think, a clone of himself? And he climbed walls. From a distance, in a blurry shot, if you closed your eyes, you might actually believe he wasn’t being pulled up on a winch. But, damn it all, it was Spider-Man in live action, on TV, with added cheese, and way before Toby Maguire donned the suit. Oh, and 13 episodes only.

That reminds me, the Incredible Hulk! David Banner, played by Bill Bixby, gets into a Gamma Generator and… hold on… shouldn’t it be Bruce Banner and he gets irradiated by a bomb. Who is this David fellow, a cousin of Bruce who thought that turning into a green monster was a good idea? Apparently, Bruce changed his name by Deed Poll (or whatever the US version is) and became David… I made that up, but I had to make sense of it somehow. Anyway, this show beat the 13 episodes, racking up over 80 by the end. And those eyes, those contact lenses poor Bill had to wear when he was angry! First time I saw those, I thought he had gone blind. If I get angry, very rare, I don’t stop to put contacts in, but then I don’t tear my shirt, turn green and into Lou Ferringo (painted green). I think people would notice if I did. The end credit music... chills!

You know what else there was in the 70s? A live action Captain America film. I’ve never seen it, but now I want to. It’s got super-serum (Full Latent Ability Gain – FLAG for short… really Flag? You had to get another bit in there about patriotism didn’t you? Bet you thought you were being clever doing that… maybe you were.)(I think I took OOP serum… Overuse Of Parentheses). I found some clips on youtube… you have to watch! That shield!

As successful as the Incredible Hulk was there was another series that came close in numbers, but eclipsed it in style. Can you guess?

Linda Carter, Wonder Woman. 60 episodes of adventure set during World War 2, this live action Superhero spectacular was hit with every one, everywhere. And though you can disagree with some of it, here is a woman outthinking, out strong-arming every man she meets. A female lead character who doesn’t need men, who is capable of carrying the show on her own independent shoulders. There is a lot that follows the comic books, and some things that filtered into the comics. Even now, in 2015, we are awaiting the return of this character to our screens.

I know this was supposed to be 80s TV, but I got distracted. It happens. I’ll get to them next time. In the last 10 to 15 years we’ve had the resurgence of Superhero cinema and now TV. It builds on the successes and learns from the failures of those yesteryears.

But 80s TV… now there’s a thing!

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