The news that cable network TV1 is rescheduling the 1960s series Thunderbirds was met with substantial glee this week, as was the arrival of a preview copy of the first three episodes.
Thunderbirds is so camp! everyone squealed. I love Lady Penelope! I love Brains! Then came the impersonations -“ F.A.B. Dad, and the inevitable Yes, m’lady.
Watching three hours in a row, though, unearthed a radical, shocking and long-repressed thought.
Thunderbirds is actually boring.
Lady Penelope is coolly camp, but she’s not in that many episodes and she doesn’t have any funny lines. Neither does Parker. In episode one the pair chase bad guy The Hood until it seems they’ve killed him, and their lack of remorse is disturbingly funny. But that’s it for episode one, Trapped In The Sky.
To be fair, legend has it the pilot episode was only meant to be half an hour long, but the network asked for more: hence the interminable launch sequences.
Surely by episode two the pace would have picked up. And didn’t Cliff Richard sing an hilarious number once on a movie-length episode? Didn’t Tin Tin once go swimming in a side-splitting plastic floral bathing cap?
Well The Pit Of Peril (episode two) was marginally better, but suffered badly by featuring no female characters at all, no Tin Tin (International Rescue’s kooky icon of 60s orientalism) and no murderous British peerage.
By episode three the twitching and drooling had kicked in, but thankfully City On Fire turned out to be a childhood favourite -“ a fabulous burning building potboiler that predated The Towering Inferno.
This one had almost everything (except Lady Penelope). There were hoverbikes, the Firefly rescue vehicle and the Thompson Tower, a 350-story maxi-mall where you could buy bloody everything. But eventually one had to face the terrible truth: the cast move like Muppets who’ve suffered simultaneous strokes.
All of which brings us to why TV1 reprogrammed the show in the first place: to cash in on the upcoming release of the live-action feature film.
Thunderbirds: The Movie, though, is driven by a teenage cast and is aimed at children.
Thank heavens for that -“ I just saved 14 bucks.
Thunderbirds begins on TV1 this Saturday 4 September at 9am.