Tuesday, December 14, 2010

T-Bag '80s TV series on DVD

I'm not sure how a child of today could ever proclaim to be "bored". With TiVo or Foxtel IQ (or whatever those special boxes are that 'record' all of your favourite shows digitally), online streaming, cheap DVDs and even, dare I say it, torrents, any television show or movie is available at almost any time. Kids once had to be judicious with their television scheduling. In Australia especially, with only four channels, the TV guide had to be memorised to ensure that a favourite wasn't 'missed' (and when you missed something you really missed it, potentially for years until a repeat was scheduled without notice) and prime viewing availability wasn't squandered.

One of the first programmes in my essential schedule was the British series T-Bag. It was effectively a live-action pantomine that was filmed inside a studio- the outdoor shots resembled The Wizard of Oz on a $100 budget- and was set in a fantasy world. The fantasy world was often located within a teapot from recollection. There is very little chance that T-Bag would get a look-in with child viewers today. The first series I remember, 'Wonders in Letterland', involved the girl heroine Debbie searching for a letter of the alphabet in each episode, with the villain T-Bag seeking to foil her at every turn. T-Bag had a boy side-kick, T-Shirt, whom she had effectively enslaved: he was forced to keep brewing her tea. I am aware this plot description might sound insane to readers outside Britain and Australia. You can watch a snippet on YouTube.

The series ran for nine years. The actresses playing the girl (whose name changed) and T-Bag changed several times, but T-Shirt grew from the cute little button you see on the front of the DVD cover in this post into a lumbering man during the course of the series. Never an auspicious beginning to an adult acting career.

With the 25th anniversary of the original series, the show has finally been released on DVD after relentless petitioning by nostalgic Gen X-ers like myself. I'm about to order the first set of two series, and I'm wondering how much I'll be disappointed after twenty years of growing up since I last saw it. In retrospect, I wonder if it was the female-centredness of the show that I really liked. Both the questing character and the villain are female. It was T-Shirt who was put-upon and who made the cups of tea, not the weak and downtrodden girl. And the set budget must have been redirected to the costuming of T-Bag, who never failed to be wearing an extravagant gown or elaborate headdress. The cardboard backdrops melted into insignificance with those outfits. Now they'd use CGI and T-Shirt would have hair like Justin Bieber.


Unknown said...

Mike and I have recently discovered that YOU CAN'T GO BACK. The movies or TV shows you watched as a child are almost always bad - slow pacing, awful effects, poor acting. I do hope your T-Bag experience is better. You'll have to post an update once you've re-watched the series. Have fun!

Michelle Smith said...

I did learn that you can't go back from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory a few years ago. Nothing looked real any longer. Whaddya mean that's a chocolate river? It's brown water with no viscosity!

That said, I received a Goonies boxset from the US for Christmas and it's doing a pretty good job of it. It comes complete with a new board game that I've yet to play, and a reproduction of a 64-page magazine from 1985 that promoted the movie. Goonies never say die! Or grow up.