The Bad News Bears was a surprise hit film for Paramount Pictures in 1976. Written by Bill Lancaster and directed by Michael Ritchie, the film starred Walter Matthau as Morris Buttermaker, a frequently drunk swimming-pool cleaner who took on a coaching job with the little league baseball team of the title to make some extra money. Buttermaker quickly discovered this misfit team had little athletic skill but was eventually won over by their collective spirit, helping them shape up into a worthwhile team.
The underdog spirit of the film captured the viewing public’s imagination, leading to two sequels: The Bad News Bears In Breaking Training (1977) and The Bad News Bears Go To Japan (1978). Both of the subsequent films downplayed the often-sharp social satire of the original in favor of a more easy-going, family-friendly style.
This kinder, gentler tone was retained when the franchise was developed into a half-hour television series in 1979 by Arthur Silver. Silver retained the characters of Buttermaker and the team players, but altered the plotline. In the television version, Buttermaker (now played by Jack Warden) took on a coaching job for a school baseball team as an alternative to doing prison time for destroying the car of a client who wouldn’t pay for a swimming pool cleaning.
Much like the films, Buttermaker quickly discovered his team members were long on attitude and short on athletic ability. But this time, Buttermaker was aided in his attempts to turn the team into a winning proposition by a new character, school principal Dr. Emily Rappant. The Bears also had to face down new rivals the Lions, whose Coach, Roy Turner, provided a nemesis for Buttermaker. Silver also added an additional player to the team, Josh Matthews.
Despite the popularity of film series and a fine lead performance from Warden, the show never quite became a ratings success. Maybe it was too much mischief for audiences to handle, maybe it was Tanner Boyle’s conversion from a potty-mouthed preteen to a kid who spouted censor-proof gibberish words, but whatever the reason, The Bad News Bears ended its 23-episode run in June 1980. Just the same, this show is notable for providing early roles for Meeno Peluce, who would later star in the sci-fi favorite Voyagers!, as well as future teen heartthrob Corey Feldman.
USA / CBS / x30 minute episodes / Broadcast 1979 – 1980
JACK WARDEN as Morris Buttermaker
CATHERINE HICKS as Dr Emily Rappant
PHILIP R. ALLEN as Roy Turner
SPARKY MARCUS as Leslie Olgilvie
MEENO PELUCE as Tanner Boyle
COREY FELDMAN as Rudi Stein
BILL LAZERUS as Frosty
Vanity Fair (BBC-2 1967, Susan Hampshire, Roy Marsden)
Vanity Fair follows orphan Becky, as she is leaving boarding school with her best friend Amelia – she goes on to become a governess and through canny and manipulative means continues to advance herself up society’s ladder using people with a sometimes callous disregard if that best suits her, losing her friendship with Amelia, and finally falling from grace.
It is set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic wars with a couple of episodes set in a town near the front line where the British soldiers and their women are staying. Pain and suffering of the wounded soldiers returning from battle is well played and probably accounts for the PG rating.
The production is shot on videotape and is in colour. In fact it was the very first BBC drama to be made in colour and was originally broadcast on BBC2 in 1967 although most people who saw it back then would have still been watching on black and white sets. Colours are very vivid and show off the sumptuous costumes and bright red of the soldiers’ uniforms to great effect.
Although shot primarily on tape there is an interesting contrast in episode 3 where a long ballroom scene is shot on location using film stock – same actors, same costumes, but it makes it look like an expensive feature film for the duration of that scene. That is not a criticism of the rest of the production since flat videotape invokes a far closer and immediate feel to proceedings that has its own special charm, but it does serve to show what a huge difference it can make.
There was a previous BBC version in 1957 whose cast included Petra Davies (as Ameilia) and Derek Blomfield (as Captain Dobbin).
SUSAN HAMPSHIRE as Becky Sharpe
ROY MARSDEN as George
BARBARA COWPER as Miss Crawley
ROBERT FLEMYNG as Lord Steyne
MARILYN TAYLERSON as Amelia
BRYAN MARSHALL as Captain Dobbin
A J BROWN as Reverend Bute Crawley
DEDDIE DAVIES as Lady Crawley
JOHN WELSH as Sir Pitt Crawley
DYSON LOVELL as Rawdon Crawley
Writer: Rex Tucker
Novel: W.M. Thackery
Producer: David Conroy
Director: David Giles
Network and Production Companies: BBC Two
Duration: 5×45 minute episodes
Aired From: 2 December – 30 December 1967
Lavender Castle (ITV 1999, Jimmy Hibbert, Kate Harbour)
What do you get if you put puppet pioneer and TV legend Gerry Anderson together with the equally legendary children’s TV geniuses Cosgrove Hall – a great slice of scifi fun that combines Anderson’s flair for characterisation with some beautifully lush landscapes created by Cosgrove Hall.
Lavender Castle is the very centre of the universe protected by Captain Thrice and wanted by the evil Dr Agon. Thrice is captain of The Paradox – a gorgeous spaceship that looks like a thatched tudor cottage and his crew all bring their own special talents to the ship, there is Isambard the mechanic; Roger the pilot, ship’s doctor Lyca and Sproggle the somewhat useless navigator – there is also the ships robot Sir Squeakalot.
A real plus point is the stunning artwork by Rodney Matthews, who back in the day was more noted for prog rock album covers and covers for books by such scifi legends as Michael Moorcock, and indeed the whole series has that sort of 1970’s prog rock meets pastoral flavour.
In essence it’s a fight against good and evil as Thrice battles against the evil Dr Agon and it’s mix of CGI and stop motion animation hasn’t dated at all, in fact the ruralist design of the Paradox and some of the other ships and buildings means it has sort of a timeless feel.
Writers: Gerry Anderson, Pauline Fisk
Idea: Rodney Matthews
Story: Pauline Fisk
Music: Crispin Merrell
Producer: Gerry Anderson
Director: Chris Taylor
Network and Production Companies: ITV-Cosgrove Hall-Anderson
Duration: 26×10 minute episodes
Aired From: 1999
Bit of a Do, A (ITV 1989, David Jason, Gwen Taylor)
David Jason leads the all-star cast in comedy drama series A Bit of A Do, with each episode taking place at a different social function or “do”. Based in a fictional Yorkshire town, the show features Jason and Gwen Taylor as the working-class Simcocks who bump into their bitter rivals, the middle-class Rodenhursts, at the various bashes.
Add to the mix their gaggle of friends and there’s almost certainly the chance of one disaster or another amid the warm wine and vol-au-vents.
Writer David Nobbs is also the creator of the legendary Reginald Perrin.
DAVID JASON as Ted Simcock
GWEN TAYLOR as Rita Simcock
DAVID THEWLIS as Paul Simcock
NICOLA PAGETT as Liz
MICHAEL JAYSTON as Neville Badger
STEPHANIE COLE as Betty Sillitoe
DIANA WESTON as Corinna Price-Rodgerson
SARAH JANE HOLM as Jenny
WAYNE FOSKETT as Elvis Simcock
TRACY BRABIN as Sandra
MALCOLM TIERNEY as Geoffrey Ellsworth-Smythe
Writer: David Nobbs
Producer: David Reynolds
Theme Music: Ray Russell
Executive Producer: Vernon Lawrence
Network and Production Companies: ITV – Yorkshire
Duration: 13×50 minute episodes
Aired From: 13 January – 1 December 1989
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