In the cultural desert that was my childhood, there was one bookshelf in my home with about five books on it. There was only a black and white TV- it was all anyone had in those days in Australia. There were 4 TV stations which ran re-runs over and over until I felt ill at the sound of the theme music. We could have gone to ‘the movies’ but with 4 children an expensive trip to the movies was very rare. I craved the mystery and wonder that I later came to associate with speculative fiction books and movies, although at the time I didn’t have a word for it.
I saw this post about favourite Spec Fic TV and movie characters which got me thinking about my favourite TV shows and how they shaped my perception of the world.
My favourite TV show of my childhood was ‘Bewitched’. Who didn’t love Samantha? I wanted to grow up to be Sam. Let’s not talk about why she put up with Darren and his restrictions while trying to fit into his world. There was ‘I dream of Jeanie’, but I never got into that show. Jeanie was too subservient. Sam was always finding a way around Darren.
There was ‘Startek’ but I only ever saw one or two episodes because it came out when I was too young to watch it and then you could never find it again. (This was before videos and DVDs). In the early 70s there was ‘Catweazle’. He was a bright spot in the week. I loved the way he perceived our modern world – electricity was electrickery.
In the mid to late 70s there was ‘Blakes’ Seven’. Oh my… we used to look forward to that show each week. The character who lit up the screen for me was Supreme Commander Servalan. Who couldn’t like a woman who was smart, beautiful and ruthless? I enjoyed the interesting duality of Avon’s character and the dynamic that developed between them.
I don’t remember coming across many Spec Fic shows on TV in the 80s. Maybe they were being made in the US and the UK but not reaching Australia. Maybe because I had small children and fell into bed exhausted I didn’t have the time to discover the shows that were out there.I used to watch ‘Monkey’ and ‘Worzle Gummidge’ with the kids. I did find the ‘Young Ones’, not strictly spec fic but absurdist social satire that was a change from the standard situation comedy.
Maybe you can remember some spec fic TV shows for grownups that were on past my bedtime.
The 90s … That was a high density child rearing time for me, too. With 6 children in 10 years between 84 and 94, I didn’t really come up for air until about 97, but I did find ‘Red Dwarf’. Although there were no female characters (until Kochanski turned up), there were plenty of quirky off-the-wall types. Also from the 90s were ‘Absolutely Fabulous’ and the 4 ‘Black Adder’ series, again lovely social satire, which comes from a place that is similar to where Spec Fic comes from. Both take a step back from this world and makes us look at it again and see how strange and alien it is.
Due to the challenge of our family, I didn’t discover ‘Stargate’ or ‘Farscape’ until after they ended. In fact I didn’t discover ‘Buffy’ until the series was over which, in a way, was a bonus. It meant, when we found we liked ‘Buffy’, we were able to buy the whole set on DVD and watch it in extended marathons. I enjoyed the each one of the series for different reasons. A few episodes were absolute classics. My favourite character from the series had to be Anya, the reformed Revenge Demon. She was so literal and tried to make sense of a world that, when you examine it, doesn’t really make sense. The musical episode where she sings about her fear of Bunnies is a delight.
So I discovered ‘Buffy’ in the 2000s, plus ‘Angel’, which was never as quirky. I didn’t find ‘Firefly’ until it was over. Brilliant show. Every character was well drawn. The dynamics as they interacted was fascinating and the world building was great.
I think I’ve already written about the shows I’ve enjoyed recently.
Because we keep track of the reviews, we can find the new shows and get the DVD sets. No waiting around for the TV stations to put them on late at night, then change the slot without telling anyone. What you took off (insert TV show name) to show football? Are you crazy?
I’d like to say how much I admire what Felicia Day did with ‘The Guild’. It started out as a self funded webshow and has gone from strength to strength. Quirky characterisation with elements of social satire. Not something the big networks would have picked up, but the show has proved popular despite this. It’s interesting how the paradigm for producing shows and books is changing.
Looking back at the spec fic TV shows I enjoyed, the thing that strikes me is the strong characterisation. And often the characters are trying to make sense of our world. (I’m sure there are some I’ve forgotten).
What TV shows did you watch while growing up? What TV show characters have lingered in your mind? What makes a character so powerful that you remember them years afterwards?