On Saturday we saw the end of Outlander, the one TV show we’ve watched with anything like regularity since coming to Scotland. As ever, we afterwards went over to the good people of the podcast Storywonk, where they specialise in story and narrative to hear them dissect the episode and take it to pieces. We do this ourselves to books, television, anything with plot, so listening to them brings with it a sense that we are among our people, and not chronically doomed to be over-analytical as a result of five years reading English. Or if we are, at least we’re in good company.
The first thing they drew out was the title card, which featured a snippet from The Avengers -not the Marvel comic people, but Steed and Emma Peel. We saw it and loved it, but listening to the podcast, there was some question, seemingly, as to how well that piece of detail-work agreed with people unfamiliar with the reference. We can’t hope to answer that because we grew up on The Avengers. In the early 2000s. We loved it, so loved the title card, and gleefully waxed lyrical to the cat about the show. We also realise it’s hopelessly out of our time. It did get us thinking though, about other shows we grew up on that probably had no place in our lives under more normal circumstances. In no order then there was..
The Saint. Alternately Infamous or Famous depending on the introduction, Simon Templar’s arrival was heralded by a chime that declared him the titular ‘Saint.’ We loved him, but would never travel anywhere with him; he was always tripping over dead bodies and plots for robbery.
Perry Mason. It wasn’t a complete episode unless in the course of a court scene, mum turned to the assembled family and said of Perry’s adversary, ‘Hamilton Burger, like ‘hamburger,’ do you get it?’ We’re not sure if Perry Mason is responsible for our love of Crime Fiction, or if we would have stumbled into that by way of Agatha Christie anyway. We do know that increasingly we have less and less patience for Christie, whose characters suffer from the clunky named (by us) English-Is-Author’s-Fist-Language-But-Protagonist’s-Second-Syndrome, but continue to love Perry Mason and Della.
The Thin Man. The modern reference, we think, is a thing called Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist. Well, we spotted the reference. Our brother spent hours insisting it was a coincidence and the writers had never heard of detectives Nick and Nora Charles, or their dog Asta. A shame if he’s right, because they are charming people. And where would we be without Asta?
Rumpole of the Bailey. This was a newer discovery, as of this Christmas, and it has the distinction of being one of the few court-oriented series that never caused our father (a lawyer) to cry out in exasperation, ‘but he can’t say that! No competent lawyer would ever ask that!’
Yes Minister, for which we had no patience when aged about 8 and first introduced to it. Now though, and even before we started having to watch our country reassemble itself, we recanted and changed our minds. While we think of it, anyone else for Hacker running the country?
Finally, not a television show, but certainly integral to our sense of being brought up out-of-time, the radio series Paul Temple. We can’t be the only people who can still hear pitch-perfect the crispness of the CA who read out starring Peter Cook as Paul Temple, and Margery Westbury as his wife Steve, but we’d bet happily on being some of the youngest people to make that claim.
Almost certainly there were others, but these are the ones that stand out. We’ll doom you to the same cheerful fate as ourselves,whistling a theme that was a key feature to drives out to lake Huron, at least for us.