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Straight Talk - Thunderbirds were Go for my generation and for that, thanks

The cavalcade of news sweeps on and week in and week out we hear that the trivia of our life has altered, albeit imperceptibly. Thus Kate Winslet is now to be referred to, at least formally as, Mrs Rocknroll.

Well, good luck with that. I’d have thought the moniker Mr Rocknroll is one that should be bestowed upon you by others rather than be adopted in a self-christenening. Particularly when as Richard Branson’s nephew, you are probably not, well, that. Just rich.

But as we stand on the threshold of another year, let’s take a moment to remember some of those who have gone before.

There were singers of my youth in Davy Jones (of the Monkees), Robin Gibb (of the Bee Gees), Donna Summer and Whitney Houston.

There were also TV stars, such as Larry Hagman, who was revealed to have a West Norfolk connection with the story that we featured recently telling how he stayed at the height of his fame in the 80s at Burton Norton.

And just before Christmas, Jack Klugman. Quincy ME, in which he starred as a coroner with a social conscience, is probably little viewed now. But I loved it and I think in the history of American television was of some importance.

Although it was primarily a whodunnit? the interest behind the story was often a social issue. It marked a step on from plain old cops and robbers and set us on a path that eventually ended at The Wire.

Another death saw the departure of arguably the greatest TV star of all time.

Do children know the name of Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon, now?

For a time when I was young he was the most famous man in the world, possibly only rivalled by Muhammed Ali. It is strange to contemplate the fleeting nature of mega-celebrity.

But what really got me thinking about those who have gone was the death of Gerry Anderson, On Boxing Day.

I would have been hard put to recognise him had he walked in the room. His name only ever achieved cult status. But the pleasure he gave the children of the 1960s and beyond cannot be calculated.

Gerry Anderson was responsible for Thunderbirds, Joe 90, Stingray and Captain Scarlet, sci-fi puppet series that seemed to be set about 25 years in the future where streets seemed to be suspiciously quiet (‘puppet’ extras not being an option, I suppose).

Even as a nine-year-old child I can recall thinking there was not a lot of sophistication to the puppetry (despite Anderson’s much-lauded SuperMarionation technique, which matched the mouth movements to the words). Strings were often seen.

But it did not matter. To boys it was a completely believable, if slightly jerky world (I suspect girls were less beguiled by rockets roaring up through swimming pools on Tracey Island).

Would it do the business now? Probably not. Children expect far more sophistication. There may be a charm in old episodes of Doctor Who but they don’t hold a candle to today’s production values,

However, in these days of 3D HD, it is worth remembering, the only thing that really matters about a story is its power to convince you to suspend your disbelief. At that, Gerry Anderson was a genius.

 

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