Whenever it is rerun it entices a whole new generation
165Gerry Anderson’s highlight! There was something in the water with regards to tonight’s feature; everything just fell into place for Thunderbirds as a show that everyone can enjoy and which continues to enthral and entertain even in this modern age. The endearing quality of a mid-sixties TV show aimed at the children’s market is quite difficult to define; especially when it is so loved by so many; Thunderbirds has become so much more than ‘just another kids show’ it has transcended popular demand and even outshines every attempt to remake/reimagine it. The simple idea spawned from the rescue attempts of trapped miners was transformed into a worldwide organisation, whose sole purpose is saving those people where normal methods will fail, but where the genius came in was in the characters of the show.
A billionaire astronaut, Jeff Tracy, and his five sons, along with a house keeper and brilliant scientist, Brains, set up International Rescue, a secret organisation working out of a Pacific Island, dedicated to saving lives where all hope is lost. Using sophisticated craft and specialist machinery the ‘Thunderbirds’ arrive in the nick of time and always save their man. A simple premise but with wonderful characterisation and tense, edge of your seat action scenes with plenty of overall destruction, the show was a monster hit and continues to be so with every new generation that sees it. Being seen as a terrific show by prolific TV producer Lew Grade, he made the call to extend the 30 minute runtime to an hour, thus making it easier to sell to the USA; that one executive order necessitated re-writes, extensions and added scenes and enabled a lean show to explore the people that made the rescues happen. Thus, in amongst all the death defying action, all the explosions and mayhem, with all the fantastic air and space craft there was a normal family dealing with life, secrecy and rescue. And who can forget that music!
The dynamic was electric and the show an instant hit. Indeed whenever it is rerun it entices a whole new generation into its spectacular grasp – remember the shopping brawls over the must have ‘Tracy Island toy’ in the 90’s? Despite never making to the big screen in its original guise, nor in the ill attempts at remakes, the original show has that special x-factor that keeps kids, adults, boys and girls coming back for more. A combination of terrific storytelling, script pacing, characterisation, effects and above all music, meant that the show was destined for number one. Whilst Anderson’s later shows would have a slightly more adult tone and have even more sophisticated puppetry and effects, none would ever capture the hearts and imagination that Thunderbirds would.
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