With 2012 drawing to a close (just how big of a close depends on whether you expect the world to end this Friday or not) everyone is looking backwards. People are reminiscing all over about the best and worst of events of the year gone by and the ones gone before, and you can expect oodles of classic TV and movies, along with indigestion-inducing Christmas Specials, to be bringing back repressed memories whether we like it or not.
But as big a feast of TV old and new as we get treated to over the holiday season, some people will always be disappointed that the shows they remember not only won’t be aired over Christmas, but seem to have disappeared from TV-land entirely, if they ever surfaced on the public radar at all.
So I have invited the Arcade’s crew of intrepid journalistic crusaders to dredge their memories for the ultimate nostalgia trip; not down Memory Lane, but down all those menacing side-streets and rubbish-strewn alleys where TV shows go to get lost.
Allow me to begin…*
*No dinosaurs or popular actors were harmed during the making of this article.
Starred: Ice-T, Costas Mandylor, Frank John Hughes, Mia Korf
First Aired: NBC, 1997-1998
Before the Ocean’s Eleven remake reignited people’s love of breezy con-jobs and daring heists, and before BBC’s Hustle made its name having likeable criminals stealing from not so likeable criminals, this streetwise gem was spawned by Law & Order creator Dick Wolf, and found its way to the family TV screen at about half one on a Friday night, where it ingrained itself on my memory forever.
The show followed a trio of cons – Ice-T in typically swaggering gangsta mode, Costas Mandylor’s smooth foreigner and Frank John Hughes’ workaday criminal – who are hired by the FBI (represented by Mia Korf) to track down and capture criminals using their own criminal smarts and skills to get the job done. The premise made for a nice “cops working with crooks” dynamic that gave rise to both fun and drama, with the cons always looking for a way out of the hole they’re in, even as they grew to love the job.
The show exuded plenty of style for its time, a time when most dramas, though it echoed some of the grit seen in the likes of Law & Order and other shows of the time. One of the neatest quirks of the show was that each episode’s title contained a pun with the word “Con” – this writer’s favourites being “Rashocon” and “Wrath of Con”. It also contained music by Mike Post, composer of the now-iconic A-Team theme tune, and a regular scorer for Dick Wolf shows.
Unfortunately, Players was premiered during SuperBowl Season, and suffered from being moved around schedules and being pre-empted in favour of football. As a result, ratings weren’t consistent and the show was cancelled after 18 episodes. It was last re-run on television in 2008 on the Sleuth Channel.
To emphasise just how lost this show is, not only has it not been released on DVD (according to Amazon at least), it hasn’t even made it onto the internet. The closest thing I’ve found was a person selling tapes of the show recorded off TV in un-subtitled French. Which is unfortunate, as this was a cool, pure 90s’ concept show that deserved far better treatment than it ultimately got.
The Adventures Of The Galaxy Rangers (1986)
Starred: Robert Bottone, Alexander Marshall, Maia Danziger, Jerry Orbach
First Aired: Syndicated, 1986 on.
Even in the mid 90s when I encountered this odd Japanese-made show it was ahead of its time, specifcally getting the jump on both Firefly and Cowboys & Aliens by combining the Wild West and Space.
The show told the story of the adventures of the “Ranger” Section of the Bureau for Extra-Terrestrial Affairs (or BETA) comprised of humans, aliens and androids (led by another Law & Order alumnus, the late Jerry Orbach) who used special implants in their badges to give them a range of superpowers to go with the laser-fights and robot horses.
A lot of the plot elements are similar to Firefly and Star Wars – fighting an evil empire, alien worlds mixing with humans, the recreation of the old west and the frontiers with added spaceships – and those classical tropes played a large part of the reason it remains so memorable to me. The fact that cowboys and spaceships are catnip to 11 year olds probably had something to do with it as well.
This one is an easy one to get lost, because it came out of Japan at a time when tons of their cartoons were being re-dubbed for global broadcast (stand up if you remember Gigantor, BotsMaster, Speed Racer and all the other Japanimation that graced The Den year after year), but its core concept is just unique enough to have been cemented in my mind for decades.
You won’t find this one DVD, except the occasional episode on the cartoon compilations you’ll find in the pound shop, but there are plenty of episodes to be found on the interwebs.