Friday, November 7, 2014

Thunderbirds, Space 1999, Stingray, Captain Scarlet: The Definitive Top Ten Gerry Anderson Shows

If you grew up in the UK in the 60’s or 70’s, you could not fail to get caught up in the World of Gerry Anderson at some point or other.
F.A.B. Thunderbirds Are GO!

Born in 1929, Gerry was an English TV producer, with a huge imagination and equally expansive dreams. He began in the late 50’s with puppet oriented children’s television, gave us science fiction icons like Thunderbirds, Space 1999, and ended a generation later in 1983 with a science fiction classic; Terrahawks.
Children of all ages have their own particular TV favorite, and below I have listed the top ten.
In reverse order, I have taken into consideration, viewing length, formats, countries reached, and spin off value. I hope among my top ten you will find your favorite.
Four Feather Falls 1957
Number 10. Four Feather Falls (1957)… is Gerry’s Kansas adventure, a puppet western ala Wagon Train. After experimenting with The Adventures of Twizzle, and Torchy the Battery Boy, Gerry produced thirty-nine 13 min episodes of Four Feather Falls, but despite some clips being re-shown, the series was never repeated.
Supercar 1960
Number 9. Supercar (1960)… Gerry’s next venture lasted 2 series, with thirty-nine 25 min episodes, and was first to use the word Supermarionation (Anderson’s patented puppet technology). It spawned a four week run of comics in the USA, where the TV series was syndicated.
Joe 90 1968
Number 8. Joe 90 (1968)… Following the failure of the second Thunderbirds feature film, Joe 90 lasted just 30 episodes. And although it was a favorite of mine (age 10) it would prove to be the last string puppet series made by Anderson to reach television. The idea of downloading a new skill-set to accomplish undercover work has been copied many times since.
Terrahawks 1983
Number 7. Terrahawks (1983)… was Anderson’s final hurrah. In thirty-nine 25 min episodes, done in the Henson style of hand puppetry, the series was most popular in Japan. It was one of the first television shows to be made into a computer game. I am ashamed to say I never watched it. By then I was 34, and wrongly considered myself way too old for Gerry Anderson’s puppets.
Fireball XL5 1962
Number 6. Fireball XL5 (1962)… Following Supercar’s USA success, Fireball XL5 actually ran on official NBC format in the children’s hours from 1963 to 65. Thirty-five 25 min episodes were made, and it carried onto comic and book formats. I had a foot-long plastic Fireball XL5 spacecraft which I threw up into the air, watching it float back to earth in a flimsy polythene parachute.
Stingray 1963
Number 5. Stingray (1963)… Thirty-nine 25 min episodes were produced of this fantastic undersea adventure. Although colour television was still seven years in the future, Stingray was the first British Children’s TV series to be entirely filmed in colour. It was syndicated in the USA, and shown in 7 countries. It had a regular spot on the Century 21 comic.
George Sewell and Gabriella Drake 1969
Number 4. UFO (1969)… This was the first of Anderson’s real life dramas to be produced. Twenty five 50 min episodes were made, but despite huge popularity in the UK it never got a second series. The scripts for season two were re-written into the plot for Space 1999. Like the puppet series Captain Scarlet, it used sexy females in short skirts, every young man at the time would remember the purple hair and curves of both Wanda Ventham and Gabriella Drake.
Lieutenant Green, Captain Blue, and Captain Scarlet 1967

Number 3. Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons (1967)… Thirty two 25 min episodes were made of this ‘darker’ space series, dealing with death, vengeance and inter-planetary war. It was shown in 40 countries inc USA, and a 2005 animated series. The immortal Captain Scarlet was the epitome of cool, and the sexy female pilots, unshaven baddie Captain Black, and grumpy Colonel White completed the cast. I had all the matchbox die-cast metal cars. "Spectrum is Green!"
The main cast Space 1999 1975

Number 2. Space 1999 (1975)… Two series of forty-eight 50 minute episodes were made, networked in both the USA and in Canada, starring Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, straight from their success in Mission Impossible. International stars galore flocked for parts in the episodes, and many old faces crop up, even in small bit-parts.
The king of them all: Thunderbirds 1974

Number 1. Thunderbirds (1974)… The International Rescue juggernaut lasted 2 series, ran thirty-two long 50 min episodes, was broadcast in 30 countries, spawned two Supermarionation feature films, and a 2004 film based on the series. The Thunderbirds accessories caused Christmas shopping frenzies to find ‘Tracy Island’, and kids to buy plastic and metal toys by the million. Gerry’s wife, Sylvia, produced the voice for Lady Penelope, and who can forget the craggy voice of her driver/butler, Parker. I think every kid in our street had one Thunderbirds toy. Who can forget the complicated launch sequences from Tracy Island: Thunderbird One blasting off from under the swimming pool, and the palm trees folding backwards to allow Thunderbird Two to reach it's launch ramp.
And of course, the playgrounds rang to the sounds of “F.A.B. Thunderbirds Are Go!”
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