Tuesday, March 01, 2005

British Telly

Ok, I admit it. I'm a big fan of British Telly, particularly shows from the mid 70's to mid 80's. Probably because we emigrated to Spain in the mid-70's and I didn't SEE any telly until we moved to Australia in the mid-80's. And don't we always want what we missed?

Anyway, in the 80's I managed to catch a lot of repeats of programs like Minder & The Professionals but they were usually tucked into a midnight time slot and interspersed with cheesey ads which seemed to overwrite bits of the programs. In other words, nobody bothered to stop the program while the ads were playing.

The whole VCR revolution passed me by... I didn't buy a single film or show on video, knowing that tape wears quickly and I was basically renting the show for 3-4 years before it was unwatchable.

But when DVDs started appearing I went nuts. On my shelf I have dozens of films, including many from the SF genre, a complete set of Minder episodes (up 'til Dennis Waterman left the show), a recently purchased set of The Professionals (Bodie & Doyle plus the Cow) and I have a complete set of the Sweeney on the way.

There's something about popping a DVD into the player and watching an episode end-to-end which has been completely missing from commercial TV since ITV used to have a single intermission in the middle of a show (helpfully titled 'end of part one') I don't know how anyone puts up with animated station logos, watermarks, bouncing banner ads, flashing 'coming up next Wednesday' announcements and so on right across the program they're watching but I voted with the off button somewhere around 1994.

I have to admit I'm a sucker for boxed sets: give me 16 DVDs worth of episodes over a couple of films any day. Which is why I've yet to buy any Dr Who episodes. Well, apart from the fact they're best remembered as exciting shows from my childhood - watching them these days is like reading your own early fiction... a slow, dawning realisation that it was never as good as you thought it was. What they've done with this show is to package up each episode (4 or 5 parts, about 2 hours worth of vision) into a tardis-like box which sells for a fortune. I'm sure it's great for people who want to collect a certain fondly-remembered episode, but it ain't gonna fly for me.

But is it worth buying something like a TV program on DVD when you can watch it for free? Well, maybe they cost money but let's weigh up the financials:

On TV, a 1 hour episode contains about 17 minutes of ads, so 24 episodes equals almost 7 hours of adverts. If you value your leisure time at $10 per hour you've just saved $70, which will pay for most boxed sets.

Next, a doctor's visit might run to $25. You make me sit through 24 hours of station promos and I'll need several visits for high blood pressure, some expensive medication and a new TV thanks to the remote I'll have launched through the old one.

Then there's the 'missing episode' problem. You're about to sign a deal for a new house when you realise program X is on telly. Do you chuck the estate agent out so you can watch the episode, thus missing out on your dream home? Or do you skip the program because some things are more important than finding out who shot JR? Or do you carefully program the VCR... with the wrong channel? Aggro plus.

There was a series in the 80's called Chessgame. It was a three parter starring Terrence Stamp which was shown in six parts in Australia (so they could cram more adverts in). The problem is, back in December 1983 the final part of this gripping spy thriller was being shown 1/2 hour after our plane left for Australia. That taught me a lesson about watching multi-part shows on live TV which I've never forgotten. 3 weeks ago, some 21 years after watching parts 1 and 2, I managed to see the final part of this series. On DVD.

I rest my case.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

5 comments:

GoodTwin <SAS> said...

I'm over here from The Zone. Just wanted to comment that this was spot on.

I'm a huge fan of Professionals and Sweeney; there's very little on today that comes close to most of the telly I remember from my early years. Unfortunately not everything lives up to those childhood memories: I've seen a couple of programmes which were 'must-see' when I was 12 which, nostalgia aside, held nothing for me.

Ludo said...

Hello there,

I have the same problem about the serie Chessgame.
I have parts 1 to 4 on VCR, but I miss parts 5 and 6.
If somebody could help us out, I would very much appreciate

Ludo Poelaert
Belgium
ludo_poelaert@mac.com
(Int'l) 32 475 28 48 89

Ludo said...

Hello there,

I have the same problem about the serie Chessgame.
I have parts 1 to 4 on VCR, but I miss parts 5 and 6.
If somebody could help us out, I would very much appreciate

Ludo Poelaert
Belgium
ludo_poelaert@mac.com
(Int'l) 32 475 28 48 89

Anonymous said...

Hi Simon Haynes,
Any chance you can help me out to find the Chess game DVD.
Serie on TV with Terrence stamp !
Tx
Ludo
ludo.poelaert@telenet.be

Simon Haynes said...

Hi Ludo,

I've replied direct to your email but I'll post here as well in case it's not getting through.

Basically, I found all three parts of Chessgame on assorted DVDS:

Cold War Killers is contained on a 2-DVD set by Platinum, EAN 096009162597 There are 8 films on the DVDs, including Casablanca Express, Commando, Waterfront and so on.

A Bullet for Hassan (actually 'The Alamut Ambush') No copyright info, nothing. DVD has a catalogue number 600138

Deadly Recruits (I think this is part 3) Westlake Entertainment Group of California, EAN 798622302328

All three are lousy quality, just basic conversions from the original video. I got them all on eBay.

Hope that helps.