My nose was thoroughly put out of joint yesterday when, at 3pm sharp, I turned on BBC Two and waited for Cagney & Lacey to begin. Alas, I swiftly realised that some sport or another was on instead and I surprised myself with how miffed I was. I used to watch it as a child (although I doubt I understood it) and have been enjoying the reruns. Despite the flimsy sets it’s a great drama, and I tried to think of a modern equivalent but couldn’t, which got me thinking about TV shows of days gone past, and which were my top three shows that I don’t think have been matched since
Firstly, Cagney & Lacey of course! The 1980s fashions are a visual treat but really it’s the dialogue and plots that make this show great. Topics tackled are wide and varied, but not too far-fetched, because as it’s set in New York and centres on detectives, pretty much any crime is believable. Racial tensions, police corruption, petty crime and homicide are all covered.
Refreshingly, the leads are likeable and liked, and one even dares to be happily married to a supportive husband (with an astonishing moustache), combining work and home life without it being a big deal. That a series around 30 years old is one of the most feminist shows currently on TV says much about the present state of drama. As strange as it sounds it’s also a good length. At 45 minutes it’s enough to get stuck into but not too long. As most episodes are self-contained, it’s satisfying to know that no matter how complex the plot is, it’ll soon be resolved.
|It took me quite a while to source these DVDs!|
Perhaps I’m just a glutton for a good mystery as my next choice is Eerie Indiana. Undoubtedly the best children’s TV series ever in my mind, Eerie Indiana was the ideal blend of comedy, drama, and outright weirdness! Protagonist Marshall Teller, and his little friend Simon, fought the dark forces at work in their hometown, uncovering werewolves, giant Tupperware, and a weird grey-haired kid who may or may not have been an alien.
Every episode is brilliant and treats children as being intelligent: something many shows fail to do. There were only 19 episodes ever made, but each one is a diamond. This epic kids’ show with a cult following is long overdue a rerun; a new generation needs to experience the town that’s eerie by name and by nature.
Combining fighting crime with science fiction, the final classic I’d bring back is Quantum Leap. I was pretty obsessed with Quantum Leap as a child, seeing past injustices tackled by a man blasted back from the future definitely caught my attention. Some of my favourite episodes were the classic cross-dressing ones because as I small child raised on pantos, a man in a dress signified humour. However, the stories were serious – I remember episodes with disability hate crime, rape, and murder amongst others.
|If only Al had used Google...|
Of course, back in the day before catch up options and rewinding live TV, it was imperative to catch the beginning of every episode as it was then you’d see the ‘real’ person’s reflection. It was rare for another glimpse of the ‘leapee’ to be shown, and it was often key to contextualising the episode. One key element of the show was Al who’d regularly pop up with advice from Ziggy. Al was basically a dysfunctional smartphone, scrolling through Wikipedia for answers but sometimes losing signal and therefore cutting it fine in regards to getting the facts on time.
I’ve often dropped hints that I’d like Quantum Leap box sets for my birthday but everyone laughs it off as if I must be joking. Who knows, perhaps it’s dated badly and I wouldn’t enjoy it so much anyway, but I doubt it. Let’s hope that following the BBC’s resurrection of a few vintage shows that other channels will follow suit. There are plenty of gems hiding in the archives, it’s time they came out to play.
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