When I was a young lad one of my greatest joys was screened on ITV on Saturday mornings. It was an action-packed TV production with high-octane plots, daring dos and heroics that young boys, raised on a diet of Bobby Moore, Scooby Doo and Jacques Cousteau, could truly admire. The great work, or works, that I refer were written and produced by a quiet, softly spoken Englishman with the name of Gerry Anderson and today I'd like to take a look at this truly great man.
The Gerry and Sylvia Anderson shows were the backdrop to my childhood. Although I only have only slight memories of the early series such as "Fireball XL5" and "Supercar", it was with "Stingray" and later "Thunderbirds" that I became a convert. I was not alone. Along with millions of boys my age, we turned our backs on Dinky Toys, apple trees, and keepy-uppy for 30 minutes every week (anything can happen in the next half-hour) and sat in darkened rooms while Gerry and Sylvia weaved their magical spell with some puppets, some string and an eye for a Hollywood blockbuster.
Gerry Anderson was indeed a magician. In his book, "Hope and Glory", the writer and broadcaster Stuart Maconie describes Stingray and Thunderbirds as "the great central works of his cannon. His "Revolver" and "Sgt Pepper."
The orchestrated theme tunes to these shows, written by Barry Grey, (John Barry for the under 10's) were thrilling beyond words. And yes, the plots were flawed, the characters often cliched and the strings were clearly apparent to my young eyes - but these points were irrelevant and beyond consideration. This was action/adventure at its finest and it captured the imagination, chilled the bones and stirred the soul.
Yet sadly, while we kids were lapping up every second, the man behind the camera was not quite so enthusiastic. In fact Gerry hated the bloody things. His dream was to make live action movies and be the next Steven Spielberg. He thought the people with the money would say, "Christ, this guy's making good puppet films here, we ought to give him some live action!" Instead of that they said, "Doesn't he make good puppet films, let's give him some more puppet films."
So Gerry became trapped. He carried on making more and more of these shows and created whole new series such as "Joe 90" and "Captain Scarlet." His success with the puppets continued and there was no question that he made them brilliantly, but all the while the man despised his work. Each one another straightjacket. Each one another step further away from his dream.
As Gerry once said while being interviewd on the Derek Jameson show, "I dug my own grave. I hated those little bastards."
John Fountain is a copywriter.
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