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Classic TV Revisited: The World of Jacques-Yves Cousteau

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TV opens up a new under world with the undersea exploration of Jacques-Yves Cousteau.

Appearance
Super svelte, French diver with a nasal voice and ready smile.

Distinguishing features
Great big flippers (underwater) and a red woolly hat and glasses (when on deck).

Why was it so memorable?
Few people had ever scuba dived and the Frenchman literally opened their eyes to another world. In the late 60s only the wealthy elite dived or sailed for pleasure.

What was Cousteau’s secret?
He once said: “When you dive, you begin to feel that you’re an angel.” He had the ability to hold an audience with the most simple type of adventurers.

How did he get started?
In 1950 a millionaire gave him money to buy a 400-ton former minesweeper. He named it Calypso, and turned it into a lab.

Then what?
He sailed to the Red Sea in 1952 and shot the first-ever colour footage taken at 150ft down.

How did he become famous?
A bit like Robert Ballard and the Titanic, Cousteau found an ancient Greek wine freighter buried in very old mud off the French coast near Marseille.

Magnifique!
The tide had turned, you might say.

A sea change in his career, then?
You could say that.

Jacques Cousteau

He hit rock bottom yet became a hero!
Enough, already!

How did he pay for all his adventures?
He wrote books and made TV programmes. He even wrote a 20-volume encyclopedia called The Ocean World Of Jacques Cousteau.

I bet that went down well.
After reading it divers used it for ballast.

Was it an award winner?
No, but his 1956 film The Silent World won the Cannes Film Festival. It was made using his new skin-diving gear he helped invent in 1943.

What was Cousteau’s greatest achievement?
You mean apart from making TV programmes from 1966 to 1994?

Mais oui
Well President Ronald Reagan wasn’t far wrong when he said: “He will be remembered not only as a pioneer in his time but as a dominant figure in world history.”

Did he invade Grenada as well then?
Don’t be facetious. He was an outspoken critic of nuclear waste dumping and oil pollution at sea.

Was he popular worldwide?
Indeed he was. Students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology invented a song for him.

A sea shanty?
No. It went like this: “He don’t have to come up for air, he’s Jacques, Jacques, Jacques Cousteau. From sea to shining sea, he checks them out for you and me.”

Is he still alive?
No, sadly. Jacques died on June 25, 1997. He continued diving well into his 80s.

Did he have lots of fans?
Yes, he was regularly voted the most popular Frenchman in opinion polls.

Has his legacy endured? Yes. His son Jean-Michel Cousteau is an environmental campaigner.

Do say
“I think Captain Cousteau might be the father of the environmental movement.” (CNN founder Ted Turner).

Don’t say
“I love those bits when he fights Cato in The Pink Panther films.” Or “He was brilliant at doing chin-ups in Superstars.”

And don’t even think about saying
“Didn’t he go en vacances with Mr Hulot?”

Not to be confused with
Insp Clouseau, Brian Jacks, or Jacques Tati.

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Kick-Ass TV Heroines: Xena – Warrior Princess

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Xena Warrior Princess

What was not to love about Xena? As Lucy Lawless says: “Xena is a bad-ass, kick-ass, pre-Mycenaean girl.” Evildoers, clearly, must stand down, but not only bad guys (and girls) have Xena-phobia. Even heroes quake when she swings her broadsword.

Originally created as a syndicated complement to Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena pretty much kicked Herc to the curb. It was like when the Bionic Woman made us lose interest in the Six Million Dollar Man–only more so.

Unlike Lindsay Wagner’s early half-woman, half-machine, Xena wasn’t prone to frailty. Nor did she need robot parts. In fact, the Warrior Princess never lost. If she’s down, it’s not for long.

Plus, she was in touch with the dark side: This big-boned bruiser had definite moments of blood lust, as well as lust of some other varieties. Garbed in a leather miniskirt and armed with her trademark razor-edged, boomerang-action chakram, we watched Xena single-leggedly kick down entire platoons of Roman soldiers.

Sure, there were murmurings about Xena and her softer female sidekick, Gabrielle (actress Renée O’Connor). So what if they liked to conserve bathwater by doubling up? And what’s wrong with close friends frenching once in a while?

Then again, maybe it was true–and there’s anything wrong with that.

Actress: Lucy Lawless
Show: Xena: Warrior Princess
Character: Xena

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Classic TV Revisited: McMillan And Wife

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McMillan And Wife

Starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, McMillan and Wife was a super cute crime-solving saga from the 1970s made for the NBC’s Mystery Movie series.

Who were they?
Hubby was the debonair San Francisco police commissioner Stewart McMillan.

And wifey?
Sally was a foxy, rather scatterbrained dame with a knack for finding corpses.

Worked down the morgue did she?
Hardly. Sally’s finds were usually in some glitzy mansion which the couple were frequenting for a weekend cocktail party. She also had a habit of getting her life threatened or being kidnapped.

Who was in it?
Tragic Hollywood star Rock Hudson no less. He took on Stewart McMillan in his first TV role, after years as a matinee idol with movies such as Giant.

Tragedy?
Fans of the lantern-jawed star were dismayed when he went public about having Aids. He had long kept his homosexuality secret. He carried on working in ’80s glam drama Dynasty, but make-up could not disguise the deterioration of this once-statuesque man. He died in 1985, aged 59.

What about Sally?
That role fell to raven-locked Susan Saint James. The Ali MacGraw lookalike was previously in shows such as Alias Smith And Jones and The Name of the Game.

Other characters
A vital ingredient to McMillan And Wife was sharp-tongued housekeeper Mildred, played by Nancy Walker. Somebody needed to keep the place tidy while they gallivanted about solving crime.

Famous guest stars?
Kim Basinger

The couple’s conception?
Like Hart To Hart, the idea was borrowed from Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man books of the ’30s.

Gritty crime drama?
Hardly. These were cosy whodunnit cases, where the brutality of murder was never portrayed. The show was more about the interplay between McMillan and Sally.

Had viewers arrested?
Certainly in the US. It was the fifth highest-rated show in 1972 and 1973.

Fate of the golden couple?
Susan Saint James quit in 1976 over a contractual dispute. Nancy Walker also packed away her duster as housekeeper Mildred.

The dame’s exit was a fatal blow?
Certainly for the character of Sally – she was killed off in a plane crash. But Rock soldiered on with new assistant Sgt Steve DiMaggio (Richard Gilliland). The show became McMillan.

A winner?
Audiences dwindled and the plug was pulled.

Distinguishing features?
Cosy pillow talk, cocktail parties, Rock Hudson, pyjamas and numerous corpses.

Do say
Let’s go to bed. Turn the light out, darling.

Don’t say
Must you eat toast in bed, darling. Apologies, but I’ve got terrible flatulence. Separate bedrooms.

Not to be confused with
My Wife Next Door, Harold Macmillan, The Merry Wives Of Windsor and Mr And Mrs.

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Classic TV Revisited: The Royal

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The Royal

The Royal was an ITV drama commission and was inspired by its sister programme Heartbeat.

The lowdown: This nostalgic family drama is set in the swinging 1960s and centres on the staff of a cottage hospital in Yorkshire. Newly qualified doctor David Cheriton (Julian Ovenden) is determined to make a difference to the world and arrives at St Aidan’s Royal Free Hospital in Elinsby full of big ideas. But he clashes with the hospital’s secretary TJ Middleditch (Ian Carmichael) who is determined to run things his way. Then there is the Matron (Wendy Craig) who rules her nurses with a rod of iron and tries in vain to stop them being distracted by the handsome arrival.

Memorable moments: Watch out for former Heartbeat favourite Bill Maynard who crosses dramas and continents as Claude Jeremiah Greengrass. Greengrass has returned from a Caribbean holiday with a mystery illness but that doesn’t stop him trying to earn a fast buck. It doesn’t take long before Claude attracts Matron’s ire.

Trivia: The Royal is a family affair for real life husband and wife Robert Daws (Ormerod) and Amy Robbins (Weatherill). No fewer than seven members of their clan have appeared in the series including their daughters and stepson.

Michelle Hardwick, who played receptionist Lizzie, says her favourite moment in the whole series didn’t come on screen but in the actors’ green room. She says: “I was sitting in there with Wendy Craig and Honor Blackman and we were having a lovely conversation. I sat back and thought ‘Wow, this is great, I can’t wait to tell my gran’.”

A modern day set version called The Royal Today aired 7 January – 14 March 2008.

First broadcast: 2003

Starred: Wendy Craig, Ian Carmichael, Michael Starke, Robert Daws and Julian Ovenden

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