Monday, March 03, 2008

Gophers! and 1990

Last year, writing about the John Bird and John Fortune sitcom Well Anyway, I worried that I was the only person left alive who remembers certain television programmes. Apart from Well Anyway the examples I gave were Gophers! and 1990.

The good news is that I am not. Gophers! has an entry on Wikipedia:
Gophers! was a Channel 4 children's programme about a family of American gophers who move into a new neighbourhood, called Sycamore Heights, living next door to a family of uptight but well-intentioned rabbits, The Burrows. 
There were many recurring jokes within this short lived show such as Arthur Burrows' vegetables planning a rebellion to escape his garden, also a mad scientist ferret called Dr Wince, whose ambition was to conquer the world by obtaining a crystal buried in the Gophers' garden with the help of his reptilian servant Sly, and an alien in love with a zucchini determined to get home. Also there were Mexican cockroaches who lived in the Gophers house always trying to steal their food.
You can see why I was afraid that I might have dreamed the whole thing. It seems that the show went out in 1990. Most of the major characters were played by human actors in costumes, though there were some puppets too, as I recall.

Gophers! is all over YouTube too, often with exotic subtitles. Here are the opening titles.

And 1990?

Action TV has a complete episode guide, which shows that there were two series: one in 1977 and one in 1978. It was a dystopian vision of the future, with Edward Woodward - as journalist Jim Kyle - fighting the sinister Public Control Department

While Mulhollandnet appears to have watched the first series recently, even though it has never been released on DVD:
What, then, is to recommend this? Well, it’s so NEARLY brilliant. The premise has enormous potential that every now and then flowers into moments of genuine crusading outrage. Woodward is never a chore to watch. Also the central relationship between Kyle and PCD Deputy Controller Barbara Kellerman is fascinatingly complex and watchable. She smoulders and flirts but terrifies at the same time, and the mix of fascination and repulsion that she inspires in Kyle makes her a uniquely fascist femme fatale. 
And finally, finally, in the last two episodes things start to become credible. Kyle is made the subject of a show trial, and then, when that fails, all his cards are revoked, he’s turned into a non-person and forced to scavenge on the streets to stay alive. Suddenly the show has become gripping, the enemy has shown their teeth and the hero is genuinely threatened. Things start to feel a little bit real. 
The subplot of the finale is good too, as the PCD come up with a unified ID system, doing away with ration cards, identity cards, driving licenses et al, and combining them in one document designed to put an end to the black market but which, brilliantly, is so easy to forge that it brings down the economy. Again. It’s the first time this vision of the future feels genuinely prescient.
Two more obscure TV series from the 1980s to finish. Does anyone else remember Brond or The Marksman?


Anonymous said...

We had a copy of the 1990 book in our university science-fiction library but never quite got around to borrowing it. Only the other day I stumbled across this on a blog though.

Anonymous said...

What about "Maybury"(BBC2 1980)Patrick Stewart as psychiatrist Dr. Roebuck. Kenneth Branagh as a patient in his first TV part.

Moggy said...

Remember "The Guardians"

Vince Cross said...

'Gophers!' is a neglected classic. But then, having written the music for the series I would say that, wouldn't I?

If you can find clips, check out the vegetable patch...subversively funny.

2 million Ch4 viewers per episode, and never re-commissioned. Now there's a story! Vince Cross

Unknown said...

Ooh but I remember it and whoop with gladness at the composer of the theme tune being here. Its one of my favorite shows with Arthur's vegetable obsession and Northern vegetable uprisings, and cranky funny crows. Im a surreal artist so I guess it just appealed to my anarchic humour. Like most things brilliant ignored by the beige seeking masses. Am checking the series out again on the tube of you. PS the theme tune suited the furry ones perfectly!

Anonymous said...

From what I've gathered they only ever released the first 7 episodes of Gophers! on VHS. Such a shame. I would love to get hold of the other 6 episodes.