Nick Gilmartin's Weblog

And he used to be such a nice, quiet boy

Classic 80s Boy TV

with one comment


I remember when I was a boy TV was a lot more exciting.  We had no reality TV to speak of, and we were no worse for it.  We had fantastic telly, programmes full of action, adventure and larger than life characters.

Knight Rider and the A-Team, the most common examples,  have been covered ad nausium so we won’t rake through them again.  But does anybody remember this lot?


Airwolf & Blue Thunder

In the era of the Apache and the HIND-D these two look remarkably quaint.  Crime fighting 80s helicopters with tremendous ability to blow things up.  Every boy wanted a model chopper.  Airwolf ran for three years with Jan-Michael Vincent and Ernest Borgnine (who is still going strong at 90).  It’s chopper had a turbo boost, stealth ability and three cannon that could whack anything out of the sky or on land.  It ran for four seasons.

Blue Thunder

Blue Thunder was the K-Mart version.  It ran as a spin-off from the 1983 film of the same name (in spite of the helicopter being destroyed at the end of the film).  It starred James Farentino, Bubba Smith (the huge cop in police academy) and Dana Carvey (long before he became Garth in Wayne’s World).  It ran for one series.

The biggest playground debate of 1984 was who would win a dogfight between the two helicopters?  Opinion remains deeply divided.



A crime fighting human shape shifter?  What’s not to like?  Well the special effects were remarkably crap (this was in the days long after the Thriller video), and the acting was somewhat wooden.  The main character looked very pompous and English among the Americans and the plots were somewhat over fantastical.  Even so it did scrape through one season before it’s under-budgetting problems forced it to be cancelled.

Manimal and it’s predecessor, Blue Thunder, had one major opponent.  It wasn’t gun-toting thugs, shapeshifters or even rival helicopters.  It was a soap opera called Dallas on at the same time on the other side.  And nobody could beat a dose of J R Ewing’s family exploits in those days.

And we had only the one telly.  Ferguson, probably.

Street Hawk

Moving on we had Knight Rider on two wheels, Street Hawk. I distinctly remember mine and a mate’s response to seeing an advert for Street Hawk on TV.  We both had delirious grins, we would definitely be watching that!


See also Highwayman, with Flash Gordon’s Sam Jones driving a high tech truck, very much like Knight Rider. By now a familiar pattern was forming, with CBS and ABC trying to come up with the most imaginative Boy TV they could (and often couldn’t) afford.  Usually the best they could afford was a pilot film and a single series.

ABC brought in Glen A Larson, creator of Battlestar Galactica for one last throw of the dice.


Automan was hugely expensive and lasted, surprise, surprise, a single season.  It was about a police computer geek who creates this holographic superhero called Automan.  Naturally Automan fights crime, drives a car that starts, stops and takes corners instantly in a jump.  Both figures can merge into a single conciousness.  Automan looked remarkably like Tron, a film released the previous year and ABC had to carefully dodge plagurism accusations.  It lasted one series as usual.

Finally somebody came up with something different.


V (AKA The Visitors) was a better than average story of Alien Invasion by stealth.  It starred Beast Master’s Marc Singer as a heroic reporter.  The antagonists were a bunch of mysterious humanoid aliens masquerading as humans.  Under their rubber skin they had green reptilian features and sinister intentions for the human race.  They used special effects to project images of aliens swallowing small animals.  I remember covering the hamster cage before watching.  Well I didn’t want the little fellow to have nightmares.

It wasn’t half bad and lasted a lot longer than previous efforts.  They made a mini-series and then a sequel the following year.  It was very big budget and starred a lot of acting talent.  Unfortunately the series was cancelled unexpectedly and the storyline was left on a cliffhanger.

A remake of the series is currently in post production.  We wait with bated breath.

So all that represented a certain golden age of 80s TV, long before Sky, Murdoch, fifty channels of shite and sodding Big Brother has the X Factor on Ice.  It is a reminder of the sheer effort some TV producers went to to keep us entertained, long before they realised we were happy enough just watching a room full of dysfunctionals arguing among themselves.

Long live 80s Television.

All of the above are available as boxed sets from


Written by Nick Gilmartin

June 26, 2009 at 4:10 pm

Posted in TV

One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. have you seen those Thriller Video with the prison inmates, geez those are very nice ,~.

    Sheer Curtains

    December 3, 2010 at 7:16 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: