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Tragic stories are good...

Occasionally, I wonder where my tastes come from, why I like certain things, all that stuff. And occasionally, I find out about a few things. For example, I seem to have an expectation that good stories have to end tragic in a way. There has to be some less than desirable result at the end.

A few of the sources I know. For example when I was a kid I used to watch the Captain Power TV show (in which J. Michael Straczynski, the producer and brain behind Babylon 5 was involved), and that had a very tragic ending where one of the main characters died.

I also had something similar in another children's TV show I used to watch back then, which was "Photon". Essentially, it was a cheap bluescreen-set-based childrens' scifi show with foam rubber aliens about a kid that plays LaserTag so well he gets recruited to fight aliens (sort of "Power Rangers meets The Last Starfighter"). It's kinda cheesy, but one of the few plot points I remember was that one day you found out that one of the main villains had actually been one of the good guys once.

Today I came across a few others: Music videos of the 80ies. The beautifully hand-drawn video to A-Ha's "Take on Me" has a beautiful story that ends tragically, and also has one of my favourite elements: The real world collides with a fantasy world, but few people know. That's probably what drew me towards Stargate originally. There's also the imagery in Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and "Billy Jean", and Fleetwood Mac's "Big Love" video, and pretty much all the nutty animated videos Peter Gabriel did, plus look-alikes like Wax's "Building a bridge to your heart".

I wonder what other influences I had. I'm sure the animated He-Man and She-Ra shows have to be somewhere in there, plus the Incredible Hulk (one of the few I don't have to list as a guilty pleasures due to Bill Bixby's great performance and smart writing in the face of expensive F/X make-up, stock footage and a low budget), as well as G.I. Joe, The Inhumanoids (which taught me the English word "to decompose"), the Visionaries, Spiral Zone, Misfits of Science, and probably some Tom Baker Dr. Who, although I probably never watched the latter when I was a kid, just the advertisements during morning cartoons. Though I did watch some Sylvester McCoy when it was on in Germany, sadly that wasn't just dubbed, but terribly cheesy as well...

There's also the Anime/Manga mish-mash "Macron One" (a mix of "Goshogun" and "Skrungle", which were, as one page on the web says, mercilessly hacked together), which introduced me to the glory that are giant transformable and morphing robots. There are a few other shows like that, about pirate ships and aircraft carriers refitted to fly in space, and at least one of them was buried in an island and recovered from there, which was an incredibly familiar image when I watched "Titan A.E." a few years ago.

Might as well throw Godzilla in there as well, and while I'm doing classics, don't forget "Tripods" and George Pal's "The Time Machine", a movie I fell in love with every year when it was on TV, and with which I fell in love again when I found the DVD y couple years ago.

Most of these shows aren't what I'd necessarily call "must-see TV" or "quality entertainment", but I guess they've gained a prominent spot in my head simply because they taught me "the formula" and I saw them earlier than the "Galaxy Rangers" (another tragic story at the beginning) and "Saber Rider and the Star Sherriffs" (that show being one I was already too old for and I simply watched it to have something to laugh about).

Of course there's also 80ies staples like Knight Rider, the "V" miniseries, Hart to Hart, Street Hawk, Simon Templar (though I didn't really like the Roger Moore run and much preferred a later one with a beautiful saxophone intro and the "The Saint" stick man, though that might already have been 90ies), Spenser (never cared much for the "Hawk"-spin-off, though), the original Battlestar Galactica, the original Star Wars, The Flash, Max Headroom, Mike Hammer with Stacy Keach... I wonder which ones I've forgotten ... ?

And what about you guys? What old TV shows did you watch during the 80ies and early 90ies? And since some of what I consider "80ies shows" originally ran in the US in the late 70ies, I'll count those too.

Reader Comments: (RSS Feed)
Peter Hosey writes:
"I wonder what other influences I had. I'm sure the animated He-Man and She-Ra shows have to be somewhere in there, plus the Incredible Hulk " FYI, The Incredible Hulk's season 1 is now on iTunes. itms://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewTVSeason?id=205799880&s=143441
Uli Kusterer replies:
@Peter: Not in Germany, sadly. All we have are some Pixar shorts... but Season 1's been out on DVD in the UK for quite a while, so I'll probably try and order it if I can find the time.
Jack Repenning writes:
Prisoner. OK, it's British, not American. OK, it's 60's, not 80's. What? Is there no mercy here????
Uli Kusterer replies:
@Jack: British is no problem. Dr. Who is already on my list. If we go back to 60ies in earnest (and not just because the Dr. already ran back then), I'd also have to list The Avengers (both "in colour", and without). And then I could start with German TV shows like our Edgar Wallace series... let's not go there ;-)
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