"Tivo-ifies the web" Paul Kedrosky

Top TV Programs from My Youth. Post Yours

By popular request, this list was supposed to be just British TV programs, but I’ll limit that restriction to myself since I grew up there and also since I actually think UK TV is overrated. These days the US does drama much better – e.g. The Wire.

The principal criterion for my choices is not necessarily which things I think are actually good, but those that provoke existential longing. This comprises a combination of homesickness and nostalgia, brought on from the dislocation in both time and space experienced by mid-life crisis prone, aging expats.

1. Janet Street Porter profiles punk for the London Weekend Show.
Picking this may seem so unbelievably obscure that it’s self indulgent. But it’s a specific and personal memory that I had assumed would be lost in some tape archive in the bowels of London Weekend Television. That someone has found it and put it on Youtube demonstrates perfectly the almighty power of the web. Punk blew a vast hole in the flank of tawdry, laurel resting, UK culture, like nothing else before or since. It still seems modern, yet its older than the Second World War was when it was filmed.

2. Brideshead Revisited.
As in the 1981 version. Despite the campiness which I had to explain away in detail to my wife who is French, Brideshead is a serious project, the only TV program that Halliwell ever gave 5 stars to. It is quintessentially English and has all the posh stuff that I rebelled against as anachronistic, stuffy crap and now see the attraction of. For BBC zealots, note that this was a Granada production.
“We were eating the Lobster Thermidor when the last guest arrived…”.

3. Nuts in May
I wasn’t sure which Mike Leigh item to pick, but eventually settled on this. It’s a perfect slice of where lingering Edwardian sensibilities met 70s New Age. I knew people who had parents like Keith and Candice-Marie.

4. The Sweeney
Hearing the theme tune to this makes me feel very strange. Nothing represents the slightly impoverished but gritty reality of the 70s like The Sweeney. It was nasty and brutish and went on for 3 years. The character development of the main protagonists, Regan and Carter, surpassed US cop shows from the same period and rendered them tough but endearing. Diamonds in the rough.
Sweeney Closing Track with stills:

5. The Shock of the New
Although it has been updated, ironically here I’m referring to the old Shock of the New, broadcast in 1980. A visual feast of a tour through modern art with a tour de force commentary providing an equally stunning audio treat.
Clip: The Shock of the New, Marcel Duchamp:

6. Horizon
Horizon these days seems to be dumbed down, but perhaps I am just getting older. It was my introduction to science and what drew me to California, when I heard scientists being interviewed at seductive locations like the Salk Institute. Ever since then, scientists have to have American accents to sound credible and techie.
Clip: Horizon Interview with Richard Feynman:

7. The Good Life
In picking a UK sitcom, both Fawlty Towers and Porridge are perhaps better, but I’ve chosen The Good Life for sentimental reasons. It reminds me of growing up, bits of it were even filmed in the town I grew up, and richard Briers’ character could have been my dad. This is light entertainment, but it profoundly captures the feeling of what suburban London was really like in the 70s better than anything I know.
Clip: First scene from the first episode:

Post your own lists in the comments.

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12 comments on “Top TV Programs from My Youth. Post Yours

  1. Jon says:

    Horizon has certainly dumbed down over the last decade. I note that in the last series Marcus de Sautoy, a brilliant communicator about mathematics, was only allowed to talk at the pace allowed by "opening the eyes" of comedian Alan Davies to the wonder of numbers. Hence, more time spent of Davies expressing wonder than anything wonderful in itself.

    Some more nostalgic British TV:

    1) The Day of the Triffids
    With John Duttine. As much for the terrifying title sequence as the slow & wonky triffids themselves.

    2) The Tube
    When new music still seemed somehow important.

    3) Edge of Darkness
    One of a long series of big drama serials that pretty much sustained British TV in the post-Play for Today years. It fed straight into the nuclear paranoia instilled from a childhood where we subconsciously listened for the early warning sirens.

    Speaking of which:

    4) Threads

    Smashing Telly is a real oasis of smart observation and good selection. Keep it up!

    1. david galbraith says:

      [youtube vugu-wTAQJY http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vugu-wTAQJY youtube]
      I had forgotten about The Tube. In memory of Paula Yates RIP and Paul Raven of Killing Joke, RIP, here is Yates interviewing Killing Joke for The Tube, RIP. Raven died in Geneva, where I am at the moment.
      And here is my favorite Killing Joke track, Requiem:
      [youtube ENiZLWuDjAo http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENiZLWuDjAo youtube]

    2. david galbraith says:

      sorry here it is: [youtube ENiZLWuDjAo http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENiZLWuDjAo youtube]

    3. david galbraith says:

      Edge of Darkness is a great pick – and I never actually saw it all the way through. Have just tracked down a copy on Veoh and will post it in the main flow (If you register you can watch in full).

  2. Andy Taylor says:

    Sledge Hammer

    <object width="425" height="344"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/pFh09hF6qlA&hl=en&fs=1&"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/pFh09hF6qlA&hl=en&fs=1&&quot; type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344"></embed></object>
    <p/>
    Police Squad

    <object width="425" height="344"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/A_3rJqHWYjs&hl=en&fs=1&"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/A_3rJqHWYjs&hl=en&fs=1&&quot; type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344"></embed></object>
    <p/>
    Made In Canada

    <object width="425" height="344"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/ycGzFlkbOiY&hl=en&fs=1&"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/ycGzFlkbOiY&hl=en&fs=1&&quot; type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344"></embed></object>
    <p/>
    Lexx

    <object width="425" height="344"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/pDzEtbLaou0&hl=en&fs=1&"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/pDzEtbLaou0&hl=en&fs=1&&quot; type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344"></embed></object><p/>
    <p/>
    spaced
    <p/>
    etc.

  3. Andy Taylor says:

    doh. Sorry for the spew.

    Sledgehammer<p/>
    Police Squad!<p/>
    Made In Canada<p/>
    Lexx<p/>
    spaced

  4. Jon says:

    I'm currently watching the BBC adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy with Alec Guinness. Extraordinary, and extraordinarily different to how any drama would be constructed now. At about six hours, I think it drops almost nothing from the novel. But the pacing seems positively langorous by today's standards. And most of all, the construction is designed to baffle: it will happily drop into a flashback that will occupy most of an episode, gently popping back again just when you'd forgotten that it's all stories being told to Smiley (Guinness). A long drama about lying told through lies. It's incredible that audiences stayed with it with with weekly episodes and no idiot-proofing "Previously…" summary at the start of each episode.

  5. rob says:

    What about Tomorrows World!! Classic TV show

  6. hntrnyc says:

    Okay, this was actually harder than I thought. In hindsight, there is not a a lot of American televsion from my youth that I feel the need to revisit even though most of it is available on cable these days. I was exposed to a fair amount of BBC material as I grew up across the river from Canada in Detroit. The CBC's programming back in the 70's featured a fair amount of British programming and the local PBS station also featured a bit and oddly First Division English footy. In addition to Python, Faulty Towers, Man About the House and Rise and Fall Of Reginald Perrin, I also started to learn about Arsenal, West Ham and Man U. As good as these shows are, there is still a wealth of material out there that I have never seen, hence my continual quest for quality television. Here is a list of my more current faves, many of which will undoubtedly surprise few, but you never know. They are in no particular order and I will update as others come to mind.

    AMC Network:
    Breaking Bad (If you haven't seen it, you must. A rare American black comedy)
    Mad Men (One of the best quality shows to come out of the States since The Wire)

    HBO:
    The Wire
    In Treatment

    HBO/BBC:
    Rome
    Extras

    BBC:
    Brass Eye (sheer genius, I just posted about the series today in the wake of the MJ saga)
    State Of Play (the series)
    Shameless (My true current fave)

    ABC:
    Barney Miller (70's Comedy about NYC cops)
    Naked City (Early 60's drama shot on the streets of NYC)

    Canal (France)
    Le Count de Monte Cristo (Mini-series featuring Gerard Depardeau)

  7. hntrnyc says:

    Oh forgot one

    FX:
    The Shield (surprisingly gritty portrayal of corrupt police detectives in LA. All seven seasons definitely worth seeing)

  8. Mac says:

    It was actually pretty difficult watching JSP do her "the evening I watched a punk rock music concert", even given her prowess in reporting on the era thereafter. And watching the crowd gurning away was also hard, kind of akin to watching the David Brent disco dancing scene in the Office, good but, kind of embarassing to watch at the same time.
    I don't know why really, I was only about 9 or 10 at the time and wasn't a part of that scene. But I like the music, and maybe its seeing it in it's raw stages with it's attendant followers that I find a bit weird.

    Anyway, very good post, thanks mate.

  9. Todd D. says:

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