Filling in the pieces of nostalgia

Posted on October 14, 2010

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We can’t be that far away, can we, from the time when pretty much everything we are nostalgic about is available to view again on the net? Sure there will always be shows from the early days that were taped over or ended up in landfill, but as time passes, so much of our television and film past comes back to greet us either through dodgy video transfers sneaked on to Youtube or the actual programme makers rereleasing old shows in digital format.

It always makes me smile to see a show that hails from the pre-video recorder days and was rarely, if ever, repeated. So I was grinning like a loon to discover that the BBC has put up a bunch of episodes of totally-not-whacky science show The Great Egg Race for our entertainment (and, of course, edification).

I LOVED The Great Egg Race. I loved the fab 70s electronica theme tune. I loved the strange contraptions (an adoration first engendered by Wilf Lunn in Vision On). I really dug Heinz Wolf’s grandfatherly professor look and knowledge-of-all-things, like the great Doctor (Who) that never was. And, looking back on it now, I find that I also love the simplicity of it – it was a show about science and engineering, which got students and boffins from top engineering firms to heath-robinson up a device to solve an engineering challenge out of “ordinary household implements” (kinda like Scrapheap Challenge, but limited to what you’d find in your house).  It was first broadcast when I was ten or eleven years old and there’s no doubt that it was influential in my choosing a career in engineering.

Watching the first episode now, what amazes me is how much of it is just people talking. Look at Brian Cant doing a piece to camera at the top of the show that lasts for minutes. No woofy graphics or music, no extraneous cuts or inserts to keep the viewer’s attention. Just him. Talking. Could you even get adults to sit and watch a full half hour of that now, let alone kids?

So, we’re gradually filling in the holes. Soon enough we won’t even need to remember things, we’ll just look them up. Today’s ten-year-olds already do that. To them nothing is lost, nothing’s in the past. Memory is kind of obsolete.

And, yes, I’ve got a piece of fiction brewing at the moment on this subject.

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Posted in: Television