drawnonwords - A Writers Tale

My own views, posts, musings, stories and the odd picture for all to enjoy and let others know.

Tag: ITV

Thunderbirds at 50

Dear Reader

Thunderbirds are Go!

Imagine the scene, a plane has a bomb onboard, it can’t lower it’s under carriage, it’s running out of time, who can save it?

I don’t know if that was the pitch or what might have been the reaction from a certain Lew Grade, but something worked. So what would happen next? Well, a group of people dedicated to saving life hears what is going on with the airplane and spring into action. Thunderbirds are Go!

Gerry and Silvia Anderson created some of the most exciting childhood memories for me and millions of others. Stingray, Captain Scarlet, Joe 90, UFO and Space:1999 to name but a few. This year Thunderbirds turns 50. It still remains a firm family favourite and that is what they created. Family viewing.

Thunderbirds was about a family, an unusual one I must admit but when you are young you don’t see the odd bits. What I saw was amazing crafts, fantastic stories, brilliant music and stunning effects. The Anderson’s based the family after Mercury Seven astronauts: Scott Carpenter, John Glenn, Virgil Grissom, Gordon Cooper and Alan Shepard. Along with their father Jeff Tracy, Grandma, Brains, Kyrano and Tin-Tin, the boys undertook a variety of rescues each week. The other stars of the show were the five Thunderbird craft, well five main ones.

Thunderbird 1 – a hypersonic rocket plane used for fast response and accident zone reconnaissance. Piloted by primary rescue co-ordinator Scott Tracy.
Thunderbird 2 – a supersonic a carrier aircraft that transports rescue equipment and special vehicles to accident zones in detachable capsules known as “Pods”. Piloted by Virgil.
Thunderbird 3 – a single-stage-to-orbit spacecraft. Piloted alternately by Alan and John, with Scott as co-pilot.
Thunderbird 4 – a utility submersible Piloted by Gordon and normally launched from Thunderbird 2.
Thunderbird 5 – a space station that relays distress calls from around the world. Manned alternately by “Space Monitors” John and Alan.

The very first episode was called ‘Trapped in the Sky’ which aired on 30 September 1965. The plot concerned the master criminal the Hood, who planted a bomb on the hypersonic airliner Fireflash prior to her maiden flight. In its first operation, International Rescue must save the crew and passengers when it is discovered that not only is Fireflash unable to land, but her nuclear reactor will start to leak radiation. In an orbiting space station, John Tracy listens to the calls for help and the ongoing problems, knowing that this is the call International Rescue has been waiting for.

I watched, like many others, this drama unfolding before me. The launch of Thunderbird one was brilliant. To see Scott be transported to his craft the hypersonic TB1 with Barry Grays’ music was mesmerising. Thunderbird one raced to London from it’s secret base but what could this single craft do? That was solved with Thunderbird two, the green giant. It’s launch was just as spectacular if not more so. Thunderbird two was the work-horse of International Rescue (IR) carrying three elevator cars. As the craft arrived on scene, The Hood tried his best to capture the secrets of the Thunderbird craft but he is foiled. However, he escapes with vital pictures, cue the final two characters of this show. Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward (voiced by Sylvia Anderson) and her slightly not so clean-cut butler Aloysius Parker. In the most glamours pink Rolls-Royce, armed with more equipment than James Bond’s DB5, they race to tackle The Hood. Meanwhile the rescue starts to unfold and we get that bit of music. Barry Gray composed the opening march a military theme, he also added the incidental music. There comes a point towards the end of the first episode where we hear that edge of the seat music. It just made the episode (and used in others of course) as you watched Virgil battling to save Fireflash.

It was gripping to my young mind. It was just amazing. I wanted to be in International Rescue, I wanted to pilot those craft. It was FAB! And with that word is one of enduring mysteries of this success. Actually, it was F.A.B, and no one knew or so I believe, knows what it stood for. The show was FAB, but F.A.B was spoken by the Tracy brothers as a response. Many have tried to explain it but nothin seems to fit.

There were 32, one hour episodes and two feature films both of which did not fair as well as they should. Yet, Thunderbirds appears to keep that magic each time it is shown. When the BBC decided to show the episodes back in 1991 it created another massive interest. This time there was an addition, Tracy Island as a model. It sold so well, that Blue Peter showed children how build their own. That was the magic that many shows failed to find.

It is possible the reason for its enduring success is that the show had something of a real feel to it. In fact Gerry Anderson drew inspiration for the series’ concept from the West German mining disaster known as the Wunder von Lengede (“Miracle of Lengede”). In October 1963, the collapse of a nearby dam flooded an iron mine, killing 29 miners and trapping 21 others underground. Lacking the means to drill an escape shaft, the authorities were forced to requisition a heavy-duty bore from Bermen. However it took considerable time to ship the device by rail and that had significantly reduced the chances of a successful rescue. Anderson recognised the advantages of swifter crisis response, and conceived the idea of an “international rescue” organisation. Thus was born Thunderbirds are Go.

There have been a number of re-imaginations of Thunderbirds none of which seem to capture the original. However, for its 50th anniversary a group decided to go back to its roots. Three 15 minute records are to be made into films. The Kickstarter project gained enough money to reproduce the sets, the craft, puppets and all. In December, I will look forward to what promises to be something special. That hint of what really can be achieved.

Thunderbirds are Go showed what a dedicated group could do. One day, maybe the puppets will find their real voice. After all it only takes one man to start it all.

Tagline: “F.A.B Scott… Keep this frequency clear” (Cue the clip Thunderbirds are Go!)

Sporting Rant

Hello Dear Reader

Sporting Rant.

I must warn you that these are all my own thoughts.

In the past few months and weeks, there have been a number of high-profile changes to televised sporting events. The last most notable one was the Open golf championship, held here in the UK. This has moved from the BBC (free-to-air) to pay-per-view.

Why? It is certainly not for coverage these days as free-to-air reach as many homes as cable and satellite, I would argue. Given the advances in televisions, set-top boxes and the interweb, you no longer need the old fashioned ariel to see these channels. There can be only one motivation in my view, money.

Now we hear that one of my most enjoyed competitions, the rugby union 6 Nations is to be split between BBC and ITV. This,they say is a good thing. No it is not. Not for me anyway, The last time ITV took over one of my favoured sports was F1. That was a disaster given the so-called conditions they claimed they would show F1. ITV cannot exist without advert breaks, hence F1, a live moving, changing sport, would come complete with advert breaks. However, they would be sensitive to the action, make sure you never missed anything and be better than the Beeb. What rubbish. There was one notorious moment when in the British Grand Prix of all places, Hill was about to overtake Schumacher. It was amazing driving, wheel-to-wheel, Hill was fighting to get past, you could his front tyres level with Schumacher’s rear. Then he was almost level, the left hand of corner coming up, Hill would take the lead or they would crash or the box for soap power would make clothes all cleaner?

I sat there for seconds thinking I had changed channel, what was I doing? But no, ITV had gone to an advert break because it was half past the hour and no make what the advert break had to come before the amazing action. It took me almost an hour to get through to ITV to explain to a very fed-up sounding person, how the idiots had been allowed to ruin the race. Not only did they cut at the action point but they rejoined at a point where clearly Hill had finished his move and was well clear. They lied. At no point did they ‘freeze’ the action and come back as though we missed nothing. F1 went into the dustbin for me.

This is why I am so against ITV with my favoured sports. Currently, highlights of Premier Rugby Union (once on BBC 2 Sunday evening) can now be found, well only if you really really look, somewhere on an ITV channel at midnight or 1am.

At a time when we need to get people into sport, when people need to enjoy sport or just have something to look forward to rather than soaps, why does this country allow the removal of sports from good broadcasters? Don’t forget, the BBC showed paralympic long before channel 4 did. Their coverage of the London games was poor in many places.  They missed 90% of the marathon just about, they missed a gold medal archery match between two, TWO, Brits. BBC did a far better coverage. Now the Olympics is under threat and guess who will clearly want to bid.

We need money in sports, but not at the expense of good coverage to boost interest in the young. Cricket, now almost gone from free-to-air often struggles to get people into grounds. Golf, may well suffer the same fate as less will see it. Many years ago, the RFU had all the England 6 Nation matches on Sky for one year. It nearly cost them more than just a few pennies.

There needs to be a change in how free-to-air is financed in order to keep sporting interests alive. Remember when athletics went to ITV, they disappeared and nothing from overseas was shown. However,the BBC (again) brought coverage from the overseas meetings.  I wonder if interest went down in the sports then? Like wise, when the BBC showed the Olympics in my sport, archery, numbers went up. Maybe that is just to simple. There is in some countries what is called the ‘Crown Jewels’, those sports that must remain free-to-air. It is said by Sky and BT that they have enhanced certain sports by taking them away from free-to-air, but for me at what cost. You can read more of this at the BBC here; http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/33357440

So now I have to consider watching England rugby 6 Nations matches with adverts and annoying bits. Humm.

Tagline: ‘Can someone tell them the match started’

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